“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” (Titus 2:2 NASB).
Regardless of the length or depth of friendship you enjoyed with Ray Holder, it was as if you had known him all your life… or wish you had. If Ray had been around when Paul was instructing Titus on restoring healthy church life in Crete, he could have pointed in Ray’s direction and said to Titus, “Now, that’s what I’m talking about!” Ray was older than some of us, yes, but not that old. The Lord knows we needed Ray, and his beloved wife Helen, here for such a time as this. The Lord blessed us mightily in doing so, giving us reason to be eternally grateful for them both.
If anybody checked all the boxes from Paul’s list above, it was certainly Ray. Six descriptive qualities found in a man who had walked many miles along the lamp-lighted pathway of his Lord. Each attribute, honed and refined by the fires of life’s challenges and God’s testing, produced a product of God’s patience and guiding hand. The result: Ray’s unique God-given ability to connect with people from all walks and stations of life and to share his faith in Christ with them in a practical, down-to-earth… sensible manner.
Paul felt it necessary to hammer home the need for being “sensible” (using the word four times) as he mentored Titus on how to deal with the Cretans. Evidently, they had lost all sense of being sensible. Paul referred to having a sound mind and self-control—an outgrowth of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life—something more than mere common sense. In other words, this meant applying knowledge about Christ wisely, discerning where people are in their knowledge of Christ and then communicating the Gospel, accordingly. Ray was keenly aware of those in need of Christ and fellow believers in need of encouragement or a listening ear. A depth perception of the heart.
And, if four times wasn’t enough, Paul threw in the adverb “sensibly” for good measure to describe how we are to live while we wait for Christ’s return: “live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:12b-13). There is little question that Ray often had an eye toward the sky. For Ray, God’s promise of “the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2)is closer than it has ever been before, now being in His presence! He doesn’t have to look very far anymore.
Interestingly, Titus was told to “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;” (Titus 2:6). Just one of the six characteristics that Paul expected from the older men in the church. Age and experience do matter—but not always chronologically speaking—when it comes to mentoring or discipling. Case in point: Paul wanted Titus and Timothy to exemplify what they were learning from him (Titus 2:7-8; 1 Timothy 4:12). Being sensible is foundational: it is applicable at any age and it makes it easier to learn and for God to mature a believer’s faith.
“But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,” (2 Timothy 3:10).
To me, Ray was a trusted friend, fellow elder, brother in Christ and a mentor both in word and example. Our friendship began while serving on the Elder Board together back in 2007. During that initial period of camaraderie, we discovered some commonalities we shared such as some Iowan roots, being related “shirttail style” thanks to an extended family marriage, a love of sports in general and the game of pool. After a nearly 30-year hiatus since my college days, it was fun to hear the familiar sound of billiard balls crashing into one another again, the plunk of some occasionally falling into a pocket and the thud of those that got away, bouncing up over the rail, and rolling across the floor. When Ray and I teamed up, we only had one good eye between the two of us. Yet, win or lose, it didn’t really matter because we all had fun, encouraged each other and cheered whenever Ray hit one of his heralded bank shots or scattered the balls in every direction with a perfect “Levi” shot, as he liked to call it. All of this done with clear vision in only one eye, without depth perception… and without complaint. That was Ray.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
Ray personified Matthew 5:16 and did so “in such a way” that glorified his Heavenly Father while pointing both unbelievers and believers to Christ who is the only answer for all. Ray shunned the spotlight yet was highly visible to those whose countenance lifted at the mere mention of his name. Again, the consummate encourager. He was content to reflect and magnify the light of Jesus. Now that light shines indirectly through those who have been impacted by God through Ray’s life—those who carry on the good works of the Lord in their own lives—by sharing the Gospel, maturing in the faith while mentoring and discipling the next generation of believers.
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2).
In recent years since Helen’s passing, Ray continued as best he could with the Lord’s help. Yet, after more than six decades of marriage, a huge piece of his life was missing… but not lost. Ray knew right where to find her. He would often talk about the beauty and wonders of God’s creation. He marveled at the clouds moving across the sky and it became more and more evident that he was longing for the day when he would be reunited with Helen, only this time together in the presence of the Lord whose Spirit had indwelled them while here on earth.
Remembering Ray Holder goes beyond drawing from a collection of stored up memories that bring a smile to our faces or warm our hearts. Instead, answering the question, “What can result from those lasting memories?” may spur us on to trust the Lord more and imitate the faith of mentors like Ray. He left us a fresh trail of footprints to follow. Each faith-filled step made a deep impression upon the hearts and souls of those willing to listen, learn and live it themselves—by example just like Ray did for many of us—truly a ray of “Sonlight” for all to see.
Alan Summers, GBC Elder
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).