We wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. God has given you great responsibilities, and a position of great influence and honor. Today I want to talk to you about the influence of a faithful mother. And yet, we recognize that Mother’s Day is a difficult day for many.
- It is difficult for those women who have wanted to become mothers but have not been able to have children.
- Mother’s Day is difficult for those who had lost their mother.
- And it is especially difficult for mothers who have lost children.
Our heart goes out to you. May the God of all comfort be with you.
We live in an age when motherhood is not always honored, and yet from heaven’s point of view, mothers are to be honored. In fact, parenting is singled out for special mention and special honor in the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:12 ESV “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
Jesus especially rebuked the religious leaders of Israel for their failure to honor parents. Society wants to push motherhood aside, but motherhood was God’s idea, and he determined that mothers are to be honored. In fact, that fifth commandment is the first commandment with a promise:
Exodus 20:12 ESV “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long…
Someone asked some questions about mothers to some seven year old children, and here is what they said:
Why did God make mothers?
- That was the best way to get more people.
Why did God give you your mother instead of some other mother?
- Because we are related!
- Because God knew that my mother would love me more than the mothers of other children would love me.
What ingredients did God use to make mothers?
- God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
- They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.
What kind of little girl was your mom?
- My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
- I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
- They say she used to be nice.
What is just perfect about your mother?
- Her teeth are perfect, but she bought them from the dentist!
- Only her children!
What a lucky mother! If only all mothers had perfect children!
Today we do not want to talk about perfect children for there are none. Nor do we want to talk about perfect mothers, for there are no perfect mothers either. But we do want to consider…
The Influence of a Faithful Mother
As you can imagine, the Bible gives a lot of attention to mothers. The word “mother” is mentioned 330 times beginning with Eve whose name means “life” “because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
Many of the mothers of the Bible, we know by name:
- There were unlikely mothers, women like Sarah, and Rebekah, and Rachel, and Hannah. These women were sterile until God intervened and gave them children.
- There were brave mothers like the mother of Moses who was not afraid of Pharaoh’s edict, but hid baby Moses to preserve his life (Hebrews 11:23).
- There was Deborah, who led the Israelites in battle against the Canaanites.
- There was Mary, the mother of Jesus, unique in that she was the only virgin to ever become a mother. Matthew tells us that Joseph had no intimate relations with her “until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25). She and Joseph were chosen by God to raise Jesus, the Son of God.
We find a lot of mothers mentioned in the records of the kings of Israel and of Judah. As we read the record of the kings of Israel and of Judah, we find a strong emphasis on the mothers of the kings. Some 25 times we read the name of a king and the name of his mother, and then an evaluation of his reign, either “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord,” or “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” The implication is that mothers have a very great influence on their children, on future kings and nations, whether for good or for evil.
2 Chronicles 22:2-4 ESV Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. 3 He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. 4 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done. For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing.
There were also godly mothers, who influenced their children and the entire nation of Israel for the good:
1 Kings 22:42-43 ESV Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. 43 He walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD…
The Mother of Timothy
When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find a wonderful example of a faithful mother who influenced her son for God, and through her son, Timothy, touched many people for Christ.
We first meet up with Timothy during the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey. In Acts 16, Paul arrives in the town of Lystra where he had planted a church during his first missionary journey, about three years before.
Acts 16:1-3 ESV …A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
This is the first time that we meet Timothy, and we are told that he is a disciple. He has a good reputation among the believers in two towns where Paul had planted churches.
We learn that Timothy is from a mixed marriage. His mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek. While we know little to nothing about his parents’ marriage, or whether they were even still together, it seems clear that this pagan father had some reservations about Timothy’s full induction into Judaism. Timothy’s father had not allowed him to be circumcised according to Jewish custom.
Paul wanted Timothy to join his missionary team, to become a partner with him and Barnabas. Yet, Paul does not want Timothy’s situation as an uncircumcised Greek to be a hindrance to them trying to reach the Jews for Christ, since everyone knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek, so Paul circumcised Timothy.
So it appears that Timothy’s father was not a believer, yet in this very first sentence introducing Timothy, we read that he was “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer.” Immediately, Luke tells us about the influence of Timothy’s faithful mother. It appears that the dominant influence on Timothy’s life was not that of his father, but the influence of his mother.
Since Timothy already well spoken of by the believers, we wonder when he became a Christian. It is quite possible that Timothy and his mother came to a knowledge of the truth in Jesus Christ during Paul’s first visit to Lystra a couple of years earlier. During that first missionary journey, Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. A group of those first disciples gathered around him, and he got up and went back into the city before continuing his journey with Barnabas the next day. Very possibly during that first trip, Timothy and his mother were part of that group of disciples that gathered around Paul and cared for him after he had been stoned by the people of the town.
Now when Paul visits the disciples of Lystra three years later, young Timothy already has a good reputation among the disciples and that good reputation is tied to the influence of his faithful mother. Yet, we will see, that this mother’s influence is traced back to Timothy’s earliest childhood.
We learn more about Timothy’s family in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Paul writes the letter some fifteen years later from the Mamertine Prison in Rome. This is the end of Paul’s ministry. The moment of his execution is getting closer. Paul writes his “beloved child” in the faith, this young man of 30 to 35 years of age who has walked long roads with the Apostle Paul. Paul urgently wants to see Timothy one last time. He writes…
2 Timothy 1:4-5 ESV As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
Here we learn more about Timothy’s family. Paul knew Timothy’s family. Perhaps he had stayed in their home. Paul knows Timothy’ mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, two mothers who had a great influence on Timothy’s life. Paul says,
2 Timothy 1:5 NLT I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
Your faith is genuine and strong, Timothy, and I know where you got it. Your faith first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice.
Eunice and Lois
Imagine with me, the background of Timothy’s mother Eunice. She was married to a pagan. This young man had made promises, and Lois and Eunice had believed him. He was going to convert to Judaism. He was coming regularly to the synagogue. He gave all the indications that his intention was sincere. He was sincere, as far as he knew himself. Perhaps he came from a high ranking family, was well educated, and had a good paying job. The future looked bright for young Eunice. Eunice, the young Jewess, and this handsome young Greek, loved each other. Lois gave them her blessing and approval to marry.
But after the marriage, Eunice’s husband no longer could find the time to go to synagogue as he had before. He had many responsibilities and no longer had as much free time. And he had come to the decision that he did not want to be circumcised.
Soon Eunice and her Greek husband had a child, a boy, and they named him Timothy. Eunice wanted to have Timothy circumcised the eighth days as the Law prescribed, but her husband was no longer sympathetic to the idea. It seems that he had forbidden it (Acts 16:3).
How many times had Eunice regretted marrying her husband? How many times had she regretted it for herself? How many times had she regretted her marriage for her son, Timothy? How many times had Lois regretted giving her permission for the couple to marry?
Other women would have given up. They would have thrown in the towel. They would have simply followed their unbelieving husbands down the wrong road. But Eunice and her mother Lois were not other women. One mistake was enough.
But what could they do so that young Timothy not grow up like a pagan? What could they do to instill in him godly values? What could they do to influence him to serve the Lord? They had a mighty tool available to them: they had the Scriptures, the Word of God.
How can we influence our children for God?
1. To influence our children for God, we must make use of the Word of God, the Scriptures.
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul is encouraging Timothy to stand firm in a difficult situation. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to correct a church where the pastors themselves had gone astray. Paul encourages Timothy to stand strong:
2 Timothy 3:14-15 NIV But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul takes Timothy back to his roots, back to his infancy. He reminds Timothy that he has known the Holy Scriptures since he was a baby!
15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures…
He also reminds Timothy “because you know those from whom you learned it.” Paul reminds Timothy that his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois had determined that this child Timothy would know the Holy Scriptures “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
1.1. The Scriptures give us good models to imitate.
A boy needs a model to follow. Timothy’s father was apparently not a good model. How could Timothy’s mother Eunice fill in the void? The Scriptures could make Timothy wise, so Eunice determined that she would teach her young son the Word of God.
We can imagine Eunice selecting a passage. There were so many examples to choose from:
- The faith of Abraham who left everything to obey God.
- The story of Jacob wrestling with God
- The story of Joseph maintaining his faith in God when sold into slavery, when tempted to commit adultery, when thrown into prison when falsely accused, and yet he remained faithful and God finally exalted him to become the prime minister of Egypt.
- The story of Moses, leading the children of Israel out of Egypt
- Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan, marching around Jericho for seven days until the walls fell down flat.
- Gideon defeating the army of the Midianites with just 300 Israelites.
- David killing the giant
- Daniel in the lions’ den
- So many others!
Eunice selects a biblical passage. She reads it over and over to make sure she understands it. She selects a verse to memorize. This faithful mother is a woman of influence.
1.2. The Scriptures help us walk in purity.
Psalm 119:9-11 ESV How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Eunice and Lois fill young Timothy with the Word of God. His whole worldview is shaped and molded by God’s Word. He meditates on God’s Word and thinks God’s thoughts after Him.
1.3. The Scriptures make us wise.
The Apostle Paul had said that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation.
Psalm 119:98-101 ESV Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. 101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
Eunice made sure that her son Timothy knew the Word of God that would make him wise. As Paul said,
2 Timothy 3:15 NLT You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
This mother faced a difficult situation, a situation that she could have and should have avoided according to the Word of God, but she was determined in her heart to do her best in the midst of trying circumstances.
1.4. The Temptation of Reverse Delegation
Books about business management talk about the problem of reverse delegation. That’s when your boss gives you a job, but you end up asking him to do it for you.
We are like that with God. We want to entrust our children to God and we want him to do whatever is necessary to save them. But that is why God has given us children. God said of Abraham,
Genesis 18:19 ESV For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
God has entrusted us with the responsibility of leading them to the Lord. We must pray for our children, but prayer is not enough. We must use the means that God has given us.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NLT And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
When my sister and I were growing up, people would tell my parents that we were exceptional, that our behavior and our commitment to the Lord were exceptional. But that is not quite. We were not exceptional; our parents were exceptional.
Every morning before we would leave the house, our mother would have us read three chapters in the Bible, followed by prayer for the Lord’s blessing, protection, and guidance throughout the day. My mother believed that the Scriptures could make us wise “to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” I know that my mother prayed for us, but what is much more important is what she did with us: she read the Bible with us and prayed with us.
2. To influence our children for God, we must be faithful.
One translation of Acts 16:1 says that Timothy was the son of a faithful Jewish woman.
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
Lois and Eunice were probably saved during Paul’s first visit to Lystra. Sincere faith first filled the heart of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and then his mother. By the time Paul returned three years later, Timothy was himself a disciple. Paul will call him his true son in the faith, not because Timothy was saved under Paul’s ministry, but because Paul had trained Timothy for ministry. Timothy was saved because he saw the faithfulness of his mother and his grandmother.
When we talk about faithfulness, we can also talk about sincere faith. If our faith is sincere, we will be faithful. Our faithfulness is an expression of our sincere faith. We show our faith by our faithfulness. That is what James said in his letter: it is one thing to say that we have faith; it is another thing to show our faith by our works.
It was the faithfulness of my parents to the house of God, the sincerity of their faith that showed me the reality of the Gospel that they were teaching me from the Word of God. My father was a very busy businessman, but every time there was a service at church, we were there. When we had special meetings that would sometimes last every night for three weeks, we were there each evening. Since my sister and I were students, we had to finish our homework as soon as we got home so that we would be ready to go to church. We were convinced of the reality of the Gospel by the faithfulness of our parents. If we are not faithful as parents, how can we expect our children to be faithful?
Sincerity of Faith
Let’s underline the sincerity of faith. Our sincerity or its lack is manifested in all that we do. Are living up to the Word of God? Literally, this sincere faith is faith without hypocrisy. We are not acting. Paul says that this sincere faith was first in Timothy’s grandmother, then in his mother before Timothy made it his own. The children are watching. They are waiting. They want to see if the faith is authentic, genuine, sincere.
We will transfer to our children what is in us, whether it be hypocrisy or sincerity and faithfulness.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Conclusion: You have a great influence.
Ladies, you must never underestimate your influence as a mother or as a grandmother. In spite of great difficulties, Lois and Eunice instructed young Timothy in the Word of God. They watered him like a plant with the Word. They shaped him. They were faithful to their task, and with time, they saw the fruit of their work.
I would like to say to all mothers and grandmothers today, that God has given you a great responsibility. In your children are all the possibilities that God has put within them. Who would have ever thought that from this unfortunate marriage between Eunice and the unbelieving Greek, God would call a pastor and preacher of the Gospel?
What are your hopes for your children? Open your eyes to the possibilities. Open your eyes to your responsibilities. Be sincere and faithful.
- Make a commitment today to read at least one chapter from the Bible each day with your children.
- Choose some verses to memorize together.
- Pray with your children every morning and evening.