Arthur Pierson summarized the lessons presented by George Muller’s extensive ministry journal as follows:
1. An experience of frequent and at times prolonged financial straits.
The money in hand for personal needs, and for the needs of hundreds and thousands of orphans, and for the various branches of the work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, was often reduced to a single pound, or even penny, and sometimes to nothing. There was therefore a necessity for constant waiting on God, looking to Him directly for all supplies. For months, if not years, together, and at several periods in the work, supplies were furnished only from month to month, week to week, day to day, hour to hour! Faith was thus kept in lively exercise and under perpetual training.
2. An experience of the unchanging faithfulness of the Father-God.
The straits were long and trying, but never was there one case of failure to receive help; never a meal-time without at least a frugal meal, never a want or a crisis unmet by divine supply and support. Mr. Muller said to the writer: “Not once, or five times, or five hundred times, but thousands of times in these threescore years, have we had in hand not enough for one more meal, either in food or in funds; but not once has God failed us; not once have we or the orphans gone hungry or lacked any good thing.” From 1838 to 1844 was a period of peculiar and prolonged straits, yet when the time of need actually came the supply was always given, though often
at the last moment.
3. An experience of the working of God upon the minds, hearts, and consciences of contributors to the work.
It will amply repay one to plod, step by step, over these thousands of pages, if only to trace the hand of God touching the springs of human action all over the world in ways of His own, and at times of great need, and adjusting the amount and the exact day and hour of the supply, to the existing want. Literally from the earth’s ends, men, women, and children who had never seen Mr. Muller and could have known nothing of the pressure at the time, have been led at the exact crisis of affairs to send aid in the very sum or form most needful. In countless cases, while he was on his knees asking, the answer has come in such close correspondence with the request as to shut out chance as an explanation, and compel belief in a prayer-hearing God.
4. An experience of habitual hanging upon the unseen God and nothing else.
The reports, issued annually to acquaint the public with the history and progress of the work, and give an account of stewardship to the many donors who had a right to a report—these made no direct appeal for aid. At one time, and that of great need, Mr. Muller felt led to withhold the usual annual statement, lest some might construe the account of work already done as an appeal for aid in work yet to be done, and thus detract detract from the glory of the Great Provider.* The Living God alone was and is the Patron of these institutions; and not even the wisest and wealthiest, the noblest and the most influential of human beings, has ever been looked to as their dependence.
5. An experience of conscientious care in accepting and using gifts.
Here is a pattern for all who act as stewards for God. Whenever there was any ground of misgiving as to the propriety or expediency of receiving what was offered, it was declined, however pressing the need, unless or until all such objectionable features no more existed. If the party contributing was known to dishonour lawful debts, so that the money was righteously due to others; if the gift was encumbered and embarrassed by restrictions that “hindered its free use for God; if it was designated for endowment purposes or as a provision for Mr. Muller’s old age, or for the future of the institutions; or if there was any evidence or suspicion that the donation was given grudgingly, reluctantly, or for self-glory, it was promptly declined and returned. In some cases, even where large amounts were involved, parties were urged to wait until more prayer and deliberation made clear that they were acting under divine leading.
6. An experience of extreme caution lest there should be even a careless betrayal of the fact of pressing need, to the outside public.
The helpers in the institutions were allowed to come into such close fellowship and to have such knowledge of the exact state of the work as aids not only in common labours, but in common prayers and self-denials. Without such acquaintance they could not serve, pray, nor sacrifice intelligently. But these associates were most solemnly and repeatedly charged never to reveal to those without, not even in the most serious crises, any want whatsoever of the work. The one and only resort was ever to be the God who hears the cry of the needy; and the greater the exigency, the greater the caution lest there should even seem to be a looking away from divine to human help.
7. An experience of growing boldness of faith in asking and trusting for great things.
As faith was exercised it was energized, so that it became as easy and natural to ask confidently for a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand pounds, as once it had been for a pound or a penny. After confidence in God had been strengthened through discipline, and God had been proven faithful, it required no more venture to cast himself on God for provision for two thousand children and an annual outlay of at least twenty-five thousand pounds for them than in the earlier periods of the work to look to Him to care for twenty homeless orphans at a cost of two hundred and fifty pounds a year. Only by using faith are we kept from practically losing it, and, on the contrary, to use faith is to lose the unbelief that hinders God’s mighty acts.
Excerpt From: Arthur Tappan Pierson. “George Müller of Bristol”