7 Heroes of the Faith Part 5B: George Mueller, Man of Faith

More than Muller’s generosity and philanthropy, it was his extraordinary faith in God’s provision that sets him apart as one of God’s great servants. A famous incident in 1842 serves to highlight this.

Late one evening in the very early days of ‘Orphan House 1’, the kitchen staff came to Muller and advised him that there was no food left in the pantry. The evening meal had been successfully served but there was literally nothing left to give the children for breakfast the next morning. No bread. No milk. Nothing at all. The pantry was literally bare and there was no money to buy anything. Muller exhorted the staff to go to their rooms and pray, and he specifically commanded them not to mention the situation to anyone. They were explicitly forbidden to contact anyone and ask for supplies. Muller spent hours in prayer that night, beseeching God and asking for his generous provision.

The next morning at the appropriate time, the children gathered excitedly for breakfast while Muller and the cooks met in a kitchen that was still completely devoid of food. Hundreds of pairs of feet could be heard thundering down the stairs and entering the dining hall, in eager anticipation of their morning meal. The kitchen staff were mortified. They had never reached this point of desperation before and they asked Muller what to do. He calmly replied that he would lead them in prayer and that God would soon provide. As they stood together in the kitchen, Muller prayed a simple prayer asking for God’s provision. At the conclusion of the prayer the kitchen staff opened their eyes and saw that they were still staring at an empty pantry. Nothing miraculous had occurred.

“Now what do we do?” they asked Muller, with desperation in their voices.

Muller calmly replied, “I will go into the dining room and lead the children in prayer. When I have finished praying, you are to bring the food in.”

Upon saying this, Muller turned and walked into the dining room, leaving the cooks staring after him open-mouthed and thinking that he had lost his marbles. Muller greeted the children, made some announcements about the day’s program and then said grace, thanking God for the food they were about to eat. Admittedly, it was quite a lengthy prayer, as Muller wanted to give God plenty of time to work.

As Muller concluded his prayer with a resounding “Amen” from the children, the kitchen doors swung open and the kitchen staff entered the dining room carrying jugs of fresh creamy milk and loaves of still-warm bread. The sounds and aroma of eggs frying on the stove also wafted into the dining room.

What had happened was that as Muller had been speaking to the children and leading them in prayer, a baker’s van had pulled into the orphanage. The baker had been taking his bread into town but as he was about to pass the gate to the orphanage, he realised that he had baked too much bread for his deliveries that day, so he decided to donate the remainder to the children. The local milkman had also been travelling past with a full load of fresh milk when his cart broke down at the orphanage gates. Because it would take many hours to fix the cart and the milk would sour in the sun, he decided to give it all to the orphanage. At the same time, an egg farmer was passing with his morning’s batch of freshly laid eggs when he felt a sudden compulsion to donate them all to the orphanage.

Muller was not surprised by any of this, but the kitchen staff were utterly amazed and it had a profound impact on them. They remembered this incident for the rest of their lives and would often recount it to others, telling of the miraculous way in which God answered their prayers.

This was not the only instance of miraculous answers to prayer. The story of George Muller and the orphanages is littered with similar examples of God’s dramatic and miraculous provision in response to the prayers of faith by Muller. In his autobiography, he wrote:

“Be assured, if you walk with the Lord and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you … The greater the difficulty to be overcome, the more will it be seen to the glory of God how much can be done by prayer and faith … Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”[1]

On 26 March 1875, at the age of 71 and after the death of his first wife in 1870 and his marriage to Susannah Grace Sanger in 1871, Müller and Susannah began a 17-year period of missionary travel, leaving the running of the orphanages to his associates. Muller was determined to spend the rest of his life preaching the gospel around the world. Over the next 17 years he travelled more than 320,000 kilometres and preached the gospel in over 30 countries including England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, the United States, France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Turkey, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Russia, Poland, India, Japan, Malacca, Singapore, Penang, Colombo, Australia, New Zealand and Ceylon. Muller’s mastery of many languages enabled him to often preach without the need of a translator, and his ministry resulted in untold numbers coming to faith in Jesus and many churches being planted.

Muller continued to live by faith throughout his life and had an unshakeable confidence that the God who cared for the sparrows of the air would abundantly meet all his needs as well.

Finally, as his health began to fade, Muller returned to England in 1892 and spent his remaining years in his orphanages, discipling the children and preaching in local churches. He died in his room at Orphan House 3 in 1898 at the age of 93 and was buried in a local cemetery in Bristol. He was held in such high regard that over 10,000 people attended his funeral, including many of the children whom he had rescued from the streets.

George Muller is not as well-known today as people such as George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon or John Wesley. He did not make as big a splash in the media as some others did but went about his ministry quietly and humbly. Yet his indomitable faith in God and his extraordinary life of sacrificial service must surely set him apart as one of God’s great servants.

In his 1914 biography of George Muller, William Henry Harding wrote:

“The world, dull of understanding, has even yet not really grasped the mighty principle upon which he [Müller] acted, but is inclined to think of him merely as a nice old gentleman who loved children; a sort of glorified guardian of the poor, who with the passing of the years may safely be spoken of, in the language of newspaper headlines, as a ‘prophet of philanthropy.’ To describe him thus, however, is to degrade his memory, is to miss the high spiritual aim and the wonderful spiritual lesson of his life. It is because the carnal mind is incapable of apprehending spiritual truth that the world regards the orphan Houses only with the languid interest of mere humanitarianism and remains oblivious of their extraordinary witness to the faithfulness of God.”[2]

…………………………………………………………………………….

[1] Autobiography of George Muller, pp. 29, 127-128

[2] William Henry Harding, “The Life of George Muller”, Oliphants, London, 1914, p.3