The following is a lightly edited transcript.
George Müller was born in Germany in 1805, and he died in 1898 in Germany. He was a follow-up specialist for D.L. Moody, and he preached in Spurgeon’s Tabernacle. He inspired Hudson Taylor in his missionary dreams, and he preached in the same church for sixty-six years. He lived out his life mainly in Bristol, England.
Man of Faith and Prayer
When he was twenty-eight, he founded what he called the Scripture Knowledge Institute. It had five, what he called, objects.
- Founding schools abroad
- Bible distribution
- Missionary support
- Tract distribution
- Orphan care
The fifth one is the one we know him for best: “To board and clothe and scripturally educate destitute children who have lost both parents by death,” to use his own words.
And so he built five orphanages, and by the time he had died, he had cared for 10,024 orphans. He did all of this while preaching three times a week. When he turned seventy, he fulfilled a dream by becoming a missionary. For the next seventeen years, he traveled to forty-two countries, preaching on average once a day — to about three million people in total.
“Prayer isn’t something that signifies laziness — it simply signifies what you trust.”
When he was ninety-two, he led a prayer meeting on a Wednesday evening at his church. Afterward, he went home, and when they brought him his tea the next day at seven o’ clock in the morning, they found him dead on the floor beside his bed.
He had read his Bible two hundred times from beginning to end. He brought in millions of dollars through his prayers. I had somebody do the calculation for me in today’s dollars, and they estimated $150 million. He prayed it all in, without asking anybody for money. He never took a salary for the last sixty-eight years of his ministry. He trusted God to put it in peoples’ hearts to give him what he needed. He never took out a loan, and neither the orphans nor he were ever hungry.
Now what makes him so relevant for us can be wrapped up, I think, in something that his biographer, A.T. Pierson, said. I love this phrase, and I hope it lands on you with something you want to be and do: “He devised large and liberal things for the cause of Christ.”
We Trust as We Toil
I think that in a room like this, there are probably many people who have, or who dream of, devising “large and liberal things for the cause of Christ.” I want to encourage you in that tonight. I want to strengthen your hand to devise large and liberal things and to keep on going for ninety-five or ninety-two years, to see them through in spite of the fact that you are keenly aware of the perils of power and pretension and pride in this industry. I don’t need to belabor it for you.
I pray that I will strengthen your hand in large, liberal, Christ-exalting, God-centered, truth-driven vision. So, I want to give you one of the keys from Müller’s life. The reason I told you a little bit about Müller is because I want to draw out of Müller a key that, most recently, has so deeply become a cutting edge in my spiritual quest. It’s this: Work really hard, morning until night. Be a worker, and do not trust in your work. Trust in God. Work really hard. Don’t trust in the work. Trust in God. Now let me give you his own words:
This is one of the great secrets in connexion with successful service of the Lord; to work as if everything depended upon our diligence, and yet not to rest in the least upon our exertions, but upon the blessing of the Lord, who alone can cause your efforts to be made effectual, to the benefit of your fellow men or fellow believers.
In other words, labor with all your might, but do not trust in your labor — trust in God. Plan hard, but don’t trust in your plans — trust in God. Speak clearly and creatively, but don’t trust in your speaking — trust in God. Sing, but don’t trust in your singing — trust in God. Create and produce and lead and manage, but don’t trust in your creativity and leadership and management and productivity— trust in God. That’s the message of George Müller I want you to feel the force of tonight.
“We work outwardly because God is at work inwardly.”
It is one of the simplest lessons you will ever learn, and one of the hardest you will ever perform. Because we are wired — we sinners; we fallen, self-exalting, self-serving sinners — for our emotions to go up when our plans have savvy, and our emotions to go down when our plans look less savvy. At least, mine do. And I don’t like it about myself, that my anxiety quotient rises and falls with my insight into how to solve a problem, instead of giving it my best shot and trusting God.
Ready, but Wholly Reliant
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:31)
Get the horse ready for the day of battle, by all means, but don’t trust in the horse — trust in God. Or, Psalm 20:7. I’ll give you this one like my son used to. I have four sons and a daughter. My son Abraham was four once upon a time, and he looked like he was going to be my preacher. He would stand on a platform when he was four, and he would take say,
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)
And he would leap off the platform. So, Abraham: Get your horses ready, and get your chariots ready, but son, don’t trust in the horses, and don’t trust in the chariots — trust in God.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain. (Psalm 127:1)
Build your house, but don’t trust in your house — trust in God. Unless the watchman watches over the city, we stay awake in vain. Put out your watchman, be a watchman, but don’t trust in the watchman — trust in God.
Prayer Spells Trust
Müller really worked hard, morning until night, at the orphanage with his wife Mary, who was at his side for thirty-nine years, and then, after Mary died, with his wife Suzanna at his side for twenty-three years. They really worked. He said that in the morning, they would pray together before they went off to the orphanages. And then, as the day was drawing to a close, just before supper in the evening, I’ll read you what would happen in his own words.
In the evening, during the last hour of the stay at the Orphan Houses, though her or my work was never so much, it was an habitually understood thing, that this hour was for prayer. My beloved wife came then to my room, and now our prayer, and supplication, and intercession, mingled with thanksgiving, lasted generally forty, fifty minutes, and sometimes the whole hour. And these seasons, we brought perhaps fifty or more different points, or persons, or circumstances before God.
Müller and his wife did not pray instead of work. They prayed because they didn’t trust their work. They trusted God. Prayer isn’t something that signifies laziness — it simply signifies what you trust. And I encourage you: trust God.
From Compelling Quotes to God — Who Spoke
But I want to go further than Müller. I want to go further than Müller tonight for you, because I would like to lift off of you tonight — that is, I would like God to lift off of you tonight — not only the burden of the outcome of your work, but the burden of the origin of your work as well. I want to go beyond Müller’s saying to the biblical saying. I want to go beyond Müller to Philippians 2:12–13:
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
“God will bless me as long as he shall enable me to act according to his will in this matter.”
We work outwardly because God is at work inwardly. We trust him not just for the outcome of our labors, but for the labors themselves. I want to go beyond Müller to lift off of you the burden of your own labor. I love 1 Corinthians 15:10:
By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
It isn’t simply true that you should work hard and then not trust the outcome of your work, instead trusting God for the outcome. It’s also true that you should work hard and then trust God that he gave you the strength to work hard.
Through Him Is To Him
And once you learn that, it is a glorious and freeing thing on the front end of your work to obey 1 Peter 4:11. This verse applies to every branch of broadcasting, every sermon I ever preach, every counseling session I ever have, any conversation:
Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.” (1 Peter 4:11)
Now, did you hear the logic of that verse? Surely what unites us is a passion to so labor that not we, but Christ gets the glory. That verse is the key. Serve in the strength that God supplies, so that in everything, God gets the glory. Meaning, the Giver gets the glory. Therefore, we must go beyond Müller. Now, I know Müller loved this point. I’ll read you the sentence that proves it: “Though I am weak and erring on many points, God will bless me as long as he shall enable me to act according to his will in this matter.” Isn’t that an amazing way to talk?
God will bless me — as long as he will enable me to do his will and thus qualify me for the blessing. “For from him and through him and [therefore, back] to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
You Serve a Kind Master
By all means, let us follow George Müller. O, may you — the members, the attenders at the National Religious Broadcasters — work with all your might, and then not trust in your work — trust in God. And may you go beyond that Mülleresque saying and trust God not only for the outcome of your work, but for the origin of your work — because God means to get the glory for both its origin and its outcome.
“I have not served a hard master, and that is what I delight to show.”
And when you do, do you know what will happen? He will get the glory, and you will discover with Müller that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). And when you become old, maybe ninety-two or ninety-five, you will say with Müller:
I am bound to state this, and I do it with pleasure: my master has been a kind master to me; I have not served a hard master, and that is what I delight to show.