But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6)
Perhaps one of the biggest ongoing challenges of my Christian walk is my struggle to understand the difference between faith and foolishness. I know there’s a fine line between the two, but I’m not always sure where it is.
I’ve been reading a book about George Muller, a German man who lived in the 1800s and was renowned for his faith. After growing up as a degenerate kid who looked hard for trouble and always found it, even to the point where he spent time in jail, God got hold of him. He migrated to England and became a preacher who lived absolutely and completely by faith, even going so far as to not ask his congregation for a cent, or even to tell them that he had any needs, but to only go to God and ask for His provision.
George was a scrupulous record-keeper, and every cent–literally every cent–that was given to him was recorded, and he often recorded his financial circumstances at the time as well. Time and again, he and his wife would be down to a few coins, and God would come through for them.
As time went on, his faith grew and he began to have a heart for the orphans that he saw on the streets. So he began to pray that God would enable him to establish an orphanage, strictly through prayer. He had established what he called “the pray and pay system” in his life, and he wanted to do the same with the orphanage. He would make no appeals, no statement of needs, no debts, but many prayers and a full account of what came in.
And here was the interesting way he began to go about it:
He began to pray that any idea of the Orphan House be taken away if not of God. He then bent his mind to other matters, trying to exclude it himself. But it wouldn’t go. On 2 December Henry and he talked again at length. Afterwards George decided to hold a public meeting the next week and share his thoughts. Midweek for no apparent reason, he was particularly struck by his reading of Psalm 81 verse 10: “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” It seemed directed at him with respect to the Orphan House. But he had not been praying at all that day about it. Energized by this he went down on his knees and asked rather sharply for 1) Premises for the orphans; 2) $1000 in cash; 3) Qualified people to take care of the children. (from “Robber of the Cruel Streets” by Clive Langmead)
That very morning, a wardrobe showed up, the first piece of furniture for the orphanage. That was in December 1835, and in April 1836, only four months later, they opened the doors to a fully-furnished rented building for 26 orphaned girls, aged 7 to 12.
But that was only the beginning. George was on a roll. No sooner did he open the doors than his mind was set on doing the same for orphan boys. As each act of faith came to fruition, God planted greater plans in George’s mind. Ultimately, George began to contract the building of the orphanages, and through his life, God gave him the courage and the resources to build 5 huge buildings, that housed, fed and taught 2,000 children, eventually turning them out at 18 with skills that would enable them to become governesses or skilled laborers.
I sometimes wonder if, when George was planning his third, fourth or fifth orphanage, he woke up at night and thought, “What the heck am I doing? Am I on the right track, or am I just plunging ahead into utter foolishness? Am I walking out on the water only to plunge in and sink fast?” It wasn’t just a matter of building the orphanages, which, in and of itself, was a huge undertaking. He would need the ongoing resources to feed, clothe and warm all the children and the adults who worked there.
I think one of the keys to knowing if we’re on the right track–which George employed–was to ask God to take away our desires if they are not His desires. Sometimes God gives us desires, and because they seem a little over the top, and maybe a little risky (or REALLY risky, in George’s case), we question whether we’re just being foolish. But I believe God could do so much for us and through us if we would go to Him in prayer when we have those “foolish” desires. Perhaps there are things in our lives that we have not accomplished, but could have if we’d only had the faith.
Let’s tune in to our heart’s desires, and ask God to either bring them to fruition or take the desire away. Certainly if God can put the desire in our hearts, He can also take them away if they are not from Him. He may be waiting to fill our mouths, if only we would open them.