Laura and I are spending some time this week in the beautiful little burg of Red River, NM in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Our purpose for being here is to take part in the twenty-fifth Annual Red River Family Encampment. We love coming to the RRFE for a number of reasons. The weather is always perfect. It may warm up to close to eighty degrees today. Yesterday morning, when I took my morning walk, it was in the low forties. The people who attend RRFE are such a tremendous blessing. Each time we are privileged to be here, it is like a big family reunion.
The speakers we are blessed to hear always challenge us to live better Christian lives. This year we have heard our dear friends Chuck Monan, Jerry Houston, and Bill Watkins in addition to some other outstanding speakers.
My friend Jerry Lawlis has honored me by asking me to be the speaker for tonight’s session under the big tent. This will be my fourth or fifth year to speak. It is one of my favorite places to preach the Word of God. The singing and the crowd inspire me to attempt to do my best.
While we love it here, and we are having a wonderful time, today our hearts are in Alabama. And they are heavy hearts. Today in North Alabama, many Christians in that part of the state will be attending a funeral.
It is the funeral of a wonderful man of God. If you live in Alabama and many other places in the Southeast, your life has been touched by this man. The name Mike Nix will not be recognized by most of those who read this blog if you live West of the Mississippi. So please indulge me for a few selfish minutes as I tell you about the life of my friend. The Word of God instructs us that we should give honor to those who deserve it (Romans 13:7).
Mike Nix passed from this life last Saturday at the young age of fifty-five. He died of a blood clot that was a result of a surgery. He leaves behind him his loving wife, Mary Lynn and his adoring daughter, Natalie.
In 1981, Laura and I got married after leaving Freed-Hardeman. We began our first preaching work with the Midway congregation in North Alabama. At the time, the church had less than seventy members.
One of the first couples we met was a young couple by the name of Mike and Mary Lynn Nix. Mike was a new Christian and like us, they had not been married long. They were already stalwarts in the Midway church. We became fast friends, and we have remained friends for thirty years.
We worked together side by side in the Midway church. Mike led most of our singing, and he was an outstanding song leader. He and Mary Lynn both taught numerous Bible classes. We went to many Gospel meetings, VBSs, singings, and other special events together.
Mike always loved attending these special events. On any number of occasions, there were about four couples that would attend Gospel meetings out of town to hear some special speaker. We went to hear Johnny Ramsey, and Mike was enthralled to hear him quote the Word of God. We went to hear George Bailey, and Mike loved hearing brother Bailey preach. We would attempt to mimic brother Bailey, and I can hear Mike saying in a George Bailey type voice, “DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN?”
We knocked doors in our community together and conducted Bible studies together. We ate numerous meals together, played cards together, went to fellowships and parties together. The four of us even took a vacation together to Disney World before our children were born. It was a wonderful trip.
Mike was a unique individual. He grew up in a divided home and was not raised to be a Christian. As a young Christian, he thirsted for the Word of God. We had more discussions about the Bible than I have ever had with any other young Christian. He loved talking about the Word.
When we would discuss a particular passage, Mike’s big eyes would light up like a child on Christmas morning. There were many nights when we would play tennis together late at night. Invariably we would not complete a match because we would get involved in discussing a Bible passage. We would sit on the tennis court and talk about the Word, then we would pray.
We played basketball together about four mornings a week for several years. Mike was a great competitor on the basketball court, on the tennis court, and in everything he undertook. Mike was tough on the court. He had lost part of one of his fingers, and if my memory is correct, it was on his shooting hand. He still could shoot with extreme accuracy.
We had a common love for sports and spent hours talking about the Crimson Tide. After our workouts, we would talk about the Bible, then we would pray together. Mike always wanted to pray. Each of us would say a prayer. We prayed for our wives and that our marriages would be strong.
We prayed for our unborn children. We prayed that they would grow up strong in the church and always be loyal to what we would teach them. We prayed for the church. We prayed for people who were struggling. We prayed for people with whom we were studying or trying to influence. We thanked God for our friendship. We prayed that God would help us always teach and preach His Word in a way that would please our Lord.
Mike loved the church, and he was a church builder. He was a tremendous worker in the Kingdom of God. As a member of the Midway church, he helped this small country church grow from about seventy members to over 200 members in less than four years.
When he started preaching for the Neel congregation, he and Mary Lynn were greatly missed by the Midway church. After a few years, he came back to his home church as the preacher and continued to help the church grow.
After a few years at Midway, he moved down the road to preach for the great Beltline church. He poured the last twelve years of his life into this church. Beltline grew under Mike’s preaching and work. This church and the church throughout North Alabama will miss his preaching, his service, his leadership, and his love for others. Pleas pray with us for the church in that area as they mourn the loss of a great man of God.
Mike Nix had a genuine love for people. He was one of the most sincere and kind individuals we have ever known. He never met a stranger. He was engaging. He had an infectious smile that could win anybody over.
Mike loved life and lived it to the fullest. He understood as well as anyone I’ve ever known what Jesus meant about the abundant life (John 10:10). He rejoiced in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). He had a wonderful sense of humor. We laughed together often.
He served others with the heart of Jesus. Like Jesus who Mike followed he lived his life for others. He would do anything for anybody at any time. He taught the Word of God with his mouth and with his life. He exemplified what it means to live a Christian life. Thousands will miss him because he touched the lives of each of those who mourn his passing.
He will be missed most of all by his wonderful wife Mary Lynn and his sweet Natalie. Please pray with us for them. They have a great void in their hearts. We hope they will know of our love for them.
Laura and I regret that we cannot be with them today to celebrate the wonderful life of our dear friend and brother. Our hearts will be heavy because we can’t be with Mary Lynn and Natalie today. Mike would tell me with a smile on his face that I should stay in New Mexico and preach God’s Word tonight.
My message tonight is simple. It contains just two observations. The first point is that we should proclaim the Good News of salvation to everyone. The second point is that our world needs to see God’s people living lives of faith.
As we study these two observations tonight I will think about my friend Mike Nix. He exemplified these two ideas with his whole heart, as well as anyone we have ever known. If he were here, he would hug my neck, look me in the eye and say preach the Word. Then he would add, “I love you, Jeff.” I would respond by saying, “I love you also, and I hope to see you soon.”
Dear Father, we give you thanks for bringing special friends into our lives. We thank you for using people to make a difference in our lives, in the church, and in the world. Dear God, thank you for Mike Nix. Thank you for his love for you, his love for your church, his love for people, and his love for life. Thank you for the countless lives he touched. Thank you dear Lord for allowing a man like this to live in our world and make a difference in everything he did and in everyone he knew. Father, please be with his wonderful family. Give them comfort and peace knowing that Mike lived his life in a way that pleased You. Dear God, please bless the Beltline church in a special way as they mourn the passing of this great man. Help all of us Lord to follow the Christ that Mike preached so well with his words and with his life. In the Name of our Savior we pray, Amen.