John Wycliffe has been called “the Morning Star of the Reformation,” which refers to the Protestant Reformation. One hundred years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Castle Church door in Germany in 1517 as part of the Protestant Reformation, Wycliffe took a bold stand and worked to bring change or reform to the Roman church by speaking the truth of God’s Word. He translated the Bible into English. And he took a courageous stand by speaking and writing God’s Word in the common language of the English people. He had a tremendous impact in his day.
John Wycliffe was born in 1328 near Richmond in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England. We attended Oxford as a teenager in 1346. He received a bachelors degree in divinity in 1369 and a doctorate in 1372. Wycliffe studied and taught at Oxford for most of his life. He studied hard and became a recognized leading theologian and philosopher at Oxford University.
As he studied, he realized that many of the mainstream religious teachings of the Roman church was not in alignment and harmony with the spiritual truths in the Bible. And he wanted to change that.
In the 1300’s, the Roman church dominated all of Europe. The church was very powerful. It owned a lot of land throughout Europe. It demanded money and allegiance from people and governments. It influenced religion, philosophy, science, morals, politics, art, and education. But the church’s doctrine had become mixed up with half-truths and superstitions. For example, people were (and still are) required to acknowledge the pope as God’s representative on Earth. Anyone who disagreed with the pope and church were prosecuted or executed.
Wycliffe taught what he learned from his studies, which was that all spiritual truth is in the Bible and that to know Christ and have spirit within, one must understand those truths. He questioned the church and its teachings that did not line up with the truth that he understood and was written in the Bible.
For example, the Roman church taught that salvation (to be saved, reborn and connected with God) is NOT by God’s grace and through believing, but is through good works prescribed by the church. According to the church, the way to God is by following the law of the church according to their rules. The church forbade anyone who wasn’t a church-ordained priest to read the Bible or teach from it.
Another example is that the church required people to confess their sins to priests and the church had the authority to forgive people of their sins. Private confession to God for forgiveness of sins had been replaced by confession to priests. But Wycliffe confronted the church on this.
Wycliffe also spoke out again the sales of “indulgences.” According to the church, a person could pay the church money and the church would in turn free them from being punished for their sins. And with the money, the church would purchase more land and build more churches and fund armies for war. The Christian Crusades were church-sanctioned and funded war campaigns to combat paganism and heresy, and to gain political and territorial power.
Wycliffe also spoke out again the church’s greed. Much of England’s land and wealth was in control of the church. The church and everyone who worked in the church (the pope, bishops, clergy, priests, friars, monks) were more interested in wealth and power rather than attending to the spiritual needs of the people who believed in God. Wycliffe proclaimed that the clergy (the body of all people ordained for religious duties in the church) are not to rule over, but rather serve and help people. Wycliffe spoke publicly that the church lived in greed while common folk struggled under a burden of need.
Wycliffe spoke out against celibacy of the priests, praying to saints, and other practices that were not based upon God’s Word. The church was (and still is today) filled with dogma (principles laid down by the church authority as being incontrovertibly true). He also attacked the dogma of transubstantiation. Wycliffe opposed the beliefs that the bread and wine given at communion are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. He enraged the church and was condemned as a heretic. He was a dissenter and a non-conformist who held and proclaimed opinions that were at odds with what the church said was the way, the truth, and the rules to follow or else.
But that didn’t stop him from studying, teaching, and speaking spiritual truths. We was one of the most influential preachers in England, and he encouraged others to speak the Word too. He said, “The highest service to which man may attain on earth is to preach the love of God.”
One of Wycliffe’s major concerns was that the church forbade translations of the Bible into the common language of the people. The church used a bible that was written in Latin, a language that most people in England did not understand or speak. For centuries, the church used the Latin translated bible for readings and teachings. Only the university-educated church clergy could read and teach from the Latin bible. But Wycliffe believed and taught that people could not know the basics of believing unless they knew the Bible, and they could best know the Bible when it was in their own language. He said, “People should understand believing and, as the instructions for believing are in the Scriptures, believers should have the Scriptures in a language which they fully understand.”
Wycliffe called for the Bible to be translated into English. He worked with scholars to translate the entire bible from Latin into English, painstakingly making copies of the Bible by hand. Wycliffe wrote the very first translation of the whole bible into English. In 1384, people in England could read the entire bible for themselves. Hundreds were produced by hand and given to people who would carry the English translations of the Bible with them as they preached God’s Word throughout England. The English translation of the Bible was one of Wycliffe’s greatest accomplishments.
In 1382, the church declared John Wycliffe as a heretic and banished him from Oxford University. As he left the school, he declared, “The truth shall prevail!” He also said, "I believe that in the end the truth shall conquer." In 1384, Wycliffe died peacefully in his home. Four years later, Pope Martin V of the Roman church ordered Wycliffe’s bones to be dug up, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river. The church wanted to erase everything of John Wycliffe from the face of the earth. The church also tried to burn and destroy all of Wycliffe’s books and writings, but the church failed. Wycliffe’s teachings and writings had already spread throughout England and Europe.
In 1408, the Roman Church declared that no one was permitted to translate on his own authority any text of Scripture into the English language or any other language. But the invention of the printing press in 1450 changed all of that. Translations of the Bible could not be stopped. The printing press made it possible to replace handwritten copies of the Bible with printed editions that were affordable. The bible was translated into many languages, including German, Italian, and Czech.
In 1522, Martin Luther, a German theologian, monk, and teacher, translated the entire bible from Hebrew and Greek into German. Luther studied and incorporated many of Wycliffe's ideas about the church and the truth for his own reformation activities. By 1530, an estimated two hundred thousand copies of Martin Luther’s translation were printed. Luther’s bible translation became the foundation for all future translations and versions in Europe. In 1526, William Tyndale translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. Tyndale was executed by the church soon after. In 1539, King Henry VII used Tyndale's Bible to translate an authorized edition of the bible in English to be read aloud in all of the services of the Church of England. Every parish church in England was required to have a copy of an English translation of the Bible made available to everyone in the congregation. At last, Wycliffe’s vision was fulfilled. All of the people of England had access to the Bible in their own language.
In 1611, the King James Version of the Bible (which as built off of Tyndale's bible) was printed and published. The King James Bible has been translated into about 700 different languages. It’s considered the best-selling book of all time. Wycliffe’s vision to make God’s Word available in the language of the common people has come true.
It took a lot of courage for John Wycliffe to translate the Bible into English back then. He risked everything and inspired other future translators. Because of his dedication and work to speak the truth, the truth did prevail.
How thankful we can be for John Wycliffe. Let’s continue to follow the example of John Wycliffe by standing for truth, and speaking and living the spiritual truths that we know and believe.
If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in reading more at The Kings Guide.
Reference: John Wycliffe article by Rodney Grilliot, The Way Magazine, October 2020.
Photo Credit: Wycliffe by Thomas Kirby, Balliol College
I enjoy watching football. I played football. I throw football. You’ll sometimes see me holding a football. I like football. And today, I'll be enjoying watching a football game or two. Am I worrying about whether or not my favorite team will win or lose? No. Not at all. Actually, I don't really care about the outcome of a football game that I'm watching. It actually doesn't matter if they win or lose, so I'm not worrying too much about it.
My answer is: I don’t worry about the future. I don't worry about tomorrow. I live one day at a time. I’d like to tell you more about living one day at a time without worrying about tomorrow.
I’m guessing you might agree that worrying about the future is not a pleasant way to spend our time.
So, the question that I have for you is: when anxious thoughts arise, how can we stop them? One wonderful principle we can operate is to live one day at a time.
What Me Worry?
Realistically, we do need to think about our future. For sure. We need to make plans. That’s for certain. We have calendars filled with important dates and events. We have things to do to enjoy life. I have plans for the future. For example, I plan to visit Europe to find a place to live with my wife when we are older and desire to live in a small European town on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. I have no idea how that’s going to happen today, but I’m going to plan that into my future. Am I worried or anxious about my future plans? No. Do I continually fret over the details of my life’s schedule? No.
Why not? Why am I not worrying about the future? I’d like to share with you what I do, so that you can investigate for yourself if what I do can work for you.
I Do Two Things
I do two productive things to make things happen:
Here’s an example. I have a goal that by January 1, 2021, I’ll have much less fat stuck on my stomach (and it’s seems stuck!) and I’ll be able to fit into a pair of jeans with a 32-inch waist (currently I’m a 34W, and it used to be 38W).
Am I worrying about this goal? No. Why? I’ve (i) prayed about it (or, said in another way, I focused my thoughts with specific details and assured confidence in my success), and (ii) I have made positive plans - in which I realize where I am, and list the future steps to reach my identified future goals.
What is Praying?
What's praying? Praying can be when I make specific requests to God for my needs to be met. Praying also allows me to express my thankfulness for receiving those things for which I believed.
Philippians 4:6 says, "Be careful [Be anxious or worrisome] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
John 14:13,14 says, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."
I John 5:14,15 says, "And this is the confidence that we have in him [God], that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
Prayer helps us get specific and honest with God about what is needed in any situation. And prayer with believing and thankfulness brings results to our planning.
Planning is Time Travel
I think of planning as a bit like time travel. We travel into the future by planning, because planning is like bringing the future into the present so that we can do something about it today. I recommend thinking about that again.
Planning is like bringing the future into the present so that we can do something about it today.
Once we (i) pray and (ii) plan, we can stop our anxious thoughts about the future by putting the majority of our energy and actions into living one day at a time.
Jesus Lived from Day to Day
A couple thousand years ago, there was a man named Jesus, who was a great example of how to live one day at a time. He lived and taught his friends to live one day at a time.
We read in Matthew 6:25, 28, 31, 34:
Verse 25: Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat [in the future], or what ye shall drink [in the future]; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on [in the future]….
Amplified version translates, “Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Verse 28: And why take ye thought for raiment [clothing]? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.
Verse 31: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Verse 34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow [the future]: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
What does that “sufficent unto the day is the evil thereof” mean? It means that each day has enough trouble of its own. There is no need to add to the problems and challenges that each day brings. The suffering, pain, challenges, problems of the present hour is enough without you adding onto it more worries about the future. That’s what Jesus was saying.
His phrase “take… thought” are translated from a Greek word meaning “be anxious about” or, as we might say, “worry.” Jesus told them to NOT to worry about what they were going to eat, to drink, to wear—not to worry about “the morrow” (the future). He assured them that “sufficient enough unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Thayer’s lexicon helps clarify the King James Version of verse 34 as “Let the present day’s trouble suffice for a person, and let them not rashly increase it by anticipating the cares of days to come.” There’s enough to take care of in every twenty-four-hour period. If we try to anticipate the worries of the future, we may actually increase the challenges we’ll need to deal with. We can put our focus into living in the day, right now, the day at hand, the present moment, and one day at a time.
E. W. Bullinger translates Matthew 6:34 as follows: “Have, then, no anxiety for any future day….” That includes tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that. Every care or concern we may have about the future can be handled one day at a time. To live one day at a time, you have to live in the present moment, one day at a time. Enjoy what’s going on right now. We are not our best, if anxieties about the future dominate our thinking.
I have no doubts or worries that I’ll make it to Europe and enjoy the entire day with my wife (and kids if they’d like to join us) eating great food and swimming in the sea, maybe in a small Italian coastal town. I live in the present moment, and I have (i) prayed about it, and (ii) I have made positive plans.
The Benefits of Worrying
Can you remember the last time you really, practically benefited from worrying a lot? Explain the details of when worrying about something actually helped the situation you were in. See what I mean?
Focus on the Present Moment
So what are some practical things we can do to help us focus our energy into experiencing, living, and enjoying the present moment? I suggest we should daily “perform our vows.”
Psalms 61:8 reads, “So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.”
What's a vow? A vow is a solemn promise you make committing yourself to an act, service, or condition. For example, I commit myself to exercising (or at least moving) every day.
This is one of the best things about believing in God and applying the practical spiritual truths that we know. We can “perform our vows” or do what we’ve committed ourselves to do, and do it one day at a time.
What have we committed to do?
Our commitments may include: our spouse, our children, our parent, our friend, our jobs, our school, our fellowships, our volunteer work, taking care of the things we own, taking care of our health (like losing some fat off the stomach), etc. We’re committed to doing certain things. We do our commitments and responsibilities daily.
For example, we love the people we love daily. Love ‘em up. Right? And when each day is over, we thank God for our commitments, and we go to sleep. By staying committed to the things we have at hand, we live and do God’s Word. And by doing those things well, we can help ourselves to stop worrying about “the morrow.”
Doing God’s Word
"Doing God's Word"... what does that mean?
Spending time in every twenty-four-hour period, each day, with our thoughts focused on "doing God’s Word" can help us live day-by-day, and not worry about the future. Here are a few examples of what "Doing God's Word" means to us:
Those are practical things we do to enjoy life and bless others, and those things we learned from reading God’s Word and going to fellowship.
And while we are focusing our energy and actions into living every day inspired (or in spirit) from what we’ve learned, we are daily loaded up with blessings.
Psalms 68:19 reads, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.”
I encourage you to pray and plan, which can help us stop anxious thoughts about the future and live our lives to the fullest one day at a time.
If you enjoyed reading that article, you may want to check out "Why Men Watch Football."
My wife and I go for a walk almost every day. We walk almost every morning and every evening in our neighborhood. We walk on the grass, the sidewalk, and along the road. And while we walk, we talk. We talk about all kinds of things, big stuff and little stuff. We also take this time to solve problems that come up. I love jumping into the conversation and solving problems. But sometimes my wife asks me to just listen. She’ll say to me, “Babe, I’m not asking you to fix anything, just listen.” And I do. And by listening, I can help her
Like me, have you ever found yourself unable to help someone because you didn’t listen well enough? In this teaching, let’s explore the art of listening well to help others, and learn a few practical keys that can make us better listeners. And let’s also learn from someone who was a great example of a good listener.
Why do we want to listen well? Being good listener can make a big difference in our ability to help someone. People who listen well stay focused, ask good questions, they try to understand, and respond with a heart and mind to help.
Be Quick to Hear
James 1:19 says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” We are to be quick and speedy to hear. We have two ears and one mouth, so listening may be twice as important as talking. Listening is a great way to show love to someone and demonstrate that their life is important to you. And after we listen and understand more, we can then speak the truth in love. We want to demonstrate our love and compassion for others.
I John 3:17 says, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” What are the bowels of compassion? That means the tender affections, kindness, benevolence, and compassion. We listen to others with compassionate kindness. With the love of God that dwells in us, we help others to meet their needs in this world with the spiritual truths we learn from God’s Word.
So, first, we’re quick to listen, then, second, we gain understanding in order to help.
Proverbs 18:13 says, “She that answereth a matter before she heareth it, it is folly and shame unto the her.” So, don’t respond to someone without first hearing what they have to say. Listening to gain understanding to help others is important. Remember, we are quick to hear, and we are slow to speak.
No Formula, But Practical Keys
There’s not a perfect technique or formula for being a good listener. It’s more about an attitude of heart. We listen with a heart to help people, knowing that we have a spirit within us and the spiritual truths we have learned to apply to help others. We can listen to help.
There are some practical keys that can make us better listeners: Be quick to hear. Slow to speak. Be engaged. Be aware of your response (verbal and non-verbal) to what you hear. Avoid judging and being critical. Seek to understand. And ask questions.
We can become genuinely interested in people and get engaged in their lives when we listen with love and respect. We gain their trust and come to know what kind of help they need. And we have the love of God to give to help them.
One aspect of engaging with someone is to first handle distractions. You may need to move to a quieter place, turn off the music, put down your phone, and look directly at the person whose speaking to you. I have to remind myself to remove my hands from my keyboard, so that I can listen better to someone whose talking to me while I’m typing. And when someone is talking, believe to understand. Believe to understand them. When we focus on listening and believing to understand, we show that we value what people have to say.
Another key to listening well is for us to be aware of how we respond to what we hear. Our response can greatly determine what is shared. If someone thinks that we’re giving a negative response, they may struggle to continue to speak openly. A positive response could be a simple nod, smile, saying, “I hear you,” eye contact, and leaning closer.
Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of a woman is like deep water, but a woman of understanding will draw it out.”
Refrain from Judgement
While listening we refrain from judgement or criticism, and we listen openly, which is another important key to listening well. We can avoid judging others according to our own emotions, our own experiences, or preconceived ideas. When we listen to others while being careful not to be critical of their thoughts or feelings, we make them feel at ease. Remember, we are seeking to gain an understanding so that we can help people with a spiritually-based, good response.
Asking questions is another practical key to listening well that helps people to open up and talk. For example, let’s say someone says to you, “Boy, I’m tired.” What you can ask is something like, “What kind of tired are you?” This one question may open up the person to a more in-depth conversation.
In Acts 8:30, there’s a story about Philip. Philip applied this principle of asking questions as a key to listening well. One day, Philip was walking along and saw a man off to the side reading. Philip could have just passed him by. But instead he asked, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” And that one question lead to a life-changing conversation between the two men that you can read about in Acts, Chapter 8.
Another example of a good listener can be found in a story of Jesus Christ. He was listening to help in Luke 24, beginning in verse 13. In this story, two of Jesus’ followers were walking along the road to Emmaus, just after witnessing some shocking, life-changing events. As they were walking, they were trying to adjust to the new state of affairs. The person that they were following, Jesus, was killed. They witnessed that. But now they hear people reporting seeing angels, others saying that Jesus was alive again, and others saying that Jesus’s tomb was empty. Well, Jesus caught up to them and began walking with them along the road, but the two men didn’t recognize Jesus. Luke 24, verse 17, shows that Jesus listened to the two men carefully, gained an understanding of why they were sad, and asked them a question.
Jesus asked, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”
He asked the question, although he knew the answer. The answer was that he himself was the subject of their discussion. He could have illuminated their thinking immediately, but Jesus encouraged them to talk about what had happened, what they experienced, and what they heard. He listened to them. Then he responded.
Luke 24, verse 25 and 27 reads, “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, Jesus expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” He taught them everything.
Jesus didn’t reveal who he was to them. But because he listened well, he was able to answer their questions, and teach them the Word, the spiritual truths, that they needed in order to be encouraged, and to have no fear, but to rejoice in what had happened. Jesus worked with these two men, listening and talking, because they were confused and not yet convinced of the truths concerning Jesus Christ. Later the men talked about their time walking and talking with Jesus, saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” The really enjoyed the conversation.
Like Jesus Christ, we too can listen to people when they need help in their believing. Being a good listener can make a big difference in our ability to help someone. We can ask good questions. Stay focused on what we hear, just like Jesus did on the road to Emmaus.
I Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and respect.”
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
When we listen to someone, it doesn’t matter who it is, we want to help. Then we can give to them the spiritual truths that we know with love and care. We want to listen well to help.
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Listening can make a big difference in our ability to help someone. So, let’s be ready to listen well.
If you enjoyed reading that article, you may want to check out "Common Ground" and learn about two great men who had the same mindset.
I John 3:17
I Peter 3:15