Funeral For Ben Pauls
One of the first things I think of when I think about Ben is a ready, gentle, friendly smile. As I think about his life, I think that that smile was expressive of something much deeper. Joy, you suggested that Proverbs 3:5-7 was a verse which would be appropriate to use as a text for a meditation at the funeral. You indicated that it should not only include verses 5, 6, as we so often quote, but also verse 7. As I looked at the text and thought of Ben’s life, I think it is a very appropriate passage and does reflect much of what was in his life. I am not going to dissect the whole passage, but rather, I would like to lift a few phrases from it to direct our attention to God and to reflect on what Ben’s life might teach us about following God.
These verses call us to trust in God. It was Ben’s desire to trust God and as we look at the passage and think about his life, we can learn some important things about trust.
I. Trust in All Ways
The first phrase I would like to look at is, “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” To trust God means to acknowledge Him and it is interesting that the passage calls us to do this “in all your ways.” That is pretty comprehensive. What does it mean to trust God in all our ways?
A. Trust for Salvation
The first thing it means is that we are invited to trust God for salvation.
If we are to trust someone else, there is an implication of helplessness. If we can do something ourselves, we will likely do it ourselves. A number of years ago I was working on the roof of our house. A gust of wind came along and blew the ladder down and I was stuck on the roof. Since no one was home, I was stuck up there and helpless. Fortunately I did not have to wait very long until someone came along who was able to put the ladder back so that I could climb down.
The Bible tells us that, every person on earth is helpless. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned.” We know it is true. We know that we have disobeyed God, that we have hurt others, that it is impossible for us to live up to God’s standards and that therefore we are helpless without Him. In fact, we are in deep trouble because of our sin because as Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.”
But God in His compassion sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. Jesus did not die for His own sins because He never had any. The only reason Jesus died was because of our sin. I recently read an article that talked about the agony of Christ’s death. The beatings, the crucifixion were horrible and we have often looked at these as a particularly horrible suffering. The article I read, however, pointed out that it was not the physical agony that was unique to Jesus. Many people have suffered physically as much and perhaps even more. The particular agony with which Jesus suffered was bearing the sins of the world. This agony was expressed when he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” How wonderful to realize that the death of Jesus on the cross was for us. Jesus did it so that our sins could be forgiven. If we turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, we are set free.
Of course, Jesus did not only die, but also rose again from the dead and because He did He offers not only forgiveness of sins but also eternal life. The offer is open to all who will trust in Jesus. So when Proverbs 3:6 calls for us to trust in “all your ways” the first way we must trust is to put our hope in Christ for salvation. Early in his life, Ben did this and I know that he would want to encourage all of us to trust God for salvation. His life was a life lived in that hope and he knew it was a hope worth living for. He knew that he had been helped by God and lived in that confidence all his life.
B. Trust in Life
But trust in God for salvation, as I have already implied, is not only a beginning point. If we have trusted in God for salvation, to trust him in “all our ways” also means to trust Him in life.
I think we see a rather unique expression of that kind of trust in the way Ben lived his life. We did not see Ben up front in the pulpit proclaiming God’s Word. Ben’s trust in God was not showy, yet he lived his faith in a very obvious way.
One of the things I appreciated about Ben was that he was so approachable. You could talk to him and he never dominated the conversation or pushed his opinions. He was a good listener; in fact, I would say a caring listener. He went to the coffee shop and it was easy for people to talk to him. It was in these quiet moments, without great sermons, but with practical wisdom that came from a deep trust in God that he communicated his faith.
He communicated such a deep faith because he had such a faith. He lived his family life, his work life, his church life and his community life on the foundation of an understanding that God is the Lord and whatever you do you do it in confidence that God can be trusted. Because faith was deeply rooted, he was able to live and communicate a gentle and genuine trust in God in all of life.
C. Trust in Tragedy
Trust in God becomes particularly difficult at certain times in life. At this point, we might be asking, “how can I trust God now?” It doesn’t seem right that a man with a young family which is just growing up and needing an example of faith in life and needing support should be taken. The text says, “in all your ways,” but how is that possible at this time?
The prophet Habakkuk asked himself this question. He was living at a time when God’s people Israel, were particularly sinful. He saw his brothers and sisters living in terrible disobedience. He was deeply moved by their wickedness and prayed to God and asked God, “Don’t you see how evil your people are? Aren’t you going to do something about it?” God answered Habakkuk’s prayer, but not in a way that he expected. He told him, “Yes, I am going to do something about it. I am going to bring the Babylonians to destroy them.” Habakkuk was shocked at this answer and questioned God again. He asked him how it was possible that a people even more wicked than Israel would punish Israel. He couldn’t understand God and was in danger of losing trust.
In the end of the book, however, Habakkuk came to the place where he was able to say, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
That is a pretty powerful expression of trust. How could he come to such a place? What did God tell him so that even in the midst of tragedy he was able to do what Proverbs 3:6 tells us and that is to trust “in all your ways?”
There were many things in this passage and it would be worth reading sometime. One thing he learned we read in Habakkuk 2:20, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”
From Habakkuk we learn that even in great tragedy it is possible to commit ourselves to trusting God in all our ways. As we wrestle with these difficult questions, we can ask God to help us understand. He will answer our plea as He did for Habakkuk and will help us do what Ben did in his life and that was to trust in God in all his ways.
As I spoke with you the other day, I heard some things which show me that you as a family are making those choices. I would encourage you to continue to follow what was Ben’s desire and that is to trust God in all his ways.
II. Trust Requires Humility
How can we learn to trust in that way? Another phrase which is worthy of note in this passage is the phrase, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”
What does that teach us about trust in God?
Joy, you shared that at one time Ben used to say something like, “God has given us a clear mind and we should be able to figure it out.” You indicated that he would often function with that kind of self reliance. But as he grew in his faith he came to the place where he understood that we don’t know everything and that in so much of life we need God.
Such an attitude requires humility. That is not to say that God does not require us to use our minds or to do our best, but, it does mean that we must also surrender to God and learn to place ourselves under his leading.
It is often implied that it is a guy thing not to ask for directions. That may be true, but I suspect we all have difficulty seeking God. It takes humility to learn that it is a God thing to ask God for directions. To trust God and “not be wise in our own eyes” is to have humility.
To do so is to recognize that God is all powerful.
To do so is to recognize that God is all wise.
To do so is to recognize that God has all compassion.
To do so is to recognize that God is God and we are creatures.
So trust in God is a matter of humility, of not being wise in our own eyes.
III. Trust is a Growing Relationship
The text also encourages us to trust God “with all your heart.” What is it like to have such a complete trust and how do we get to such faith?
The Bible talks of a child-like faith. Jesus says in Mark 10:15, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” It is interesting that it is the very young who are able to trust like this. Perhaps it is because as human beings we are born absolutely helpless, so we begin in dependence because we are dependent. As we grow up we become less dependent. That is good and the way in which we have been made, but as we learn independence, we also forget how to trust. To trust God with all our heart means to have an ability to trust God implicitly. Somehow as we get older we lose the innocence of youth and we begin to learn to worry and to question. If trust is supposed to be childlike, how can we learn to trust God with all our heart again?
Joy, you mentioned that there had been times in the past when Ben had worried. It is not surprising in farming to have plenty to worry about. I have lived among farmers for the past 28 years and am still trying to find out what a normal year is. I have lived in three different farming communities and it was interesting that in each community they would look at other communities and think that the farming is so much easier over there. But when I moved to those areas, I found that it is difficult everywhere. This year was particularly difficult with a cool wet summer. I can’t imagine what it was like trying to get hay off when it rained every few days. But you indicated that this year Ben did not have the same kind of worry he had had in other years. At one time when things were discouraging, I think you said that he was able to say, “I do not trust in hogs and hay, but in God.” I believe that his faith had grown from childlike when he was a child to hope in the intervening years, to confidence in the recent past. That is the journey we are all on as we seek to respond to God’s invitation to trust the Lord “with all your heart.”
I suspect that Ben grew into this confidence as he followed the invitation of Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
As we meditate on this call to trust, several things are important today. Ben’s life preaches a sermon to us today. If he were able to speak to us once more, I think he would want to encourage us not to be wise in our own eyes, but to trust in the Lord in all our ways and with all our heart.
As our faith in God is challenged because of this tragedy, this call to trust invites us to choose trust and to see how God will see us through the difficult times ahead.
The call to trust also reminds us of the way in which God has been trustworthy in the past, above all by sending Jesus to give us life. Thus the call to trust is an encouragement that we have a hope that is eternal.
As you grieve and wrestle with these things, may God’s presence and His promises comfort and encourage you.
Contact kitchen and check re: 2 settings for the lunch.