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The Great Experiment

The Testimony of George Mueller

7George Mueller

by Dennis Pollock

Apart from God Himself and His inspired word, one of the greatest treasures granted to the church of Jesus is that repository of testimonies left behind by those men and women of God who have proven His faithfulness through lives entirely devoted to Him. For this reason one of the greatest means of stimulating faith and spiritual passion is to read the biographies of those whose lives were marked by God’s holy fire and whose fruit was plentiful and lasting. There is no shortage of such lives to peruse. But if we were forced to rank them in terms of the tendency to stimulate faith, surely the life and witness of George Muller would have to rank near the top.

Andrew Murray wrote this about Muller: “When God wishes anew to teach His Church a truth that is not being understood or practiced, He mostly does so by raising some man to be in word and deed a living witness to its blessedness.  And so God has raised up … George Muller to be His witness that He is indeed the Hearer of prayer.”

It is often assumed that men whose lives are dominated by God must surely have been spiritual prodigies even in childhood. Such was not the case with Muller. As a child and a youth he was a liar and a thief, and showed no respect for authority, either man’s or God’s. He often stole money from his father. His mother died while George was still in his teens. As she was dying he was up late with his friends playing cards, and spent the next day in a tavern with his buddies, getting drunk.

Radically Saved!

As the apostle Paul might put it, “When it pleased God to reveal His Son in George” at the age of twenty, the young man attended a young people’s Christian home meeting, became gripped with the reality of Christ and soon after was radically and thoroughly saved.

It is fascinating to observe how different gifts and graces seem to appear in the lives of believers without any effort of their own or even a request for those gifts. In Muller’s life God seemed to grant a special grace to trust Him for needs in a way that seemed to others, either remarkable or reckless, depending upon your spiritual perspective. Though Muller was German, he was led by the Spirit to England, and there became a pastor of a small church. One of the first evidences of this grace in his life was his decision to forego a regular salary. Wanting to depend totally upon the Lord rather than man, he placed a box in the back of the church where church members could give toward his needs as they felt led. He would take no salary.

This was considered a very strange thing indeed, and rumors sometimes had it that he and his wife were starving, but God honored Muller’s faith, and over the years he actually received significantly more income this way than he would have through the normal salary the church had offered him. For the rest of his life Muller would operate on this principle, and spent well over half a century with no salary and no income other than freewill offerings people sent him as they were led by God.

God’s Vision for George

At around thirty years of age it came into Muller’s heart to establish an orphanage to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of the many orphans that filled the streets of England at that time. Muller had been deeply moved by the testimony of a man of God from a previous generation, A. H. Francke, who had built a huge orphanage in Halle, Germany. The longer Muller prayed the more convinced he became that God was calling him to provide for the orphans. But though compassion and concern for children was a powerful impetus in this servant of the Lord, this was not his foremost motivation. By this time Muller had developed almost an obsession with prayer and faith. So certain was he that God could supply all our needs in response to the prayer of faith, he determined that this business of providing for England’s orphans would be a great experiment, a demonstration to the body of Christ that prayer and faith alone could provide for all the needs of God’s work without ever once appealing to men. Along with his principle of refusing to take a salary for himself, Muller adopted the following rules that would be enforced with absolute rigidity:

  1. Never to ask any human being for help, however great the need might be, but to make his wants known to the God who has promised to care for His servants and to hear their prayer.  
  2. To take this command (Luke 12:33) literally, ‘Sell that thou hast and give alms,’ and never to save up money, but to spend all God entrusted to him on God’s poor, on the work of His kingdom.  
  3. Also to take Romans 8:8, ‘Owe no man anything,’ literally, and never to buy on credit, or be in debt for anything, but to trust God to provide.


Muller envisioned that it would do the body of Christ immeasurable good to see how faithfully God would provide when his children would thus trust Him for all. In giving his reasons for establishing an orphanage, Muller lists as the number one reason: “That God may be glorified in so furnishing the means as to show that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him.” Many years later, as an old man, Muller wrote, “I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith.”

Learning to Pray and Believe

At the time when he first made the commitment to build an orphanage he had the equivalent of fifty cents to his name. Without money, and refusing to borrow any or even ask anyone for help, it seemed as likely that he could fly to the moon as build an orphanage. But though he was still a young man, Muller had learned the fine art of praying and waiting on God. The transplanted German preacher began to seek the Lord. Muller shared the vision with his church, being careful to avoid any hint of requesting money from anyone. Donations began to come in. Within two years he was enabled to turn his house into a house for thirty orphan girls. Soon after three more houses were added, bringing the total number of orphans cared for up to 130.

The growth was never explosive but it was steady. Within thirteen years of the birth of the first orphan house sufficient money had come in to build a major building that would house 300 orphans. As the decades rolled by, more houses were added. With each new addition the motive was certainly to take care of the spiritual and physical needs of more children, but the glory of God was first and foremost – “an enlarged service to man, attempted and achieved solely in dependence upon God, would afford a correspondingly weightier witness to the Hearer of prayer.”

At times even Muller’s best friends must have wondered if he was pushing things a bit too far. One man wrote to him, wanting to make a significant contribution. But he was determined to find out exactly what the needs of the work were at that time. He reasoned in his letter, “I know you do not ask (people for contributions), but to answer when asked seems another thing… Kindly then inform me what amount you need at the present time.” Muller responded graciously, admitting that it was a different case when he was specifically asked about their needs, but still refused to declare their present situation (which was extremely desperate at that moment). He told the inquirer, “I do not feel at liberty to speak about the state of our funds, as the primary object of the work in my hands is to lead those who are weak in faith to see that there is reality in dealing with God alone.”

As soon as Muller mailed the letter, he then got on his knees and urgently pleaded with God for the necessary funds, as they were on the verge of being unable even to provide meals for the children. This brother quickly responded with a generous gift of one hundred pounds, just at the time when the ministry had become literally penniless.

God’s Faithfulness

As the years passed, God continued to show His faithfulness. One building followed another and by 1870 more than 2,000 children were being provided for in five large buildings. Many a day was begun without knowing where their evening meal would come from. And yet never once did the children have to be told there was no food. Often a gift of food or money would come in just in time for the next meal.

By the end of his long and fruitful life, George Muller’s ministry had seen the equivalent of over seven million dollars come in to provide for the orphans, as well as supporting missionaries all over the world. And after his death it was calculated that George Muller, the man who refused to take a salary, had contributed the enormous sum of over eighty thousand pounds from the offerings that had been sent to him personally. Five immense buildings, over ten thousand orphans who had been cared for, and hundreds of missionaries who had been supported could all testify to the faithfulness of the God who hears and answers prayer.

At the age of seventy George Muller launched out into a worldwide evangelistic and teaching ministry. Traveling over 200,000 miles over the next seventeen years, he ministered to the body of Christ worldwide, while still maintaining a close relationship with the orphanage work. Some doubted whether the orphanages could survive without Muller’s physical presence. The elderly servant of God had a simple response: the God who had supplied all the needs while Muller was present was no less able to do so while he was absent. And so it proved to be.

The Man

George Muller was not a brilliant man, nor was he a dynamic preacher. When the great English pastor, Charles Spurgeon, heard Muller preach, he later declared:

When I listened to Mr. George Müller, as he was preaching at Mentone, it was just such an address as might be given to a Sunday-school by an ordinary teacher, yet I never heard a sermon that did me more good, and more richly profited my soul. It was George Müller in it that made it so useful. There was no George Müller in it in one sense; for he preached not himself but Christ Jesus the Lord; he was only there in his personality as a witness to the truth, but he bore that witness in such a manner that you could not help saying, "That man not only preaches what he believes, but also what he lives." In every word he uttered, his glorious life of faith seemed to fall upon both ear and heart. I was delighted to sit and listen to him; yet, as for novelty or strength of thought, there was not a trace of it in the whole discourse.

The great strength that lay in George Muller was not in his talents nor in the fact that he was perfect and somehow beyond the rest of us. His great strength lay in his walk with God and in the confidence in God that that walk produced. Though an incredibly busy man, Muller, like his Master, “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” He also spent many hours in God’s word. Near the end of his life he affirmed that he had read the Bible through approximately 200 times.

Lifetime of Answered Prayer

Mr. Mueller testified that in his lifetime 50,000 specific prayers were answered. Years before he died, about the middle of his career, he affirmed that up to that time 5000 of his definite prayers had been answered on the day of asking. He made it a habit to keep a notebook with 2-page entries. On one page he gave the petition and the date, and on the opposite page he entered the date of the answer.

 His philosophy of prayer is summed up in the following words: "…I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down and when I rise up. And the answers are always coming. Thousands and tens of thousands of times have my prayers been answered. When once I am persuaded that a thing is right and for the glory of God, I go on praying for it until the answer comes. George Mueller never gives up!"

George Muller has long been dead and is safely in heaven. But the prayer-answering God that he served and loved lives forever. Our world is waiting for some twenty-first century Mullers who will spend the requisite time with God and dare to believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

 


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