Never underestimate the power of a man with a clear vision. While he sat listening to the insistent disputing of the friars and monks around the dining table at Sodbury Hall, the only thing on William Tyndale’s mind was vindicating the truth. He believed that well thought out arguments and an itinerant preaching schedule would accomplish this. However, he soon realized that for every seed of truth his preaching planted there were at least five hawk-like Catholic friars to haggle over it and pluck it up.
He then decided that the most urgent need of the time was not, as he had first thought, preaching the truth but rather, placing the truth in its most pure form directly in the hands of the people. England needed the Bible in her own language and Tyndale decided that he would be the man to give England such a gift.
He enlisted the help of his friend John Frith and together they began the long and difficult process of translating the Bible from Latin into English. Their work was rudely interrupted by the inquisition that swept through Henry VIII’s England. Tyndale was undaunted but he also realized that he would be of no use to the cause tied to a stake on Broad Street. So he packed up the manuscripts and hopped on a boat to Germany.
His first stop was Hamburg and then Cologne. As is mostly the case with inspired and driven visionary men (or women) Tyndale was broke, living in accommodation the size of a handkerchief and practically frozen solid as he battled through the German winter. He was not the type of man to be dogged by discouragement though and he soldiered on.
While in Cologne the work sped forward at an amazing pace. Funding from rich English businessmen began to flow in thanks to some of Tyndale’s friends and sponsors back in England. He had come to a point where he was almost done with the work of translation and much of the manuscript had been typeset and prepared for print with a run of about 3000 copies anticipated. Right on the cusp of victory Tyndale suffered an enormous setback. His work was discovered by one of the leading Catholic theologians of the day and moves were made to bring the work to a grinding halt. Not only that, Cochlaeus, the theologian in question, also wanted Tyndale’s head.
Tyndale found out about the plot through the printer and he had no time to think. He rushed home, grabbed his nearly completed manuscript, shoved it into his rucksack and then with nothing but the clothes on his back boarded a ship. He town hopped across Germany till he arrived in Worms, exhausted and almost back to square one. But he would not give up.
As soon as he could find some accommodation and a printer he was back at work. The first copies of the English Bible were quietly smuggled into England in 1525. Tyndale’s grit and unshakeable resolve enabled him to finish what he had started and to see his dreams become a reality. England and the English language were never the same again.
Tyndale accomplished so much for the work of God in England because he had a clear vision and because he persevered in the face of monumental challenges to see that vision become a reality. His vision was well worth every particle of effort it cost him.
Paul summed it up best in Acts 20:24 when he said “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” As we begin a brand new year and start making new resolutions may we have a clear sense of the ministry which we have received of the Lord Jesus and may we resolve to let nothing deter us from faithfully accomplishing it.
Happy New Year. I pray we make this one count for the glory of God.