This Sunday, there’s one more empty seat in our sanctuary than we’re used to. It is the now empty seat of Mrs. Mirle Matheny. As you likely already know, one of our dearest and godliest members, Mrs. Matheny, was unexpectedly and suddenly called to heaven on Tuesday this week.
Such news is a burdensome joy. On the one hand, it is planet’s earth’s loss but, on the other hand, it is heaven’s gain. She touched countless lives in our church and around the world. She even touched my life too. That’s why I would like to share with you some of the most important things that I learned from her. (This is an excerpt from her funeral message that I delivered yesterday.)
1. Mrs. Matheny taught me that prayer is not a chore. It is a privilege.
Did you ever have the opportunity of hearing Mrs. Matheny pray? If not, you missed the chance to eavesdrop on a real conversation with heaven. She didn’t offer up aimless words into the sky like a drifting balloon. She came boldly and directly before the throne of God. She talked with her Savior as if He were present with her because, as she knew, He was, in fact, present with her. Mrs Matheny prayed the kind of prayers that the rest of us only hope to pray one day. She prayed like I imagine George Mueller prayed, full of faith and confidence. How many times are we guilty of praying because we “have to?” Mrs. Matheny sure didn’t. She prayed because she got to. For her, prayer was a privilege.
2. Mrs. Matheyn taught me that there is no retirement in the Christian life.
Mirle Matheny did more for Jesus at the age of 76 than some folks do in a lifetime. She didn’t just attend church she edified the church. She built it up by her presence and her words. She taught the Bible every week in both English and Spanish. How many of us can say that? And this was her at 76. This is to say nothing of her life and youth as a faithful pastor’s wife, missionary, loving mother, compassionate grandmother, prayer-warrior, and mindful friend. There was no auto-pilot for her Christian life. I think the older she got, the more she realized how much work there was to be done. She was the kind of person who preferred to burn-out for Jesus than to rust-out. Rather than squandering the final years of our lives on trendy diversions and elderly pleasures, we need more senior adults to grow up and be like Mirle Matheny. She was more than just a servant. She was a “good and faithful” one. She knew that Jesus was faithful to the end and she was too.
3. Mrs Matheny taught me that looks can be deceiving.
I thought about making number three say, “Mrs. Matheny taught me that big things come in little wrinkled packages.” But there was more to Mrs. Matheny’s look than her petite stature. She had a serious, “take no prisoners” look about her. When I first met her, I have to be honest, she scared me. I don’t know why. I didn’t know exactly what to make of her stern look and folded arms. Growing up on a dairy farm in Mississippi, serving Christ on the mission field, and spending years as a pastor’s wife will either break you or make you resilient. She was resilient. I soon realized, as many of you know, that she was sort of like an oyster. The outside may have appeared to be tough, but on the inside there was a pearl of great price. She was loving and compassionate through and through. She was a small lady with a big love for her husband, for her family, for her friends, for her church, and for her Savior.
4. Mrs. Matheny taught me that the Bible is not just a book to be read, it is food to be eaten.
Like prayer, reading the Bible for Mrs. Matheny was not a chore in the Christian life. For her, it was like sitting down at an all you can eat buffet of heavenly delights. I’ve heard several people say, “I want to know the Bible like Mirle Matheny.” The question is, “Are you willing to put forth the effort like Mirle Matheny?” She worked hard at knowing God’s Word. No one can question that. To her, just simply reading the Bible was for wimps. She could often be heard pleading with her Precepts class, “You need to study the Bible.” As odd as it may sound, Precepts was not her passion. The Bible was her passion. For her, Precepts was merely a means to an end. She wanted to get the Word of God into people so that people might get into the Word of God for themselves. For her, the Bible was more than just the good book, it was, in fact, the God book.
5. Mrs. Matheny taught me that Jesus is the most important.
You ask, “The most important what?” He is the most important, period! If her life spoke of anything, it spoke of the glory and grace and greatness of Jesus Christ. For many people, in their old age, retirement is what they look forward to the most. They work for fifty years so that they can retire for ten. For many such people, retirement is their greatest treasure. Not for Mrs. Matheney. For her, Jesus was her greatest treasure. She loved Him, she adored Him, she worshipped Him, and now she is with Him. I am so happy that the Jesus she knew by faith, is now the Jesus she knows by sight. He was her treasure on earth, and now He is her reward in heaven.