(Note on spelling: his last name appears in publications both as Muller, with 2 dots above the U, and Mueller). George Mueller was one of the giants of faith to ever live, walking by faith rather than sight. He founded, and God provisioned, orphanages throughout Great Britain. His life was a testament to the efficacy of prayer, and the aphorism “God is seldom early but never late.” When I write “giant of faith”, I mean the grace of faith rather than the gift of faith. This distinction is vital for Christians to understand. The gift of faith, named in 1 Corinthians 12:9, is hoping that something “miraculous” could be done–like saving his wife from a terminal illness–but if it does not come to pass, it was not sin that you didn’t absolutely believe. An extreme biblical example would be David praying and fasting that God would spare his and Bathsheba’s first child. He knew God had decreed the child’s death but was hoping for God to relent due to his prayers.
George Mueller was adamant that his was the grace of faith, which is believing that God will honor His promises. He promises our daily provision. Not believing God’s explicit promises is sin. The most important point here is that the grace of faith is available for every believer; the gift of faith is not. You and I can look at George Mueller’s life and, rather than dismiss it as not applying to us because of his great gift, we can live it because we have the same grace.
Here is the very heart of his ministry: John Piper writes about and quotes Pastor Mueller. He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834 there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.” He had read his Bible from end to end almost 200 times. He had prayed in millions of dollars (in today’s currency) for the Orphans and never asked anyone directly for money. He never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry, but trusted God to put in people’s hearts to send him what he needed. He never took out a loan or went into debt. And neither he nor the orphans were ever hungry.
But let us not think this is about works. The orphan ministry was not successful because he put orphans first, but because he put God first. He testifies: The reason he is so adamant about this is that his whole life—especially in the way he supported the orphans by faith and prayer without asking anyone but God for money—was consciously planned to encourage Christians that God could really be trusted to meet their needs. We will never understand George Mueller’s passion for the orphan ministry if we don’t see that the good of the orphans was second to this.
And make no mistake about it: the order of those three goals is intentional. He makes that explicit over and over in his Narrative. The orphan houses exist to display that God can be trusted and to encourage believers to take him at his word.
This discovery of the all-encompassing sovereignty of God became the foundation of Mueller’s confidence in God to answer his prayers for money. He gave up his regular salary. He refused to ask people directly for money. He prayed and published his reports about the goodness of God and the answers to his prayer. These yearly reports were circulated around the world, and they clearly had a huge effect in motivating people to give to the orphan work. Mueller knew that God used means. In fact, he loved to say, “Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work.” But he also insisted that his hope was in God alone, not his exertions and not the published reports. These means could not account for the remarkable answers that he received.
Mueller’s faith that his prayers for money would be answered was rooted in the sovereignty of God. When faced with a crisis in having the means to pay a bill he would say, “How the means are to come, I know not; but I know that God is almighty, that the hearts of all are in His hands, and that, if He pleaseth to influence persons, they will send help.” That is the root of his confidence: God is almighty, the hearts of all men are in his hands, and when God chooses to influence their hearts they will give.
After the death of his first wife, who he loved deeply, his words demonstrate the cluster of unshakable convictions and experiences that are the key to this remarkable life. “I am in myself a poor worthless sinner.”I have been saved by the blood of Christ.” “I do not live in sin.”God is sovereign over life and death. If it is good for her and for me, she will be restored again. If not she won’t.”My heart is at rest.” I am satisfied with God.” All this comes from taking God at his word. There you see the innermost being of George Mueller and the key to his life. The word of God, revealing his sin, revealing his Savior, revealing God’s sovereignty, revealing God’s goodness, revealing God’s promise, awakening his faith, satisfying his soul. “I was satisfied with God.”