Can a person who has messed up in life really change and matter?
Many of you do not know who this man is – George Mueller. But please read the following excerpt from my book – Your Life Matters. I hope it inspires you, as it did me.
In college, I studied about George Mueller. He became one of my heroes. If you haven’t heard of him, Mueller built great orphanages on simple faith. Eventually, these orphanages covered thirteen acres of land on Ashley Downs, Bristol, England. But, when God put it into the heart of George Muller to build these orphanages, George had only two shillings (fifty cents) in his pocket.
By the time of Mr. Muller’s death, there were five immense buildings of solid granite, capable of accommodating two thousand orphans. Without making his desires known to anyone but God, over one million, four hundred thousand pounds ended up being donated – over seven million U.S. dollars today. It arrived as it was needed, to build and maintain the orphanages.
Although George Mueller became famous as one of the greatest men of prayer known to history, he was not always a saint. He wandered into a deep mess before he came to Christ.
Mueller was born in Prussia, in 1805. His father was a tax collector. Not the best example for a young man, his father spent much of his time in the bars and brothels.
George routinely lied to his father about the money he spent, both how much he spent and where he threw it away. He also stole from his father when his father was drunk or out spending time with the women in the brothels.
Since his father was wrapped up in the bad stuff of the world, he didn’t provide much fatherly instruction. He gave them money, that they quickly burned through. At ten years of age, George was sent to a Christian school. His father wanted to make a Lutheran clergyman of him, not that he might serve God, but that he might have an easy and comfortable living wage from the State Church. (Lawson, 1911).
“My time,” said George, “was now spent in studying, reading novels, and indulging … in sinful practices. Thus, it continued until I was fourteen years old when my mother suddenly died. The night she was dying, I, not knowing of her illness, was playing cards until two in the morning, and on the next day, being the Lord’s Day, I went with some of my companions to a tavern, and then, being filled with strong beer, we went about the streets drunk.”
“I grew worse and worse,” said Mueller. “Three or four days before I was confirmed (and thus admitted to partake of the Lord’s supper), I was guilty of gross immorality; and the very day before my confirmation, when I was in the vestry with the clergyman to confess my sins (according to the usual practice), after a formal manner, I defrauded him; for I handed over to him only a twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him.”
Lying, stealing, gambling, skirt-chasing, wasteful spending, was just the tip of the iceberg. No one would have imagined that this wayward young soul would become known for his faith in God and his power in prayer.
When his father sent out young George to collect rent, George would lie about the amount he collected and pocket the difference. His reckless behavior brought him to the point of having no money to buy food, and he even stole bread from a soldier.
In 1821, George went to Magdeburg and spent six days there drinking and chasing women. From there, he went to Brunswick and rented an expensive hotel until his money ran out. Next he rented a room at a fine hotel in a neighboring village, intending to defraud the hotel. Caught before he could leave, he traded his finest clothes for rent money. He then walked six miles to another inn, where he was arrested for trying to defraud the landlord. (Lawson, 1911). This time he was jailed for his crime, at sixteen years old.
But then something that can only be described as a “come to Jesus” moment occurred in his life. While at school, one of his friends brought him to the house of a Christian family on a Saturday afternoon.
They ate dinner together and afterward began a Bible study that was far deeper than any he had been involved in before. His heart was moved in a way he had never experienced. Before George could ask a question of the man leading the study, the man quietly slipped to his knees to pray, and his family joined him in prayer.
George had never experienced this, even in all the Christian Studies and seminary/clergyman schooling he had attended. George, unsure what to do, joined them on his knees, too.
In that moment of solemn prayer, George surrendered his life to Christ. He began to cry for the errors of his ways and wanted to do nothing but make amends and share the love of Christ with everyone he came in contact with. It was a moment of real transformation.
He went on to preach around the countryside, and then moved to London and preached there. In 1834, Mr. Mueller started the Scripture Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad to aid Christian day-schools, assist missionaries, and circulate the Scriptures.
Shortly after this, he began the orphanages that impacted so many children. “These institutions of both learning and housing, without government support, without asking anyone for help, without contracting debts; without committees, subscribers, or memberships; but through faith in the Lord alone and intense prayer, had raised and disbursed no less a sum than £1,500,000 ($7,500,000) at the time of Mr. Muller’s death.” (Lawson, 1911). The bulk of this was spent on the orphanage.
“By the time Mueller died, 122,000 persons had been taught in the schools supported by these funds; and about 282,000 Bibles and 1,500,000 Testaments had been distributed through the same fund. Also, 112,000,000 religious books, pamphlets, and tracts had been circulated; missionaries had been aided in all parts of the world, and no less than ten thousand orphans had been cared for using this same fund.” (Lawson, 1911).
At the age of seventy, Mr. Mueller made great evangelistic tours, traveling 200,000 miles around the world. He preached in many lands and several different languages, frequently speaking to as many as 4,500 or 5,000 persons.
He preached three to four times throughout the United States. He continued his evangelistic tours until he was ninety years of age. During these seventeen years of evangelistic work, he estimated he had addressed three million people. All his expenses had been paid by those who sent in funds, in answer to his prayers of faith.
It would be an understatement to say that George Mueller’s life mattered, but I am struck by the times when there was neither food nor money to buy food. As mealtimes in the orphanages drew near, they gathered around the tables in the dining hall and George prayed. All the staff and children would file in and they would join him silently praying.
They were always interrupted by a knock on the door. Someone would deliver food saying, “I felt moved by the Lord to bring this to your institution. I hope it helps.”
No one had said a word publicly, other than their prayers to God. No one had cried in the streets for help or set up a fundraising drive. They prayed.
This wasn’t an isolated occurrence. If that were the case, many would think it to be a coincidence. But their prayers were answered every time there was a need or a shortage.
No one ever went without a meal in these orphanages, ever.
I wonder about the impact that this type of devoted prayer must have had on the people at the orphanages who witnessed it, from the staff to the residents. How did this shape their lives of faith?
I imagine it had a tremendous impact on them. Simply learning about the story has had a profound impact on me.
So, you see, your past does not define your future. You can begin again today and live in such a way that the change inspires others and leads them out of their darkness. “If I did it, so can you,” will be your byline. Then you reach down and lift them up and walk with them a while.
I want you to know that YOUR LIFE MATTERS!
God Bless You!