1 Timothy 5: 3, 5
When we first heard of our beloved sister being ill and the prospect, in her age, of the Lord taking her, I think this was the first scripture that occurred to me. The Authorised Version says, “Honour widows that are widows indeed”, and I think this characterised our sister. She had had a great deal to do intimately with death, and the sorrow of this was carried through many years. I think that our sister has shown the characteristics of one who is a widow indeed.
One has not heard her complain. As the scripture here says, she “has put her hope in God”. And she rested in it - she put her hope in God; a great thing that we would commend to everybody here that they might put their hope in God. It gives you assurance in the present life, and if I may speak for myself, I am often surprised at the way in which God makes Himself known again at some unexpected time, but at a time when it is precisely needed. I think that would be the experience of every believer, that they find that God is available and God is there whenever there is need for Him, even if we do not foresee the need. There is what God will be to us in our circumstances. I commend the knowledge of God to everybody here. Being fairly old myself I would say that it is impossible to do without God in your life, and we carry on life in dependence on Him. We are dependent on Him and we carry on life in dependence on Him.
There is of course the side of things to which our brother has referred in prayer. There is the life that is in Christ Jesus and the power of that, and its blessing, is there to be known by every person that has come into the world. The glad tidings of God are available to everybody. Salvation through Jesus, crucified and raised from the dead and living, is available to everybody. The glorious fact of His resurrection is a testimony that all who believe in Him will be themselves raised; and in whatever degree they have felt themselves preserved by Him and kept by Him, the reality is that - however small your faith may seem - He will be there, and He will carry you.
I have been affected by this, beloved, especially by that word in the Authorised Version of the scriptures - ’a widow indeed’. Our sister was such - if you look at the tests lower down for the characteristics of widows it says, “Let a widow be put upon the list, being of not less than sixty years, having been wife of one man, borne witness to in good works, if she have brought up children, if she have exercised hospitality, if she have washed saints’ feet, if she have imparted relief to the distressed, if she have diligently followed every good work”, v 10,11. I think it would be difficult to say that there was an item there by which our sister was not qualified. I do not know what Paul had in mind when referring to the list. I know there are many different things being said about it, but what I believe Paul had in mind is that the list is of those who are really widows, and I believe that our sister earned that word in the whole manifestation of her life amongst us.
The Lord has her in His presence now and, in the day when believers are raised to be with Christ for ever, she will be there amongst the millions who are the fruit of Christ’s work. I just commend these qualifications to the brethren, because they are not applicable only to widows, or only to sisters; they are applicable to all of us who seek to do the Lord’s work. It will be the remembrance of that that we carry of our beloved sister and, if we may as Paul says elsewhere, imitate their faith (Heb 13: 7), we would be sustained in the testimony of God in the present time.
May the Lord help us further.
30th December 2008
(At the meeting for the burial of Mrs Ruth Ellis)
(this word was not revised by the author)