George Müller looked at all the pale little faces gathered around the table. Many of them were still drowsy, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and stifling sleepy yawns. There were plates set around the table – empty plates and empty cups. His gaze lingered on the empty dishes for a moment, and then up at the adult helpers standing behind the children. He saw the concern in their faces. The doubt and worry in them saddened him.
He cleared his throat. “Let’s thank the Lord for our food.”
The children folded their hands and bowed their heads. The helpers followed, slowly. Müller breathed deep and began to pray. He was careful not to pray any differently from the way he normally prayed. He thanked God for the new day, for giving the children another night of safety and rest. He asked God to draw each one of the children closer to Him, naming a few of them and lifting up their needs. Lastly he thanked God for the food they were about to eat.
There was a moment of silence. Müller had raised his head, as had the children. A few of the helpers seemed almost scared to open their eyes.
Müller felt a small hand rest on his arm. A little girl looked up at him, confused. “But Mr. Müller… we don’t have any breakfast.”
He smiled and was about to answer when there was a knock at the front door. One of the helpers went to answer it. He came back, eyes wide. “Mr. Müller, you have a visitor.”
A man stepped into the room, hat in hand. “George Müller?”
Müller stood. “Yes? How may I help you?”
The man smiled a little and rubbed his chin. “You see, I think I’m here to help you. I run the bakery just a few streets over. Normally I don’t go in for such things… but I had a strange dream last night, and, well… I believe I’m supposed to give you some bread. It’s outside right now.”
Müller smiled and looked at the helpers. They couldn’t contain their surprise and joy. Müller and a few of them followed the baker outside and found a wagon laden with baked goods, enough to last them for a long time.
“Even the sparrows are fed, right Mr. Müller?” grinned one of the young men as he hefted a basket of loaves to his shoulder.
They had barely finished unloading the baker’s wagon when a loud noise caught their attention. The milkman had just been passing when the axle of his cart broke. The milkman shook his head. “The milk will spoil before I can get it delivered by foot.” He noticed the baker driving away from the Müller’s orphanage with an empty wagon. He chewed his lip in thought.
“Hey, Mr. Müller!” he called. “Send some of your young men over here. You can have all the milk you can unload from my cart today.”
To anyone watching, the defining feature of George Müller’s life was his unshakable confidence and faith in God. That particular breakfast at his home for orphans in Bristol, England, is perhaps the most well known story of his life. He was a man who seemed never to waste time in worry, who exemplified the commandments of Christ in Matthew 6:25-34. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” When we think of George Müller we think of a man who knows peace.
However, there was a time in his life when he knew nothing of the peace of God. In his youth he was a habitual liar and a thief, stealing from his parents and his friends regularly. Sin was eating him alive to the extent that on the night his mother died he was wandering the streets drunk. He had no interest in God and no intention of leaving his beloved sins to follow Christ.
Despite his son’s reputation, Müller’s father sent him to university with the purpose of studying for the ministry. While at the University of Halle, Müller met a group of Christians who invited him to their Bible study. This was a new experience for Müller.
“I had no Bible and had not read it for years,” he said. “I went to church but seldom; but from custom took the Lord’s Supper twice a year. I had never heard the Gospel preached up to the beginning of November 1825 – “ the year he began attending the studies – “I had never met with a person who told me that he meant by the help of God to live according to the Scriptures. In short, I had not the least idea that there were any persons really different from myself except in degree.”
Through the influence of this group God began to work in his heart. For the first time in his life, he clearly saw through this group of believers the power of Christ to change lives and the love God poured out upon His children. Eventually, the same power changed his own life and he was conquered by Christ. “At last I saw Christ as my Savior. I believed in Him and gave myself to Him. The burden rolled from off me, and a great love for Christ filled my soul… I loved Christ then, but I loved Him more the year after, and more the year after that, and more every year since."
Müller became hungry for the nearness of God and began planting the seeds that would later grow into the faith he is remembered for. He spent tireless hours in the Scriptures, utterly convinced that in order to be close to the Lord it was necessary to fellowship with Him. “The vigor of our spiritual life,” he said, “will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”
Müller’s greatest concern was to know God as He revealed Himself in the Scriptures. From his searching in the Word of God, he was deeply impressed with the truth of God’s sovereignty in all things. The understanding of God’s hand in all situations struck him deeply and he resolved that he had no choice but to rest completely in God’s truth. “Faith,” he said, “is the assurance that the thing which God has said in His word is true, and that God will act according to what He has said in His word… Faith is not a matter of impressions, nor of probabilities, nor of appearances.”
Needless to say, Müller lived up to his words. The orphanage that he ran was not primarily to take care of Bristol’s homeless children, but to show to the world that the Lord could be trusted. He never asked for handouts or donations, but the orphanage never lacked for anything. His life and work is a monumental testament to God’s provision.
Faith like that is something we all envy. It is the prayer of most Christians that they would grow in faith, rely upon the provision of God only and trust Him at His word. We all want to be people who show the world, like Müller did, that living on faith is not a Christian fancy or a sentiment. But when we look inward at ourselves, why is it that we seem to be lacking?
Are we guilty of envying Müller’s faith, but neglecting Müller’s God?
The roots of Müller’s faith were firmly planted in knowing God through His word. Not through the words or witness of other Christians, but through direct contact with God. Müller said in his autobiography, “The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord. The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished.
“As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God – not just the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.”
A second-hand relationship with God is no relationship at all. Like Müller, our lives must be a journey further into the reality of who this Being that we were created to know and love is. But what does that look like?
Müller was able to spend hours a day in prayer and Scripture, but most of us aren’t able to do that. There really is no “correct” way to order your personal Scripture study and prayer times, but there is a correct attitude and mindset that will determine how this is put into practice.
We must understand first of all that we, as Christians, depend upon the nearness of God for our sanctification and our daily lives. Nearness to God comes exclusively through the reading of His word and prayer, and there can be no substitute for this. If we are Christians, then these things will have priority in our lives. We will do what is necessary to make time for them, like we would make time to eat. For some of us, this would mean cutting out those activities that take up our time: hobbies, friends, whatever there is that keeps us from drawing near to Christ through the Word and prayer. For others, it might mean exercising our minds in order to be focused while reading and while in prayer.
It helps to identify those times in your day that find you uninvolved and open. You may be able to pray and listen to Scripture on audio while commuting to work or school. You may use those few minutes in your routine normally given to “crashing” after a long day to pull out your Bible and read a Psalm or two. You may have to rearrange your routine, sacrifice things that you enjoy, say no to requests that would take that time away from you.
These habits are not acquired in a day. It will take time and patience before our mindset changes and our actions follow. These habits of drawing close to Christ are like a marathon. We train and change our daily lives to accommodate this activity. We will crawl at first, but as we consistently exercise we will begin to walk, then jog, then eventually run. We’re not meant to remain crawlers, but neither do we despise small beginnings.
A great Scripture to warm our hearts to do these things is found in Song of Solomon 2:10-13. The Song of Solomon provides us with such an insight into Christ’s heart for His Bride the Church. The dialogue between the Shulamite and her Beloved is a mirror image of the relationship between the Christian and Christ. We can read this and hear the One who gave Himself for us calling us to come close to Him:
My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!”
To the person who loves Christ, these are not empty “Bible words.” We know who we really are, how full of sin and filth our lives have been. We know that we weren’t worth saving… and yet He, Heaven’s Prince, swallowed the curse for us and bids us to come close to Him. “Rise up and come away!” Come away from all the vain things that the world has to offer. Come away from all the empty things that fill you up and crowd out Christ. Come away from it all. The world did not die for you; the world has nothing to claim in you. A man dying of thirst will not waste time in mud puddles when there is a pure spring of water right beside him. Come away to Christ! Lean on Him like John at the Last Supper. Sit at His feet like Mary the sister of Lazarus. Fall before Him like Isaiah in his vision of Christ in the temple. Live hungrily after the Bread of Life like George Müller. All that you need is found exclusively in Him.