I was given just enough George Muller to inoculate myself. I kept hearing the same recycled incident in which his orphanage has no bread or milk for the next meal, and the needed provisions turn up on his doorstep immediately after prayer. With this token praise of the miraculous we establish our credentials. But whether by a conspiracy conscious or unconscious, the rest of the Muller story is carefully kept under wraps.
Everybody knows the 19th-century Prussian founded homes for poor children in Bristol, England, but I never heard why. The care and spiritual training of orphans was only the secondary reason. The first was apologetic, in the most glorious sense: "Our goal is to show the world and the Church that even in these last evil days, God is ready to help, comfort, and answer the prayers of those who trust in him" (The Autobiography of George Muller).
And the man put his sovereigns where his mouth was. The Lord had made promises and Muller was of a mind to go all the way out on the limb. "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse. . . . And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need" (Malachi 3:10). So the 14-year-old who played cards till two in the morning the night his mother died, and went drinking the next day, became a living lightning rod of our universal fears that God will not come through if we surrender everything.
Early on (1829) he decided to refuse a paycheck, and that remained his policy to the end. It started as a simple matter of conscience as a young pastor: "I began to have conscientious objections against receiving a salary by renting pews. According to James 2:1-6, this practice is against the mind of the Lord because the poor cannot afford as good a seat as the rich." What a fanatic and troublemaker.
Muller decided that "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" meant something like "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." He writes in his journal: "My wife and I had the grace to take the Lord's commandment in Luke 12:33 literally: 'Sell that ye have and give alms.' We never regretted taking that step. God blessed us abundantly as He taught us to trust in Him alone. When we were down to our last few shillings, we told Him about our needs and depended on Him to provide. He never failed us."
To read Muller's autobiography is to be dragged through the agony and the ecstasy one day at a time. My friend who gave me the book warned that I would get bored because it's just page after page of diary entries about bread supplies and donations received in the nick of time. It sounded like the census lists in Numbers, but there turned out to be something engaging about a man living the life I wanted the courage to live.
"On the 6th, 7th, and 8th of January 1831, I repeatedly asked the Lord for money but received none. . . . I began to think it would be of no use to trust in the Lord this time. Perhaps I had gone too far in living by faith. But praise the Lord! . . . When I returned to my room only ten minutes later, the Lord sent deliverance. A sister brought us two pounds four shillings. The Lord triumphed, and our faith was strengthened."
Decades of Januaries later, journal entries are similar-except for the increase of faith that is always the Lord's deposit for years of testing and tasting.
January 4, 1859: I received seven thousand pounds left entirely at my disposal for the work of God. When I decided to build for four hundred and fifty orphans, instead of three hundred, I needed several thousand pounds more. I was fully assured that God would give me the money because I made the decision in reliance on Him and for the honor of His name. . . ."
Well, January's here. What do you say? How about this time around we do something completely different?
If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.