This is a pop quiz. I will say a name and you tell me what he did for the King that mattered.
Orphanages in Bristol, right?
Well, maybe not.
Yes, it is true that he started a huge ministry which cared for over 10,000 orphans. It is also true that he was a passionate believer in receiving by faith, without sharing his needs with anyone but God and his staff. Many are the stories of his sitting down for a meal with the orphans, with nothing prepared, and after prayer time, the food would be delivered.
Müller also was a pastor, and he started over 100 schools which educated 120,000 students.
But in a way, all of those things were merely the playing field. You see, George Müller was a Prussian by birth with the redemptive gift of Prophet. In his youth he walked far from God. When he met God, he became a wild, passionate Christian and decided to go to the mission field as his most extreme service to God. Vintage Prophet extreme idealism.
He became ill and was not able to go, and that diverted him to the ministry in England.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be around Müller much in those days. He was hard, driven and hugely insensitive. His wife took the brunt of it. She was from a wealthy family and her family was horrified when she fell in love with this impoverished foreigner. As a way of buffering her life ahead, they loaded her down with wedding gifts.
Müller, however, had a few unresolved issues in the area of receiving from others, so he promptly decided that living comfortably on gifts from the wedding was unholy. He bullied her into giving away all those possessions so she could share his poverty (although you can be assured he gave a theological spin to it).
He pastored in the same bombastic way, assaulting his congregations with his theological views. With his hot temper, deep obsessions and his claim that God was in agreement with him on all points, he carved a path that left many bruised and discarded people along the way.
When he shared with his congregation his vision for the orphans, they were unanimous in telling him that this was not acceptable to them at all. He ran over them roughshod and did it anyway.
But over the course of the years, God worked on him as well as through him. His theology became broader and his character much more Christlike.
Thus it was that he began his career as a missionary. The following notes are from Wikipedia.
In 1875, at the age of 70 and after the death of his first wife in 1870 and his marriage to Susannah Grace Sanger in 1871, Müller and Susannah began a 17 year period of missionary travel:
|26 March 1875||6 July 1875||England|
|15 August 1875||5 July 1876||England, Scotland and Ireland|
|16 August 1876||25 June 1877||Switzerland, Germany and Holland|
|18 August 1877||8 July 1878||Canada and the United States (including a visit to the White House)|
|5 September 1878||18 June 1879||Switzerland, France, Spain and Italy|
|27 August 1879||17 June 1880||United States and Canada|
|15 September 1880||31 May 1881||Canada and the United States|
|23 August 1881||30 May 1882||Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Turkey and Greece|
|8 August 1882||1 June 1883||Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Russia and Poland|
|26 September 1883||5 June 1884||India|
|18 August 1884||2 October 1884||England and South Wales|
|16 May 1885||1 July 1885||England|
|1 September 1885||3 October 1885||England and Scotland|
|4 November 1885||13 June 1887||The United States, Australia, China, Japan, the Straits of Malacca, Singapore, Penang, Colombo, France|
|10 August 1887||11 March 1890||Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Ceylon and India|
|8 August 1890||May 1892||Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy|
Wrap your arms around this picture. He traveled over 200,000 miles in 17 years, when he was over 70 years old, without an airplane. He was fluent in English, German and French, but often preached through a translator when those languages did not serve.
Everywhere he went, he left a trail of literature from his ministry, to help grow those whom he had touched.
Talk about astounding endurance and passion!
My point is this. His heart was for missions. I don’t know for sure, but I have every reason to believe this was his design. But he was not ready to walk out his design in his youth, even though the passion was there.
God ambushed him early in life and spent the next 30 to 40 years getting him ready for his missionary career. Then, at age 70, he was well-rounded, significantly more user-friendly, and had moral authority from his previous work. It was then that he was released by God.
So what about you? Did you have a fire years ago, but you have been doing something else lately and feeling that it is pointless?
Maybe you want to revisit that feeling. Is there any chance that God has been refining you over the last few decades? Is there any chance God will relight the fire that was there in your 20s and send you out with huge wisdom, character and authority, to do the original calling?
Copyright March 2011 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim