October 25, 2014 – Liberty Hill, Texas
Order of Service
Hymn – How Great Thou Art
Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; 12:13-14
Family and Friends Share Remembrances
Scripture Reading – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58
Eulogy – “But a Faithful Man, Who Can Find?” – Prov. 20:6
Hymn – Amazing Grace
Pastor Phillip M. Way
The youngest of 5 children, his father had passed away before he was born. I do not think I can go as far as to say that Ray was a Mamma’s Boy, but I do know that early in his married life the boundaries between he and his mother had to be reset to make the proper place for his wife Joyce! She has told me what a wonderful mother-in-law she had. How hard working and industrious she was raising 5 children as a single parent. That drive and work ethic was clearly passed on to Ray.
Listening to stories about his upbringing I can see reflections of the lessons Solomon learned and recorded for us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in this Old Testament Book of Wisdom. As Ray grew and matured, and as he was introduced to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and repented of his sin and trusted Christ alone to save him from sin, death, and judgment, he learned that things mattered very little, but people mattered a whole lot.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us about all of the things he pursued with abandon trying to find meaning in this earthly life. As the King of Israel and the wisest man who ever lived other than Christ Jesus, he surely had the means to try anything and everything in the search for lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. He sought after pleasure, wisdom, laughter, hard work, and the means to store up treasure and wealth. Finally he was stumped. He could find no other conclusion than to declare that, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” – nothing really matters at all. Nothing really makes any difference.
This is the quandary of a man who has all of the questions and none of the answers. We read in Ecclesiastes 9:12, “For man does not know his time…it falls suddenly upon him.” None of us knows the day or hour of our death. Ray certainly did not, and neither did any of those of us who have known and loved him. Not one of us would have thought for a moment that this last Tuesday would be his last day with us.
The result for many of us then is to follow Solomon’s despair. To fall into thinking that this life really is just a matter of chance and happenstance. That nothing really truly matters in the end.
We live. We die. Or as the phrase that has taken root in popular culture today, “You only live once.” So live it up – live life to the fullest. Eat, drink, be merry, or get married – whatever works for you. Because all too soon this life is over and who knows what comes next?
Ray understood that for most of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon was nothing more than a Nihilist. He proclaimed after studying all of these topics that all of life was just vanity. There is no profit, no reason, no meaning – all is meaningless. It is all worth nothing.
But Solomon eventually did have his understanding straightened out by the Spirit of God. That is why he finished the book like he did and then went on to write the Book of Proverbs, perhaps the greatest collection of wisdom from the wisest man preserved for us in the Word of God. You see, Solomon had a change of heart. He came to see that man without God does indeed walk in meaninglessness. But man cannot deny the existence and active involvement of God in our lives. He can try to repress the truth about God, but ultimately, men know He is there and that He will hold us accountable.
In Ecclesiastes 2:17 Solomon declares, “I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” His worldview brought him to despair, to even hating life. So what was his response?
In chapter 3 Solomon admits that everything has a purpose and a time. He also admits that we have duties in this life given by God for particular reasons, and in fact, proclaims, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Instead of meaningless and destruction Solomon begins to see that God in His timing and purpose indeed makes everything beautiful, “in its time.” He begins to see that God has given us good things to enjoy in this life, so that we might rejoice and do good. God will require an account of us. There is nothing like accountability to snap us out of a pessimistic, self-indulging delusional worldview is there?
In chapter 5, Solomon instructs us to “walk prudently” before God, to guard our steps, or to walk precisely and carefully. Paul in the New Testament says it this way, “walk circumspectly” (Eph. 5:15).
True to his writings in Proverbs, Solomon in chapter 7 begins to speak about wisdom. “Wisdom is good….wisdom gives a defense….wisdom gives life,” he writes. If you ever received an email from Ray his signature included this quote, “Knowledge comes from books. Wisdom comes from God.” Wisdom teaches us that whether we prosper or lack, God is in control and is working out His purposes.
Throughout the rest of the Book of Ecclesiastes we find Solomon dealing with his own hopelessness and the thoughts that lead him to reject a worldview that tells him that all is vanity. The foundational element of what he has to say to combat this meaninglessness is that there is a God, He is involved in our day to day lives, He cares, and He has a plan and is carrying it out.
In fact, perhaps the best remedy for a Nihilistic worldview is to take a look at God and see Him as He really is. A right view of God allows no room for a hopeless, helpless, meaningless, purposeless, life of faith in nothingness. It is interesting to me then that Nihilism is nothing short of an attempt to deny the existence of God coupled with a desire to have no accountability. It is man saying “I am god and I will do whatever I want to do.”
Solomon finishes by writing, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl. 12:13-14). The answer to meaninglessness then is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ray believed the gospel! He lived the gospel. He worked to spread the gospel. Tirelessly. His service to others at church, at work, in the community, or in his own family was a service that was based entirely upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. While he had many diverse interests, hobbies, and opinions, nothing held a higher priority in his life than living in obedience to the gospel of God’s grace.
In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon wrote in chapter 20 verse 6, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness: but a faithful man, who can find?”
Too many believe that if we do not look out for ourselves, taking care of #1, then we cannot be expected to be able to care for others. But Ray knew better. He was not a man that put himself first. He was diligent to put others first. He knew that as he served others and placed their needs before his own that he could rely upon God to meet his needs. Wherever he saw a need, he was there. He was always there.
So we can answer this proverb and we can agree that while many people will proclaim their own goodness and accomplishments, if we are looking for a faithful man, we need look no further. If you had the privilege of knowing Ray Anderson then you have known a faithful man.
Many would agree and would immediately add to this by saying that Ray was a good man! Certainly if any of us is good, it was him. But I can hear Ray reply, quoting directly from the Scripture, “There is none who does good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12). The only One who is truly good is the Lord. God alone is good and He sets the standard of what goodness is. Ray would never have claimed to be a good man because he understood that in and of ourselves, on our own, without faith and obedience to the gospel, we cannot please God. Hebrews 11:6 is so clear, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
So how can we say that he was a faithful man? We profess this as truth because Ray demonstrated for us what it means to deny self and live to Christ daily. Any good, any blessing, any encouragement that came from his life and his work came from the Lord Jesus in him. Ray professed this to be true – he lived it out in front of us. He showed us what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Ray knew that he knew Jesus Christ. He was a believer. He did not merely believe that there is a god – many when asked if they believe there is a god will reply that certainly there is some kind of higher power out there. But Ray walked with God. This is the definition of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus said it this way in John 17:3, “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
In one of the gospel passages that is perhaps most fitting for an occasion like this, we find Jesus standing near the grave of his dear friend Lazarus who had died. And his sisters, Mary and Martha, both told Jesus that if He has only been there before Lazarus died, then their brother would still be alive. They believed Jesus had the power to heal. But Jesus was about to demonstrate an even more amazing power. Not only could He heal the sick, He could raise the dead to life again!
Jesus said to those questioning Him, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Right here on these sacred pages Jesus tells us that death has been defeated. The grave is no threat to the one trusting Christ. But wait. Is this not the very reason we are here gathered today? Is our grief and our sorrow not in response to the hard reality of life that there is an end to life? We are here in this very room because Ray died on Tuesday.
Why do Christians die if death is defeated? How can death be conquered? Grave yards are still being filled all around the world.
No. Death is defeated now. We read earlier where Paul under inspiration of the Spirit mocks death, “Where is your sting, O Death? Where is your victory, O Grave?” (1 Cor. 15:55). How can he mock that which takes our loved ones?
Because Paul understood this truth – believers do not die! They may be absent from the body, but they are not dead. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” he tells us (2 Cor. 5:8).
Our God is God of the living, not the dead (Luke 20:38). For those who have left this world to be with Him are indeed still alive, even more so as they are now forever free from sin, sorrow, and sickness. They are alive with Jesus Who tells us, “I Am the resurrection and the life…whoever believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
This is what Jesus said. Our comfort in the midst of tremendous grief is this, if we trust Jesus, we will never die. We may be separated for a time from those we love, and they from us, but if we are in Christ, we are alive forevermore. If Ray could ask us one question today, I suspect it would be the question Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?” Do you believe the gospel? Have you repented of your sin and trusted Jesus Christ alone to save you from sin, death, and judgment? Have you placed your faith in Christ with the assurance that “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved?” (Rom. 10:13).
We understand that even if we want him to with all our hearts, Ray will not come back to us, not until we are taken to be with Jesus as he was, or until Jesus comes back. Even if he did, we need to understand something that is so crucial for us in our lives.
In a parable recorded for us in Luke 16, Jesus tells a story about a rich man and a beggar, another man named Lazarus. The rich man found no need for God. He trusted that when it came right down to it, surely God would let everyone into heaven because after all, don’t we all go to heaven when we die? But this rich man learned a hard truth – he died without ever having repented of his sin and trusting God to save him by His grace alone. And the Bible says that after his death he was in torments in hell.
The beggar also died but before death he had trusted God to save him and so at death was taken, just as Ray was on Tuesday, to be immediately in the presence of God in heaven.
From the fires of judgment the rich man could see the Patriarch Abraham and he called out to him, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But it could not be. It was too late. As Hebrews 9:27 reminds us, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
The rich man had another request, “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”
Here in the Scripture, Jesus Himself tells us that even if one was sent back from the grave to tell us about the great horrors of judgment and the torments of dying in our sin, we would not be convinced. In fact, there is only one thing in all of the world that can convince us of the truth about our need for a Savior. That one thing is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God applied by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God.
“The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” (Psa. 19:7). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” Paul tells us in Romans 1:16.
The very ability to hear and believe the gospel comes from the Word of God. Romans 10:17 tells us, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
As Ray lived and obeyed and taught the Word of God the question he leaves with us now is a question he asked often, “Do you know Jesus?” “Have you trusted Christ to save you from your sin?” “Have you rejected the idea that there is anything we can do to save ourselves, or to be good enough, or to earn eternal life by pleasing God?” We cannot find hope if we are trusting anything for salvation outside of Jesus Christ.
Ray’s profession of faith was “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). And “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:9-10).
This is why Ray could be a faithful man.
A faithful husband – loving Joyce as Christ loves the Church – married 43 years.
A faithful father, leading his sons by example and instilling in them so much that has made them the men they are today.
A faithful father-in-law, loving his daughter-in-law like a daughter.
A faithful grandfather, Grandpa, living for every minute he could spend with his grandchildren.
A faithful brother, lamenting time spent away from his brothers and sisters and looking forward to each trip and each moment he could spend with them.
A faithful deacon, longing to do more and more in service for others wherever God sent him.
A faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
Ray’s faithfulness cannot be credited to anything in him outside of Jesus Christ. He was a witness to the transforming power of the gospel. He testified that he had once walked in darkness, but was certain that as he heard the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, had repented of his sin, and embraced Christ by faith. He had been blind but now he could see.
Ray often found encouragement in his daily walk with God through reading dead theologians. I think the puritan John Owen was his favorite. In his work Communion with God, Owen wrote, “Believers obey Christ as the one whom our obedience is accepted by God. Believers know all their duties are weak, imperfect, and unable to abide in God’s presence. Therefore they look to Christ as the one who bears the iniquity of their holy things, who adds incense to their prayers, gathers out all the weeds from their duties and makes them acceptable to God.”
And in his Meditation on the Glory of Christ he wrote, “The nearer anyone is to heaven, the more earnestly he desires to be there, because Christ is there.”
We believe that those who have repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ Jesus for salvation will one day be reunited with Ray. We will see him again. But Owen makes the point, and Ray would “Amen” it, that we should not desire heaven in order to be reunited with Ray, or any other loved one who has gone before us. We should want with all our hearts to be in heaven because there we will be with Jesus. Ray lived every day ready for heaven, ready to be with Jesus.
Last Tuesday he suffered chest pain and was taken to the hospital. He was responsive for a time, but then before long there was simply nothing that could be done to revive him or to keep him here. The time appointed for him by God had come. And in a mere moment he left this world behind and was escorted by holy angels directly into the presence of God. Ray was face to face with Jesus. No more sorrow. No more sighing. No more sin. Only the Savior!
How often have we heard him say, “Every day is a great day; some are just better than others”? Well, Tuesday topped them all. For all our tears, our shock, and our sorrow – Tuesday for Ray was the best day of his life. It was the day he saw Jesus for the first time.
We will continue to grieve. We will walk together through the dark moments of loss and loneliness. But by faith we will trust God when He tells us in His Word, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-30).
Let us praise God today for the precious gift He has given us, first by giving us His Son, and then by giving us the privilege to have known and loved Ray Anderson. And let us carry on the legacy following his example that we might pour out our lives in service to God and to others, until that day when we too see Jesus face to face.
Let us pray.