Week 11: James and the Fatherless

Day 4: Not for the Faint of Heart

(James 1:6-8)

What does faith look like in an orphan ministry?

The circumstances surrounding faith are rarely pretty. They are rarely simple. But somehow, they always seem to suddenly break out into something glorious, like a brilliant sunrise bursting into the darkness of night.

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A large pot of beans and corn simmering over the cook fire at the Lifeway Academy in Kenya.

Reading about great men of faith and the way God so amazingly meets their needs can be absolutely exhilarating. Inspiring to say the least. But I don’t think we always look at what is really going on in those situations. We get so excited at God’s intervention (as we should) that we don’t realize how deeply trying the situation was for those passing through it… until WE are in that situation.

George Muller started his children’s home in 1836 with the purpose of demonstrating to the men in his church that God can provide if we will but look to Him and give Him our hearts and our lives. It was not an easy task. He was not a man of wealth, but he chose to trust. Because of that, God did amazing things in his ministry. Not only did his children’s home care for 10,024 children during his lifetime but also millions of dollars were sent to support missionaries around the world through his ministry. This only scratches the surface of the countless lives God touched through the faith of this one man.

But it didn’t all happen at once, and it wasn’t all easy to pass through. At the very beginning of his endeavors to care for the orphans, God used a gift of 50 pounds to encourage him forward. That was more then than it is now, but it still wasn’t much. Ten days later God laid Psalm 81:10 on his heart and he felt the Lord leading him to apply it to prayer for the needs of the orphan house. He asked the Lord (not anyone else) for a building, 1,000 pounds and suitable individuals to care for the children. Two days later 1 shilling was given. Two days after that came a piece of furniture, ten shillings and an offer from a woman to give herself to the work. Mr. Muller rejoiced at these small beginnings, but if you look closely at his writings from the time there are two moments, which should not be missed.

In His autobiography, Mr. Muller says of this day,

“I felt low in spirit about the orphan house, . . .” *

Times of waiting can be very discouraging. Muller knew that God was leading, and yet so little had come in for the supply of the ministry. Such moments can be very disheartening. Questions begin to come up in the mind of the person who has committed to the work. They wonder if they have been mistaken, if they have publicly committed to something that God, was not leading them into. But Mr. Muller’s story does not end in the first half of the sentence, he goes on to say,

“But as soon as I began to speak at the evening meeting, I received assistance from God.”

The Lord was his strength. That evening’s meeting was not intended to drum up funds for the work, yet it was after the meeting, after Mr. Muller continued on in the face of discouragement, that the ten shillings were given and the worker offered herself.

The following day he received a letter from a couple, offering themselves and all their household items to the work of the orphan house. Over the next few weeks God began to supply many things that would be needed: bedding, dishes, furniture and financial support. This was very encouraging, but not every day was cheery:

“Some days very little came in, and I would begin to feel discouraged. But the Lord strengthened me during those times and touched the hearts of others to abundantly supply our needs.”

Once again, the “d” word. The needs of orphan ministries can be absolutely overwhelming. Discouragement can mount quickly when you have many mouths to feed and buildings to build and no visible way to meet any of the needs. But God is there to strengthen.

Four months after Mr. Muller claimed the promise of Psalm 81:10, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it”, the orphan house opened with seventeen children living in the home. Six weeks later, Mr. Muller writes that their income has been very low for several weeks. Taxes are coming due. Again the Lord provided, again Mr. Muller acknowledges his own need to “trust more” and “wait patiently”.

Time after time we find phrases such as,

“We would not have been able to pay the weekly salary to the teachers had not the Lord helped us again today.”

“Being in great need, I was led to earnestly seek the Lord.”

And yet he pressed on. And as he did so, not only was every need met, but God received the glory.

To focus on the trial surrounding the provision was never Mr. Muller’s goal, but to truly be prepared for orphan ministry we need to be careful not to be like the man who sets out to build without counting the cost. Walking by faith means not always seeing the next step. At times, it means not knowing where you will be from one day to the next, or how you will pay the bills that are looming. It means having needs that you have no way of meeting. To most, that does not sound like a very secure life. But when our security is in Christ, there is no safer place to live. The question is, Are we willing to trust? To put our faith in the Lord even when we cannot see what He is doing, or that He is even doing anything?

We serve the same God that Mr. Muller served. He has not changed. If He can meet the needs of over 10,000 orphans through that one man, surely He can meet the needs of any endeavor into which He leads us!

* All quotes by Mr. Muller taken from “The Autobiography of George Muller” by George Muller, pages 70-83.

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