GOD’S GOODNESS IN GEORGE MÜLLER’S LIFE, PART 1
George Müller was a prayerful man of God in the 19th century. Relying on prayer and faith in God, he built orphanages and saved the lives of over 10,000 children in England.
He had a faith that firmly believed that God was a good Father and would provide all his needs and the needs of the orphans. Müller is known for never asking for money to support the orphanages, but instead praying for God to supply all his needs. He had a firm belief in the goodness of God.
God’s goodness to Müller included his wife, Mary, who was a great help to him in running the orphanages. Müller described the work that Mary did:
Her occupation…was to get ready the many hundreds of neat little beds for the dear Orphans, most of whom had never seen such beds, far less slept in them…It was to get good blankets that she was busied, thus to serve the Lord Jesus, in caring for these dear bereaved children, who had not a mother or father to care for them.
It was to provide numberless other useful things in the Orphan Houses, and especially for the sick rooms of the Orphans, that, day by day, except on the Lord’s days, she was seen in the Orphan Houses. (George Müller, Autobiography of George Müller: A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer [London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1914], 434)
Lest you think that Mary’s value was only in the work that she did, Müller also said that he and Mary had the happiest of marriages:
Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”…
Our happiness in God, and in each other, was indescribable. We had not some happy days every year, nor a month of happiness every year; but we had twelve months of happiness in the year, and thus year after year.
Often and often did I say to that beloved one, and this again and again even in the fortieth year of our [marriage]—“My darling, do you think there is a couple in Bristol, or in the world, happier than we are?” (Müller, 435)
A wife who was a great help, who shared an equal devotion to a successful ministry to orphans and to Christ, and a marriage that was intensely happy. Who could ask for anything more?George Müller rejoiced in God’s goodness in giving Mary to him.
But we might wonder—God was good to George Müller in those incidents, but was he good to Müller all the time? We’ll come back to George and Mary Müller later and see how he answered that question—but first, we must ponder God and his goodness.
WHAT IS GOD’S GOODNESS LIKE?
1. God’s Goodness Is Infinite
Who would you die for? We might answer, “For a family member.” Would you die for a non-family member?Would you die for a convicted criminal?
God’s infinite goodness is shown in the fact that Jesus Christ died for sinners.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7–8)
Jesus died for people who had rejected God; people who, by their sin, were convicted criminals. We can hardly imagine the love that it would take to do that.
To make it even more amazing, remember that God knows our sin, past, present, and the sin we’ll commit in the future—and he still loves us. Jesus still died for us. Only a God who is infinitely good would do that!
We can hide our most sinful thoughts from other people, but we can’t hide them from God. God knows how truly sinful we all are, and yet he still sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. His goodness is infinite!
2. God’s Goodness Is Unchanging
God’s character does not change. Hebrews 13:8 says this about Jesus: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Therefore, God’s goodness never changes.
We live in a changing world. Some change is good, of course, but other changes are cause for our unhappiness—if our happiness is based on the wrong things. If our wealth or our health is what is making us happy, then when we lose those things—we lose our happiness.
If God’s goodness is unchanging and infinite, then nothing can be better to make us the happiest for eternity. When things around us break, the Christian who is making God his or her constant joy, will be able to say, “This hurts, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. I’m still happy because God is still the same good God—God is good all the time.”
3. God’s Goodness is Independent
God’s goodness is independent. Independent? What does that mean? It means that God’s goodness does not come from anyone or anywhere but him alone—he is not dependent on anything else for his goodness.
When Jesus was approached by the rich young man who asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18).
By saying “no one is good except God alone,” Jesus affirmed that God’s goodness is independent—it doesn’t depend on anything else.
I might tell one of my children to be good to their little brother or else. So reluctantly, they show goodness to him. Is their goodness dependent or independent? It’s dependent, because, the moment I leave the room, their goodness goes out the window.
God is good because he himself is good. No one makes him to be good. His goodness is independent. God’s goodness is not forced on him by anyone. “Nory! Be good to Noln!” is a forced goodness, but God’s goodness is solely from his own heart.
4. God’s Goodness Is Patient
Jesus told us that God’s goodness is shown to everyone on earth—
45 [God] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
Why is God good toward everyone, including the unjust and the evil?Why doesn’t he just wipe out sinners the moment they sin?At the very least, why doesn’t God cause immediate consequences to happen every time we sin?
Why doesn’t God cause the thief to be paralyzed with fear before he makes it out of the store? Why doesn’t the murderer get cancer and die? Why does God continue to show his goodness to unbeliever and sinner and Christian alike?
Because God wants everyone to repent and come to him through faith in Jesus Christ. He puts up with the sin of sinners because he desires them to be saved.
The apostle Paul said:
4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
The apostle Peter says,
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
God shows his goodness by being patient with us all. His desire is that we will repent and experience even more of his goodness in Heaven with him forever.
Now, before we move on, do you know what the phrase “the elephant in the room” means? It’s what we say when there is an obvious problem that we don’t want to discuss. Can you think what the obvious problem with God’s goodness might be?
WHERE IS GOD’S GOODNESS IN OUR SUFFERING?
If God is good, then why is there suffering?
Suffering exists because, well, sin exists. Remember, when God created the world, it was good. In fact, Genesis tells us:
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…(Genesis 1:31)
Sin and suffering entered into the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God:
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)
So, we’re to blame for our suffering. Now, I don’t mean that every bit of suffering you encounter is a direct result of your personal sin. Some is, to be sure. But some of our suffering is because of another person’s sin.
The reality is, that the entire creation was broken when Adam and Eve committed that first sin. That means that natural disasters and diseases and so on are also a result of human sin.
However, God is good and he is powerful; he is not helpless in the face of our suffering. No, in fact, he is working in the midst of our suffering. God is good all the time.
1. God Comforts Us In Our Sufferings
The Bible says,
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
I read about a family who had suffered tremendously, yet still found comfort in God. Their suffering began when Terry and Maria lost their daughter, Zoe.
But then, a short while later, Terry had to have cancer cut out of him. The doctors waited to see if it would return, and it did. They cut the cancer out again and again and again and again and again and again. Seven times he went under the knife.
Then, just before they moved to Florida, Maria discovered that she had a miscarriage. After they moved, their son Zac had a life-threatening tumor in his ear—another surgery for the family. Then Maria had another miscarriage.
Maria wrote back to their former pastor and this is what she said:
After Zoe’s death I was sure of the definitive existence of God. He woke me from a sleep that was not restful. He patiently forced air into and out of my lungs, when I did not want to breathe. He moved me out of bed when all I wanted was a quiet coffin of my own to escape the immeasurable grief. He gave me tears to wash the pain from my eyes. And so He began the rest of my life on this planet without Zoe.
Sleep is restful. I can take a deep breath of air and slowly let it out. I can get myself out of bed every morning. There is taste in food again. The ocean is so beautiful. There are tears of joy more than tears of grief.
God is good. And He is not man-made. His serenity is not man-made. His will is not man-made. I could not face this world without Him.
Everything in this world, in this life, on this planet is more that I can handle. God constantly lets me know I cannot do it without Him. He is God. The ‘happy ending’ is not that I have other children and my husband lived. The ‘happy ending’ is that I have God’s love, peace, and serenity.
God is good, God is good. (Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Sermons [Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009].)
Maria knew, from his comfort in her suffering, that God is good all the time. Another way that God is working in our suffering is that…
2. God Makes Good Out Of Evil.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
All things. Everything. Every situation. Every circumstance. There is no meaningless suffering. God is good on a whole different level than we are used to.
Ask Joseph. He was betrayed by his brothers. Sold into slavery. Unjustly accused of attempted rape. Thrown in prison. Forgotten.
Years later, as the vice-president of Egypt, he was able to forgive his brothers for their treachery. He was also confident, despite his trials, of God’s goodness:
20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:20)
God, in his great goodness, will not stand to see nothing good come from our suffering. And he’s not just working one good thing. No, God is working ten thousand good things in our sufferings!
And those good things are not just good things for us, they are good things for the people around us who watch us live faithfully in our suffering. They may be good things for people we’ve never met and may not meet on this side of Heaven.
God is good on a whole different level than we are used to. God is good all the time.
GOD’S GOODNESS IN GEORGE MÜLLER’S LIFE, PART 2
Let’s return to George Müller. We saw that he could view God as good as long as life was good. But would he feel the same in the midst of suffering? How would he feel if his beloved Mary was lost to him? Well, she was. Müller writes:
During the last two or three years it was most obvious to my loving heart and eye, that my precious companion for so many years was again failing in her health. She did not only considerably lose flesh, but evidently seemed much more worn than she used to be. I begged her to work less, and to take more nourishment; but I could neither prevail as to the one, nor the other.
When I expressed my sorrow, that she lay awake at night for two hours or more, she would say, “My dear, I am getting old, and old persons do not need so much sleep.”
When I brought before her that I feared that her health would be again reduced, as in 1859, and that I feared the worst, she would say. “My darling, I think the Lord will allow me to see the New Orphan Houses, No. 4 and No. 5, furnished and opened, and then I may go home…” (Müller, 440–441)
As he feared, Mary became very ill.
When I heard what the doctor’s judgment was…that the malady was rheumatic fever, I naturally expected the worst as to the issue; but though my heart was nigh to be broken, on account of the depth of my affection, I said to myself, “The Lord is good, and doeth good,” all will be according to His own blessed character.
Nothing but that, which is good, like Himself, can proceed from Him. If He pleases to take my dearest wife, it will be good, like Himself. What I have to do, as His child. is to be satisfied with what my Father does, that I may glorify Him… (Müller, 442)
“Yes, my Father, the times of my darling wife are in Thy hands. Thou wilt do the very best thing for her and for me, whether life or death. If it may be, raise up yet again my precious wife—Thou art able to do it, though she is so ill; but howsoever Thou dealest with me, only help me to continue to be perfectly satisfied with Thy holy will.” (Müller, 442)
But it was evident that Mary would soon die. He wrote:
About ten in the morning all hope of recovery was gone. I felt it now my duty to tell my precious wife, that the Lord Jesus was coming for her. Her reply was, “He will soon come.”…As there was yet life, I felt it my duty to do, to the last, everything that medical skill could devise, and that love on my part could do. (Müller, 443)
George Müller preached the funeral sermon for his wife (after her funeral, as he was not well enough then). Everything I have read from Müller is taken from that sermon. His text was Psalm 119:68—
68 Thou art good, and doest good… (Psalm 119:68)
The points of his sermon were:
I. The Lord was good, and did good, in giving her to me.
II. He was good, and did good in so long leaving her to me.
III. He was good, and did good, in taking her from me. (Müller, 431)
George Müller hurt, he grieved, there is no doubt of that. But his faith in the goodness of God was unshakable. He truly believed, no, he knew that God is good all the time.
Allow me to close this sermon with the words that he used to close his funeral sermon for Mary:
As the Director of the Orphan Houses, I miss her in numberless ways, and shall miss her yet more and more. But as a child of God, and as a servant of the Lord Jesus, I bow, I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to His holy will to glorify Him, I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me; but I also say, I shall meet her again, to spend a happy eternity with her.
Will all who hear me now meet my precious wife? Only those will who have passed sentence upon themselves as guilty sinners, and who have put their trust alone in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of their souls. He came into the world to save sinners, and all who believe in Him will be saved; but without faith in the Lord Jesus, we cannot be saved. Let all those, who are as yet not reconciled to God, by faith in the Lord Jesus, be in earnestness about their souls, lest suddenly a fever should lay them low and find them unprepared, or lest suddenly the Lord Jesus should return again, before they are prepared to meet Him. May the Lord in mercy grant that this may not be the case. Amen. (Müller, 444-45)