Tag Archives: Prayer

The Faith of George Müller

What did the faith of George Müller look like? Here is a story I found browsing around the internet:

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I went to America some years ago with the captain of a steamer, who was a very devoted Christian. When off the coast of Newfoundland he said to me, “The last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, something happened which revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. We had George Müller of Bristol on board. I had been on the bridge twenty-four hours and never left it. George Müller came to me, and said, “Captain I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon.” “It’s impossible,” I said. “Very well, if your ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement in fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chart-room and pray.”

I looked at that man of God, and thought to myself, what lunatic asylum can that man have come from? I never heard of such a thing as this. “Mr. Müller,” I said, “do you know how dense the fog is?” “No,” he replied, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.”

He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder, and told me not to pray. “First, you do not believe He will answer; and second I believe he has, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.”

I looked at him, and he said, “Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get audience with the King. Get up, Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” I got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon, George Müller was in Quebec for his engagement.

Müller dedicated his life to demonstrating God as faithful. What a tragedy it is that history remembers him as a man of mighty faith. Don’t come away from this story with awe of Müller but let Müller point you towards awe of God. Müller’s great faith did not make him mighty, but Müller’s weak faith showed God mighty. Towards such people as would think of Müller as a mighty man, beyond what is normally possible for God’s people, Müller says this:

I affectionately warn 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 every thing, and not only to make every thing a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which 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, that gift of which we read in 1 Cor. 12:9, and which 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. It is true that the faith, which I am enabled to exercise, is altogether God’s own gift; it is true that He alone supports it, and that He alone can increase it; it is true that, moment by moment, I depend upon Him for it, and that, if I were only one moment left to myself, my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Cor. 12:9 …

Once more, 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, according to 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. And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader? Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God’s dear children, which 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.
-George Müller

When you read and hear about Müller. Know that he was a humble, poor, often full-of-doubt sinner. Yet God used him in mighty ways. Why? Because he opened his mouth. Here is Müller looking back over many years at the start of his endeavors towards the orphans:

It is now 68 years ago that my heart was greatly tried, when again and again I saw dear children losing both parents, and there was no one to take a real deep interest in their well-being.

I felt deeply for such bereaved children, and I said again and again to myself, “O I wish I had a little Orphan institution, into which I could take these children.” But the desire remained for years only a desire, though I had much prayer in connection with it. In the November of the year 1835, a particular circumstance occurred, through the instrumentality of which I was made to know how to be able to do some­thing for destitute orphans, and I began to pray more earnestly than ever I had done before that God would be pleased to guide and direct me whether I should make a beginning of a little Orphan institution. Thus I prayed month after month, and at last I came to the decision that I would do something in this way; and though it might have never so small a beginning, I would make a beginning.

Now, just reading through the whole Bible, I came, at that time, to this 81st Psalm and to this 10th verse, “I am Jehovah thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” When I read this verse, I shut the Bible, went to the door of my room and locked it, and then I cast myself on the floor and began to pray. I said to my Heavenly Father, “I have only asked Thee, Heavenly Father, that Thou shouldest show me whether I shall begin the Orphan work or not. Thou hast been pleased to make that plain to me, and now ‘I will open my mouth wide.’ Be pleased to ‘fill it.’ Give me, my Heavenly Father, a suitable house to begin the work; give me suitable helpers to take care of the children; and give me a thousand pounds sterling to make a beginning.

And in all God has been pleased to give me, simply in answer to prayer, £1,416,000 sterling! One million, four hundred and sixteen thousand pounds sterling, without asking a single human being! !

There is none, in this whole city, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny; there is none, in the whole of England, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny; there is none under heaven, in the whole wide world, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny. To God, and to God alone, I went; and I did this because I knew ever since my conversion that one of the greatest necessities for the Church of God at large was an increase of faith. Therefore, I deter­mined to dedicate my whole life to this one great lesson, for the Church of God to learn, and the world at large to learn: real, true, lasting dependence on God.
-George Müller

George Müller opened his mouth, and God filled it to overflowing. He will do the same to you.

Finding God's Will

Men who follow after God are often asked, “how does God guide you?” Is it by signs and wonders or a still small voice? Perhaps he guides through open and closed doors or through fleeces laid out? Does God bring to mind things from his word or while in prayer? Is there a special peace that accompanies such leadings? Where does godly council fit in?

I may not be very holy, and I have not followed after God for very long or followed him very well, but I have my answer to such questions. It is not a matter of how to follow but a matter if we will follow at all. The leading of God is not dependent upon the skill of the follower but on that of the leader. No one sings songs about how well they follow after God. Instead, we sing, “He leadeth me! He leadeth me! By his own hand he leadeth me!”

This is a wonder too great to express without the aid of the Holy Ghost. Follow after him and he will lead you. Can it really be that simple? Yes! As surely as he led Abraham and Moses across desert lands, so too will he lead you. As trustworthy as he was with Müller and Taylor, so too will he be with you. This promise is to you and to your children and to all who are far off. He will be your God, and you will be his people. He will be that voice behind you that says; “Here is the way, walk in it.”

Do not concern yourself with how that voice will sound. You might as well fret over whether the voice will be a tenor or baritone as ask whether it will be a sign or a gentle feeling. More than likely, the leading will come in a completely unexpected way. God delights to blow our socks off, he doesn’t often meet our expectations—he explodes them.

Yet I will answer the question asked. God often leads me by not leading me. He lets me go on in silence, not knowing what I am doing. Then later, he turns my head to look back at what has been accomplished since I last found my bearings and I see something wonderful. I see every step carefully placed in the exact right spot. I see that if I had gone to the left or to the right, some disaster would have befallen, yet God led me perfectly though the treacherous minefield—never letting me misstep. I believe that he does it this way, so that I might have full assurance that it was due to no skill of my own. The amazing thing that God accomplished was never in my head: I never knew about it until after it was already too late for me to impact it. Yet it was through my hand that God worked his might upon the world.

Our God is amazing.

Stop trying to figure him out and start following after him!

John Paton's Spiritual Upbringing

If you have never heard of John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, I think you will really enjoy Piper’s presentation of him, it takes about an hour, and is well worth the time.

Piper on John Paton (64 minutes):

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Almost all of Piper’s materials are freely available here.

38 minutes into this talk, Piper claims the following about the origin of Paton’s spiritual character:

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His courage came from his father … And his father—I tell you after the first eighty pages of this, if you had taken it from me and ripped it to shreds and said; “See, you’ve wasted your $25.00,” I would have said; “I didn’t waste a nickel.” Five pages in this book are worth $25.00 to me. I have four sons and one daughter and I wept over these pages, and I wept last night as I read them again because I want to be a daddy like this daddy was. To produce a John Patton—he did not come out of know where—he came from a daddy and a mommy.

I also found those early pages to be exceptionally inspirational to me as a father and so I am going to post the first twenty pages of Paton’s autobiography after the jump. But first, here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:
[...]

A Seeker's Prayer

I was ministering to someone and wrote this prayer for her. I had hoped to write it as a prayer that someone who was seeking God could pray as a non-Christian (what her state seemed to be) but would also be appropriate for her if she already knew God.

Oh God most high and holy, I understand
    that you are worthy to be praised with my every breath,
    and loved with all the love that I am able to offer
        and more besides.

Occupy the throne of my heart,
Take full possession of my life
    and reign supreme in me.
Tear aside every sin in my life
    and make yourself my highest love.
Don't allow my vile passions and lusts
    to resist your Spirit in this work
Show me your mighty power in this way
    and make me yours forever.

I am learning what it means,
    that I am dead in my sins and iniquities.
I have done so many things that I know are grievous to you.
    More than that, I have not loved you as I should:
        with all of my heart, soul, and mind.
I confess all of these sins before you.
I come to you knowing
    that I have no right, of myself, to do so;
    but that you have purchased my right
        to make this request to you
    you welcome poor sinners
        to come to you and find rest and freedom.
So I ask:
    please free me from my sins,
    please give me rest in you.

I understand that your son, Jesus Christ,
    has died to save wicked people, like me, from their sins.
He took on the sins of the world,
    that hopeless sinners might be declared righteous and holy.
Help me to understand,
    that righteousness is hid with Christ on high;
    that I am not more righteous when I am living rightly
    nor am I less righteous when I am living sinfully;
    but if I trust in my own good behavior,
        I am completely wicked before you;
    but if I trust in Christ,
        I am as righteous as you are
            because I trust in your holiness
                applied to me on the cross.
            and this righteousness is the same
                yesterday, today, and forever.

Then teach me to live on you
    and to live for you.
Guide me down paths of righteousness
    that I might live all of life for your namesake.
Teach me how to live as Christ lived,
    that I might resemble you.

I throw myself to your care.
I know that I cannot save myself,
    I have tried and only found failure.
Great God in heaven, save me.

Combating a New Arminianism

The Arminianism of our day is decidedly not the Arminianism of centuries ago. Anyone who has studied the Five Articles of Remonstrance knows this. Yet we argue against Arminianism today according to the old arguments and paradigms.

The new root of Arminianism seems to be this: coming to God for salvation counts even if it is done sinfully. By this, the Arminian undermines all of reformed thought. The modern Arminian says, it may be true, that we are so sinful as to make us unable turn to God sinlessly, but God is glorified in us as we believe in Him, even if that belief is itself not a perfectly sinless one.

I bring this up not to show how we can better argue against heterodoxy (though that is important) but as this is something all churches need to think about (reformed and non alike).

Our churches are full of men who believe that going to church, singing, praying, tithing even if done partially sinfully, even if done lazily or routinely, is acceptable before the Lord. God HATES sinful sacrifice (Prov. 15:8). We see it in giving (Acts 5:3), in communion (1 Cor. 11:29), in prayer (Prov. 28:9), and in the feasts and festivals (Isa. 66:3).

Rather, we should offer up pure and perfect worship before him. How? By faith. Do you not know that the blood of the lamb can cover our sinful worship so that it is holy and acceptable before God Almighty? Believe this. Rise thyself up to faith in your worship or it does not count, just like praying the sinners prayer for fire insurance does not count.

How are we any less Arminian when we follow their same principles in our day-to-day lives? We try to rouse ourselves to the work of worship as if it was the work that God finds acceptable, just like the Arminian sees himself as rousing himself up to the act of faith. I claim that such acts are an abomination. What God finds acceptable is not the part of worship that we give (Acts 17:24-25, Mark 10:45, Psa. 50:9-12, 1 Cor. 10:26), but the part of worship that we receive.

To make sense of this, look at Andrew Fuller’s combat against Sandemanianism. Sandeman (1718-1771) asserted that faith must not be a work, for then we would be saved by works. Sanderman’s faith thus had no activity to it, it was instead a passive persuasion of the truth.

To combat this, Fuller introduced an analogy of a magnet:

Whatever holiness there is in [faith], it is not this, but the obedience of Christ, that constitutes our justifying righteousness. Whatever other properties the magnet may possess, it is as pointing invariably to the north that it guides the mariner; and whatever other properties faith may possess, it is as receiving Christ, and bringing us into union with him, that it justifies. -Andrew Fuller

Just like that magnet there is a part of faith that makes it saving, and that part is not to be found in us. A humble and receiving faith is that which saves. But that does not mean there is no part for us to play in our faith. Faith that saves is always working (Gal. 5:6), even though it is not the working part of faith that saves.

Now worship, like faith, must act. It must act love. Yet, also like faith, our acting is not that which makes it good and acceptable before God. Left to itself our actions are an abomination before him. Holiness can only be found in our actings as they are covered by the blood of Him who was slain. This blood is not our gift to God, but His gift to us. Thus, even though worship acts, holiness is not to be found in the acting and working but in the receiving.

Stated another way, worship should never be passive, but it is the passive part of worship that is pleasing to God. Love should never be without work, but it is the non-working part of love that fulfills the command. We are saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone.

We cannot add to the holiness that we have in Christ.

A brief history of Fuller’s fight with Sanderman can be seen here.

What Can We Expect From God?

Matthew 21:21-22

21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (ESV)

I believe if we have enough faith we can literally expect God to move mountains. Yet we don’t see this power in our own prayer-lives … why? The problem of God not moving very much in our lives is not to be solved by an expectation that this is an age where God does not powerfully act but is to be solved by our lack of faith.

Sadly, we take the exact wrong approach and say that we cannot expect God to do enormously great things in the life of His Church. This yields a man-centric view of the Church. The specific outcome of this I’d like to focus on right now is a man-centric view of the Church’s fruit.

When we judge the fruit of our church, we do it in view of what man is able to accomplish. It is hard for men, on their own, to go to church every Sunday, to stay married, to get involved with non-profit groups and donate their time, to witness for God, &c. If we judge our local churches by this standard, then some of them will look bad and some of them will look good. Some will have very little fruit, and some will have much fruit.

However, if we judge things by God’s standard, things look quite a bit different. If we were acting by His power, we would expect our lives to be transformed into holy, righteous living sacrafices. We would expect much power in our witnessing, so that souls were saved. We would expect much power in overcoming sin, so that our sins would be peeling back like layers off an onion. We would expect church fellowship to be a miraculous event so that church would last all week in love and that Sunday morning would be the colossal crescendo of that week lived in love and fellowship with the brethren. We would expect men to give freely of all of their time, talents, and treasure, limiting their giving only with what love required them to hold back. If we judge our local churches and ourselves by this standard, things look much different. We become a people that have almost no fruit.

So which should it be? Should we judge ourselves and our churches by the fruit that man is able to produce, or by the fruit that only God almighty is able to produce? John 15:5 should make the answer to that question obvious.

John 15:5-10

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (ESV)

Take Not Thy Holy Spirit from Me

Psalm 51:11

11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me. (ESV)

David’s cry to not have the Holy Spirit taken from him is a confusing psalm to us. How can a man after God’s own heart be in such doubt over losing the Holy Spirit? We interpret such psalms as spiritual weakness, we say to ourselves, “see even the best of us get down.” Surely, there is a truth to seeing such in these psalms, but I’ve been learning to see them in a different way as well.

When you live past the edge of your comfort zone in Christ you learn how dependent on the Holy Spirit’s work you really are. I’ve learned lately that without God’s help, I’d fall away from the faith very quickly. I find myself having crises where I want to leave the faith, where I want to stop loving God. I’ve been finding that these crises aren’t a mark of unchristian behavior as much as they are a mark of a healthy spiritual weakness. In a life heated by the fires of suffering, which is the fruit of faith, our shortcomings and our dependence upon God rise quickly to the surface. Such utterances are the cry of the poor in spirit as our weaknesses are smelted out of us.

If your Christianity and your walk are of the sort that you can mostly do it on your own power, it is not much of a Christian walk. However if you are living so far past your own comfort zone that there is no way you can get through a moment without His sustaining grace, you are probably walking by the Spirit much more fully. David was one such man of God. Without God’s grace, David knew he would fall, he would trip, he would go headlong, he would drown. Say it however you want, but David needed God in a way we typically do not.

Live such lives! Let God craft for you such a lifestyle as forces you to pray these psalms regularly. Lord Jesus, how can I encourage men to live this type of life: the type that cannot be lived according to our own strength?

Knowing God

It seems to me as if this subject is one of the most important ones in our religion. Piper’s, Owen’s, Edward’s, Tozer’s (and I’m sure a host of other authors’) most famous books are about the subject. It is what the Christian life is all about and we know very little about it.

I can get up in the morning, and go about my day doing everything right. I can love my wife and daughter, get my work done, be loving and helping towards my neighbors, go to church and do a myriad of other right Christian duties and completely miss out on walking with the Lord that day. I think most Christians realize this on some level or another. Then there is another day when I am walking with him and it doesn’t really matter what else I do, because I’m walking with my Lord and knowing Him. I’m content, not because of what I’m doing but because of who I’m with. I end up doing all the same things but I’m doing them as one who is walking with God. Externally, the two days often look very similar, but internally, they feel and are very different. We as Christians need to be striving less after the law and more after God.

If we do this, we will find the law, but if we search for God through the law, both are so often denied us.

For example, one of the secrets of the Christian life is contentment. And we try to put on this contentment like a garment and wear it around as is our duty to do. But this is wrong and does not lead to Godliness. Instead of a self built contentment, put on God. Learn to NOT be content unless you are wearing Him like a robe and then you will find contentment in feast and in famine. Is it not this way with all of our duties? Is there any one Christian duty we can just do on our own? Or is every duty best accomplished by striving after God and beholding Him, and as we do so, we are transformed from one stage of glory to the next.

We sing a line in a song “when strivings cease” and I think it appropriate. The majority of our strivings are wrong. We strive after holiness in the workings of the law, we strive after possessions and security and happiness in them. We strive after respect. We strive with our brothers. We strive against man. We need only strive after God! All other striving is vanity. Furthermore, our striving after God is almost more of a giving up than a striving. The soul striving after God finally says to itself, “enough!” if God will not comfort me, then I will have no comfort. If God will not save me, then I will have no salvation, for there is salvation in no other. There is nothing I can do to recommend myself to God, no service that He has need of that I can perform. In all of my experience, it is in that moment of giving up my soul to God that I unexpectedly find Him.

Now is any of this true? Can it be backed up with Scripture? It can certainly be backed up by great Christian men’s experience but that matters very little compared with God’s word.

1 Corinthians 10:31

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Philippians 2:12

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV)

We are to be grafted into the vine. Unless we our violently and wholly wrought to the vine, the sap will not flow from it to us. And without that sap we can do no good. We can in no way be righteous or holy. Our first duty therefore is to make that connection secure. That is how we work out our salvation is it not? I would like to hear another theory as to how we can work out salvation without this. We have much more hope outside of God and His power than we ought.

Refuse … REFUSE I SAY … to live one moment without the presence of God. Seek him … SEEK HIM. So often I find myself thinking that I don’t feel God’s presence right now, but I will finish my present engagement and then seek him. And before I know it, it is the end of the day and I have lived a day foreign to the presence of God. Oh may I never live such a day again, may I never live one such moment as to be separated in my heart from my Abba Father. What is worse, those days can turn into weeks, months, and years. Many of us know from personal experience what it is to be called back to communion with God after such a prolonged absence. Be afraid of this withdrawal and live so that it may never happen. Be at peace with him all your days by being in communion with his presence always. Let us never say, this one thing is worth a separation from his presence. No sin, no activity, no person, yea such holy activity as reading the Word of God and prayer are not worthy of themselves without this application of His presence in them, by them, and for them. Nothing is worth having without him, nothing is worth doing without him (Psa. 73:25).