Although there isn’t a substitute for actually conducting a funeral yourself, it is possible to be better prepared to have those conversations that will make for a better memorial and graveside service. Like many things in pastoral ministry, after struggling to figure out how to do something as a new pastor, I figured out a way that worked for me and then standardized a format that made my “system” repeatable.
“The problem with preachers today is that nobody wants to kill them anymore!”
Steven J. Lawson
Although we Protestants say that we don’t venerate the saints, you wouldn’t know it the way some pastors fawn over Luther, Calvin, Knox, Spurgeon, and other reformers. Don’t get me wrong, I think those men were used mightily of God, in spite of their flaws and personal sin.
But what I wonder about is how it is that so many pastors who would look up to these men and admire them for their courage and boldness are so cowardly in their own churches when they are called upon by the testimony of the Word of God to stand firm against a potential revolt by those who do not want biblical change.
When Gideon was called to pull down the idols in his town, he may have been overcome by the fear of man, but at least he did it, even if under the cover of night. And when they found out what he did, they wanted to kill him.
When Josiah came to understand how far Judah had fallen away from obedience to the Law, he immediately began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of its idolatrous high places and reinstated the reform that was necessary to please the Lord. This led to a need to rebuild and reorder the temple so that proper worship could be restored.
And the church today is in need of men who are ready and willing to make the changes that are needed in their local churches where unbiblical practices have found a nesting place for ages. For fear of confrontation, loss of income, or prominent families, or a simple fear of losing your job, pastors remain silent in the face of unrepentant sin and all manner of false practices. Unregenerate men are allowed to remain on elder and deacon boards, unhealthy and unbiblical curriculum and programs continue to function so as to avoid a conflict with a women’s ministry head or the parents of the youth. The call for entertainment in church continues to ring louder as the Word of God is given less time to work in the hearts that need it.
Yes, we admire Luther’s stand at the Diet of Worms where he refused to recant. We applaud Spurgeon for being unwilling to give in to the New Measures that sought to entertain the goats. We are in awe of Whitefield who preached the gospel wherever he could garner an audience. We rejoice at the courage of John Rogers and the other Marian martyrs who refused to stop preaching under Bloody Mary of Tudor, and were burned at the stake for it. But will we stand today? Where is our courage? Where is our godly resolve to trust God in the face of angry adversity within and outside of the church? Brothers! Be strong and very courageous!
Sometimes it is so hard for Christians to see the unabated success of the wicked in the face of some significant trials and struggles. If the troubles weren’t bad enough, it is made worse when the unbelievers around us point out how foolish we are for clinging to hope in Jesus when we could simply make it easier on ourselves and do what it seems like everyone else is doing to get ahead.
In Psalm 49, the sons of Korah wrestled with this very issue and want to help us to endure by clinging to the Lord. To do this, they inject a massive dose of truth that we can easily forget. To begin with, they need to get our attention:
“Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together! My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.” (Psalm 49:1–4, ESV)
With the false health-wealth and prosperity gospel out there, many people all over the world are convinced that they can have all the wealth and riches that this world offers and heaven too. With Joel Olsteen, Hillsong Church, TBN preachers, and other snake-oil salesmen selling a false gospel for profit, it seems as if you are losing out if you don’t get a piece of the action. It’s not that the Lord is against wealth, but those that would seek to do anything to gain it, or who make it their god and driving desire in life become shipwrecked in their faith.
To address this tendency to seek pleasure and success apart from God, the psalmist slaps his readers with the truth to awaken us from the stupor that can overcome us. He writes:
“Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah”
(Psalm 49:5–15, ESV)
Below are 4 Great Truths that We Can Take to the Bank Regarding those Who Have Made Success and Money Their God.
Great Wealth Cannot Buy Spiritual Freedom. “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (Psalm 49:7–9, ESV)
Great Power Cannot Stop Death.
Everyone dies. “For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.” (Psalm 49:10, ESV)
Everyone isburied. “Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah” (Psalm 49:11–13, ESV)
Everyone is raised up: The wicked to eternal death, and the righteous to eternal life. “Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:14–15, ESV)
Nobody Will Take Anything With Them. “For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him.” (Psalm 49:17, ESV)
The Wicked Rejoice in Temporary Pleasures. “For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light.” (Psalm 49:18–19, ESV)
Therefore, Get Understanding! With this truth and clarity comes the reality of where we need to focus. “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49:20, ESV). Do not be like a dumb beast that simply lives for its next meal. Instead seek the living God who is worth more than silver or gold.