A Good Man and His Example
When Laurie and I were first moving to work with the Vestavia church in 2014, we had a period of a few months in which we were making trips to Birmingham to preach and make additional preparations. We usually stayed with Ken and Charlene Kuykendall. The hospitality and generosity they showed us was more than we could have expected, and Ken treated me like he had known me all my life. I told my mother Ken’s last name, and she, deep into genealogies, asked how he spelled it. When I told her, she immediately told me that we were related to him. She ran it down and found that Ken and I were something like 7th cousins, sharing a distant Leurs Jacobson Kuykendall in our family lines. Given that I grew up in California and he was in Alabama, I could never have guessed. But once we knew that, we often called each other “cuz.” But I want to think about something more important. Because of Ken’s example, we can learn some significant lessons from the word of God.
A Lesson about Family. Family defines God’s people, and Ken knew what that meant through his own hospitality and kindness. He and Charlene have welcomed countless numbers into their home. I’ve known Ken to be a true example as a shepherd of the flock and as a Christian (cf. 1 Pet 5:1-3). We treat one another as brothers and sisters because that is who we are. The New Testament refers to God’s people as “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). This brings with it responsibility to uphold the truth and act like a loving family. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10).
A Lesson About Patience in Suffering. Ken suffered through more pain and loss than many of us will ever know. Through it all, he showed patience and faith, which serves as an example for all. Many use suffering as a reason to give up on God, but in our brother we have an example of one who drew closer to God and was concerned that others do the same. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2-4).
A Lesson about Hope. Christians are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet 1:3-5). I heard Ken talk about this hope many times. He wanted heaven, to be with the Lord. Talking about our hope is an encouragement to others to continue in their faith. Whether we are singing about it, talking about it, or reading about it, hope is powerful, and when I think of our brother, I am encouraged to press on.
A Lesson about Commitment. I did not know Ken to waver in his dedication and commitment. We saw this in his personal faith as expressed in his desire to serve the Lord, his work as a shepherd, and in his dedication to Charlene. And this is a major reason why we look to others as examples in the faith. Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), so when we see one’s faith and commitment imitating our Lord, we need to follow it. Ken’s example of commitment to the end lives on.
A Lesson about Teaching. Christians should want what God wants, and God desires “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Ken wanted people to know the Lord and be saved. He wanted to teach and reach out with the gospel. His concern for others and their souls was visible and open, and this often reminded me why it was so important to carry on the work of teaching. Not only did he want to teach as much as was possible, he supported and encouraged those of us who teach. His encouragement was meaningful and genuine, reminding us that God’s word is meant to be shared and taken seriously.
I will add one more point about Ken that any who knew him would appreciate. He had a sense of humor that reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously all the time. He knew how to laugh, tell a joke, and even laugh at himself when he messed it up. This is a gift of God, and I pray that this example, in all of these areas and more, will continue to teach us all how important it is to remain faithful and true to what is most important in life — to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt 6:33). May God bless the family and all who knew our good brother.