“A human life, filled with the presence and the power of God, is one of God’s choicest gifts to His church and to the world.” (from George Mueller, Man of Bristol)
This is the story of a man who believed God. He prayed like few have ever prayed and saw answers to his prayers as only a few have ever seen. To the cynical heart, this man’s life might seem like a myth. Rest assured, the things you are about to read were not “done in a corner,” but rather in the sight of the whole world.
George Muller was born in Kroppenstaedt, Prussia in 1805. His parents did not do a good job of raising their children and at a very young age George was already an accomplished liar and habitual thief.
At the age of eleven, after having been caught stealing even government funds, he was sent away to become, of all things, a priest. The “state church” in those days had slowly become very secular, and a life in the ministry was seen as a good way to make a living, rather than a divine calling.
Studying for the priesthood did not change this young boy. He got caught up in various vices and bad friendships which led him further down the road of sin. On the very day his mother lay at home dying, George was staggering through the streets, drunk. He was only fourteen. Even so, at age fifteen, George Mueller was confirmed in the church. At sixteen, he was in jail for fraud. Nothing had changed. His father bailed him out of prison, but it was only a short time later that he continued lying and stealing even from his father. He was, in every sense, lost.
One Saturday afternoon in November of 1825, a friend invited Mueller to a meeting at a believer’s house. This type of informal meeting was not something Mueller would typically have liked, but for some reason he felt drawn to accept the invitation. That Saturday evening was a turning point in George Mueller’s destiny. The simple meeting consisting of singing, prayer, and the reading of a sermon, had a profound effect on him. George had never seen anybody kneel in prayer and even this little thing would change him forever. He said to his friend after the meeting, that “all our former pleasures are as nothing compared to this evening.”
As Mueller studied the Bible, he began to live what he knew. He gave up a pleasure trip to Paris, a lucrative business opportunity and the girl he loved for God. Shortly after, George Mueller began feeling the call to give up everything and be a missionary. When George told his father, he was so opposed to the idea that he stopped supporting George while he was in college.
“Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.” Psalm 34:9
Mueller was not accepted as a missionary, which troubled him a great deal. But through it, he learned to wait on God to guide him where he wanted him to go. God had a different path for this young man.
Through these early years, George Mueller learned that he needed to spend time on his knees on a daily basis in order to be close to God. There were often times when George felt far from God and depressed with his whole Christian walk, but through the encouragement of scripture and some good friends, he was able to push through these times and grow stronger. He learned that the “less joy there was in prayer, the more the need for it!” He slowly determined that if he did not first spend good time with God, then he was unfit to work among men. Afterwards he would say to people who had “too much to do” to spend proper time with God: “Four hours of work with one our of prayer in preparation accomplishes more than five hours of work with no prayer. Whatever is gained in quantity is lost in quality.” Very few men have accomplished so much in their lives, yet few have retired more often to be alone with God.
The final step in the preparation for George Mueller’s life work came when he and another brother were invited to lead a small church in Bristol. But before they would accept leadership of the small group, they made the stipulation that they would accept no set salary from the small congregation and live only on the freewill offerings of those to whom they ministered. They didn’t even pass an offering on Sunday, but rather put up a box in their meeting chapel where the members could put money as they felt led by the Spirit.
George Mueller was now entering into the ministry that God had prepared him for. He had learned and grown so much over the years since he first gave his life to God. The trust in God that he was developing was already great and would grow even more. He had learned that God was to be trusted in all areas. This man was most comfortable on His knees and his life ministry would now show the fruit of such a connection with God.
For some time now, George had been thinking about the life of a fellow countryman, August H. Francke. In the late 1600s this man had started the largest ministry for poor children that ever existed until then. Mr. Francke had trusted only in God for the needs of the orphanages and this deeply impressed George Mueller. As he mused about the possibility of such work for himself, the fire began to burn inside him.
Then, in 1833, the fire started to come out. Mueller was drawn to the many orphans running the streets and began a sort of outdoor school for them. He would feed them breakfast and then, for about an hour and a half, would teach them to read, or simply read the Bible to them. This rapidly grew to the point where it had to be abandoned due to the hundreds of children crowding the streets and blocking daily traffic. But, this was a start. He soon began a day-school for these children.
At the end of 1833, Mueller journaled how God had cared for him in the four years since he had begun to trust only in Him for all his needs. The first year, he had received 130 pounds, the second 151, the third 195 and the fourth 267. All of this money was from free-will offerings and came without ever asking for even a penny. The other thing he noted is that the supply of money had increased year by year in the same way that the ministry was increasing so that at the end of every year he had very little, if anything left over. This was verification that prayers were being faithfully answered by the Almighty Provider.
Meanwhile, an orphan boy was taken to the poorhouse and had to drop out of the day-school. This, and other things, started George Mueller thinking about perhaps doing something permanent for these poor, homeless children. As he waited on God, the conviction slowly grew in his heart that God wanted him to work with the orphans. At that time, he received 10 pounds more than what he needed for his current work and decided that God was prompting him to begin immediately. As he thought about how to begin, he read this passage in the Bible that was a source of encouragement for the rest of his life:
“Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10
On December 29, 1835, a public meeting was held during which George Mueller laid out his plans to build an orphanage. Three reasons were given: First, God would be glorified in His providing for the orphans so that people would see that it was good to trust in God. Secondly, the spiritual welfare of the fatherless and motherless would be looked after. Lastly, the temporal needs of the orphans be met. He carefully refrained from asking for donations.
The first thing that God would have to provide would be workers. As soon as they started praying, God began to provide immediately, sending people who trusted God in the same manner that Mueller did. A brother and sister sent him a letter saying that they would give themselves and everything they had to the work while relying on God to supply their needs. Other similar offerings were received, and in fact, the orphanages have never lacked competent, cheerful and devoted helpers.
The second thing needed were funds. God graciously and immediately provided. Among the first givers, was a poor seamstress who surprised them with a gift of 100 pounds! This and other gifts quickly became sufficient to begin the work. A house was rented for one year and everything seemed to be ready. However, when the appointed date arrived to receive applications, not a single one was submitted! They realized that they had prayed for everything except the orphans! They just assumed the orphans would naturally come. This led to great humiliation before God and the re-learning of the lesson that God must provide all.
After prayer and repentance, God sent the fi
rst application the very next day. In April, orphans began to be admitted and by May there were 26 in the house. Immediately there was a need for another orphanage and by April of the next year, there were two houses with 30 orphans in each. By the end of that year, Mueller recorded that God had faithfully provided every day for eighteen months and ten days.
God worked miracle after miracle in caring for these orphans. George Mueller records that he never once was deprived of a meal, though at times they came very close to not even having food. On one occasion, a woman gave 10 pounds for the orphans, which came at a time when one of the houses had no bread and none of them had any milk or money to buy either. This money came only a few minutes before the milkman’s cart was due and breakfast was served! Another time dinner had to be delayed 30 minutes in order for the answer to come and food to be provided. Such a postponement happened very few times in the whole history of the orphanages even though thousands of mouths had to be fed daily!
In order to keep this story short, we must not go on in detail with the history of what God did through George Mueller from then on. Suffice it to say that the ministry grew year by year from humble beginnings to 5 large orphanages housing over 10,000 orphans. He received almost 7.5 million dollars for his ministries without asking anyone but God. And, as at the beginning, they were able to say that, even though they never asked for a penny, God provided for their needs every single day. In fact, George Mueller’s ministry held to the principles he began with: never ask for money or make your needs known to anyone but God, never borrow money, never take money given for one cause and use it for another, even on a temporary basis, and only take money from believers.
“As you go, step by step, the way will open up before you.” Proverbs 4:12 (From the Hebrew texts)
The fact that God provided for every need doesn’t mean that there was never an anxious moment. They often had to pray and rely on God hour by hour, moment by moment. However, every one of these situations only served to deepen their trust in an everlasting Father who provides for his people. George Mueller calculated 50,000 cases where he received distinct answers to prayer! Through his published journals he was able to document how from day to day God was faithful in taking care of them for over 60 years.
The funeral for George Mueller was a scene never before seen in his town of Bristol. Tens of thousands of people reverently lined the streets along the rout to the cemetery. Men and women by the thousands came out to pay their respects to a man who had demonstrated to the world that God can be trusted.