So, thus far this has only been fascinating anecdotal narrative. However, I am convinced Muller would despise such a testimony and praise of his life, work, and ministry if it did not at the same time demonstrate whether or not it answered the real question: did it work. In other words, was Muller’s passion for the glory of God, functionally carried out by benefitting the church at large successfully carried out? Further, would Muller be content with just his generation seeing the power of God demonstrated on behalf of advantaging His body, or would he desire a more far reaching impact in subsequent generations? So, without any hint of blushing timorousness, let’s ask the daring question: did it work?
The answer to that question is found in the annals of history. This is just a smattering of the many examples and evidences that could be given for whether Muller had the impact that he so desired. First, a man named Hudson Taylor happened to be profoundly impacted by Muller’s ministry.
When Hudson Taylor, as a young man, had given himself over unreservedly to the Lord, there came to him a strong conviction that God would send him to China. He had read of George Mueller and how God had answered his prayers for his own support and that of his orphans, and he began to ask the Lord to teach him also so to trust him. (http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/murray/praylife/prayer13.htm accessed 01-09-11)
Here’s a portion of Taylor’s own testimony of dependent faith on God:
After he had been for some years in China, he prayed that God would give twenty-four missionaries, two for each of the eleven provinces and Mongolia, each with millions of souls and with no missionary. God did it. But there was no society to send them out. He had indeed learned to trust God for his own support, but he dared not take upon himself the responsibility of the twenty four, if possibly they had not sufficient faith. This cost him severe conflict, and he became very ill under it, till at last he saw that God could as easily care for the twenty-four as for himself. He undertook it in a glad faith. And so God led him, through many severe trials of faith, to trust him fully. Now these twenty-four have increased, in course of time, to a thousand missionaries who rely wholly on God for support. Other missionary societies have acknowledged how much they have learned from Hudson Taylor, as a man who stated and obeyed this law. Faith may rely on God to move men to do what his children have asked of him in prayer. (http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/murray/praylife/prayer13.htm accessed 01-09-11)
Taylor saw a man of God in Muller and through that example and, obviously, the working of the Spirit in crafting Taylor himself, endeavored to venture fully upon Christ’s provision for his needs, the needs of the other missionaries in his care, and the thousands that followed in their train. Taylor was the first missionary in the modern age to truly penetrate interior China with the gospel of Jesus, and the modern day “underground Chinese church” (comprising roughly 40-100million people http://www.persecution.com/public/restrictednations.aspx?clickfrom=bWFpbl9tZW51) owes it’s roots to Taylor. China Inland Mission, now OMF international, founded by Taylor, states that:
In 1865 there was no Christian church anywhere in the interior of China. In 1910, five years after Taylor’s death, the CIM had founded 611 organised churches throughout China, with a total of over 20,000 communicant members. By 1915, churches founded by a large variety of missions existed in every province […]. [OMF has] just under 1300 members from 30 nations working throughout East Asia, and serving in Western nations where East Asians work or study. The gospel continues to spread throughout China at a rate Taylor could only have dreamed of and even countries closed to the gospel are now opening the door to Christians […]. The work started by James Hudson Taylor 140 years ago continues. The life and legacy of Inland China’s ‘small and weak’ benefactor lives on. (http://www.omf.org/omf/singapore/about_omf/omf_history/james_hudson_taylor accessed 01-09-11)
Secondly, a man with a successful career as a Cricket player in Great Britain, from a wealthy family, with a promising future of fame and prosperity, who resigned it all to follow in the footsteps of these other two men, Taylor and Muller. His name was C.T. Studd. Here is a short synopsis of this unshakeable man of iron.
It was while in China that C.T. reached the age (25 years old) in which according to his father’s will he was to inherit a large sum of money. Through reading God’s Word and much prayer, C.T. felt led to give his entire fortune to Christ! “This was not a fool’s plunge on his part. It was his public testimony before God and man that he believed God’s Word to be the surest thing on earth, and that the hundred fold interest which God has promised in this life, not to speak of the next, is an actual reality for those who believe it and act on it.” Before knowing the exact amount of his inheritance, C.T. sent £5000 to Mr. Moody, another £5000 to George Müller (£4000 to be used on missionary work and £1000 among the orphans); as well as £15,000 pounds to support other worthy ministries. In a few months, he was able to discover the exact amount of his inheritance and he gave some additional thousands away, leaving about £3400 pounds in his possession. (http://www.matthew548.com/Studd.html accessed 01-09-11)
A South African pastor and writer in the mid-19th century, Andrew Murray, was heavily affected by the example of Muller. In conjunction with the question on the table, did Muller’s desire to benefit the church actually work, Murray gives his answer:
When God wishes anew to teach His Church a truth that is not being understood or practiced, He mostly does so by raising some man to be in word and deed a living witness to its blessedness. And so God has raised up in this nineteenth century, among others, George Muller to be His witness that He is indeed the Hearer of prayer. (accessed 01-13-11) http://www.prayerfoundation.org/andrew_murray_on_george_muller_1.htm
Thus, Murray saw the impact, benefit and blessedness that Muller’s ministry was bringing to the church.
A.W. Tozer, the Spirit soaked scribe of the mid 1900s, esteemed George Muller with deep admiration. In his sermon “In Everything By Prayer,” he quotes Muller as saying:
I will not enter the pulpit stale. I will not enter the pulpit dry. If I am to speak anywhere, I wait on God and see to it that the grace of God is flowing in my soul before I dare to address anybody (Tozer, Aiden W. The Fellowship of the Burning Heart. Orlando: Bridge Logos, 2006. 97. Print.).
The example that Muller set for preaching, which deserves a book in and of itself, fundamentally impacted the way Tozer himself preached. Muller stated that his “chief help” in preaching was prayer (pg. 32). Tozer followed in this example by making his own office a sanctuary for prayer (Snyder, James L. The Life of A.W. Tozer: in Pursuit of God. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009. 142-43. Print.). Both of these men knew and lived the truth that preachers must be prayers.
And finally, by way of example, John Piper, at his 2004 annual pastor’s conference used George Muller as a template for how modern day pastors should operate their ministries. He commissioned twenty-first century preachers to,
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 the Bible five or ten times more than he reads any other books. His aim was to see God in Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead in order that he might maintain the happiness of his soul in God. By this deep satisfaction in God 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 and style of life that put the reality and trustworthiness and beauty of God on display. To use his own words, his life became a “visible proof to the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/biographies/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god accessed 01-13-11).”
So, once more, in a fresh new generation, Muller’s life is inspiring radical joy in God, and venturing out in faith to show the world the glories of our God and King.