Revive Our Hearts Podcast

George Mueller, Day 1

Leslie Bennett: The biography of George Mueller has affected Christian leaders for generations.

Jim Cymbala: I first heard about George Mueller before I went into the ministry. I probably was in college.

Bill Elliff: I picked up Mueller's book. I think I was maybe a senior in high school. I have that book to this day.

Jim Elliff: I don't suppose there's anybody in all of the world outside of my own family who has impacted me as much as George Mueller.

Tom Elliff: Of all the biographies which I have read over the years, I would have to say that Mueller's stands out as one of the top three.

Bill Elliff: I remember vividly taking the back of that book and as I would find some principle or truth about Mueller's life, I would just write it down on the back.

Jim Cymbala: More than thirty years later I'm still rereading Mueller's autobiography and being blessed by it.

Jim Elliff: His life affected me deeply in my college days, and everything has really been different since then.

Bill Elliff: I was thumbing through that last week and just realized, to my amazement, how many of those principles have driven my life for thirty-five years.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Monday, June 20, 2016.

John Piper: The aim of Mueller's life was that people would see God to be gloriously trustworthy and satisfying as he cared for orphans and was able to roll all of his burdens onto the Lord.

Tom Elliff: I have found a friend in the life of George Mueller, and he's had a great impact upon my life as well.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Throughout 2016, we are focusing on the subject of prayer here on Revive Our Hearts. And our focus on prayer wouldn't be complete without talking about one of my heroes of the faith, George Mueller. Today and tomorrow, you'll want to stick with us, because as we explore the life of this great man of prayer, you'll be challenged to pray more intensely and trust God more expectantly. You'll get a greater appreciation for what it means to look to the Lord for our daily bread and everything we need.

Today we'll hear from two pastors reflecting on the life of George Mueller. First, with an overview, here's John Piper.

John Piper: George Mueller was a native of Germany. He was born in Kroppenstadt, September 27, 1805. He lived almost the entire nineteenth century. He died in 1898 at the age of ninety-two. He saw the Great Awakening in 1859, about which he said, "It led to the conversion of hundreds of thousands of people." He did follow-up work for D.L. Moody. He preached for Charles Spurgeon in his tabernacle. He clearly and explicitly was the inspiration for Hudson Taylor’s way of doing missions. So that’s some of his connectedness in the nineteenth century.

He spent almost all of his life in Bristol, England. He pastored the same church there for over sixty-six years A.T. Pierson said, “He devised large and liberal things for the Lord’s cause.” I really like that phrase. “He devised large and liberal things for the Lord’s cause.”

Nancy: The Lord’s cause was not always on George Mueller’s agenda. In fact, if you’d met him as a boy, you probably would not have predicted that he’d grow up to be a hero of the faith. Here’s Jim Elliff, president of Christian Communicators Worldwide.

Jim Elliff: He would lie and steal. His father was a tax collector, and he even would steal from his own father—stealing the tax money that he had collected. His father was not a very good father in many ways, would punish him and try to discipline him, but he continued to be a rebellious, self-centered, cavalier youn man. On the night of his mother’s death he actually played cards in the tavern until about 2:00 in the morning and then spent much of the rest of the night just wandering through the streets with his friends.

He said the death of his mother made absolutely no impression on him whatsoever. He was a very calloused kid in many ways.

Nancy: John Piper picks up the story.

John Piper: He went on living a bawdy life until he landed in prison at age sixteen because of thievery. His father bought his way out of prison, beat him, and sent him off to another town. He began to make a living with his academic skills by tutoring in Latin, French, mathematics. He finally went to the University of Halle to study divinity with 900 divinity students. He said later that "probably nine of them feared the Lord." In those days divinity was a pathway to a good living, and his father wanted him as an unbeliever to have a good living—so go study divinity and get yourself a church. That’s what he went off to do when he was twenty.

Then the day came. I love these stories. This is why I read biographies. I love the grace of God breaking into people’s lives. He was invited to a Bible study. You know what they do at this Bible study? They read the Bible; they sing a song; they pray, and they read a printed sermon because it was against the law to preach if you don’t have an ordained pastor. Mueller said:

It was to me as if I had found something after which I had been seeking all my life. I immediately wished to go. We sat down, and we sang a hymn. Then brother Kayser knelt and asked a blessing on our meeting. His kneeling down made a deep impression on me for I had never seen anyone on his knees before nor had I ever prayed on my knees. He read a chapter from the Bible and a printed sermon.

At the end of the meeting we sang another hymn and then the owner of the house, Mr. Wagner, prayed. While he prayed I thought I could not pray as well although I have more education than this man. The whole made a deep impression on me. I was happy, though if I had been asked why I was happy, I could not have clearly explained. I have not the least doubt that on that evening God began a work of grace in me. That evening was the turning point in my life.

That was 1825. He’s twenty years old.

Nancy: When Mr. Wagner invited this young man into his home, little did he realize that George Mueller would influence thousands and thousands of people for God’s kingdom.

The leaders of this meeting did some simple things. They read a printed sermon, sang some hymns, and prayed. When we gather with other believers for even simple corporate worship, we have no idea who God might bring through our doors or how they may be affected. 

While he was still a young convert, George Mueller spent four years studying to be a missionary. He was zealous, but he wasn’t very focused or affective. Then he visited the town of Teignmouth, England to recover from a serious illness. John Piper picks up the story.

John Piper: He goes there in August of 1829 (roughly twenty-four years old), and while he was there there’s a little, teeny chapel, Ebenezer Chapel, with a few dozen people. The man who preached is never named—in any of his writings. This is just like God that the decisive man in his life would not be named. He sat down in this man's presence and listened to him preach, and then by virtue of a strange providence, the house where Mueller was invited to spend the time for recuperation, that man was spending ten days there. And that man was a very devoted lover of the doctrines of grace.

Through the instrumentality of this brother, the Lord bestowed a great blessing on me. Before this period, I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace. But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the Word of God.

Forty years later, in 1870, he said that his preaching had been fruitless for the four years from 1825 to 1829 in Germany. Then he came to England and was taught the doctrines of grace. This is what he says:

In the course of time, I came to this country, and it pleased God to show to me the doctrines of grace in a way in which I had never seen them before. At first, I hated them. If this were true, I could do nothing at all in the conversion of sinners, as all would depend upon God and the working of His Spirit. But when it pleased God to reveal these truths to me, and my heart was brought to such a state that I could say, "I am not only content to be a hammer, an axe, or a saw in God's hands, but I shall count it an honor to be taken up and used by Him in any way. And if sinners are converted through my instrumentality, from my inmost soul, I will give Him all the glory." The Lord gave me to see fruit in abundance. Sinners were converted by scores. And ever since God has used me in one way or the other in His service.

That's his testimony about the affect of the doctrines of grace transforming him from a fruitless zealous young Christian to a fruitful zealous Christian for the next sixty-eight years.

Nancy: George Mueller became the pastor of a small chapel there in Teignmouth. As one example of his newfound trust in God’s sovereignty, he refused to accept a salary from the church. He made that decision the same month that he married Miss Mary Groves. Jim Elliff tells us a little bit about her.

Jim Elliff: She was remarkable because when they got married she was willing to actually give everything away that they had, basically sell everything, and begin to live by faith. When you stop and think about the magnitude of that . . . She was willing to say, “Okay, anything You want we’re willing to do it. We just trust You for everything that we live on.”

Nancy: They continued to live without a salary even as they moved to a church in Bristol, England where they established an educational ministry and the orphanage that was to become George Mueller’s major life work.

Jim Elliff: He and his wife began to literally trust the Lord daily for the food that they would have and the provisions they would have. This is the beginning of his whole view about money. This shaped the future for him. He was right there with his wife at the beginning of this. She participated and prayed. She was faithful and I think quite a remarkable lady.

Nancy: George and Mary Mueller continued to trust God even under challenging circumstances. Mary delivered two stillborn children. Another child died at one-monthold. But they were living for something greater than their own comfort, something greater than having their own way or their own fulfillment. Their single, greatest goal in life was to please God.

Both of us by God’s grace had one objective in life and only one—to live for Christ. Everything else was a very inferior character to us. However weak and failing in a variety of ways, there was no swerving from this one holy object of life.

Nancy: I think that may be part of the reason the Muellers had such a happy marriage, because they were pursuing holiness and the glory of God.

Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. Thousands of times I told her, "My darling, I never saw you at any time since you became my wife without my being delighted to see you.”

Nancy: George Mueller’s trust in God continued even when he received sobering news about his wife’s health.

When I heard what the judgment was, that the malady was rheumatic fever, I naturally expected the worse. My heart dared to be broken on account of the depth of my affection.

John Piper: Twenty minutes after 4:00, the Lord’s Day afternoon, February 16, 1870, Mary died.

I fell on my knees and thanked God for her release and for having taken her to Himself and asked the Lord to help and support us.

The man who had seen God answer 10,000 prayers in the most remarkable way for the provision of his life and his orphans did not get the answer to this prayer that his wife be spared. Or did he?

The last portion of Scripture which I read to my precious wife was this, "The Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11 KJV).

And what he said at Mary Groves’ funeral is the key to his life.

If it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again. Sick as she is, God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. All this springs as I have often said before from taking God at His word, believing what He says.

Nancy: So now George Mueller was left to continue caring for orphans without his wife at his side. But he pressed on. Orphan care was a huge need at this time. Jim Elliff sets the scene.

Jim Elliff: If you can imagine the days of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, you get a little picture of what the English world was like at that time. It was during the Industrial Revolution. Many children either worked, or their parents worked just nonstop. There was much disease and sometimes a plague or some kind of disease would come through and wipe out numbers of people. There’d be lots of orphans all around.

Nancy: Here’s John Piper.

John Piper: When he started in 1834, there were accommodations in all of Britain for 3,600 orphans. There were twice that many children under eight in prison in 1834 in England.

Jim Elliff: It wasn’t long that God put on his heart a verse of Scripture out of Psalm 81 and it’s verse 10. And it said this: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (KJV). God used this verse and this concept to lead George Mueller to believe God, to trust God for the money to actually take these orphans in and be able to supply them with everything they would need for life.

Nancy: Even as he made plans to care for orphans, George Mueller continued to keep God’s glory as his number one priority.

The first and primary object of the work was and still is that God might be magnified.

John Piper: Now, I think the biggest surprise I got in reading the life of Mueller is how pervasive was his insistence that he was not doing orphan work mainly for orphans.

The chief reasons for establishing an orphan house are: One, that God would be glorified should He be pleased to furnish me with the means—it is being seen that it is not in vain to trust Him and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened; number two, the spiritual welfare of the fatherless and motherless children; number three, the temporal welfare.

Now make no mistake, those three—the strengthening of the faith of the church of Jesus Christ by watching my life and how I care for the orphans, the spiritual welfare of the orphans, the temporal welfare of the orphans—those three in that order was his life, not the other way around. This is really a deep sense of calling on George Mueller. It was absolutely his passion.

The first and primary object of the work was and still is that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need only by prayer and faith without anyone being asked by me. Whereby it may be seen that God is faithful.

“He was deeply grieved,” quote, “that so many believers were harassed and distressed in mind and brought guilt on their consciences on account of not trusting the Lord.”

Jim Elliff: He wanted to be a living illustration that God was everything He said He was. I find that to be the most important aspect of George Mueller’s life and the thing that we need to carry away with us more than anything else about this great man of God.

John Piper: He chose the orphans decisively, crucially to display the trustworthiness of God in answering prayer. Let’s read it.

It seemed to me best to be done by the establishing of an orphan house. It needed to be something which could be seen even by the natural eye. If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith obtained without asking any individual the means for establishing and carrying on an orphan house, there would be something which with the Lord’s blessing might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God.

In 1834 he founded the Scripture Knowledge Institute for Home and Abroad. It had five ministries which sprung out from his church. His five ministries besides the church were: schools for children and adults; two, Bible distribution; three, missionary support (He was a great supporter of Hudson Taylor); four, tract and book distribution; and the most famous one, number five, in his words, “to board and clothe and Scripturally educate destitute children who have lost both parents by death.” That’s a pretty narrow definition of orphan, and that was his working definition. He wouldn’t even admit children born out of wedlock.

Jim Elliff: George Mueller began in his work with the orphans on Wilson Street. He actually got a row house which was about three stories high or so—perhaps a basement or a cellar and just sort of double windows all the way up. He got this place as a place to begin his work with the orphans. He advertised that he would receive orphans. He prayed everything in, everything that was needed, all the utensils, the linens, the workers who would help and so forth. Everything came in. It was a beautiful experience. Everything was ready. He’d announced the day he was going to receive children, and on that day nobody came.

I can just picture him sitting there all day long wondering after all this build-up why nobody showed up. When he walked home he was very disturbed. He thought about it carefully and with great concern on his way home. He was reminded of Philippians 4:4–7 where it says don’t worry about anything. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (v. 6 NASB).

And he thought to himself, You know I prayed for the utensils; I prayed for the linens; I prayed for the chairs; I prayed for the beds; I prayed for the workers. But the one thing I forgot to pray for was God bringing children here. Now this was really serious to him. He went home. He spent two or three hours on his face before God just confessing his sin and asking God to bring the children.

The next day the first little girl was brought, and then before long there were thirty-something. They had more requests. He got a second row house, which I believe was number one Wilson Street. Then he got a third one, number three Wilson Street. And then he actually got a fourth one. Well, by this time children are everywhere.

John Piper: He built over the years five large orphan houses, very large. Altogether they would hold over 2,000 children.

Jim Elliff: These were all built just by looking to God in order to house these orphans and care for them there. He loved them; he was loved by the kids.

John Piper: Over his lifetime he cared for 10,024 orphans. By the time he was done with his life of ministering to orphans, by virtue of the inspiration he became to other people for ministry, there were at least 100,000 orphans being cared for in homes in England when he died as opposed to 3,600 when he began.

Nancy: George Mueller’s goal of bringing God glory was realized in his lifetime, and his story continues to inspire generations of believers to trust God—including you and me. You won't be called to care for 10,000 orphans, but you can bring God glory by trusting him to take care of the details of your life and your calling, just as George Mueller did.

Maybe your way of demonstrating God’s power is by taking care of your own children. Maybe it’s staying faithful in a tough marriage. Maybe it’s through some type of ministry in your church. Would you trust God to do great things in whatever place He’s put you, and would you seek to glorify Him through your life?

We’re examining the faith-filled, prayerful life of George Mueller today and tomorrow as part of a year long emphasis on prayer here on Revive Our Hearts. That emphasis will culminate on September 23 when we are believing God to bring together at least 100,000 women to cry out to the Lord for the pressing needs of our day.

During the lifetime of George Mueller, caring for orphans was a huge need. He asked the Lord to show His power and to get glory for Himself through meeting that need. What if we were to cry out for the same thing in our day, for God's power and His glory? What if the moral decay we see is really an opportunity for God to display His power? What if the vacuum of godly leadership in our government is an opportunity for God to put His glory on display? What if the redefinition of gender and marriage is an opportunity for God to showcase His glory?

At the Cry Out! National Prayer Event, we will be joining together to ask Him to show His power to transform hearts and to radically change families, communities and even entire nations. I’ll be crying out with all the women gathered in Indianapolis that weekend for the True Woman '16 conference. On the Friday evening of that conference, we’re asking groups to join us by mean of simulcast in thousands of locations across the nation and even around the globe.

You can visit ReviveOurHearts.com to learn more about this national prayer event for women, Cry Out!, and you can also sign up to host a group in your area. This could be at your church; it could be in your home, or some other venue. When you go to ReviveOurHearts.com, we’ll give you instructions on how you can join the Cry Out! simulcast and how you can join your hearts in prayer with us.

Now, today we heard how George and Mary Mueller gave up a salary to entirely depend on God’s provision. When you hear a story like that, do you wonder if God expects everyone to live the same way? We’ll discuss that tomorrow when we continue looking at this extraordinary life of prayer. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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