Yesterday Dan Allen delivered a biographical sermon on the life of William Tyndale (1494-1536), the father of the English Bible.
Tyndale strenuously and sacrificially dedicated his life to translating the Bible into English, which was illegal at the time given the control of the Roman Catholic Church. Tyndale faced many setbacks along the way, including having his print shop raided, loosing his translation of the entire Pentateuch in a shipwreck, and much more. Eventually this endeavor cost him imprisonment and even his life. At the end of his days, he was never able to see the project through to full completion.
Two years later, however, Henry VIII, King of England, changed his tune and demanded that an English translation be made. … Just two years after Tyndale’s death!
Dan raised the question (at the 38:00 mark): In many ways we could ask, “Why God? Why just two years later? Why not move King Henry to make it legal within Tyndale’s lifetime, and avoid all those troubles he faced? Why have Tyndale experience so many setbacks for something so obviously good? Why have one of the most brilliant scholars and dedicated servants locked up in a cell for the remaining years of his life, unable to continue the work? Why?” It seems so wasteful, pointless, and unnecessary.
As Dan raised this question, my mind went to 1 Peter 2:18-25, in which — among other places in the New Testament — the Christian life is portrayed as following in the footsteps of Christ, namely conformity to his suffering. As Christ’s path to glory was through suffering (death to resurrection), so too our path, as those united and conformed to the likeness of Christ– so too our path to glorification with him is paved by suffering with him as well.
We can think of many other such similar occasions across church history: individuals with great gifts and dedication being cut short and hindered by seemingly needless suffering and pointless opposition.
I wonder, however, as counter-intuitive as it may be to us, if this regular pattern of suffering, if nothing else, is God’s way of testifying to that cruciform pattern of conquering through death / suffering. Maybe it is that God specifically chooses to bring about his purposes this way — bringing about fruit after death and suffering — specially as a way of making his people conform to the pattern found in Christ (conquering by death, and death to resurrection); and this as a way of highlighting, testifying to, and using believers’ lives as a means to point people to that same pattern in Christ.
Call it a “biographical typology” if you will.