Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
True believers in England during the early 16th century were in danger. In 1519, seven Christians were taken to a courtyard near the prison in the Little Park area of Coventry, bound hand and foot, and fastened to large wooden stakes surrounded by piles of sticks and hay. Their crime: they taught their children how to recite the Lord’s Prayer in English.
Their accusers read the sentence aloud:
Only the Latin scriptures are considered holy. The Bible in any other language, including English, is heresy, and anyone quoting the holy scriptures in English is guilty of heresy.
The fires were lit, and those Christians received their martyr’s crown.
The one man responsible for creating this spiritual revolution in England was William Tyndale. He risked his life to translate Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Scriptures into the English language. It was time, he wrote, “to give the ploughboy a copy of the Bible that he can read for himself.”
William Tyndale was successful beyond his wildest imaginations, and his translation soon became the most sought-after book in England.
The medieval church mounted their most vicious attacks against the Tyndale Bible. Their persecution of anyone who owned a copy was severe—prisons quickly filled and hundreds of confiscated English Bibles were burned. Believers themselves were often burned at the stake with Tyndale’s New Testament tied around their necks.
Eventually an English bounty hunter found Tyndale in Protestant Germany, befriended, and then betrayed him to the authorities of the Holy Roman Empire. After 18 months in prison, Tyndale was burned at the stake.
His last words before he surrendered his life to the flames were, “Oh, Lord, open the eyes of the king of England!” This had long been Tyndale’s greatest desire: to see the king come to faith in Christ alone.
What a gracious prayer! Paul, in a Roman prison cell, prayed for the soldiers who guarded him. Our Savior prayed for His enemies as He hung from a Roman cross.
Tyndale could have cursed his Catholic accusers as he died. He could have condemned the king for his insolence. Instead, his mission never wavered—England and England’s king needed the Scriptures and the Gospel found therein.
Tertullian, the well-known Church Father from the second century, once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” In reality, it was the grace and love of the martyrs that watered the seeds of the Church. It was that Christ-like, unnatural love shown by persecuted Christians which made, and still makes, a watching world stand in awe.
Here’s the double lesson: our faith should remain “steadfast and immovable” during times of persecution . . . and, more importantly, our grace and love should be evident as well.
Prayer Point: Is there someone in your life today who attacks you for being a Christian? Pray that God will give you both the courage to endure it and the grace to love that person in spite of it.