Who Will Stand True Against the Majority?

I recently finished a biography of John Wycliffe, 14th century herald of the reformation. I learned some fascinating info I had not previously known. Like the prophet Daniel, Wycliffe left home as a teen, never to return. John Wycliffe was not merely the first to provide, with his assistants, the entire Scriptures in English, but he was really the first to seriously question the Scriptural authority for the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the infallibility of the pope. Wycliffe was an ardent social activist, promoting simplicity in order to have more means to help the poor.1

Though many opposed Wycliffe’s reforms, I was glad to discover there was a small circle of colleagues at Oxford University that stood loyally by him, even when he was abandoned by many in high places. I could understand the courage he drew from this little circle of loyal friends who prayed and discussed the Scriptures with Wycliffe many evenings. What a blessing these friends were to him!

But as I read further, I discovered that every one of Wycliffe’s long term Christian friends, including his best friend Nicholas Hereford, eventually recanted their reformed beliefs and turned their backs completely on Wycliffe. Some recanted after a few days in prison, some recanted after being offered prestigious academic or priestly positions in exchange for turning their backs on Wycliffe’s teachings, some gave up their faith for money.

In the end, all of Wycliffe’s friends that he treasured through his days at Oxford abandoned him. Yet, he kept the faith. He refused to be bought or sold. Neither intimidation, persecution, harassment, or loss of friends deterred him from his belief in Scripture-based reform. He believed that the God who said, “You are chosen!” (Isaiah 41:10) was the God Who would ultimately call him to eternal life. His love for Jesus outweighed every earthly inducement.

When I finished Wycliffe’s biography, I sat for a long time and thought. What made most of the Jewish youth that began attending the University of Babylon give up their faith? Out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of young Jews taken as prisoners of war who defected from their religious roots, why did just four remain faithful? What made the difference?

Wycliffe’s Oxford friends were completely convinced that his reforms were Scriptural. It seems from most accounts that his friends were at one time sincere in their prayers and their love for Jesus. Why did they drop out and Wycliffe alone remain true?

Not long ago, I was in Rome, looking down at the arena of the ancient Coliseum. I thought of Tillimicus. Tillimicus was a monk living back in the days when gladiators battled to the death for the amusement of blood-thirsty spectators. Tillimicus attended one of those gruesome contests, and was horrified to see a mortally wounded gladiator carried off the field, while the next two combatants prepared for their contest.

Not stopping to think of the danger to himself, or the odds of one person challenging 50,000 unruly fans, Tillimicus jumped out of his seat and ran onto the Coliseum’s arena. Shouting to the crowd, he begged them to stop the senseless bloodshed. Everywhere, spectators began standing with thumbs upturned, indicating that they agreed with him. When the gladiators saw that their opportunity for glory and fame might be at risk, they rushed at Tillimicus and speared him to death. But his martyrdom resulted in a decline and eventual abolition of gladiator contests in the Roman Coliseum.

Wycliffe and Tillimicus were not the only ones to stand alone against a whole culture.

Like Wycliffe, just when Jesus desperately wanted the prayers and support of His friends, they abandoned him. “He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Alone and friendless, Jesus nonetheless took the death that should have been ours.

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities. With the bloody lashes to His back, we are healed. Dragged to and fro from palace to judgment hall, He was mocked, beaten and condemned.

“And when they were come to a place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him.”

All of heaven looked with grief and amazement at Christ hanging upon the cross. But only thus could He redeem us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us.

“The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The observance of the false sabbath will be urged upon us. The contest will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. At that time the gold will be separated from the dross. . . . Many a star that we have admired for its brilliance will then go out in darkness. Those who have assumed the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ’s righteousness, will then appear in the shame of their own nakedness.”–Prophets and Kings, p. 188.

” The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding, circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld, must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith, and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren, and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us. The members of the church will individually be tested and proved. They will be placed in circumstances where they will be forced to bear witness for the truth. Many will be called to speak before councils and in courts of justice, perhaps separately and alone.”–Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 463.

I believe that what motivated Wycliffe, what motivated Daniel and his three friends to come apart, be separate, remain true, was the love of Christ. This must be our motivation in the crises just before us. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands our life, our soul, our all!”



Who Will Stand True Against the Majority? — 20 Comments

  1. Hi Cindy,

    Would you be able to provide a reference for the story of Tillimicus, please?

    I was very glad to read the story here. I've heard the story before, but haven't been able to verify its authenticity, yet.

    Thanks for the help, and God bless!

    • Hi Benjamin, You could start with the article on "Saint Telemachus" in the Wikipedia. Among other things, it states that "The last known gladiator fight in Rome was on January 1, 404 AD, so this is usually given as the date of Telemachus' martyrdom."
      Apparently there are several versions of the story in circulation. You can read the version Cindy references in Fox's Book of Martyrs, Chapter 3

    • Hi Benjamin,
      The man was called Telemachus. The information you require can be found in Fox's Book of Martyrs, Chapter 3, page 24-25.
      God bless and happy Sabbath.
      P.S. If you have the Ellen G. White Writings on your computer go to the Main Menu. Look for Historical Works, type Telemachus...

      • What a blessed Sabbath day we've had today! Thank you Jesus!

        And thank you Inge, and Francois for pointing me in the right direction.


  2. My heart was blessed by this post. Faith of our fathers, living still,In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

  3. Cindy, I can't help but think of the seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath keepers in Samoa -- only about one per cent of Samoan Seventh-day Adventists refused to worship on Sunday when it was presented to them that it would be the "real Sabbath" after Samoa re-aligned itself relative to the Dateline in December 2011. What is so shocking about the Samoan Dilemma is that the ridicule and outright persecution of those who keep Sabbath on the same day we all worship as Seventh-day Adventists world-wide comes from their brothers and sisters in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

    Surely this is a foretaste of things to come. But who would have thought that it would begin on the tiny island of Samoa in the South Pacific?

    It makes me wonder how many of us in our comfortable churches would continue to be faithful if 99% of the church turned away from our most fundamental doctrines. Would we be part of the 99% or part of the 1%?

    (I do believe there are more faithful Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath keepers in Samoa. They just haven't found each other yet. You can read more at http://ssnet.org/blog/2012/01/the-samoan-sabbath-dilemma/)

    • Which makes you question the kind of God that these "believers" really worship. If they would stoop to persecute their brethren like that...

      We see again the story of Christ repeating itself. The most pious wanted Him dead. Adventism has never had a lack of piety.

  4. Hello ya all,
    Those who put their trust in the Lord will stand. We need not fear, for the Lord is good, He is our stronghold in the day of trouble, He knows those who trust in him. He will someday give us a home where we can live forever. We are promised that if we ask to have the strength to stand we will get it. If we seek fortitude we will find it. If we stand by His side, we will not faint, though all have deserted us. Christ has promised, to never leave us comfortless.

    Thank-you Cindy for reminding us that if John Wycliffe can stand we can to. We can stand tall when other preachers say I don't need a prophet, we have the Bible, and/or there is someone in my listening audience who needs to know why I worship on Sunday.

  5. Good post Cindy, thank you for the thoughts. After reading it the Lord brought the song "Once to Every Man and Nation" to my mind, that song quickens me every time I sing it!

    The greatest want of the world is the want of men--men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. {Ed 57.3}
    But such a character is not the result of accident; it is not due to special favors or endowments of Providence. A noble character is the result of self-discipline, of the subjection of the lower to the higher nature--the surrender of self for the service of love to God and man. {Ed 57.4}

    I praise Jesus for exemplifying what a REAL man is; firm as steel to principle, yet meek and lowly, the purest hatred for sin, but seeking to save this sinner at any cost to himself.

  6. I think that what made the difference in Wycliffe is that he "died" before he died. Paul was the same: "I am now ready to be offered..." Neither had the fear of death because they had already "died". When a person no longer has a fear of death, that is when they begin the journey of doing amazing things. Daniel and his friends had died before the lion den, before the hot furnace, so when faced with them, there was no fear.

  7. I am glad this emphasis is being brought out.
    Fear of going to hell can never keep people faithful in th least days. Christ must be presented in all His glory so that people can decide which side they are going to be on; free from coercion or shame.

  8. Thank you for the reflection! It has blessed my heart! Could you, please, give us the book reference? The biography of Wycliffe?
    Thank you.

  9. Thank you Cindy for the thought provoking sharing of this posting. The quote from 'Prophets and Kings' p.188 made me think about the Samoan Sabbath Dilemma. The "test" of our faith is here and now and our love of God or love of self, in the context of standing for or covering up of the truth, is being played out today.

    I also thought about Jesus amazing love for us, His children; He made us with His loving care, lost us and loved us so much He redeemed us with His sacrifice and Praise the Lord, He is coming back to get us!

    The amazing love you refer to that Wycliffe, Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego demonstrated where they stood firm for Jesus, only comes from the original source, our Lord & Saviour. How deeply in love are we with Jesus and in our daily walk with Him that come the "test" will we stand firm, or fold like Wycliffe friends or all of those friends and colleagues of the 3 young men.

    I believe the Samoan SDA Lighthouse Sabbathkeepers love for Jesus is being tested right now. May the Lord be with them, strengthen and keep them, safely under His arms of love.

  10. Greetings,
    Thank you so much for such beautifully written words of enlightenment, truth, and courage. I've struggled with the Sabbath truth for over 15yrs now, only to come back in truth concerning such a glorious gift and yet, such a separation in our Christian world. The Lord has shown me once again His truth and has blessed me with having my Sabbaths off from retail. Blessings to you for sharing truth and love. Thank you...
    In Jesus,
    Joe Soto Jr.

    • May God continue to bless you as He reveals the meaning of the Sabbath to you anew every week. I am very, very happy for you.

  11. Didn't Jesus end the Jewish Sabbath? What is required to keep the Sabbath? I see only to rest from work in the bible text. Is that the way you keep Sabbath?

    • I will attempt to answer your question:

      #1: Didn’t Jesus end the Jewish Sabbath?

      I don't know, did Jesus ever make an explicit command ending the Sabbath? The closest I know of is, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:18-19 NKJV).

      As for the Sabbath being Jewish the fourth commandment refers back to the creation (Ex 20:11) which involves everyone, not just Jews. Besides, "Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen 26:5 NKJV) which of course was way before God's pronouncements of the Ten Commandments on Sinai. That is also the case with the giving of manna, "Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there will be none" (Ex 16:26 NKJV) which is four chapters before the Ten Commandments. Therefore, it seems to me that the Sabbath along with the other commandments predates the establishment of the group of people we know as Jews.

      #2: What is required to keep the Sabbath? I see only to rest from work in the bible text. Is that the way you keep Sabbath?

      The command obviously involves more than rest, which is very implicit throughout the entire Bible. It is a day of worship where our attention should be drawn to God as the creator. We not only see Jesus worshipping on the Sabbath (Lk 4:16) but also Paul (Acts 17:2; Acts 16:13) and the rest of the disciples (Acts 21:20) decades after the crucifixion.

      It is also a day of doing good (Mat 12:10-12; Mark 3:1-5; Jn 5:1-21). The commandment against working was designed not only to give much needed physical rest but also to break our continual focus on making money 24/7. There needs to be time given to spiritual things and God has designated one full day when we are to focus on what really matters. Other days can be for this purpose but the Sabbath day is the one that God has set aside specifically for that purpose. It is what He has commanded and we are not to be like Cain and worship the way we choose rather than the way God has chosen. Abel did it right: God commanded and Abel did it!


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