George Müller’s Life Of Trust (Part 1)
George Müller’s exemplary life of faith and prayer cannot be credited to a Christian upbringing. Born in 1805 in Prussia, his childhood and early teens were devoid of Christian training and influence. He had no Bible to read. His father gave to him and his brother considerable money for their age, which allowed them to indulge in sinful habits. After a time, however, the youthful George settled down to earnest study and eventually came to master six languages, including Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
His father encouraged him to become a minister, as that would provide a good living, and his father could live with him comfortably upon retirement. And so young George entered divinity school. Even though a divinity student, he had no knowledge of what salvation meant. Though he continued in sinful living, the desire of his heart was to reform, but his repeated efforts to do so ended in dismal failure.
When about twenty years old, George Müller was invited to the home of a true Christian for a Saturday night prayer meeting. The meeting consisted of Bible reading, prayer and the reading of a printed sermon. Being deeply impressed, he went home with joy in his heart. God had begun a work of grace in his heart and this was a turning point in his life. Although not all sinful habits dropped off at once, his life was different. He began to read the Bible and to pray. Sinful companions were given up, and he now loved Christian fellowship and sought it out whenever possible. Now and then he walked ten or fifteen miles to hear a godly preacher. His fellow divinity students ridiculed him. When he wrote to his father and brother about his newfound joy, his father angrily objected.
New light and help came to the young Christian when a godly professor, Dr. Tholuck, came to the divinity school. George also met with some other believing students who held a service each Lord’s Day evening. The desire grew in his heart to live wholly for God, and he began in earnest to prepare himself for the Lord’s service and to pray concerning God’s will for his life.
With the encouragement of Dr. Tholuck, he made application to go as a missionary to the Jews. He was asked to come to London for a six-month probation period of study. His father agreed that he might go, but there was a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. It was mandatory in Prussia that young men serve for a time in the army. After being examined by a physician, however, George was declared physically unfit and an exemption was granted enabling him to set out for missionary training.
After arriving in London and studying hard, the zealous student’s health became so bad that it appeared he might not even live. Spending some time in the countryside, he consistently prayed for the Lord’s will and began to recover. Coming under the teaching of a godly brother there, he began to understand that it was vital to rely more on the Holy Spirit for guidance, particularly in preparing for preaching. Laying aside commentaries and all other books, he spent time reading and studying the Word of God alone.
George Müller wrote: “The result of this was that the first evening that I shut myself into my room to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously. But the particular difference was that I received real strength for my soul in doing so....”
He returned with new vigor to London to take up his studies again. He suggested to fellow students that they meet in the mornings from six to eight for prayer, reading the Scriptures and sharing what the Lord seemed to be showing them. Several times after evening devotions, he “found communion with God so sweet” that he prayed until midnight, and then went to the room of a brother for another hour or two of prayer. Being almost too full of joy to sleep, he nevertheless was up at six o’clock the next morning for prayer with fellow students.
Again the earnest student’s health began to fail, and he felt he should spend no more time in study but get on with service for the Lord. Ministry opened to him among Jewish people in London, but the missionary society released him from the obligation to serve with them in order to be free to serve as God might lead.
Learning to Wait on God
Not long after leaving school, George Müller was asked to become pastor of a chapel in Teignmouth. The young pastor soon came to realize that he did not know what texts were best for the congregation. This started him going to the Lord in prayer for the text to use. Sometimes he was on his knees for some time before a suitable text came to mind. When nothing was recalled to his mind, he learned to calmly read on in the Scriptures where he was reading daily until a text was quickened to him. There were also times when he had to go into the chapel services without a text, but the Lord was always faithful to provide one before he preached if he had been faithful in seeking His guidance in prayer.
Venturing Forward in Faith
A few weeks after George Müller married Miss Mary Groves, the two of them agreed that he would give up his salary at the chapel. The salary was collected by pew rent. He did not feel this was scriptural, but believed seats ought to be free. A box was put in the church for voluntary offerings to support him. Sometimes the offerings were small; sometimes those responsible for handling the money were negligent in giving it to him. He and his bride sometimes found little in their purse. But God answered their earnest prayers by speaking to ones in the congregation to give food or money so that needs were met and their faith was encouraged. They were careful not to go into debt, choosing to do without if necessary. He desired to give forth the testimony of trusting in the living God alone.
George Müller reported: “This way of living has often been the means of reviving the work of grace in my heart when I have been getting cold; and it also has been the means of bringing me back again to the Lord after I have been backsliding. It is not possible to live in sin and at the same time, by communion with God, to draw down from heaven everything one needs for the life that now is. Frequently, too, a fresh answer to prayer obtained in this way has been the means of quickening my soul and filling me with much joy.”
At times the Müllers had to pray for their evening food while giving thanks for their noontime food. But at the end of the first full year of living without a salary, they found they had received more than if they had collected a salary. Mr. Müller said, “I have not served a hard Master, and that is what I delight to show.”
After a little over two years at Teignmouth, he was led to move to Bristol. God blessed his ministry there and souls were saved. Many poor people came to their doors and they were able to help them with bread as God supplied.
The Scriptural Knowledge Institution
After several years of fruitful ministry in Bristol with his co-worker, Brother Craik, they felt led to establish a missionary institution to spread the Gospel at home and abroad. It was known as The Scriptural Knowledge Institution. This involved the establishing of day schools and Sunday schools for children, adult schools in which instructions were given upon scriptural principles, the circulation of Bibles and Christian tracts, and aiding of missionary efforts.
Their principles for carrying on the institution were to be the same as for themselves personally: trusting wholly on the Lord for finances, not going into debt, and, as they declared, “not reckoning the success of the institution by the amount of money given, or the number of Bibles distributed, etc. – but by the Lord’s blessing upon the work (Zech. 4:6); and we expect this in the proportion in which He shall help us to wait upon Him in prayer.”
After several months of operation, they heard of a little orphan boy who had attended their day school and had been much concerned about his soul through the teachings received there. This boy was very sorrowful because he had to be taken from the school and put in a poorhouse some distance away. This deeply touched George Müller’s heart and he desired to do something to help destitute children such as that.
First Orphanage House
In 1835, at the age of thirty, George Müller felt led to establish a home for orphans. Various considerations led him to this. He was eager to show to Christians that God wanted to prove Himself the living God – the same as He had been in former days to all who put their trust in Him. He saw fathers who worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day to support their families. Overwork not only broke them physically but prevented their having adequate time for prayer and Bible reading so that their spiritual life suffered. But the conscientious fathers scarcely earned enough to support their families as it was, so how could they work fewer hours? Mr. Müller wanted them to see that it was the Lord and not the work which supported them.
Then there were those Christians deeply concerned by thoughts of old age, when they could work no longer. They feared they would have to go to the poorhouse. He wanted to show them, too, that God will not forsake those who put their trust in Him. He also saw Christian businessmen who compromised as did those in the world in order to succeed. He wanted them to trust in the living God and conduct their business uprightly and be successful because it was God who was blessing and honoring them. Too, there were those in professions not honoring to God, but they feared to leave them lest they remain unemployed. Mr. Müller wanted to demonstrate to them the unchangeable faithfulness of God and His willingness and ability to help all who called upon Him.
He himself had taken God at His Word and proved His faithfulness, and he wanted to encourage others to do likewise. If they could observe him – a man with no possessions himself – establish and maintain an orphanage by prayer and faith – surely they would be likewise encouraged to trust the Lord. And might not the unconverted be convinced of the reality of the true and living God? Of course, it was on his heart, too, to help the orphan children, not only relieving their material needs but training them in the ways of God.
(To be continued)
– Arranged from the book, The Life Of Trust, by George Müller.