The Winepress

George Muller: An Example of God’s Provision.

This is something I wrote last year, before we had heard of coronavirus. I think it speaks to us now!

During George Muller’s lifetime he cared for over 10,000 orphans. He co-founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, which is still thriving today; and he built five homes for orphan children, beginning his ministry in 1835 when children orphaned in the cholera epidemic were being left homeless and living on the streets of Bristol. During his lifetime he received over £1,500,000 in gifts and donations in kind:  around £200,000,000 in today’s money. At the age of 70 he left the orphanages in the care of his daughter Lydia and her husband, and embarked on 17 years of missionary travel all over the world, addressing over 3 million people in countries as far afield as the USA, India, Australia, China and Japan. When he died, age 92, many parts of Bristol were brought to a standstill by his funeral.

The word that God gave him to step out in faith to start the first childrens’ home was Psalm 81 v 10: “Open your mouth and I will fill it,” and his entire life from then on was testimony to the truth of this scripture and the abundance of God’s faithful supply. What is possibly less well-known about George Muller is that he gave away nearly as much as he received. When he started his children’s homes, he resolved not to pay himself a salary but to depend entirely on the Lord for his income, trusting fully in Psalm 81:10. In the 22 years following that resolution he received donations totalling £29613, of which he gave away £23835. In today’s values, that is nearly £4m that he received during that time, and of that he gave away over £3m. He was one of Hudson Taylor’s main benefactors: the funds that God provided through George Muller enabled the seeds of the Gospel to be sown in many parts of inland China, founding the organisation (China Inland Mission) which we all know today as OMF International.

In Psalm 31, David wrote : “Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!” (Ps. 31:19) 

The word “great” used here is “rab” from which comes the word rabbi. It means an abundance far beyond the normal measure. In New Testament times the word “Rabbi” had come to mean “teacher,” but strictly its meaning is more along the lines of great one”, which is why Jesus told his disciples that none should be called Rabbi except for the Messiah. God’s goodness to us is of the measure of Jesus Himself. When our trust in the Lord is complete and unreserved, the abundance of His provision in our lives is a witness to “the sons of men” around us who see how we live, which in fact was Muller’s expressed intention when he decided to trust in the Lord alone for all his supply. But ultimately, to fully receive from the flow of God’s provision we have to also participate in it, for that is what Jesus has established in His church.

George Muller lived with his arms wrapped tightly around God’s pipeline. He was a man yoked to Jesus.  God’s abundant provision is there for us, as it was for Muller; but I believe that we are to give in faith ourselves if we are to fully appreciate what it is to ask, and receive in faith.

At the moment, in the prosperous Western nations at least, we are still living in a time of plenty. Most of us have work or another regular income; the wheels of trade are turning; money is flowing round the system; we shop, we eat, we pay our bills. But Jesus warns us (Matt 24: 38-39): For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Before that time comes, He tells us that we would see various signs that many would say are strongly evident now. We are on ice that is getting thinner by the day – not just in the Arctic, but in a financial system based on debt and greed, with the Middle East close to flashpoint and Islamist aggression bent on destroying both Christianity and Judaism. If – or rather when – the ice breaks and society falls through into the dark waters of chaos, we will need increasingly to rely on the Lord for our daily bread. We will no longer be able to rely on the supermarket shelves, and the hole in the wall will be empty. There will need to be Josephs who will feed their brothers, and who will also demonstrate the goodness of Jehovah Jireh when world systems fail. Jesus says: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Let us take note of the example of George Muller, and make sure that He does.

The quest for the Presence of God

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