Three Pleas to My Formerly Christian Friends

Many of my friends who once professed to be Christians have walked away from the faith. If you are one of those people, I want you to know that I still love you and deeply appreciate our friendship. But I also grieve for you and pray for you. I know we don’t have the opportunity to go chat at a coffee shop, and perhaps we never will, but as my friend I hope you will take 10 minutes to read what I have to say. I want to make three pleas to you; one to your mind, one to your will, and one your emotions.

A Plea to Your Mind

One of the most common reasons I hear for why friends have walked away from the faith is their experience with hypocritical Christians. Perhaps your parents were considered exemplary Christians in their church, but you knew what really went on at home. Or you listened to preaching or attended a church that was ruthlesslly legalistic. Maybe you experienced a nasty church split or suffered as the church people shredded your dad, their pastor, to pieces. I don’t know what you have experienced, and I don’t downplay it in the least. One person once told me as I walked through deep ministry waters, “God is good, but sometimes his people are bad.”

Hang on to that thought, because we’ll come back to it in a minute. For now, though, would you please consider this simple plea? Please do not measure the worth of Jesus by his worst representatives. I get it, if that’s what Christianity is like, then you want nothing to do with it. But don’t stop there. Find the best imitators of Jesus you can, and then make your value judgment.

If I wanted to persuade you that soccer is an amazing sport (and I think it is), I would be foolish to take you to my 6-year old daughter’s Saturday soccer “game.” It looks more like a tornado of todders than a soccer match. No, I would take you to Spain to watch FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi work his wizardry live. Why? Because he’s the best of the best. And beautiful soccer is a delight to watch.

My plea with you is, even in spite of your experience, to consider there may be brighter fields of Christianity. Seek them out. I say this with sincerity, because I know there are brighter fields. And we have to ask ourselves, “How can people claim to be Christians, but live as hypocrites?” This leads me to my second plea.

A Plea to Your Will

Earlier I mentioned the quote, “God is good, but sometimes his people are bad.” I think that statement is partially true. As born sinners, all of us do bad things, but God’s children have been given new hearts, and their heavenly Father lovingly disciplines them when they do wrong. So if we think God’s people are bad without any repentance or spiritual growth, then we are wrong.

Which leads me to ask this question: when you walked away from the faith, did you really choose to walk away? Or did you simply confirm externally what had always been true internally? God says that when people walk away from the faith, it shows they never really believed it in the first place.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us;
for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.
But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

1 John 2:19

In other words, your will was never enamored with Jesus Christ, at least not in a persevering, saving way. It had always been captured by a different love. More than that, your former experience with Christians may have been no experience with Christians at all, for they too may have never believed. The hypocrisy you witnessed was no true faith at all, but actually a “different gospel” (see Galatians 1:6-9).

So I make this plea to your will. Repent and believe in the gospel, not on the basis of former experiences, baptisms, or altar calls. Believe it on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Believe in his death as a substitute for your sin and in his resurrection as power for your new life. If you do, I can promise you will experience a radically different kind of Christianity than the one you walked away from. This promise leads me to my third and final plea.

A Plea to Your Emotions

As someone who has never actually believed the gospel in a life-transforming way, I plead with you—come, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)! You have never truly feasted on him. You don’t know what he is like. You have never known the God who formed the cosmos with his word, wound the clock of time, called and created a nation out of a barren couple, judged nations who sacrificed their children to false gods, raised the dead at funeral processions, granted eternal life by the death of his immortal Son, turned the world upside down with a handful of stubborn disciples, and now waits to commence the end of this age.

This same God is full of compassion for you. He wants you to know him, delight in him, and be satisfied in him. As Psalm 36:7-9 says,

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

I have hope some of you who read this will come to know the delight found only in Jesus Christ. This gospel which you already know so well is still offered to you freely. And I am always open to talk more. I will always count you as my friend, and I will always pray you hear my pleas to turn to Christ.

~CP

“I Didn’t Know God”

At first when he answered the phone I thought it was a joke. I had reconnected with a friend I hadn’t talked to in ten years. But he sounded nothing like the friend I used to know. I even told him it didn’t sound like him. Of course, that made things awkward for a bit. As we did small talk I went back over my phone and reviewed how we had reconnected. Same phone number. Same Facebook page. Same guy. And yet, totally different.     

I slowly was starting to accept the reality that I really was talking to my old friend when he clarified, “You know Cameron, we really haven’t talked in a long time. A lot has happened since then.” He continued, “I think I got saved 4 years ago.” I was shocked.

This is the guy I went to Bible college with. This is the guy who had wanted to preach his whole life. This is the guy who traveled on evangelistic teams to churches and spent his summers sharing the gospel with young people.      

He went on to describe for me his frustration at repeatedly trying to preach, but never being satisfied with it. He came to the point where he gave up on preaching entirely. But that bitterly low point of frustration caused him to realize something incredible. “I didn’t know God,” he confessed to me. “I knew about God. I knew about the Bible. I was drawn to the experience of preaching and the feeling that came with it. I think that is the same reason I was drawn to evangelism. But I didn’t have a real relationship with God.” 

He went on to describe for me how he started sincerely praying to and seeking God. And God changed him. Radically. So much so, he was a different person. Other people in his life began to take notice. “My wife asked me what had changed,” he said. “I hadn’t said anything about it at first because I didn’t know what to make of it.” 

Our unexpectedly awkaward conversation had changed into a mutually encouraging moment as he began to share with me the lessons God had taught him since his conversion. I apologized for being rude, and he accepted the apology, and we had a great time catching up for a bit.

When I got off the phone, I sat on our couch and stared out a window for several minutes. It was so stunning, yet so refreshing and glorious to see God radically transform one man’s life. This is, in fact, how the Scripture describes salvation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Many people in this world gravitate towards religion for the experience. They confuse the emotional fervor of a thrilling worship service or shared moments of religious experience with a genuine relationship with the living God. Unfortunately, many church leaders today are guilty of encouraging this kind of behavior. It is a spiritually draining, inadequate substitute for your soul’s satisfaction. If you are in one of those categories, or find yourself in one of those kinds of churches, you can be free from the emptiness that comes with religion apart from Christ. Look to him. He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Only he can satisfy the desire in your soul for something better, because he is the “something better” you are thirsting for. 

~CP

Coronavirus and Christ (John Piper)

I wanted to write a blog post addressing how a Christian navigates our current Coronavirus crisis. Such a discussion is profitable not only for Christians, but also for anyone who is looking for a steady rock in the shifting sands of uncertainty. These truly unprecedented times have caused many of us to think more deeply about life than we otherwise would have.

Thankfully, John Piper penned and published a book in just 14 days that addresses those issues. I heartily recommend this FREE (digital or audio download) resource to you and anyone you know. At just around 100 pages, it is short, understandable, yet profoundly deep. Click here to download a copy today.

~CP

Give Us This Day Our Non-Perishables

My wife Emily just got back from the grocery store this morning. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, we weren’t really sure what to expect. We prayed with our two little girls before mommy left for the store, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Then she returned with an embarrassment of rations. Don’t get me wrong—we actually need all that food to survive (those with hungry little ones in their homes are all nodding in agreement). We thanked God for his provision, then began unloading grocery bags, when suddenly it hit me—a lot of people are consumed with obtaining non-perishables right now, but Jesus told us to pray for daily bread. There’s a lesson to learn there.

Do Not Be Anxious About Daily Provisions

In the same chapter he teaches us the Lord’s prayer, Jesus addresses the topic of storing up food. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Jesus uses the Lord’s prayer to expose our anxiety. He prayed for daily bread, not non-perishables. I know, I know, the term didn’t exist in his day. But the basic truth stands: anxiety over lack of daily provisions is wrong.

“But,” you may say, “it is wise to plan for the future!” It’s true, God does elevate wisdom, calling us to embrace it. But we need to be careful we do not use wisdom as a cloak for unfounded fear. Rather, wisdom flows from an intimate relationship of reverent awe and holy fear of our Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10) So if the Lord has anything to say about this topic, and he does, we would be wise to listen to him.

When my wife goes grocery shopping, she purchases about a week’s worth of food. Once a month we trek to Costco and buy some bulk items to save a few extra dollars. With refrigeration and storage considerations, weekly trips work well for us. That’s all we need, and we ought to pray that God would provide it for us.

In Jesus’s day, in spite of the lack of refrigeration, the situation was similar. Israelites could store up grain or bottle wine, they could fish on a given day, or they could slaughter a sheep from the flock. Most had resources available beyond their need of “daily bread.” Yet the sword, famine, or pestilence could threaten their food supplies. For some reason we think modern technology and food storage techniques make us less vulnerable. We are not.

Consider Your Value Before God

Jesus’s message to his followers is the same for believers today. Don’t build bigger barns, instead, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:26-29)

It is not the lilies of the field that bear the image of God. It is not the birds of the air for whom Christ died. If God takes such diligent care for the least of his creatures, why do we doubt is care for us, the crown jewel of his creation? “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

We certainly do not need to gather any more anxiety in our hearts. Yet we often spend our time and money obsessing over things that will never happen to us. Our gathered goods often are a mirror image of the gathered anxiety in our hearts. In fact, Jesus just finished saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Charles Spurgeon nails the issue with his usual pithiness.

“Many of God’s people are constantly under apprehensions of calamities which will never occur to them, and they suffer far more in merely dreading them than they would have to endure if they actually came upon them. In their imagination, there are rivers in their way, and they are anxious to know how they shall wade through them, or swim across them. There are no such rivers in existence, but they are agitated and distressed about them. An old proverb says, “Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it;” but these timid people are continually crossing bridges that only exist in their foolish fancies. They stab themselves with imaginary daggers, they starve themselves in imaginary famines, and even bury themselves in imaginary graves. We are such strange creatures that we probably suffer more under blows which never fall upon us than we do under those which do actually come. The rod of God does not strike us as sharply as the rod of our own imagination does; our groundless fears are our chief tormentors, and when we are able to abolish our self-inflictions, all the worries of the world become light and easy. However, it is a pity that Christians who have the gift of faith in Christ given to them, should fall into so guilty and at the same time so painful a habit as this of fearing the oppressor who does not come, and who never will come.”

Charles Spurgeon, Needless Fears,
sermon on Is. 51:12-13 preached June 11, 1874

Confess Your Lack of Faith

Jesus has spoken so clearly about this issue that his words need no further explanation. He simply challenges us to make the application.

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:30-31)

When Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread, he really means it. He rebukes us for our “little faith.” And we don’t like this rebuke. The truth hurts. Peter knew what it felt like to be rebuked by his Lord. Peter put his foot in his mouth so many times, he probably would have done well to just leave it there. And Peter has some good advice for us when responding to our Lord’s words.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7) In our pride, we don’t want to confess sin. “Confession is good for the soul, bad for the reputation,” they say. And this fear of being humbled causes anxiety in our hearts. Just as we fail to trust God for daily bread, we also fail to trust God by humbly confessing our sin. Do you see a pattern here? Anxiety in one area tends to spread its ugly roots all throughout the garden of our heart.

Feed on the Bread of Heaven

Instead of stubbornly persisting in patterns of anxiousness, we would do well to listen to Jesus. Here’s his simple solution: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32-33)

In John 6, Jesus tells us three times, “I am the bread of life.” He tells us to seek him for our spiritual and physical livelihood. He is not ignoring the reality of our physical needs, rather he is putting them in their proper perspective. Our need for physical bread should remind us of our greater need for spiritual bread. Saved saints should not live like those in the world who do not trust God to provide their daily bread. Your heavenly Father knows what you need. So seek him first, gather only what physical supplies you truly need, and “all these things will be added to you.” Your local Walmart store manager will thank you.
~CP

Learning to Fly

Yesterday I was walking into the parking lot after church, somewhat weary from the morning’s events, when I saw a shadow swiftly pass by on the ground. I glanced up at the sky, and just a moment later a hawk glided over my head. Without a single flap of its wings, it smoothly wheeled itself all the way around the church parking lot in search of prey. It was low enough for me to see its outstretched wings, even to the wingtip feathers, but high enough to glide on the rising currents of heat.

I stood in awe and watched as it glided, still without a flap, out of sight. Immediately a familiar verse crossed my mind, but with new meaning.

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Usually when I read that verse I think about how eagles mount up; they spread their majestic wings and rise with each powerful stroke. But, for birds of prey, most of their time flying is actually spent riding on currents of air. They sense the wind beneath their wings and skillfully use it to guide them on their way. They are, to some extent, at the mercy of the air. But they know how to leverage it for their benefit. The result is something beautiful enough to stop us in our tracks as we gaze in wonder at creation; it seems so effortless.

photo credit: Sam Bark, unsplash.com

Yes, the verse means that God can give us strength if we wait on him. But I wonder if we think too much about God providing us with incredible “mounting” strength and not enough about God providing us with humble “gliding” strength. Am I sensitive to the providential currents of air God has placed in my life? Am I wasting my energy fearfully flapping when, if I were patient, God could teach me to spread my wings and glide? While gliding appears to be effortless, we all know it actually requires an immense amount of trust. Both gliding and mounting demand spiritual strength that only God can give, but I think the majority of the Christian life is sensitive, skillful gliding.

What new heights could we soar to by simply being attentive to God’s leading? Today is your new opportunity.

CP

What About Rahab?

I have often heard this accusation leveled at the Bible: “God commanded the Israelites to commit mass genocide when they conquered Canaan. A God of love could not be so cold and merciless, so I do not accept the Bible as true (at least not certain parts of it).”

There are many ways to respond to this objection, but today I just want to focus on one burning question. If the conquest of Canaan paints a picture of God as cold and merciless, what about Rahab?

Rahab, we are told in Joshua 2, was a prostitute in the ancient city of Jericho. Joshua, the chief commander of Israel, sent two men to spy out the land, “especially Jericho.” When they enter the city, Rahab receives them into her house. The king of Jericho was watching, and he sent a message to Rahab telling her to hand over the Israelite men. Instead, Rahab hides the Israelite men and says she already sent the spies away. If the king hurries, his soldiers will catch up to them in no time. The king bites the bait, giving Rahab enough time to help the Israelite spies escape through her window in the city wall. A prostitute who used to receive men into her home for her perverted profession had now received men into her home for an entirely different reason. Why did she do it? She tells the spies,

“For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Joshua 2:10-11
Credit: unsplash.com

Rahab believed in the power of the Lord. She proceeds to form a covenant with the spies. In exchange for her faith-filled act of loyal love and kindness, she begs for God’s loyal love on her family in return (Joshua 2:12-13).

Four chapters later we find God’s people doing exactly as they promised. Rahab hangs a scarlet cord in the same window she used to deliver the spies as a sign to Israel to have that same mercy on her. Don’t miss the stark contrast between judgment and mercy!

But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

Joshua 6:22-25

Rahab was still alive at the time this book of Joshua was written. She was a former prostitute, a woman, and a Canaanite. She had three strikes in that culture and should have been out. But instead she was a living example of God’s mercy and love to everyone in Israel. Hebrews 11:31 tells us, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

God’s favor on Rahab extended far beyond what she could have ever imagined. Centuries later Matthew mentions her alongside Ruth the Moabitess, another great foreigner of the faith, as matriarchs of king David and the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

“and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”

Matthew 1:5-6, 16
Credit: unsplash.com

That is not the work of a cold and merciless God; that is a work of a loving and gracious God. Is it possible that other Canaanites confessed faith in Yahweh and received mercy? In light of Rahab’s story it is safe to say “yes.” Even though the Canaanites knew much about Yahweh, we do not read of many cases like Rahab in the Old Testament. Apparently Rahab’s faith was rare. The conquest of Canaan, if anything, points to the depravity of the human heart that stubbornly refuses to pursue God’s mercy even in the face of impending judgment. It is a miracle of mercy that any of us would believe. And it is to God’s glory that anyone, like Rahab and her family, has been “saved alive.” God still freely extends the promise of forgiveness and salvation to anyone who repents of their sin and professes faith in Christ. The scarlet cord hangs today, but now in the form of the blood of Jesus Christ stained on a wooden cross. Mercy is extended. The only question is this: will we, like Rahab, believe?

CP

Book Review – George Müller of Bristol by Arthur T. Pierson (5 stars)

This year I decided to take on Tim Challies’ 2019 Christian Reading Challenge. Just recently I finished up my first biography for the year. Occasionally I will do a book review on some of the books I’m reading. You can read some of my thoughts about that process here. Today’s book is George Müller of Bristol by Arthur T. Pierson.

Meet George Müller

I don’t know if this is true for you, but before reading this book I felt as if I had heard a lot about George Müller without really knowing a lot about him. In college I even played George-Muller-Bristolthe role of Müller in a play for the campus missions society. While I had good intentions of reading his autobiography to be a better actor, I never did. Instead, I gleaned most of my understanding about the life of George Müller from that play. If you think about it, you probably don’t want people to learn everything they know about your life through a drama staged by amateur college students, at least I don’t.

So I would encourage you to get better acquainted with Müller, and this book is a great place to start. Arthur Tappan Pierson carefully highlights select portions from Müller’s journal that recount significant aspects of his life. Pierson was a close personal friend of Müller, gifted with a strong command of language and keen spiritual insight (he succeeded Charles Spurgeon as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London). You won’t get to read every detail of Müller’s life, but you will get a good overview of the man, his personality, his character, and how God shaped him through the years.

Chronological & Topical

Pierson spends the first portion of this book doing a chronological sketch of Müller’s life. Starting at birth, Pierson traces Müller’s life through his early rebellious days, his astonishing conversion, his subsequent growth in Christ, his failed pursuit of missions, his developing biblical convictions, his early influences (especially through the biography of A.H. Francké), his lesser-known early years of ministry, his well-known orphan ministry, his personal hardships, and his worldwide missionary enterprise during the final years of his life.

While most would be satisfied with simply writing a chronological overview, Pierson presses in even further to the life of Müller. The second half of the book looks at key aspects of Müller’s life topically, tying together common themes and emphases from his journal and other related historical documents. This second overview is equally interesting, helpfully reemphasizing the aspects of Müller’s life that made him such an edifying and unique servant of Christ.

Only the Tip of the Iceberg

I used to think of the story of George Müller like this: It’s morning, and there’s not a scrap of food left on the table. The housemaid comes in and informs the Müller’s that the orphans, too, having nothing to eat. Müller drops on his knees before everyone and offers a desperate and dramatic prayer to God. The doorbell rings. The bread has come (I can see the scene from that college play in my mind right now)! Not only does that scene portray an inaccurate view of a peaceful, stable man who learned to cast his anxieties on the Lord, it also is very shallow. To know of the orphan work is to see only the tip of the iceberg.

Müller spent his life to the full in more ways than ministry to orphans. He, with the help of co-laborer Henry Craik, contributed to the health of multiple local church ministries. Together they also established the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad which assisted in the teaching and dissemination of massive amounts of Bibles (over 2 million) and biblical literature both in England and worldwide. Müller personally supported over 115 missionaries, and at the end of his life he traveled over 200,000 miles for 17 years preaching the gospel to scores of people in various nations, tribes, and tongues. George Müller’s fruitful life spanned almost an entire century (1805-1898), and he credits peaceful trust in God as the key.

“Where Faith begins, anxiety ends;

   Where anxiety begins, Faith ends.”

– George Müller

Yet his record of God’s dealings in the orphan houses at Ashley Down stands out above the rest (called the Narrative of the Lord’s Dealings with George Müller). Here is a man who would want us to look past the vessel and to the Savior who can and will supply all our true needs, if we would only seek first the kingdom of God. The theme of his life was power through prevailing prayer. As Pierson says, “To summarize Mr. Müller’s service we must understand his great secret. Such a life and such a work are the result of one habit more than all else—daily and frequent communion with God.”

799px-Orphan-Houses-Ashley-Down

Cautions to Consider

Müller was not a perfect man, and his understanding, interpretation, and application of Scripture is not beyond critique. I am concerned that Müller disliked frequent consulting of commentaries or other reference works in Bible study. In his zeal to allow the Holy Spirit to be the sole interpreter of Scripture, he unnecessarily shunned some of the benefits we can enjoy through God’s gifting of theologians and expositors who shed light on truth.

Also, while Müller succeeded in displaying wholehearted trust in God alone, at times he may have risked shunning wisdom portions of Scripture that encourage us to plan and prepare. I don’t want to overstate my case, though. Once Müller was convinced God wanted him to work on a project, he began to lay aside funds, pursue the goal, and carefully count the cost. He also would purposefully avoid ever telling anyone outside his orphanage if the orphanage was in desperate need. Here I differ with Müller. I am not convinced it is wrong to let people within the church know if I or my ministry is in a state of financial need. God has given us the body of Christ to bear appropriate burdens. Indeed, he chooses to use us as tools of his grace and mercy.

But Müller thought otherwise, and he held to his conviction. He saw it as a clear means of proving to others that the living God still hears and answers prayer, and it is a safe thing to rely on God alone. And the Lord blessed him abundantly either for or in spite of it. We should appreciate reading these kinds of stories, for they stretch our faith and challenge our assumptions. We need to think critically about Scripture. Doing so will grow us in maturity as we wrestle through and meditate on how Scripture applies to our lives, even if we end up disagreeing with another believer.

One final caution: Pierson tends to write in glowing terms about Müller. I did have to wonder if at times Pierson was not painting a “rosier” picture than reality, simply because he had little to say about Müller’s faults or spiritual struggles in his later life. Perhaps Müller had grown to the point of spiritual maturity where his struggles were hardly apparent to others, but this kind of insight would have helped provide a fuller picture of Müller’s life.

For the above reasons, I vacillated between rating this book at 4 or 5 stars. In the end I gave it 5 because the comprehensive scope and detail of the book far outweigh the relatively minor issues. I gladly recommend George Müller of Bristol to you. It will edify your soul, challenge your faith, and cultivate a deeper delight in the Living God who still hears and answers prayer.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Format: Print book
Reading length: 466 pages (aprox. 25-30 hours)

p.s. John Piper preached an outstanding biographical sermon on the life of George Müller. I highly recommend it to you. You can access it here: George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God

Trusting God Alone

Great leaders spend their lives pursuing clearly stated goals. William Wilberforce, for example, said, “Almighty God has set before me two great objectives, the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” I am finishing up a biography on the life of George Müller. He, too, had a clearly stated goal in life. Next week I hope to write a book review of that biography; but for this week, I simply want to highlight the one aspect of George Müller’s life that stands out above the rest.

Müller’s Goal in Life

Müller repeats his “mission statement” over and over again in his own journal. Here is his first and foremost goal, recorded as the main reason for why he decided to begin building the orphan houses on Ashley Down:George_Muller

“That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened.”

Trust in God is a good thing, we agree. But the big difference between Müller and many other Christians is that he wanted people to realize it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone for provision. Müller purposefully stripped away any dependence on human means to highlight God’s powerful orchestration of events. And this was no passive dependence. Müller prayed and then worked for God, believing He would answer. If anything, Müller’s biography has reminded me that it is indeed a safe and delightful and rewarding thing to trust in God alone.

We rarely allow ourselves to we feel as if we need to depend on God alone. Sure, we may get a flat tire, or our water heater may give out, or we may face a medical emergency. But most people have their “plan B,” their smart phone handy, or their emergency fund. We don’t like to be exposed to risk or hazard. Yet George Müller discovered the value in stripping away the human “props” that rob glory from God.

God’s Goal for Our Lives

Self-preserveation is natural, but what happens when God forces us to be exposed? David lived much of his life under the threat of danger, exposure, and even death. Early on he ran from Saul, and late in his life he runs away from his own son Absolom. He was forced to depend on God alone. He and other psalmists make this point. I have bolded certain phrases for emphasis.

I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from You.‘”
Psalm 16:2; 140:6; cf. 75:4

For You are the God in whom I take refuge.
Psalm 43:2a; 71:1a

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.

Psalm 54:4

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; 
I shall not be greatly shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2, 5-6

On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 62:7

(see also Psalm 27:9d; 51:14b; 25:1; 28:2b; 40:17; 70:5)

We may have our “plan B,” or “plan C,” or “plan Z,” but I think God delights to knock out all those props from underneath us to show us and others it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone. He takes away the facade of dependence and makes us genuinely trust in Him. That social media post, that big step forward in your career, or that beefy retirement account can’t ensure your future; only God can do that. I do think we can make a biblical case for wisdom, preparedness, and planning. But when we seek to substitude our plans for dependence on God alone, we have bowed to the idols of self-control and ease. One of God’s goals for the Christian’s life is that we would show it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone.

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Our Goal for Our Lives

If this is one of God’s main goals for the Christian life, we need to be serious about making it our goal. We need to pray that God would give us the spirit of Job, who reflected sage-like wisdom and utter humility before the Lord with these words,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; 
blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21

We are dependent upon God from the day we are born. This is why it is so important that every Christian spend private time in prayer with God every day. Not a day goes by that you or I will safely live independent of God. I say “safely” because many Christians will choose to live independent of God today, but that is not a safe place to be. We buy into the lie that security rests in our own hands. But security rests in the hands of God alone. In every stage of life, may we prove that it is not a vain thing to trust in God alone.

For You, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon You I have leaned from before my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb.
Psalm 71:5-6

CP