Temptations, Tests and Triumph

The Victory of the Cross


"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.





Emphasis added in bold letters below

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." James 1:2-3

"...the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 13:3

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!  Fanny Crosby, who wrote that joyful hymn, was truly blessed with an unwavering confidence in God's loving grace! Born into a humble family in 1820, she became totally blind through a medical error six weeks later. But her overwhelming lifelong response was gratefulness, not bitterness or complaints. When only eight years old she wrote,

"O what a happy soul am I!  Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.

"How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't,
To weep and sigh because I'm blind, I cannot and I won't."

Fanny shared her joy through hundreds of hymns sung in churches throughout the English-speaking world. "I thank him for the dispensation [of blindness]," she wrote one day. "I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."[2]

Some years earlier, a young man in Prussia [part of the old German empire] was learning that same lesson.

From Prison to Praise

Few would have guessed that George Muller, a Prussian boy with a bent for trouble, would one day trust God to meet the needs of thousands of orphans. His early life showed no signs of such faith. Born in 1805, he made little effort to resist the temptations he faced during his first twenty years. He stole, lied, cheated, used forgery to prosper, and craved immoral thrills. Later he wrote in his diary:

"At the age of sixteen I became an inmate of a prison, dwelling with thieves and murderers."[3]

After a year of confinement, he continued his "wild" depraved lifestyle for three more years. Then everything changed! A newly converted friend invited him to a "Christian meeting." There God touched his heart, transformed his life, and began preparing him for a ministry of prayer, teaching, worldwide distribution of Bible courses, and loving care for orphans in poverty-stricken Bristol, England.

"I had once fully served Satan," Muller wrote. "But now, drawn by the love of Christ, I was willing to suffer affliction for the sake of Jesus."[3] And through the cross, God prepared him for that suffering:

"I came to England physically weakened and soon became very ill.... Yet the weaker I became in body, the happier I was in spirit. Every sin I had ever committed was brought to mind, but I realized that I was washed and made completely clean in the blood of Jesus. This realization brought me great peace...."[3]

God opened one door after another for His trusting, listening servant. And as He led Muller through each challenge, Muller gladly obeyed and grew strong in faith.

At the heart of every ministry was prayer. Muller would accept no salary from any ministry. Instead, he trusted God alone to meet all his needs  -- then his Shepherd would get all the glory! [4]

That wonderful Shepherd heard every cry and met every need. He would touch the hearts of caring people -- beginning with the poor people in Bristol, who (like the poor widow Jesus commended) often gave all they had. Later, as word of his orphan ministry reached around the world, the large sums needed for land and construction began to pour in. Gratefully, Muller wrote:

"If I, a poor man, simply by payer and faith obtained, without asking any individual, the finances for establishing and carrying on an orphan house, this might strengthen the faith of the children of God."[3]

Armed with this unshakable faith, he faced all kinds of tests: physical weakness, serious sickness, empty pantries at the orphanages, the loss of his little son, and the struggles of those he loved. Days -- sometimes even weeks -- would pass without any visible donations, but somehow the rent was paid and the children had food to eat.

One morning the concerned "matron" in one of the orphan houses rushed to Muller with bad news: "The children are all ready for breakfast," she said, but "there's nothing to eat.” Sure enough. As Muller came in and looked around, he saw three hundred children standing behind their chairs and empty plates, waiting for food and watching him.

Muller bent down and clasped the hand of a little girl. “Where’s the food?” she whispered.

“God will supply,” answered Muller gently. Then he asked them to join him in a simple prayer:

“Dear God, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat. Amen.”

He smiled to the children. “You may be seated,” he said, confident that God would provide. And sure enough. As soon as they were all seated in front of their empty plates, they heard someone knocking at the door. It was a baker with a tray of fresh bread.

“I couldn’t sleep last night," he explained. "I kept thinking that you would need bread this morning.... So I got up at two o’clock and made three batches for you.... There are two more trays out in the cart."

While they feasted on the bread, they heard another knock. There stood the milkman. "The wheel on my cart has been broken, right outside your establishment," he said. "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...."[5]

Muller's personal diary is full of similar stories, for His all-sufficient, all-seeing Father never failed to meet the urgent needs of the day:

~No money? A letter would come with the needed amount! 

~No coal left for heating? "In our time of need," wrote Muller, "our brother sent a load of coal."[3]

~Need land for building three new, larger Orphan Homes? In the middle of the night, God awakened the owner of a perfect plot of land to prepare his heart to offer Muller an affordable price.

The Truth behind the Triumph

Trials and triumphs have always been part of the Christian life, and Jesus' disciples faced spiritual warfare and experienced amazing miracles again and again. But that life of victory didn't begin until after the cross. Before the cross, Peter had to come face to face with his own utter failure to follow His Lord. Ponder this conversation between Jesus and Peter:

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail...” (Luke 22:31-32)

Peter's answer showed noble intentions but ignorance of his fallen nature: “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

But he was not ready! Well aware of coming failure, Jesus warned His friend, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:32-34)

Peter did deny His precious Lord -- three times! And the third time the rooster crowed his heart was broken. He mourned and repented, but his new life in Christ didn't begin until after he received new life through the Holy Spirit. Finally he was ready. Like George Muller, he would count on all of God's heavenly resources for daily triumph. 

What did this victory cost our Lord? His agony and prayer in the garden of Gethsemane shows us a partial answer:

"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, 'Sit here while I go and pray over there.' And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.

"Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.' He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'

"He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 'Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. 'The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'”

"...a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, 'if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.' ' And He came and found them asleep again.... So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time... Then He came to His disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting?... Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:38-45)

Oswald Chambers helps us understand the initial agony of our sin-bearer who endured the judgment we deserve:

"The agony in Gethsemane is the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Savior of the world. The veil is drawn aside to reveal all it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God. His agony is the basis of the simplicity of our salvation. The Cross of Christ is a triumph for the son of Man.... Every human being can [if he will accept God's gift] get through into the presence of God now because of what the Son of Man went through."[6]

Having come to the cross and received new life in Christ, George Muller happily gave God the rest of his life. Like all of humanity, he faced his share of earthly trials and spiritual warfare, but he was freed from the chains of sin and Satan. In fact, the trials that he and Fanny Crosby had to face were nothing compared to the glory of walking with Jesus for all eternity!

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

1. http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bcrosby5.html

2. http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/c/r/o/crosby_fj.htm

3. The Autobiography of George Muller (Whitaker House, 1985), pps.12, 22, 26,  73, 124

4.  Later, he would often share the various needs with his wife and one close ministry friend.

5. Janet and Geoff Benge, George Muller (YWAM Publisher, 1998), pps. 166-168.

6. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1935), p.96. (April 5)

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