Trials of Faith
THE BUILDING of Mr. Muller’s spiritual life was a constant conflict. While outwardly he displayed a calm attitude toward circumstances, inwardly he battled to obtain this seeming peace. During the earlier years of his faith pilgrimage his battles were more severe and came more often upon him to block that upward climb toward spiritual serenity. He laid the foundation for his prayer life by facing the obstacles in the way of communion with God.
A lack of prayer is more evident during the first years following his conversion than later, since the habit had to be built by diligence. It was by no means an immediate acquisition with him. For instance, while yet a student at Halle, following his spiritual awakening, he decided to leave for the University of Berlin. At once the Spirit checked him for making up his mind with such a burst of speed and not seasoning it with prayer. He says, “When the morning came on which I had to apply to the university for testimonials, the Lord graciously stirred me up prayerfully to consider the matter.”
After prayer he discovered that it was not God’s will for him to make the change. While this was an insignificant incident, still it taught him that his decisions must not be made without carefully considering them in the light of partnership with God. Later in his work there were to be many incidents where he was to be checked by the Lord in setting out on a certain course without first laying it before God.
His assurance that a course was right was founded upon this necessity, which he learned at Halle, of not undertaking an action without seasons of waiting upon God for His sanction.
At about this time, early in 1826, he learned another lesson which was to be used in toughening the fiber of his soul. That concerned itself with Bible reading. Being converted, he did not read his Bible, though he read about the Bible extensively. He was to master this lesson in faith’s curriculum before God trusted him with many answers to his prayers.
“My difficulty in understanding it (the Bible), and the little enjoyment I had in reading it, made me careless in reading it...”
This was in 1826, but when sixteen years of his spiritual warfare had passed, he discovered that a radical change in the method of conducting the spiritual ministrations with his own soul brought added victories. His conflicts within and without were great. He writes, “Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing to give myself to prayer after having dressed myself in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, that my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved.”
Those prayer sessions, when he bared his soul to God, were times of confession. “The result is,” he states, “that there is always a good deal of confession...”
When the London Society accepted him as a missionary, one of the conditions was that he would study with them for six months. This brought him great disappointment. In 1828, he assures us, “For a few moments, therefore, I was greatly disappointed and tried.” These trials and discouragements, which circumstances and conditions brought him, were to be a constant companion of his entire Christian endeavor.
So great were his victories of faith that we are prone to believe that Mr. Muller was ever tried, and so many his answers to prayer that he was ever disappointed when the reply did not come shortly from God. Such is far from the truth.
On March 7, 1831, he says, “I was again tempted to disbelieve the faithfulness of the Lord, and though I was not miserable, still, I was not so fully resting upon the Lord that I could triumph with joy.” He was in dire need and it seemed that God had forgotten him. Shortly however he assures us that joy returned with the answer to his cry in the form of a gift of five sovereigns.
Seven years later this same trial overwhelmed him. On September 17, 1838, he writes, “This evening I was rather tried respecting the long delay of larger sums coming...” When he closed the following year he refers to “the trials of faith during the year,” but adds, “Should it be supposed...by anyone in reading the details of our trials of faith during the year...that we have been disappointed in our expectations or discouraged in the work, my answer is...such days were expected from the commencement...Our desire is not that we may be without trials of faith, but that the Lord graciously be pleased to support us in the trial.”
He also refers to “the deeper trials of his faith,” those things that really disturbed him and kept his mind wandering during seasons of meditation. This was a constant battle with him.
From these occasions of conflict he found release in going to his knees in prayer. “When other trials, still greater,” he states, “but which I cannot mention, have befallen me...I poured out my soul before God, and arose from my knees in peace.” This was his method of breaking Satan’s hold upon his life in the hours of battle.
There were occasions when everything was dark in outlook. Not all was light, nor were all of his days free from those harassing conditions which Christians face. “When sometimes all has been dark, exceedingly dark...judging from natural appearances; yea, when I should have been overwhelmed indeed in grief and despair had I looked at things after the outward appearances...I have sought to encourage myself by laying hold in faith on God’s almighty power, His unchangeable love, and His infinite wisdom.”
A few years later he received a great disappointment when a letter arrived from a sister saying she was unable to send the large sums she had promised. Muller realized shortly that he had placed his trust in the promise of the lady and not in the promise of God. God spoke to him softly, he says, through the passage, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Immediately peace was restored to his troubled soul.
Mr. Muller was anxious that none who read his “Narrative” or came into contact with God’s dealings with him would think that he were not in spiritual need all the time. He refers to this being in constant need more than twenty years after he first began to trust God for his daily supplies. And these needs were not merely of a financial nature — in fact, he had more immediate freedom from financial worries, or present victory over his heavy financial burdens than over his other more personal “needs.”
He was subject to constant temptation along lines of appearing insincere, or of being proud over what God had done through him.
He writes, under the stress of such spiritual problems often arising in his soul, “I am in continual need...If left to myself I should fall a prey to Satan. Pride, unbelief or other sins would be my ruin. I cannot stand for a moment if left to myself. Oh, that none of my readers might think that I could not be puffed up by pride, and think of me as being beyond unbelief...No, I am as weak as ever.” In 1848 he added, “I need as much as ever to be upheld as to faith and every other grace. I am therefore in ‘need,’ in great ‘need,’ and therefore, dear Christian readers, help me with your prayers.”
To assure us that he was not beyond trial, he said, “Straits and difficulties I expected from the beginning...Therefore the longer I go on in this service, the greater the trials of one kind or another become.”
He faced his weak moments as everyone does. Though strong in faith still he felt the constant urge to keep in instant touch with God, for otherwise, his inner weaknesses would overcome him.
On May 13, 1837, he affirmed, “Today I have had again much reason to mourn over my corrupt nature, particularly on account of want of gratitude for the many temporal mercies by which I am surrounded. I was so sinful as to be dissatisfied on account of the dinner, because I thought it would not agree with me, instead of thanking God for rich provisions and asking heartily the Lord’s rich blessing upon it...I rejoice in the prospect of that day, when, seeing Jesus as He is, I shall be like Him.”
He was often troubled by the many spiritual voids that marked his work. On October 7, 1833, he checked the results of his personal ministry by that of Mr. Craik. He said, “Many more were convinced of sin through brother Craik’s preaching than my own.
This led Mr. Muller to an instant study of his lack of concern for the sinner’s welfare, and once he found the cause, he remedied it through special seasons of prayer in which he asked God for a deepened sense of the tragedy that dogs his path.
When he felt led to build Ashley Down as was his custom he weighed the arguments for and against such a course. Among the arguments against the action was the thought that his constant battle against pride might overwhelm him in the new undertaking. “I should be in danger of being lifted up,” he wrote. “I should be in danger of it indeed...I cannot say that hitherto the Lord has kept me humble. But I can say that hitherto He has given me a hearty desire to give Him all the glory...I have to beseech the Lord that He be pleased to give me a lowly mind.”
This prayer which moved him in 1851 was the result of constantly facing the many praises, which came from friends, because of the daily miracles his faith seemed to bring to pass.
Through the years he worried not a little about a tendency to become irritable because of his physical condition. During the first decade after his conversion he fought to overcome any slight indication that he was not pleased with how he felt, or how the weather might be, or whatever the soul-upheaving circumstances he was going through. An instance of this is found in his Journal under the entry of January 16, 1838.
“The weather has been cold,” he says, ‘for several days, but today I suffered much, either because it was colder than before or because I felt it more owing to the weakness of my body..I arose from my knees and stirred the fire; but I still remained very cold...I was a little irritated by this. At last, having prayed for some time, I was obliged to rise and take a walk...I now entreated the Lord that this circumstance might not be permitted to rob me of the precious communion which I had with Him the last three days, for this was the object at which Satan aimed. I confessed also my sin of irritability on account of the cold and sought to have my conscience cleansed through the blood of Jesus. He had mercy upon me, my peace was restored...and I had uninterrupted communion with Him.”
In 1844 he wrote,”I desired more power over my besetting sins.” When one reads the few times in which Mr. Muller tells the story of his battle over irritability, he is led to wonder if this was not one of those troublesome sins which constantly nagged at his soul.
His entire life was checkered with afflictions, irritations, trials and the victory of peace and spiritual repose. When his daughter took typhus fever in 1854, this checkering appears in his Journal, where he writes:
“Now was the trial of faith. But faith triumphed...While I was in this affliction, this great affliction, besides being at peace as far as the Lord’s dispensation was concerned, I also felt perfectly at peace with regard to the cause of the affliction...It was the Father’s rod, applied in infinite wisdom and love for the restoration of my soul from a state of lukewarmness.
“Conscious as I was of my manifold weaknesses, failings and shortcomings, so that I too would be ready to say with the Apostle Paul, ‘O wretched man that I am!’ yet I was assured that this affliction was...for the trial of my faith.”
He found this route of peace through affliction early in his Christian life. As far back as in 1829 he writes, “The weaker I became in body, the happier I was in my spirit.” This was during a severe illness on May 15 when he despaired of living.
“Never in my whole life,” he continues, “had I seen myself so vile, so guilty, so altogether what I ought not to have been as at this time. It was as if every sin of which I had been guilty was brought to my remembrance; but at the same time I could realize that all my sins have been completely forgiven...The result of this was great peace.”
One of the last entries he made in his Journal shows this same checking of the divine will in his life. On March 1, 1898, shortly before his death, he wrote, “For about 21 months with scarcely the least intermission the trial of our faith and patience has continued. Now, today, the Lord has refreshed my heart.” The occasion of this blessing was receiving a legacy for approximately $7,500.
Mr. Muller had learned the simple lesson that however great the affliction, God in His kind providence would not forsake him — provided he remained steadfast in faith and relied greatly upon secret prayer.
The key to his spiritual victories, whatever the nature of the soul depression, is found in an entry on June 25, 1835. He says, “These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper.” The following day he wrote, “I was enabled, by the grace of God, to rise early, and I had nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I now feel this morning more comfortable.”
It was prayer that swept his soul free of doubt, distemper and the aftereffects of a trial by the incoming tide of peace. For this reason he could make such remarks as this entry on March 9, 1847, “The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith.” And a later one, “The greater the trial, the sweeter the victory.”
Mr. Muller decried any evidence of having the gift of faith. He had faith, as any Christian may have it, but not that peculiar gift of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12:9.
“Think not, dear reader,” he writes, “that I have the gift of faith...which is mentioned along with ‘the gifts of healing,’ ‘the working of miracles’...and that on that account I am able to trust in God...If I were only one moment left by myself my faith would utterly fail...It is not true that my faith is that gift of faith...It is the self-same faith which is found in every believer...for little by little it has been increasing for the last six and twenty years.”
In charting the results of this marvelous life of trust, the speed with which he obtained multiplied thousands of answers to his prayers, we must be careful not to remove Mr. Muller from the realm of the thoroughly human. He is anxious to have his readers think of him in the same light as they do of themselves. He possessed no character traits nor divine possessions, not within the reach of every believer.
The trials which blocked his spiritual advancement were those common to every Christian. The human tempers, the frailties of his body, mind and spirit were those which mark true members of God’s kingdom. His victories came through prayer, trust in the Lord’s unfailing promises and faith that God’s truth could not fail; and if he thus achieved, he would have us also see that similar faith victories are within our reach.
There is only one route to soul repose...and that is the highway that leads to God’s throne, prayer.
“It is not enough to begin to pray,” he advises us, “nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly continue in prayer, until we obtain an answer; and further, we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing.”
Taken from "George Muller - The Man of Faith" by Basil Miller
The Faith Principles of Ministry (1824)
The Life of Faith (1855)
The Life of Faith (1855)
Excerpt taken from “The Autobiography of George Müller,” pp. 226-227
If anyone desires to live a life of faith and trust in God he must:
Strengthening Faith (1842)
Strengthening Faith (1842)
This leads me to the following important point. You ask, “How may I, a true believer, have my faith strengthened?” The answer is this:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jam 1:17).
As the increase of faith is a good gift, it must come from God, and therefore He ought to be asked for this blessing. The following means, however, ought to be used:
A Common Faith (1842)
A Common Faith (1842)
I DESIRE that all the children of God, who may read these details, may thereby be led to increased and more simple confidence in God for everything which they may need under any circumstances, and that these many answers to prayer may encourage them to pray, particularly as regards the conversion of their friends and relatives, their own progress in grace and knowledge, the state of the saints whom they may know personally, the state of the Church of God at large, and the success of the preaching of the gospel. Especially I affectionately warn them against being led away by the device of Satan to think that these things are peculiar to me and cannot be enjoyed by all the children of God; for though, as has been stated before, every believer is not called upon to establish Orphan Houses, Charity Schools, etc., and trust in the Lord for means, yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon Him, to trust in Him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions that they have asked according to His will, and in the name of the Lord Jesus—Think not, dear reader, that I have the gift of faith, that is, the gift of which we read in 1 Corinthians 12:9 and that is mentioned along with “the gifts of healing,” “the working of miracles,” “prophecy”—and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord...
From my inmost soul I do ascribe it to God alone that He has enabled me to trust in Him, and that He has not suffered my confidence in Him to fail. But I thought it needful to make these remarks, lest anyone should think that my depending upon God was a particular gift given to me, which other saints have no right to look for; or lest it should be thought that this, my depending upon Him, had only to do with the obtaining of money by prayer and faith. By the grace of God I desire that my faith in God should extend towards every thing: the smallest of my own temporal and spiritual concerns, and the smallest of the temporal and spiritual concerns of my family, towards the saints among whom I labor, the Church at large, everything that has to do with the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, etc. Dear reader, do not think that I have attained in faith (and how much less in other respects!) to that degree to which I might and ought to attain.
Lastly, let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come at the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an answer. When I do not understand a passage of the Word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that He would be pleased, by His Holy Spirit, to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how, it should be. When I am going to minister in the Word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I, in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness, begin this His service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for His assistance and believe that He, for His dear Son’s sake, will help me. Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God’s dear children that they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers. Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial and you will see the help of God, if you trust in Him. But there is so often a forsaking the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, and thus the food of faith, the means whereby our faith may be increased, is lost.
Faith Grows with Use
"Yet ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2).
It was a saying of George Mueller that faith grows with use. If we would have great faith we must begin to use the little faith we already have. Put it to work by reverent and faithful praying, and it will grow and become stronger day by day. Dare today to trust God for something small and ordinary and next week or next year you may be able to trust Him for answers bordering on the miraculous. Everyone has some faith, said Mueller; the difference among us is one of degree only, and the man of small faith may be simply the one who has not dared to exercise the little faith he has.
According to the Bible, we have because we ask, or we have not because we ask not. It does not take much wisdom to discover our next move. Is it not to pray, and pray again and again till the answer comes? God waits to be invited to display His power in behalf of His people. The world situation is such that nothing less than God can straighten it out. Let us not fail the world and disappoint God by failing to pray. taken from The Set of the Sail, pp. 33-34 by A.W. Tozer
FAITH MUST COME FIRST
There are two passages in the word of God of the deepest moment to Christians, and I would therefore speak on them. The first is in 2 Peter 1:5: “Besides this, add to your faith virtue,” etc. It is here supposed that we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because we are commanded to add to our faith virtue, and these other graces. The apostle Peter is addressing believers, and here tonight I am supposing that I am speaking to believers. Yet, peradventure, there may be some who are not believers. To you, if there be any such, I would say, you are sinners. You may be young in this life, or you may be advanced in years; you may be very moral, or otherwise; but in the sight of God you are sinners. This you must, if you would be saved, realize and understand that you are sinners, and not only so, but sinners deserving punishment. You are lost, and have no power of your own to save yourselves. The world talks about turning over a new leaf, but that will not satisfy Divine justice.
The record of your past sins stands against you, and must be blotted out. What then? You are sinners, and sinners deserving of punishment, nothing but punishment. You must either suffer that eternal punishment yourselves, or obtain another to bear it. Well, the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to bear this punishment. He has borne it in our room and stead. He has suffered for us. And now the only one thing that God looks for from the sinner is, that we should put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, for the salvation of our souls. We must look entirely to Himself; we must look only to the blessed Lamb of God, who was nailed to the Cross. Whosoever trusteth in Him shall be saved. Let his sins be never so many, yet he shall have forgiveness for all his transgressions. He is born again—is regenerated, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be made a child of God, an heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ. Thanks be to His name. “who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” [ Col. 1:13]
If we have believed in the Lord Jesus, we are, however, not to be satisfied with this, but to seek to add to our faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.
We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
An Address on 2 Corinthians 5.7 'We walk by faith, not by sight'
As long as the child of God is in the would, he has not in actual possession what he will have when with the Lord, and especially, what he will have after the return of the Lord Jesus; he is not yet what he then will be; he does not see what he then will see. But while we are yet in weakness, whilst in the body, in comparative ignorance, and have still to contend against mighty enemies, God has been pleased to give to us a revelation of Himself in the Holy Scriptures, to be our rule of action, to comfort and encourage us, to make Himself known to us, to make the Lord Jesus known to us, to tell us of the blessedness of the world to come, to show us the way to the Father's house, and to reveal to us the vanity of all that this present world can give. This Word of God, the revelation He has made of Himself, is to be credited, to be received fully, in childlike simplicity; and, in doing so, heavenly realities become present things to us by faith. We have not to judge by feeling, by seeing, by reasoning, but by believing, viz., by exercising faith in what God says: and thus have our ways and our actions to be regulated; thus our joys and sorrows.
God is not seen by the natural eye: but we have to seek to see Him, and. to set Him before us daily, hourly, momentarily, by faith; and to bring Him and keep Him nigh to us by faith. The presence of God, the habitual presence of God, because we believe that He sees us and hears us continually, has to regulate our life. We have to live in this world as those would who exercise faith in the truth that their heavenly Father is continually their Provider, their Protector, their Helper, their Friend; that He is ever nigh to them, that He is a wall of fire round about them continually. If the child of God thus treated God, exercised faith in Him, looked upon Him practically as the living God ever near to him, how peacefully and happily would he walk through the world!
The Lord Jesus, the loving, sympathising Friend, is not seen by the natural eye; but faith says, I rest upon that word, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]. (Matt. xxviii. 20.) And thus the heart is made happy by the belief in a present living, loving, almighty Saviour.
The Lord Jesus has not yet taken His power to Himself manifestly. He does not yet manifestly reign: but faith looks for the fulfilment of all that which is said of the return of the Lord Jesus; and therefore, though we are not yet actually with Him on the throne, reigning with Him, we believe that He will come again, and we comfort ourselves, whilst yet in the conflict, in poverty, meanness, and suffering, by the precious statements made in the Holy Scriptures regarding the time of His appearing; and we walk thus on in peace and joy, though we do not yet see His glory with the natural eye.
We are now in a body of humiliation, which is often weak, yea, sometimes in pain and suffering. The manifestation of the sons of God has not yet taken place; we are not yet in our glorious body, such a body as the Lord Jesus has had since His resurrection: but we have the promise of such a glorified body; this is revealed for us in the Holy Scriptures, and therefore, though we do not yet actually possess it, we have to lay hold on God's promise regarding this, and to walk in the faith of this promise: thus our hearts will be sustained under present weakness, pain, and suffering.
We have the promise of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away; but we have not yet entered upon the possession of this inheritance: we are poor, mean, without possession at all, it may be, so far as sight is concerned; we have, therefore, to exercise faith in this promise, to lay hold on it, to seek to enter into it, in order that we may be full of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Scriptures tell us of Satan being bound, yea, bruised under our feet; but this has not yet taken place; we are yet in the warfare, we constantly experience his power still: we have, therefore, for our comfort to lay hold on the blessing promised in this respect; and thus our hearts will be cheered and comforted.
And thus, regarding all the numberless promises which God has been pleased to make, in so far as at any time they are applicable to our position and circumstances, both with respect to temporal and. spiritual things, we have to exercise faith concerning them; and the comfort, support, and blessing intended by them to our hearts, will be enjoyed by us. For instance, the promise in Matthew vii. 7-11: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son Ôask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? If we believe that it will be even as the Lord Jesus said, with what earnestness, perseverance, expecting faith, shall we give ourselves to prayer! Though the answer be long delayed, though, as to sight, the answer to our prayers can never be received; yet, since we believe, walk by faith, we shall continue to expect an answer to our prayers, as assuredly as our petitions are according to the mind of God, are asked in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to help us.
Again, the testimony of God the Holy Ghost, in Romans-viii. 28, is: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. Now, if we lay hold on it by faith, bring to it in faith our greatest trials, difficulties, afflictions, bereavements, etc., our hearts will be comforted, we shall obtain peace to our souls. I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus for forty-four years, but I have invariably found that my greatest trials have proved my greatest blessings; they have worked for my good. But suppose we did not see this to be so, while yet in the body, we have nevertheless to exercise faith concerning what God says; we have to walk by faith, regarding that word of His, That all things work together for good to them that love God, and then will the heart be comforted and sustained.
Three years ago God allowed two most heavy trials to befall me. They continued month after month. I said to myself, This too works for my good; and I continued day by day, while the afflictions lasted, to make known my requests unto God, that He would graciously be pleased to sustain me under them, and, in His own time, deliver me out of them. There was hanging in my bed-room in a frame a text, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it (Ps. lxxxi. 10), upon which my eyes fell as I rose in the morning; and my heart said to my heavenly Father, I do open my mouth wide; wilt Thou graciously be pleased to do according to Thy word? and wilt Thou fill it! I continued patiently, believingly, expectingly, to look to God for help, and He did deliver me out of these two most heavy afflictions, and I have thus become further acquainted with Him. All this I say for the comfort and encouragement of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ. Will you, then, the next time that you are in trial, seek to remember this for your comfort? You may not be able to see how such and such a heavy trial can work for your good; but it will most assuredly, as God has said. And if even in this life you should not see it, you will do so in the world to come; but generally we see it already in this life.
The reason why the children of God are so frequently overpowered by difficulties and trials is, because they attempt to carry their burden themselves, instead of casting it upon God, as He not only graciously allows them to do, but commands them to do; and therefore they lose the promise which is coupled with the command; they find themselves not sustained. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee (Ps. lv. 22). This does not mean simply that we should pray to God in our trials and afflictions, but that we should exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to help us under our trials; and by this we know whether we have only used words in prayer, or whether we have, in believing prayer, exercising faith in God, spoken to Him about our trials. If the latter was the case, then, though the trial still lasts, the burden thereof is gone, because we have laid it upon God, to bear it for us; but if we have not exercised faith in God, we are still carrying the burden ourselves.
All these matters are so deeply important, because if we do not walk by faith we cannot be happy in God, and therefore cannot bear such a testimony for God as we should bear were we indeed happy. Our very countenances should testify of our peace and joy in God, in order that thus the unconverted may be stirred up to seek for themselves after that which makes the children of God so happy.
We have, then, to believe what God says. Nor must we look to our feelings, nor expect help from our natural fallen reason; nor must we be discouraged, though all appearance were against what God says; for faith begins when sight fails. As long as we can see with the natural eye, and our natural fallen reason will yet help us, faith is not needed. This is often lost sight of by the children of God; and hence they are so much discouraged, because they do not walk by sight, which was never intended for them while they are yet in the body. If there is then one thing that we need more than another, it is an increase of faith, in order that we may take right steps, surer steps, firmer steps; yea, run with alacrity in the ways of the Lord. - To the end of our course we therefore should pray, Lord, increase my faith!
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
God has His own mathematics: witness that miracle of the loaves and fishes. Our Lord said to His disciples: "Give ye them to eat," and as they divided, He multiplied, the scanty provision; as they subtracted from it He added to it; as they decreased it by distributing, He increased it for distributing. And it has been beautifully said of all holy partnerships, that griefs shared are divided, and joys shared are multiplied.
We have already seen how the prayer circle had been enlarged. The founder of the orphan work, at the first, had only God for his partner, telling Him alone his own wants or the needs of his work. Later on, a very few, including his own wife, Mr. Craik, and one or two helpers, were permitted to know the condition of the funds and supplies. Later still, in the autumn of 1838, he began to feel that he ought more fully to open the doors of his confidence to his associates in the Lord's business. Those who shared in the toils should also share in the prayers, and therefore in the knowledge of the needs which prayer was to supply; else how could they fully be partakers of the faith, the work, and the reward? Or, again, how could they feel the full proof of the presence and power of God in the answers to prayer, know the joy of the Lord which such answers inspire, or praise Him for the deliverance which such answers exhibit? It seemed plain that, to the highest glory of God, they must know the depths of need, the extremities of want out of which God had lifted them, and ascribe all honour and praise to His name.
Accordingly Mr. Müller called together all the beloved brothers and sisters linked with him in the conduct of the work, and fully stated the case, keeping nothing back. He showed them the distress they were in, while he bade them be of good courage, assuring them of his own confidence that help was nigh at hand, and then united them with himself and the smaller praying circle which had previously existed, in supplication to Jehovah Jireh.
The step thus taken was of no small importance to all concerned. A considerable number of praying believers henceforth added to the band of intercessors that gave God no rest day nor night. While Mr. Müller withheld no facts as to the straits to which the work was reduced, he laid down certain principles which from time to time were reiterated as unchanging laws for the conduct of the Lord's business. For example, nothing must be bought, whatever the extremity, for which there was not money in hand to pay: and yet it must be equally a settled principle that the children must not be left to lack anything needful; for better that the work cease, and the orphans be sent away, than that they be kept in a nominal home where they were really left to suffer from hunger or nakedness.
Again, nothing was ever to be revealed to outsiders of existing need, lest it should be construed into an appeal for help; but the only resort must be to the living God. The helpers were often reminded that the supreme object of the institutions, founded in Bristol, was to prove God's fulness and the perfect safety of trusting solely to His promises; jealousy for Him must therefore restrain all tendency to look to man for help. Moreover, they were earnestly besought to live in such daily and hourly fellowship with God as that their own unbelief and disobedience might not risk either their own power in prayer, or the agreement, needful among them, in order to common supplication. One discordant note may prevent the harmonious symphony of united prayer, and so far hinder the acceptableness of such prayer with God.
Thus informed and instructed, these devoted coworkers, with the beloved founder of the orphan work, met the crisis intelligently. If, when there were no funds, there must be no leaning upon man, no debt incurred, and yet no lack allowed, clearly the only resort or resource must be waiting upon the unseen God; and so, in these straits and in every succeeding crisis, they went to Him alone. The orphans themselves were never told of any existing need; in every case their wants were met, though they knew not how. The barrel of meal might be empty, yet there was always a handful when needed, and the cruse of oil was never so exhausted that a few drops were not left to moisten the handful of meal. Famine and drought never reached the Bristol orphanage: the supplies might come slowly and only for one day at a time, but somehow, when the need was urgent and could no longer wait, there was enough-- though it might be barely enough to meet the want.
It should be added here, as completing this part of the Narrative, that, in August, 1840, this circle of prayer was still further enlarged by admitting to its intimacies of fellowship and supplication the brethren and sisters who laboured in the day-schools, the same solemn injunctions being repeated in their case against any betrayal to outsiders of the crises that might arise.
To impart the knowledge of affairs to so much larger a band of helpers brought in every way a greater blessing, and especially so to the helpers themselves. Their earnest, believing, importunate prayers were thus called forth, and God only knows how much the consequent progress of the work was due to their faith, supplication, and self-denial. The practical knowledge of the exigencies of their common experience begat an unselfishness of spirit which prompted these acts of heroic sacrifice that have no human record or written history, and can be known only when the pages of the Lord's own journal are read by an assembled universe in the day when the secret things are brought to light. It has, since Mr. Müller's departure, transpired how large a share of the donations received are to be traced to him; but there is no means of ascertaining as to the aggregate amount of the secret gifts of his coworkers in this sacred circle of prayer.
We do know, however, that Mr. Müller was not the only self-denying giver, though he may lead the host. His true yoke-fellows often turned the crisis by their own offerings, which though small were costly! Instrumentally they were used of God to relieve existing want by their gifts, for out of the abundance of their deep poverty abounded the riches of their liberality. The money they gave was sometimes like the widow's two mites-- all their living; and not only the last penny, but ornaments, jewels, heirlooms, long kept and cherished treasures, like the alabaster flask of ointment which was broken upon the feet of Jesus, were laid down on God's altar as a willing sacrifice. They gave all they could spare and often what could ill spare, so that there might be meat in God's house and no lack of bread or other needed supplies for His orphans. In a sublime sense this work was not Mr. Müller's only but theirs also, who with him took part in prayers and tears, in cares and toils, in self-denials and self-offerings, whereby God chose to carry forward His plans for these homeless waifs! It was in thus giving that all the helpers found also new power, assurance, and blessing in praying; for, as one of them said, he felt that it would scarcely be "upright to pray, except he were to give what he had."*
The helpers, thus admitted into Mr. Müller's confidence came into more active sympathy with him and the work and partook increasingly of the same spirit. Of this some few instances and examples have found their way into his journal.
A gentleman and some ladies visiting the orphan house saw the large number of little ones to be cared for. One of the ladies said to the matron of the Boys' House: "Of course you cannot carry on these institutions without a good stock of funds"; and the gentleman added, "Have you a good stock?" The quiet answer was, "Our funds are deposited in a bank which cannot break." The reply drew tears from the eyes of the lady, and a gift of five pounds from the pocket of the gentleman-- a donation most opportune, as there was not one penny then in hand.
Fellow labourers such as these, who asked nothing for themselves, but cheerfully looked to the Lord for their own supplies, and willingly parted with their own money of goods in the hour of need, filled Mr. Müller's heart with praise to God, and held up his hands, as Aaron and Hur sustained those of Moses, till the sun of his life went down. During all the years of his superintendence these were the main human support of his faith and courage. They met with him in daily prayer, faithfully kept among themselves the secrets of the Lord's work in the great trials of faith; and, when the hour of triumph came, they felt it both duty and privilege in the annual report to publish their deliverance, to make their boast in God, that all men might know His love and faithfulness and ascribe Him glory.
From time to time, in connection with the administration of the work, various questions arose which have a bearing on all departments of Christian service, for their solution enters into what may be called the ethics and economics of the Lord's work. At a few of these we may glance.
As the Lord was dealing with them by the day, it seemed clear that they were to live by the day. No dues should be allowed to accumulate, even such as would naturally accrue from ordinary weekly supplies of bread, milk, etc. From the middle of September, 1838, it was therefore determined that every article bought was to be paid for at the time.
Again, rent became due in stated amounts and at stated times. This want was therefore not unforeseen, and, looked at in one aspect, rent was due daily or weekly, though collected at longer intervals. The principle having been laid that no debt should be incurred, it was considered as implying that the amount due for rent should be put asidedaily, or at least weekly, even though not then payable. This rule was henceforth adopted, with this understanding, that money thus laid aside was sacred to that end, and not to be drawn upon, even temporarily, for any other.
Notwithstanding such conscientiousness and consistency the trial of faith and patience continued. Money came in only in small sums, and barely enough with rigid economy to meet each day's wants. The outlook was often most dark and the prospect most threatening; but no real need ever failed to be supplied: and so praise was continually mingled with prayer, the incense of thanksgiving making fragrant the flame of supplication. God's interposing power and love could not be doubted, and in fact made the more impression as unquestionable facts, because help came so frequently at the hour of extremity, and in the exact form or amount needed. Before the provision was entirely exhausted, there came new supplies or the money wherewith to buy, so that these many mouths were always fed and these many bodies always clad.
To live up to such principles as had been laid down was not possible without faith, kept in constant and lively exercise. For example, in the closing months of 1838 God seemed purposely putting them to a severe test whether or not they did trust Him alone. The orphan work was in continual straits: at times not one half-penny was in the hands of the matrons in the three houses. But not only was no knowledge of such facts ever allowed to leak out, or any hint of the extreme need ever given to outsiders,but even those who inquired, with intent to aid, were not informed.
One evening a brother ventured to ask how the balance would stand when the next accounts were made up, and whether it would be as great in favour of the orphans when the previous balance-sheet had been prepared. Mr. Müller's calm but evasive answer was:
"It will be as great as the Lord pleases."
This was no intentional rudeness. To have said more would have been turning from the one Helper to make at least an indirect appeal to man for help; and every such snare was carefully avoided lest the one great aim should be lost sight of:
to prove to all men that it is safe to trust only in the Living God.
While admitting the severity of the straits to which the whole work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution was often brought, Mr. Müller takes pains to assure his readers that these straits were never a surprise to him, and that expectations in the matter of funds were not disappointed, but rather the reverse. He had looked for great emergencies as essential to his full witness to a prayer-hearing God. The almighty Hand can never be clearly seen while any human help is sought for or is in sight. We must turn absolutely away from all else if we to turn fully unto the living God. The deliverance is signal, only in proportion as the danger is serious, and is significant when, without God, we face absolute despair. Hence the exact end for which the whole work mainly begun could be attained only through such conditions of extremity and such experiences of interposition in extremity.
Some who have known but little of the interior history of the orphan work have very naturally accounted for the regularity of supplies by supposing that the public statements, made about it by word of mouth, and especially by pen in the printed annual reports, have constituted appeals for aid. Unbelief would interpret all God's working however wonderful, by "natural laws," and the carnal mind, refusing to see in any of the manifestations of God's power any supernatural force at work, persists in thus explaining away all the "miracles of prayer."
No doubt humane and sympathetic hearts have been strongly moved by the remarkable ways in which God has day by day provided for all these orphans, as well as the branches of work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; and believing souls have been drawn into loving and hearty sympathy with work so conducted, and been led to become its helpers. It is a well-known fact that God has used these annual reports to accomplish much results. Yet it remains true that these reports were never intended or issued as appeals for aid, and no dependence has been placed upon them for securing timely help. It is also undeniable that, however frequent their issue, wide their circulation, or great their influence, the regularity and abundance of the supplies of all needs must in some other way be accounted for.
Only a few days after public meetings were held or printed reports issued, funds often fell to their lowest ebb. Mr. Müller and his helpers were singularly kept from all undue leaning upon any such indirect appeals, and frequently and definitely asked God that they might never be left to look for any inflow of means through such channels. For many reasons the Lord's dealings with them were made known, the main object of such publicity always being a testimony to the faithfulness of God. This great object Mr. Müller always kept foremost, hoping and praying that, by such records and revelations of God's fidelity to His promises, and of the manner in which He met each new need, his servant might awaken, quicken, and stimulate faith in Him as the Living God. One has only to read these reports to see the conspicuous absence of any appeal for human aid, or of any attempt to excite pity, sympathy and compassion toward the orphans. The burden of every report is to induce the reader to venture wholly upon God, to taste and see that the Lord is good, and find for himself how blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. Only in the light of this supreme purpose can these records of a life of faith be read intelligently and intelligibly.
Weakness of body again, in the autumn of 1839, compelled, for a time, rest from active labour, and Mr. Müller went to Trowbridge and Exeter, Teignmouth and Plymouth. God had precious lessons for him which He could best teach in the school of affliction.
While at Plymouth Mr. Müller felt anew the impulse to early rising for purposes of devotional communion. At Halle he had been an early riser, influenced by zeal for excellence in study. Afterwards, when his weak head and feeble nerves made more sleep seem needful, he judged that, even when he rose late, the day would be long enough to exhaust his little fund of strength; and so often he lay in bed till six or even seven o'clock, instead of rising at four; and after dinner took a nap for a quarter-hour. It grew upon him, however, that he was losing in spiritual vigour, and that his soul's health was declining under this new regimen. The work now so pressed upon him as to prevent proper reading of the Word and rob him of leisure for secret prayer.
A "chance remark"-- there is no chance in a believer's life!-- made by the brother at whose house he was abiding at Plymouth, much impressed him. Referring to the sacrifices in Leviticus, he said that, as the refuse of the animals was never offered up on the altar, but only the best parts and the fat, so the choicest of our time and strength, the best parts of our day, should be especially given to the Lord in worship and communion. George Müller meditated much on this; and determined, even at the risk of damage to bodily health, that he would no longer spend his hours in bed. Henceforth he allowed himself but seven hours' sleep and gave up his after-dinner rest. This resumption of early rising secured long seasons of uninterrupted interviews with God, in prayer and meditation on the Scriptures, before breakfast and the various inevitable interruptions that followed. He found himself not worse but better, physically, and became convinced that to have lain longer in bed as before would have kept his nerves weak; and, as to spiritual life, such new vitality and vigour accrued from thus waiting upon God while others slept, that it continued to be the habit of his after-life.
In November, I839, when the needs were again great and the supplies very small, he was kept in peace: "I was not," he says, looking at the little in hand, but at the fulness of God."
It was his rule to empty himself of all that he had in order to greater boldness in appealing for help from above. All needless articles were sold if a market could be found. But what was useful in the Lord's work he did not reckon as needless, nor regard it right to sell, since the Father knew the need. One of his fellow labourers had put forward his valuable watch as a security for the return of money laid by for rent, but drawn upon for the time; yet even this plan was not felt to be scriptural, as the watch might be reckoned among articles needful and useful in the Lord's service, and, if such expedients were quite abandoned, the deliverance would be more manifest of the Lord. And so, one by one, all resorts were laid aside that might imperil full trust and sole dependence upon the one and only Helper.
When the poverty of their resources seemed most pinching, Mr. Müller still comforted himself with the daily proof that God had not forgotten, and would day by day feed them with "the bread of their convenience." Often he said to himself,
"If it is even a proverb of the world that 'Man's necessity is God's opportunity,' how much more may God's own dear children in their great need look to Him to make their extremity the fit moment to display His love and power!"
In February, 1840, another attack of ill health combined with a mission to Germany to lead Mr. Müller for five weeks to the Continent. At Heimersleben, where he found his father weakened by a serious cough, the two rooms in which he spent most time in prayer and reading the Word, and confession of the Lord, were the same which, nearly twenty years before, he had passed most time as an unreconciled sinner against God and man. Later on, at Wolfenbüttel, he saw the inn whence in 1821 he away in debt. In taking leave once more of his father he was pierced by a keen anguish, fearing it was his last farewell, and an unusual tenderness and affection were now exhibited by his father, whom he yearned more and more to know as safe in the Lord Jesus, and depending no longer on outward and formal religiousness, or substituting the reading of prayers and of Scripture for an inward conformity to Christ. This proved the last interview, for the father died on March 30th of the same year.
The main purpose of this journey to Germany was to send forth more missionaries to the East. At Sandersleben Mr. Müller met his friend, Mr. Stahlschmidt, and found a little band of disciples meeting in secret to evade police. Those who have always breathed the atmosphere of religious liberty know little of such intolerance as, in that nominally Christian land, stifled all freedom of worship. Eleven years before, when Mr. Stahlschmidt's servant had come to this place, he had found scarce one true disciple beside his master. The first meetings had been literally of but two or three, and, when they had grown a little larger, Mr. Kroll was summoned before the magistrates and, like the apostles in the first days of the church, forbidden to speak in His name. But again, like those same primitive disciples, believing that they were to obey God rather than men, the believing band had continued to meet, notwithstanding police raids which were so disturbing, and government fines which were so exact. So secret, however, were their assemblies, as to have neither stated place nor regular time.
George Müller found these persecuted believers, meeting in the room of a humble weaver where there was but one chair. The twenty-five or thirty who were present found such places to sit or stand as they might, in and about the loom, which itself filled half the space.
In Halberstadt Mr. Müller found seven large Protestant churches without clergyman who gave evidence of true conversion, and the few genuine disciples there were likewise forbidden to meet together.
A few days after returning to Bristol from his few weeks in Germany, and at a time of great financial distress in the work, a letter reached him from a brother who had often before given money, as follows:
"Have you any present need for the Institution under your care? I know you do not ask, except indeed of Him whose work you are doing; but to answer when asked seems another thing, and a right thing. I have a reason for desiring to know the present state of your means towards the objects you are labouring to serve: viz.., should you not have need, other departments of the Lord's work, or other people of the Lord, may have need. Kindly then inform me, and to what amount, i.e. what amount you at this present time need or can profitably lay out."
To most men, even those who carry on a work of faith and prayer, such a letter would have been at least a temptation. But Mr. Müller did not waver. To announce even to an inquirer the exact needs of the work would, in his opinion, involve two serious risks:
1. It would turn his own eyes away from God to man;
2. It would turn the minds of saints away from dependence solely upon Him.
This man of God had staked everything upon one great experiment-- he had set himself to prove that the prayer which resorts to God only will bring help in every crisis, even when the crisis is unknown to His people whom He uses as the means of relief and help.
At this time there remained in hand but twenty-seven pence ha'penny, in all, to meet the needs of hundreds of orphans. Nevertheless this was the reply to the letter:
"Whilst I thank you for your love, and whilst I agree with you that, in general, there is a difference between asking for money and answering when asked,nevertheless, in our case, I feel not at liberty to speak about the state of our funds, as the primary object of the work in my hands is to lead those who are weak in faith to see that there is reality in dealing with God alone."
Consistently with his position, however, no sooner was the answer posted than the appeal went up to the Living God:
"Lord, thou knowest that, for Thy sake, I did not tell this brother about our need. Now, Lord, show afresh that there is reality in speaking to Thee only, about our need, and speak therefore to this brother so that he may help us."
In answer, God moved this inquiring brother to donate one hundred pounds, which came when not one penny was in hand.
The confidence of faith, long tried, had its increasing reward and was strengthened, by experience. In July, 1845, Mr. Müller gave this testimony reviewing these very years of trial:
"Though for about seven years, our funds have been so exhausted that it has been comparatively a rare case that there have been means in hand to meet the necessities of the orphans for three days together, yet I have been only once tried in spirit, and that was on September 18, 1838, when the first time the Lord seemed not to regard our prayer. But when He did send help at that time, and I saw that it was only for the trial of our faith, and not because He had forsaken the work, that we were brought so low, my soul was so strengthened and encouraged that I have not only not been allowed to distrust the Lord since that time, but I have not even been cast down when in the deepest poverty."