“I defy the Pope and all his laws! If God spares my life for many years, I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than he does!”
It was in the 16th century that the great preacher from England, William Tyndale, would make this bold proclamation. At the time, no english translation of the Bible was widely available, and only a select few had it’s latin translation making Scriptures virtually unknown to the common man. It was his deep passion to make the new testament available and readable to every man, woman, boy, and girl in Britain. Tyndale would succeed in his efforts, although not without great cost; that price tag being his own life.
William Tyndale, like other great heroes of the faith, are common names in the Christian world. Many a man has devoted his life’s work to the cause of Christ and making His name known among the nations, but in every case there is much more working being done behind the scenes that goes often unnoticed.
Humphrey Monmouth. To you, this name probably means very little, if anything at all. In fact, it was only just a year or so ago that I heard this name for the first time while stumbling into an old church in London, so you are not alone. Monmouth was a wealthy cloth merchant businessman on London’s eastside. It was in the spring of 1523 that Monmouth would attend the St. Dunstan-in-the-West church in London. It just happened to be the very day that a passionate but underfunded William Tyndale would be speaking.
Monmouth would later meet with Tyndale privately and was deeply moved by his ambitions to put the Bible in that hands of every Englishman. Knowing the great risks involved both financially and to the peril of his own life, Monmouth took Tyndale into his home and used his assets to help move Tyndale and his work to mainland Europe. It would be in his own boats that he would smuggle the first new testaments across the English Chanel, later being arrested, and imprisoned for well over a year. He would give the jumpstart that Tyndale needed and be a major part of getting the english Bible into Britain.
William Tyndale would see his work finished before being caught, tried, and executed for heresy and treason Oct 6, 1536. His last words were “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes”. Just three years later, his wish was granted with the publication of King Henry VIII’s 1539 English “Great Bible”.
Had it not been for a businessman with a heart for God, willing to “live in the shadows” for the cause of Christ, and help carry out one mans dream, we certainly would have a different history to read. The truth is, most of us will live, die, and be forgotten. Most of us will not have lasting ministries that mark the pages of history, but will live in the shadows as Humprey Monmoth did. The real question is, what will we do with the life that we have been given? What opportunities will we cease for the Kingdom? Who’s work will we get behind and make a success?
John 3:30 says “He must increase, but I must decrease”. No truer words could be spoken of what our life’s priority must be about. Would we allow ourselves to be used of God, with the gifts, strengths, talents, finances, opportunities that He has given us, so that He might increase in this world. Do we have to be Paul, or can we be Barnabas? Do we have to be Tyndale or are we happy enough being Monmouth? Do we have to be in the spotlight, or can we give ourselves to God and allow Him to use in whether seen or unseen?
Perhaps there is a ministry in your church that, though unseen and unheard, you could fill. What can you do to allow your pastor to better fulfill his calling in shepherding the flock? Where can you plug in and help lighten the load, jumpstart a ministry, support and encourage a missionary? The possibilities are near endless if we will die to ourselves, our dreams, our pride, our ego, and look to build the name of the Lord, and not our own.