Our Tychicus

As a dirt poor boy in Charleston, Illinois, Richard went in
to a used book store and bought a dilapidated
book for six cents. He took it home and stitched it together wi
th a needle and thread his mother had. And
that was his Bible for the next several years.
When Richard talked about the Bible, he made you want to find
a quiet corner and read it. He
communicated his love of the word. You accepted that love as
valid and were inspired to possess it for
One time Richard was meeting with a young couple he was
soon to marry. The young man asked, “Is
there anything we should read before we get married?” Ric
hard replied, “Yes, read the Bible. You have
three months.”
As a younger man, he was a force of nature. When he was s
peaking, his jet black hair fell down in his
face, he worked his mouth so hard his lips turned purple, and hi
s arms flailed. He was the only man who
could comb his hair, clean his glasses, and blow his nose dur
ing a talk, and make it all seem perfectly
natural–vintage Richard.
He was an artist painting a biblical fresco, like Miche
langelo, strapped to his scaffold and hurling
tremendous brushstrokes onto the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
His attention to detail was staggering.
He could take a verse of the Bible and pull out thread af
ter thread.
Richard saw a world in a grain of sand and eternity i
n an hour. He had a keen intellect and enormous
curiosity. In college, he read a book a day for three ye
ars. He had an amazing ability to concentrate, and
when doing it, he lived in an interior world.
Wilford Landes told me that one time he was taking Richard
somewhere. He heard a mumbling from
the passenger seat. He said “I asked him, ‘What are you doing?
’. Richard said, ‘I’m supposed to teach
the book of Hebrews, and I don’t have time to study it, so I’m
memorizing it.’”
Years ago I asked him a question. It was months before I
saw him again. When I did see him, he met
me in the congested center aisle of a meetinghouse. Amidst
lots of people and lots of noise, with no
prompting from me, Richard began answering my question from m
onths earlier. It seemed that none of
our surroundings existed for him. He was fully focused on
answering the question. And I thought, “Man,
this is the coolest guy in the world.”
Richard took the Lord’s work with the seriousness it deserves
. Over forty years ago he had the
responsibility for a certain congregation. I was holding a me
eting there. About halfway through my
Sunday morning speech, Richard walked in and sat down. I
never did know why he was so late. But I
had the impression when he came in that he had been in the
entryway listening to what I was teaching
when I didn’t know he was there. If so, that was a very wise
and responsible thing for him to do.
Richard was instant in season and out of season. On one
occasion he was called on to help with a
troubled situation in a congregation. It was one of those
things that nobody prefers to be involved in.
Richard had already passed his threescore years and ten
. He had a lot of trouble hearing. His wife was in

ill health. He could have used several excuses not to go
do that work. But when he was called on, his
immediate response was five words: “Tell me when and whe
After I’d been in the work long enough to get knocked down a f
ew times, and had been working in
some problem places, I said to Richard, “I hope you live
a long time, because I’m not sure what’s going
to happen to the church when your generation is gone.” I won’t
say he looked at me with disdain. But he
did look at me with those piercing eyes of his, and as if it
was the most obvious thing in the world, he
said, “Well, the young men will just have to grow strong in the
Lord, that’s all.” And I knew he was
I heard him say once that “there are no great men in Jes
us, but there are men in whom Jesus is great.” I
agree with that, and I say that if you knew Richard Riggins
, you brushed with greatness. Jesus Christ
lived in him.
Richard united the simplicity of a child with the dignity of
an ambassador. I called him Tychicus,
because Tychicus delivered the Ephesian letter. More than a
ny other man, Richard delivered the
Ephesian letter to my generation. And no one will ever be able
to take that away from him.
This world will be a lot less interesting to me witho
ut Richard in it. It will go on without him, though
not as well. This humble, unassuming man went way beyond
what some thought him capable of, and
somehow pulled it off. I found that extremely inspiring and endearing
. There is no way to convey the
loss. I have known no better m