Legacy: Lessons from William Tyndale
I'm currently reading a biography of William Tyndale, the Reformation hero who lived (and died) to translate the Bible into the language his fellow Englishmen could understand. Until then, the church allowed only the Latin version, and held a monopoly on scripture. The common person's knowledge of God was limited to the church's instruction, and those instructions often had little in common with what God said about Himself in scripture. Tyndale's passion was putting God's own Word into the hands of "the plowboy"--the average person. Tyndale's lifework gave people access to scripture, and is life has it's own lessons. Here are William Tyndale's secrets to leaving a legacy.
Tyndale, a would-be mediator accused, was forever "singing one note": a Bible in English. He knew what God called him to, and never wavered. It exasperated the king. It outraged the church--he simply wouldn't give up. Political pressure, conjoling promises, death warrants, shut doors, enticing bribes all fell on deaf ears. Inner circle co-laborers were burned at the stake, or betrayed him, or both. The Reformation happening around him produced many good advances and debates that could have distracted him, yet he stayed focused on his part of kingdom work. For over a decade, his life was translating, increasing his language skills, publishing, revising, and smuggling Bible into England. Great legacies require great focus.
Oxford-educated, ordained and brilliant, young William Tyndale's life could have developed into a success story in the church or at a university. Like many in God's family (including you, probably), God had different plans for Tyndale's education and experience. Those plans included a legacy, and the road to it was one of poverty, exile, persecution. Here's the the thing about leaving a legacy--it requires everything from you. It's true that you may not have to live on the run, may not have people trying to kidnap you or live in poverty. You may not have to give up as much as Tyndale did, but you have to be willing to. Tyndale teaches us that every sacrifice is reasonable when you're obediently pursuing the legacy that God set for you.
Tyndale was wired, prepared, gifted for his legacy. He had the right intelligence and the right training. He was born at the right time, and in the right circumstances. He was born to translate the Bible to English, and he gave it everything he had. Rather than winging it through his natural talent, he kept honing his skills. He continually revised and tightened his translation. He not only translated faithfully, but with a musicality to it--many of the phrases and words of our scripture come not from the King James version as many assume, but from Tyndale, who the KJV translators depended on. He was uncompromising with just the right word use. He poured all he had and all he was into his legacy. In contrast, we're tempted to do enough to get by in our obedience. After all, if we're wired and gifted and prepared for something, we're probably pretty good at it--better than most people. We give what we see as appropriate, and wait for the applause. We procrastinate, compromise, call it in. But Tyndale never rested, and never let comparison set his standard. He knew the task God assigned to him, and lived to fulfill it better and better.
The world doesn't encourage this kind of full-out, obedient pursuit to legacy. Focus is seen as boring; sacrifice, immoderate; excellence, obsessive. This kind of live isn't normal. But I suppose that's why normal lives don't produce lasting legacies.