I have been struggling a bit with writer’s block this past month. Not because I have nothing to say, or no thoughts to process, but because I am trying to process so very much.
Our family has just embarked on a huge transition vocationally, leaping by faith into a new adventure. We are excited, terrified, goggle-eyed. We are surrendering the bit of salary we used to make from church and heading back to a full support situation, and wrestling through all of the fears and philosophical questions that entails. We are both looking back with wonder at what God has done and looking forward with question marks to what God might yet do. Our kids are beginning to college-shop (great timing!) and on top of it all, we are planning an overseas trip for my husband’s PhD work, necessary as that is for our next project.
There is so much to unpack, and I’ll be doing that over the weeks to come. But today I wanted to share here three stories of God’s powerful work in the past that help quell my fears and strengthen my faith. All three are excerpts of amazing books and I hope you will run out and buy one, or two, or all of them if you find yourself in a similar moment of uncertainty. By shortening these chapters to fit into a blog-sized space, I have left out a ton of fascinating detail. But grab a cuppa and settle in—this is a good read.
2 Kings 3:18, “And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord.”
From George Müller:
It was just as well George didn’t stay away for too long, because things were rapidly becoming difficult back in Bristol. On August 18, 1838, George wrote in his journal, “I have not one penny in hand for the orphans. In a day or two again many pounds will be needed. My eyes are on the Lord.”
By the end of that day, five pounds had arrived, a gift from a woman who had sold some of her jewelry for the benefit of the orphans. It was enough money to buy food for a day, but by evening, they were back in the same situation. On August 20, George again received a gift of five pounds, which was also used to buy food. The next day it was twelve pounds, and three pounds the following day.
Again and again, George added up the books, only to find that the orphan houses did not have a penny for food. Each time he prayed, money arrived in the nick of time.…
George started off 1851 by praying and asking God to show him the next step to take. Within a few days, he received a donation of three thousand pounds, the single largest donation he had so far received. George took the money as a sign he should expand the orphanage. He estimated it would cost about thirty five thousand pounds [over $6,000,000 in today’s money] to build a new building to accommodate seven hundred more orphans. As before, he got busy praying and asking God to provide the money he needed. Many people might have felt burdened having to believe God for such a large sum of money, but not George Müller. George wrote in his journal, “The greatness of the sum required affords me a kind of secret joy; for the greater the difficulty to be overcome, the more will it be seen to the glory of God how much can be done by prayer and faith.”
… “I hate to bother you, Mr. Müller,” began the matron, “but it’s happened. The children are all ready for breakfast and there is not a thing in the house to eat. What shall I tell them?”
George stood up. “I’ll take care of it. Just give me a minute,” he said.
Before going into the dining room at Number One Orphan House, George walked out into the garden. “Abigail, Abigail, come here,” he called.
Abigail ran up to him. “What is it?” she asked.
George reached down and took her hand. “Come and see what God will do,” he said as he escorted her to the dining room.
Inside they found three hundred children standing in neat rows behind their chairs. Set on the table in front of each child were a plate, a mug, and a knife, fork, and spoon. But there was no food whatsoever to be seen. George watched as Abigail’s eyes grew wide with astonishment. “But, where’s the food?” Abigail asked in a whisper.
“God will supply,” George told her quietly, before he turned to address the children. “There’s not much time. I don’t want any of you to be late for school, so let us pray,” he announced.
As the children bowed their heads, George simply prayed, “Dear God, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat. Amen.”
George looked up and smiled at the children. “You may be seated,” he said. He had no idea at all where the food he had just prayed for would come from or how it would get to the orphanage. He just knew God would not fail the children.
A thunderous din filled the room as three hundred chairs were scuffed across the wooden floor. Soon all three hundred children sat obediently in front of their empty plates.
No sooner had the noise in the dining room subsided than there was a knock at the door. George walked over and opened the door. In the doorway stood the baker, holding a huge tray of delicious-smelling bread.
“Mr. Müller,” began the baker, “I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking that somehow you would need bread this morning and that I was supposed to get up and bake it for you. So I got up at two o’clock and made three batches for you. I hope you can use it.”
George smiled broadly. “God has blessed us through you this morning,” he said as h took the tray of bread from the baker.
“There’s two more trays out in the cart,” said the baker. “I’ll fetch them.”
Within minutes, the children were all eating freshly baked bread. As they were enjoying it, there was a second knock at the door. This time it was the milkman, who took off his hat and addressed George. “I’m needing a little help, if you could, sir. The wheel on my cart has broken, right outside your establishment. I’ll have to lighten my load before I can fix it. There’s ten full cans of milk on it. Could you use them?” Then looking at the orphans, sitting in neat rows, he added, “Free of charge, of course. Just send someone out to get them. I’ll never fix the cart with all that weight on it.”
Benge, Janet and Geoff. George Müller, The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans. Seattle, YWAM Publishing, 1999.
From God’s Smuggler:
I never mentioned the school fees to anyone, and yet the gifts always came at such a moment that I could pay them in full and on time. Nor did they ever contain more than the school costs, and—in spite of the fact that the people who were helping me did not know one another—they never came two together.
God’s faithfulness I was experiencing continually, and I was also finding out something about His sense of humor.
I had made a covenant with God never to run out of money for school fees. My covenant said nothing about running out of soap. Or toothpaste. Or razor blades.
One morning I discovered I was out of laundry soap. But when I reached into the drawer where I kept my money, all I could find was sixpence. Laundry soap cost eightpence.
“You know that I have to keep clean, God. So will You work it out about the two pennies?” I took my sixpence and made my way to the street where the shops were, and sure enough, right away I saw a sign. “Twopence off! Buy your SURF now.” I walked in, made my savings, and strolled back up the hill whistling. There was plenty of soap in that box to last, with care, until the end of school.
But that very night a friend saw me washing out a shirt and shouted, “Say, Andrew, lend me some soap, will you? I’m out.”
Of course I let him have the soap and said nothing. I just watched him pour out my precious Surf, knowing somehow that he wasn’t going to pay it back. Every day he borrowed a bit more of that soap, and every day I had to use just a little bit less.
And then it was toothpaste. The tube was really finished. Squeezed, twisted, torn apart, and scraped—finished. I had read somewhere that common table salt makes a good dentifrice. And no doubt my teeth got clean, but my mouth wore a permanent pucker.
And razor blades. I had not thrown away my used blades, and sure enough the day came when I had to resurrect them. I had no hone, so I stropped them on my bare arm. Ten minutes a day on my own skin: I remained clean shaven—but it was at a price.
Throughout this time I sensed that God was playing a game with me. Perhaps He was using these experiences to teach me the difference between a Want and a Need. Toothpaste tasted good, new razor blades shaved quicker—but theses were luxuries, not necessities. I was certain that should a real need arise, God would supply it.
And a true need did arise.
It was necessary for foreigners in Britain to renew their visas at periodic intervals. I had to have mine renewed by the thirty-first of December, 1954, or leave the country. But when that month rolled around, I did not have a cent to my name. How was I going to get the forms down to London? A registered letter cost one shilling—twelve pennies. I did not believe God was going to let me be thrown out of school for the lack of a shilling.
And so the game moved into a new phase. I had a name for it by now. I called it the Game of the Royal Way. I had discovered that when God supplied money He did it in a kingly manner, not in some groveling way.…
It was December 30. I had to have my application in the mail that day if it was to get to London on the thirty-first.
At ten o’clock in the morning, one of the students shouted up the stairwell that I had a visitor. I ran down the stairs thinking that this must be my delivering angel. But when I saw who it was, my heart dropped. This visitor wasn’t coming to bring me money, he was coming to ask for it. For it was Richard, a friend I had made months ago in the Patrick slums, a young man who came to the school occasionally when he just had to have cash.
With dragging feet I went outside. Richard stood on the white-pebble walkway, hands in pockets, eyes lowered. “Andrew,” he said, “would you be having a little extra cash? I’m hungry.”
I laughed and told him why. I told him about the soap and the razor blades, and as I spoke I saw the coin.
It lay among the pebbles, the sun glinting off it in just such a way that I could see it but not Richard. I could tell from its color that it was a shilling. Instinctively I stuck out my foot and covered the coin with my toe. Then as Richard and I talked, I reached down and picked up the coin along with a handful of pebbles. I tossed the pebbles down one by one, aimlessly, until at last i had just the shilling in my hand. But even as I dropped the coin into my pocket, the battle began. That coin meant I could stay in school. I wouldn’t be doing Richard a favor by giving it to him: he’d spend it on drink and be thirsty as ever in an hour.
While I was still thinking up excellent arguments, I knew it was no good. how could I judge Richard when Christ told me so clearly that I must not. Furthermore, this was not the Royal Way! What right had an ambassador to hold on to money when another of the King’s children stood in front of him saying he was hungry. I shoved my hand back into my pocket and drew out the silver coin.
“Look, Richard,” I said. “I do have this. Would it help any?”
Richard’s eyes lit up. “It would, mate.” He tossed the coin into the air and ran off down the hill. With a light heart that told me I had done the right thing, I turned to go back inside.
And before I reached the door the postman turned down our walk.
In the mail of course was a letter for me. I knew when I saw Greetje’s handwriting that it would be from the prayer group at Ringers’ and there would be cash inside. And there was. A lot of money: A pound and half—thirty shillings. Far more than enough to send my letter, buy a large box of soap, treat myself to my favorite toothpaste—and buy Gillette Supers instead of Blues.
The game was over. The King had done it His way.
Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. God’s Smuggler. 1967. Grand Rapids, Chosen Books (a division of Baker Book House Company), 2003.
That night I prayed again, fervently communicating my fears and uncertainties as to my own honesty in wanting God’s will, as well as concerning the situation. One can’t put an hour of talking to God in a paragraph, but it is important for you to know that it was an hour, and not a sentence; and that there is a two-way communication in prayer, and the reality of the Holy Spirit’s work in a Christian during the actual time of praying… suddenly I became flooded with a surge of assurance that God can do anything, nothing is impossible to Him. My sentence changed in the middle, and I ended my prayer with a definite plea, which even startled me as I asked it, “Oh, please show us Thy will about this house tomorrow, and if we are to buy it, send us a sign that will be clear enough to convince Fran as well as me, send us one thousand dollars before ten o’clock tomorrow morning.”
The following morning as we went through new layers of fresh snow to the train, the postman—his packages and mailbag on a sled—handed us three letters. We opened these on the train, as the morning sun suddenly slipped over the rim of the mountains and poured light and warmth over the light wooden seats. One was from Paris, the next from Belgium…and the third was from a man and his wife in the United States. Mr. and Mrs. Salisbury had been following our work with interest and prayer, for quite some time, ever since they had been spiritually helped through Fran’s messages in a conference they had attended. However, they had never given financial help to our work in any way, nor were they wealthy. They knew that we had been told to leave Switzerland, and had been following the story up to that point. It was Mrs. Salisbury who wrote the letter:
“I have a story to tell you that will interest you,” she began. “Three months ago Art came home from work with an unexpected amount of money…We decided at first to buy a new car, then came to the conclusion that we didn’t need a new car. Our next thought was to invest in buying a little house, which we would rent. We went to look at houses, and as we looked over a very likely small house I suddenly saw signs of termites in the beams. ‘Look, Art,’ I said, ‘Doesn’t that remind you of the verse in Matthew which says, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.’ I then asked, ‘Art, would you be willing to take this money and invest it literally in heaven?… rather than investing it in another house on earth for added income? Would you be willing to give it to the Lord’s work somewhere?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Helen, I would.’
“Well… that was three months ago, and all during these three months we have been asking God to show us what He would have us do with this money. Two or three times we almost gave it to some cause, and each time we felt stopped from doing it. Now tonight we have come to a definite decision, and both of us feel certain that we are meant to send you this money… to buy a house somewhere that will always be open to young people.”
The amount of money was exactly one thousand dollars!
Schaeffer, Edith. L’Abri. 4th ed., Wheaton, Tyndale House Publishers, 1971.