Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Value of Biographies

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

Man 1: I first heard about George Mueller before I went into the ministry. I probably was in college.

Man 2: I picked up Mueller’s book. I think I was maybe a senior in high school. I have that book to this day.

Man 3: 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.

Man 4: 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.

Man 5: 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.

Man 6: More than 30 years later I’m still rereading Mueller’s autobiography and being blessed by it.

Man 7: His life affected me deeply in my college days, and everything has really been different since then.

Man 8: I was thumbing through that last week and just realized, to my amazement, how many of those principles have driven my life for 35 years.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, September 19th.

Man 8: 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.

Man 9: I have found a friend in the life of George Mueller, and he’s had a great impact upon my life as well.

Leslie Basham: Have you read any good books lately? Today, Nancy will explain why she gets so much out of Christian biographies. If you’re not in the habit of reading about heroes of the faith, get ready to be invited on an adventure.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: September 2005 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of my very favorite Christian heroes of the faith, George Mueller. You’ve heard me talk about George Mueller from time to time, and you’ve probably also heard me reference the value and importance of reading Christian biographies.

So let me just back-up for a moment and make a statement about that because I grew up reading stories of great Christians. Now, today there are a lot of children’s versions available about a lot of these heroes of the faith. But this is such an important thing for you to read and for you to get your children and grandchildren reading. Not just the George Muellers, but the Hudson Taylors and the Gladys Aylwards. So many of these stories the church needs to remember, and we will forget if we don’t pass them on from one generation to the next.

I just made a list here of some of the reasons I think it’s important to read these stories, to be familiar with these saints of the past. Of course, if God didn’t think that was important, He probably wouldn’t have given us Hebrews chapter 11 which is a whole biographical chapter plus lots of other biographical stories throughout the Scripture where He says, “Look at these men and women’s lives and learn from them.”

Now we learn not only from their successes but also from their failures. God seems to think there’s something important about remembering people from the past, particularly those who served the Lord faithfully.

As I’ve grown up reading these biographies (I have a huge collection), they so minister to me. They encourage me. They give me hope for my life because so many times I feel kind of like I’m failing or fainting in the Christian life. Then I read about these servants of the Lord and I say, “Oh God, if You can work through them, if You can sustain them, You can sustain me.”

They challenge my life as I see some of these people . . . . I don’t mean to sound like the only great heroes are the ones who are dead, but you don’t know until they’ve finished the race really how it’s all going to end up. So in a culture that really celebrates celebrity, I think it’s far better that our heroes be people who have already been proven to have been faithful all the way.

Our lives can be challenged by their faith, by what they illustrate about the heart and the character and the ways of God. Their lives illustrate God’s ways. We have the Scripture, and then we can look at stories of people either in the Scripture or in these biographical accounts of people who’ve lived since the time the Scripture was written. We can see these are illustrations of God’s Word and of God’s ways.

Now these stories inspire us to trust God more. As we see how God proved Himself in their lives, our faith is strengthened. One thing about a good Christian biography that’s also of great value is that it exalts Christ. You don’t exalt the person. These people who are the truly greats were humble people who always kept saying, “It’s not me; it’s Jesus.”

If you read a book . . . . Some of you can see that I’m holding in my hand a thick, heavy book, 737 pages I think to be exact, that’s an autobiography of George Mueller. But you read through this and you don’t come away really saying how great a man George Mueller was as much as you come away saying, “God is an incredible God.” That’s what makes a good Christian biography.

Another thing that is a blessing to me about some of these biographies is that you see how people who were really pretty ordinary, and some of them even had great limitations in terms of natural gifting or abilities, how when they trusted in an extraordinary God, God used them in extraordinary ways. But as you look at George Mueller, you know apart from the Lord this man would have never amounted to anything of any worth. But God made all the difference in this man’s life.

You know as you look at Hebrews chapter 11, you read that great “hall of faith,” those stories of Abraham and Moses and so many servants of the Lord, how they served the Lord, and you’re challenged. But then you come to chapter 12 of Hebrews, and it says . . . Therefore having read about all these great heroes of the faith, what’s the bottom line?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” these who’ve gone before us, these whose lives we celebrate. What are we supposed to do? “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

He’s the ultimate hero. He’s the one we celebrate. He’s the one we look to. So as we read the stories of the George Muellers and others, it’s important to remember them as God uses the Scripture to bring some of those things to mind. But it’s important to say, “so what?”

As we see how they ran their race, how they exercised faith in God, then we’re emboldened to lay aside every weight, the things that distract us, the things that hinder us, and the sins that tend to cling to us, those besetting sins; lay them aside and run with endurance the race that is set before us keeping our eyes not on George Mueller or Hudson Taylor or some of these other great heroes of the faith, but ultimately keeping our eyes on Jesus. That’s what a man like George Mueller did that I think makes his life worthy of study and reflection.

Now I want to share just several things that stood out to me over the last year as I’ve been reading that autobiography of George Mueller. If I had to say, “What are the take-away points of his life,” these would be some of them. In no particular order but certainly this one should probably be first. That is his was a life lived for the glory of God, lived for the glory of God. That was the supreme objective of his life.

And for those of you who are perhaps not familiar with the name George Mueller, he was actually German by birth but spent most of his adult and ministry life in Bristol, England where he started many ministries: for Scripture distribution, for schooling of children who could not otherwise be educated, for the support of missionaries, including Hudson Taylor and his work in China, and then the lifework for which he became most familiar—the founding of orphanages.

He started with just a very small number of orphans by faith trusting God to provide what was needed to care for those orphans. First there were a few, then there were more. The word spread and over decades finally at the end of George Mueller’s life I believe it was about 2,000 orphans that he was caring for at one time, never asking others for funds. He was quick to say that God didn’t lead everybody that same way, but that’s how God led him—just to pray and exercise faith.

He talks about why he did all this. He said, “The reason for all of this was one thing: the glory of God.” What he wanted was that he would live his life in such a way, and the way that this orphanage was run (and there were other ministries as well), that people would look at what happened and they would say, “Wow, isn’t God incredible?” He cared about the children, but that really wasn’t his supreme purpose. He always wanted his life to be a testimony to the greatness and the power and the reality of God.

It makes me ask about my life, “What is there about my life that makes other people look at it and say, ‘Wow, isn’t God incredible?’” He said elsewhere in his journal, “His glory was my chief aid even if the work came to nothing.” There were times when it appeared that they might have to shut down because they didn’t have any major benefactors that they could count on. They just, many times, lived from God’s hand to their mouth. And he came to the point where he said, “The point isn’t the orphanage surviving or thriving. Even if it comes to nothing, His glory is my chief aid. If that’s what pleases God, then that’s okay.”

I’ve had to come to that point about our ministry many times to say, “Lord, if you want to bless Revive Our Hearts and multiply it and put it on more stations, give us more donors, and let us expand, and let us reach more people; we’ll thank you for that. But if You want to take us off some stations, if there aren’t funds to provide some of that or if for other reasons you need to cut back the ministry at points, Lord you don’t need Revive Our Hearts. All that matters is that You be glorified. That’s our supreme objective as it was George Mueller’s.”

Leslie Basham: If someone were writing a book about your life, what would it be like? Would it be a scathing exposé that uncovered a secret life? Would it be a predictable story where nothing much happens? Or would it be a page-turning biography that brings God glory?

When we read biographies of heroes of the faith, it reminds us to ask God to do great things in our lives. That’s why we hope you’ll order a book called, George Mueller: Delighted in God. The story will change the way you pray. It will change the way you trust God. You can get a copy by calling 1-800-569-5959. You can also order on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. When you order from us you won’t pay any shipping, and you’ll help us keep connecting women to God’s Word through the radio. Again, the web address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

October is a special month. Do you know why? Well, Nancy’s here to tell us.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Leslie, as a lot of our listeners know, October has been designated, Pastor’s Appreciation Month.”I think it is so important for us to let our pastors know how grateful we are for all the ways they serve. And you know, pastors’ wives deserve special recognition as well. Most of the ways they serve are more behind the scenes, and they face a lot of pressures that most of us probably aren’t aware of.

So to get ready for Pastors’ Appreciation Month, our team at Revive Our Hearts has put together a Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Packet.

Leslie Basham: That’s right. It includes a signed copy of your book, Surrender, along with a specially designed travel mug, some gourmet tea, and a unique purse calendar. We’ll even include a gift bag, tissue paper, and card. You can get more information at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I do hope you’ll contact us about the Pastor's Wife Appreciation Packet, and I hope you’ll be with us all this week as we continue looking at the life of George Mueller. It’s a powerful story that has touched my life in a significant way ever since I was a little girl, and I believe that it will challenge your faith as well. So join us tomorrow right here on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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