George Mueller

In his 92 years of fruitful service, George Mueller of Bristol had read through the Bible more than 200 times. More than 100 of those biblical journeys were traversed upon his knees, actively praying about what he was reading from the Word of God. He expressed his personal conviction in this way: “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 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.”

It should be no surprise that George Mueller is numbered among the giants of the faith. The Apostle Paul expressed the truth so clearly in his letter to the Romans: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (10:17).[1] As we review the life of George Mueller of Bristol, it is evident that he not only read God’s Word but that he dedicated his days to implementing its truth – faithfully and dependently – in his life.

Consider the great men of faith from the Scriptures. Abraham was willing to leave home behind, even in advancing years, to follow the promises of God. Moses faithfully forsook the pleasures of Egypt to identify and rescue the people of God from captivity. David, after great youthful exploits of faith, fell; yet in faith he returned to the Lord, as the only One who could restore his soul. But the greatest Man of Faith on the pages of Scripture arrives in the New Testament. Our Lord Jesus Christ stands apart as the only unerring example of a faithful man. As a young believer, I pondered these questions: “How could One who is omniscient and omnipotent display faith?” and, “If the future is known, is faith even required?” My error is likely clear to you: I was focused on faith in an unseen future, when in reality faith is the obedient response of a heart to the revealed Word of God.

George Mueller was a believer who simply tried to obey his Lord. We may be tempted to discount the testimony of a man like George Mueller by calling him “a spiritual superman.” But in truth he was no superman; rather he was a man of faith. The fictional character Superman, intriguing as he is, does not live by faith! He faces each day and its challenges in his own strength. You can almost sense his confidence in his own abilities. Whether the challenge is a crashing airplane, a careening locomotive, or the most diabolical of enemies, Superman is sure that when he leaves the phone booth he has the power to meet the need.

I want to state clearly that no fictional character from literature can begin to characterize the power that the Lord Jesus inherently possesses. Furthermore, no person throughout history can compare to His power, authority and knowledge. Yet in our superhero-saturated society we need to be cautious about subconsciously applying this thinking to the Lord Jesus. He never lived one day in the strength of His own power. To do such would be to live apart from faith. The Lord Jesus Christ provided to us the example of the perfect man of faith. In the days since His resurrection, every believer, including you and me and George Mueller, has been called to live out that life of faith. As a devoted follower of Christ, Mueller was not living as a superhero of the faith, but rather as a man living by faith. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul spoke with great clarity and simplicity about the life of a believer on this side of heaven. He wrote, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2Co 5:7). George Mueller was certainly a man whose life epitomized this biblical truth. What follow are a few examples from his life that serve to encourage us in the reality of living a life of faith in the Lord.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Pro 29:18). George Mueller developed a burden for the spiritual needs of his time. In England in the 1800s, and in his home town of Bristol, the need was starkly evident. When he looked around at workhouses, child labor, and children abandoned to life on the street, his heart was driven by a desire to provide for them practically and spiritually. Meeting this need began with first sacrificing his own home to furnish a shelter for children. In time, as the Lord provided, five buildings were constructed with accommodations for over 2,000 children. Rather than depending on fundraisers, Mueller looked to the Lord in every aspect of this work. He was convinced that whether it was funds, food, teachers, supplies or children that were needed, his God could and would supply them.

Famously, one morning he was informed that there was no food to feed the children breakfast, yet he had them sit at their tables while he thanked the Lord for breakfast. His faith was not in vain, as in a short time the baker and milkman both knocked on the door with supplies of bread and milk and stories as to how they had been led there that very morning.

On another occasion, a boiler at the orphanage failed as winter approached. Mueller prayed very specifically for a warm south wind, for a willingness on the part of the repair men to work, and for limited repairs to be required. The Lord answered again in each aspect of his prayer: as the winds shifted, the workers requested to continue through the night, and the problem was quickly remedied.

Considering the faithful cloud of witnesses found in Scripture and Christian history, the challenge to you and me is clear. We strongly affirm salvation by faith alone, but do our lives reveal that we believe in the all-sufficiency of our God to meet the need of those who ask in faith? Do we have a burden for the sorry state of our society and the terrible effects of sin on those living around us? Are we willing to begin by giving of our own possessions and looking to the Lord to supply the need? The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Php 4:19). Moses discovered this, Paul affirmed this, and George Mueller enjoyed this; and the same promise remains for you and me today.

George Mueller testified, “Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.” He also stated, “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.”

There was a fascinating duality to the personal convictions of George Mueller. He was deeply convicted that his needs should only be made known to the Lord, and that it should be the work of the Lord to place a burden on the hearts of those who would give. And yet, while so faithfully private in this regard, he was balanced by a burden that what the Lord was doing for him would be an example and exhortation to others.

To this end, at the age of 70, he began missionary journeys that took him over 200,000 miles throughout Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. He gave testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God while speaking in English, German and French. He spoke before US president Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House. He maintained correspondence and was a source of encouragement to Hudson Taylor. Yet in the midst of all this activity, his firm conviction remained: “According to my judgment, the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself!”

It seems fitting to close this article, the purpose of which is to encourage and exhort our hearts in the faith, with further words from Mr. George Mueller: “Now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.”


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.