Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lessons From the Life of George Mueller

As I drove to Oklahoma City yesterday I listened to John Piper's sermon on the life of George Mueller that he preached once at his yearly pastor's conference. It was so good I listened to it again on the return trip.
Piper is known for reading the biographies of great men of God and speaking about their lives in a way that impacts our own.
What follows are the highlights from that sermon that particularly struck me. Muellers comments are in quotes, the rest is taken directly from the sermon notes.

Discovery of the all-encompassing sovereignty of God became the foundation of Mueller's confidence in God to answer his prayers for money. He gave up his regular salary. He refused to ask people directly for money. He simply prayed and published his reports about the goodness of God and the answers to his prayers.
"Work with all your might, but trust not the least in your work."
He insisted that his hope was in God alone.
He had come to know and love the absolute sovereignty of God in the context of the doctrines of grace, and therefore he cherished it mainly as sovereign goodness. This gave him a way to maintain a personal peace beyond human understanding in the face of tre- mendous stress and occasional tragedy.
"The Lord never lays more on us in the way of chastisement than our state of heart makes needful; so that whilst He smites with one hand, He supports with the other."
In the face of painful circumstances he writes, "I bow, I am satis- fied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to His holy will and to glorify Him, I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me."
When he was about to lose a piece of property that he wanted for the next orphan house, he said, "If the Lord were to take this piece of land from me, it would be only for the purpose of giving me a still better one; for our Heavenly Father never takes any eartly thing from His children except He means to give them something better instead."
The sovereign goodness of God served, first and foremost, as the satisfaction of the soul. And then the satisfied soul was freed to sacrifice and live a life of simplicity and risk and self-denial and love. But everything flowed from the soul that is first satisfied in the gracious, sovereign God.
Why is this "the most important thing"? Why is daily happiness in God "of supreme and paramount importance"?
Becuase it glorifies God. It shows that God is gloriously satisfying.
"Glad self-denial" is the aroma of Mueller's life.
"Self-denial is not so much an impoverishment as a postponement: we make a sacrifice of a present good for the sake of a future and greater good."
Therefore happiness in God is of "supreme importance" because it is the key to love that sacrifices and takes risks.
"Whatever be done... in the way of giving up, or self-denial, or deadness to the world, should result from the joy we have in God."
If happiness in God is "of supreme and paramount importance" because it is the spring of sacrificial love that honors God, then the crucial question becomes - how do we get it and keep it?
"This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself to us in the face of Jesus Christ. In them... we become acquainted with the character of God. Our eyes are divinely opened to see what a lovely being God is! And this good, gracious, loving, Heavenly Father is ours, our portion for time and eternity."
Knowing God is the key to being happy in God.
Therefore the most crucial means of fighting for joy in God is to immerse oneself in the Scriptures where we see God in Christ most clearly. When he was 71 years old, Mueller spoke to younger be- lievers: "Now in brotherly love and affection I would give a few hints to my younger fellow-believers as to the way in which to keep up spiritual enjoyment. It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptrues be regu- larly read. These are God's appointed means for the nourishment of the inner man... Consider it, and ponder over it... Especially we should ready regularly through the Scriptures, consecutively, and not pick out here and there a chapter. If we do, we remain spiritual dwarfs. I tell you so affectionately. For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I reagularly read through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more."
He would live another 21 years and pick up the pace so that he managed to read through the Bible at least 200 times before he died.
He never changed his strategy for satisfaction in God. When he was 76 he wrote the same thing he did when he was 60.
"I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I aught to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it... What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and... not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts."
The aim of George Mueller's life was to glorify God by helping people take God at His word. To that end he saturated his soul with the Word of God. At one point he said that he reads his Bible five to ten times more than he reads any other books. His aim was to see God in Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead in order that he might maintain the happiness of his soul in God. By this deep satisfaction George Mueller was set free from the fears and lusts of the world. And in this freedom of love he chose a strategy of ministry as a style of life that put the reality and trustworthiness and beauty of God on display. (Quite interstinly to me, is why he chose to found and support orphanages. It wasn't primarily the help and care of the orphans that motivated him; rather it was looking for a means by which to allow God to work through him and bring the greatest visible glory to Himself. This is an awesome way of looking at ministry and one that, in my mind, bears much consideration. C.)
To use his own words, his life became a "visible proof to the unchangeable faithfulness of God."
I will let him have the closing word and plea for us to join him in the path of radical, joyful faith:
"My dear Christian reader, will you not try this way? Will you not look for yourself... the preciousness and the happiness of this way of casting all your cares and burdens and necessities upon God? This way is as open to you as it is to me... Every one is invited and commanded to trust the Lord, to trust in Him with all his heart, and to cast his burden upon Him, and to call upon Him in the day of trouble. Will you not do this, my dear brethren in Christ? I long that you may do so. I desire that you may taste the sweetness of that state of heart, in which, while surrounded by the difficulties and necessities, you can yet be at peace, because you know that the living God, your Father in heaven, cares for you."

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