May 26, 2023 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ted N.C. Wilson, President, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Hello, friends. When we think of the Protestant Reformation, names such as Martin Luther in Germany and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland often come to mind. But, as we will soon see as we continue our journey through the book, The Great Controversy, God raised up other men in lesser-known places to forward His work of Reformation. If you have not already done so, I invite you to download The Great Controversy, available in multiple languages, at the URL shown at the bottom of the screen [Insert: greatcontroversyproject.org]

As early as the 12th century, faithful Christians in the “low countries,” known as The Netherlands today, were faithful to the Word of God. The Waldensian missionaries had gone everywhere, and their doctrines spread rapidly. Soon, the Waldensian Bible was translated into the Dutch language.

Before long, however, Rome’s long arm reached into this peace-loving country, and persecution began, with its tortures and burnings at the stake. But still, “the believers continued to multiply, steadfastly declaring that the Bible is the only infallible authority in religion, and that ‘no man should be coerced to believe, but should be won by preaching'” (The Great Controversy, p. 238).

One person God raised up to do His work was Menno Simons, from one of the provinces of Holland. Educated as a Roman Catholic and ordained to the priesthood, he was wholly ignorant of the Bible, and in fact, refused to read it for fear of the heresy it might contain. Nevertheless, he felt drawn to the Book and finally decided to study the New Testament. As he read this, along with the writings of Martin Luther, his mind was opened, his heart was touched, and he decided to accept the reformed faith.

Soon afterward, he witnessed, in a neighboring village, the beheading of a man who was put to death for being rebaptized. This led Menno to study the Bible concerning infant baptism. He could find no evidence for the practice in the Scriptures and saw clearly that repentance and faith are required for receiving baptism.

He decided to withdraw from the Roman Church and devote his life to teaching the truths he had received. For 25 years, Menno traveled throughout the Netherlands and northern Germany with his wife and children, enduring great hardship and frequently in danger of losing his life, but exerting a powerful influence.

Nowhere were the reformed doctrines more widely received than in the Netherlands, and sadly, nowhere did the believers endure more terrible persecution.

“To read the Bible, to hear or preach it, or even to speak concerning it, was to incur the penalty of death by the stake. To pray to God in secret, to refrain from bowing to an image, or to sing a psalm, was also punishable with death” (The Great Controversy, p. 240).

Even those who renounced their reformed views were put to death—the men were killed by the sword, and women were buried alive.

At one time, an entire family was brought before the inquisitors, charged with remaining away from mass and worshiping at home. When examined about their secret worship practices, the youngest son replied, “We fall on our knees, and pray that God may enlighten our minds and pardon our sins; we pray for our sovereign, that his reign may be prosperous and his life happy; we pray for our magistrates, that God may preserve them” (The Great Controversy, p. 240).

Even though some of the judges were deeply moved, the father and one of his sons were condemned to die.

While the rage of the persecutors was strong, the faith of the martyrs was stronger. Persecution only served to increase the number of witnesses for the truth.

At last, under the leadership of the noble William of Orange, peace and freedom to worship God according to one’s conscience came to the Netherlands.

As we consider the faithfulness of these believers, we once again see how thousands have been willing to die for their faith, rather than give up the truths they found within the precious Word of God.

Today, do we cherish the Scriptures as they did? Do we take time to study the words of life, seeking to learn what God has to say to us today through His Word? Do we take time to pray?

God promises us in Matthew 7:7,8— “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Today, God is seeking to work a revival and reformation in each of our hearts, inviting us to be fully committed to Him. If you would like to say, “Yes, Lord. I am willing. Teach me. Guide me. Give me your words of life,” I invite you to pray with me just now. 

Father in heaven, please give us an understanding of Your purpose for our lives. Help us to realize that so many have died for you. Standing firmly for the Word of God, giving their lives as a witness and testimony of what Jesus can do in a life. When we are fully submitted to You now, we ask that You guide us each day as we go forward, proclaiming Your truth and understanding how we are to live in these very last days of Earth’s history, as we look forward to Jesus’ soon return. In Christ’s name we ask it. Amen.

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