On a cold English morning in 1428, men traipsed irreverently through the graveyard. One of them, finely dressed in religious robes, said, “Here it is. Dig it up. Let’s get this over with.”
When the shovels finally hit something solid, the man in fine clothes stood by, idly watching, and said, “Open it.”
“But, sir, he’s been in there fifty years!” replied one of the diggers. “There can’t be much left!”
The religious leader shuddered and then shrugged off his irritation. “Then pull the whole thing out. We’ll burn it all.”
What could have angered this man so much? Why dig up the man’s body fifty years after his death to ceremoniously burn him as a heretic? Around 1376, John Wycliffe had published the doctrine of “dominion as founded in grace.” This highly controversial message states, “The gospel alone is sufficient to rule the lives of Christians everywhere.”
Wycliffe had also begun translating the Latin Vulgate Bible into English and distributing it secretly in pamphlets and books. He continued this work until his death in 1384, one hundred thirty-three years before the Reformation.
“Dump the ashes in the river,” the man ordered as the fire died down. “That should be the last we hear of John Wycliffe and his teachings.” One hundred more years would pass before it was legal to read an English Bible.
The religious officials tried their best to do away with the “last” of John Wycliffe. Instead, it appears that every bit of ash from John’s burnt body carried a new thirst for God’s Word across Europe. Their efforts not only missed their target, but they actually aided the cause of Christ. Likewise, we may often see our enemy, Satan, going to great lengths to dispose of Christianity. Yet his attempts result in a backfire at best. God allows persecution to inspire believers and drive them toward greater commitment. Are you allowing personal persecution to play out according to God’s plan? You may soon see that your persecutor’s opposition makes you stronger and that his/her curses bring God’s blessings.
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