01
Jul
08

Book Review: The Autobiography of George Müller

This month’s review is The Autobiography of George Müller, a man who demonstrated a radical dependency on God.  The book shifts several times from Müller writing narrative and commentary and long tracts of excepts from his journal.  To tell the truth, I found this book a little intimidating. My faith felt about 1 inch tall compared to the George Müller Eiffel Tower. He really demonstrated this in three ways: his attitude toward prayer, his attitude toward preaching, and his attitude toward finances.

Prayer

The greatest single attribute of George Müller was his dependence on prayer.  He spoke repeatedly of how he had not had enough prayer time lately and it was wearing on his spirit.  After getting a change to get back to prayer, he felt refreshed, strengthened.  In my experience, this is very true.  I am much more likely to be angry, frustrated, or ungracious when I’ve missed my prayer time recently.  There is simply no substitute for time with God, and Müller demonstrated that over and over.  It’s an encouragement to see that a man who was mightily used by God struggled in the same ways I do.

An amazing part of Müller’s testimony is that he kept track of every answer to prayer.  He frequently points out that he was not surprised when God answered his prayer.  He fully expected as much.  This is a point where he and I part company; I never feel like I have the kind of success rate in prayer that Müller did.

One thing that I found very interesting was how Müller seemed to be led by special revelation – direct, personal promptings by God.  Now, he was very deliberate to check these against Scripture and to pray for confirmations of them, but he definitely talked all the time about being led by God.  He was not entirely clear how this works.  I don’t think he was saying that he hears an audible voice, but rather that he finds something on his heart.  I can relate to times when I’ve been praying and I’ve had great insights into Scriptures, or other verses will come to mind that relate to what I’m praying about.  I certainly accept that the Holy Spirit works in this way, and I presume that is what Müller is getting at.

Preaching

As a pastor, Müller led his flock entirely by example.  He encouraged his congregation to a radical dependency on prayer and to wait on God.  He decided that he would give up commentaries and the like and rely only on the Bible text for understanding.  I still like commentaries, but I prefer to read them the day after I have meditated on the text, as a way of getting back into the context.

Perhaps the most interesting illustration of Müller’s approach to preaching was an anecdote he related in which he was getting up to preach and decided it felt like he was preaching in his own power rather than God’s, so he stopped his sermon and asked the church to pray.  After a while he tried again and still did not feel God’s power, so he just stopped preaching and they spent the rest of the service in just worship.  I don’t know that I’ve ever known a pastor that I think would seriously do that.  Do you?

Finances

Probably the thing that most people know about George Müller is his approach to finances.  He lived totally without an income and ran his ministry – a Bible school, Bible distribution ministry, and a string of orphanages – totally without a regular budget.  He would pray for his needs and then wait for God to come through.  This is a part of the book that I liked a lot better after the fact than during it.  While I was reading it, it was a little tedious as he kept saying “this is the greatest hour of poverty we have ever known.”  And yet by seeing that total absence of funds and his refusal to ask anybody but God for help year after year after year, it is stunning.  It might be one thing to imagine doing this for a brief time, like between jobs, but what a huge step of faith to live this way for decades, and to know that the fate of so many orphans in your care really depends on God coming through.  (Of course it does anyway, right?)

He doesn’t expect everybody to adopt that mentality, but he does challenge us to look at what we have and be in earnest prayer about what we should do with the finances we have.  Repeatedly, people came to him with money and he would try to talk them out of giving it to him, but they were utterly convinced by God that they needed to give Müller the money.  Is that something that happens in a vacuum?  No, these are people who were honestly asking the Lord about their finances and were sensitive to what he had to say about it.   What a challenge to us, to realize those around us who are living in dependence on God and our responsibility to be prayerful with the finances we have.

Conclusion

This was a powerful little book, and it really gives a new perspective on the life of faith.  This brought some words of Paul to mind:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3

God has given each of us a certain amount of faith.  It may well be that Müller was given faith from the largest scoop the Lord has ever used.  We are not to compare ourselves to men, even a man who was so faithful as Müller.  We compare ourselves to Christ alone.  That said, it is a huge encouragement to see how dramatically God can use a man for his purposes, and I am grateful that Müller took the time to put this down in book form for us to see.

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1 Response to “Book Review: The Autobiography of George Müller”



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