Mothers Who Mentor
May 10, 2020 | Brian Bill
Today, we’re going to look at how a mother and a grandmother mentored a young boy who grew up to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. They did this by spending time with him and by modeling sincere spirituality.
Over one hundred years ago, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He established it as a time for “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
It’s certainly true that no nation is ever greater than its mothers, for they are the makers of the next generation. One popular poem, written almost 150 years ago, contains this line, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Actually, the hand that rocks the cradle is usually attached to a mother who isn’t getting enough sleep! And so, today we want to honor moms. We applaud not only your efforts, but who you are.
Having said that, some of you are probably tempted to turn this service off because your mother is no longer here, and you really miss her. Or maybe you have a rough relationship with your mom, and you struggle with all the syrupy sentiments in Hallmark cards. Some of you may have a mother who is very sick, and you wonder how much longer she’s going to be with you. Maybe you’re a single dad and you hurt for your kids as you watch them struggle. A number of you have experienced the devastating loss of a child’s death.
There are probably some mothers tuning in who wish they didn’t have kids and I know there are women who would give anything just to have a child. Others of you are grieving the direction your prodigal child is taking. Many moms are gripped with guilt and swimming in shame because they think they’re not doing a good job. And, a number of you moms are flying solo as you work hard to nurture your child’s faith without the support of the child’s dad.
Regardless of what kinds of feelings get stirred up on Mother’s Day, please keep listening because we’re going to discover truth which will apply to each of us individually. We’ll also find motivation to mentor others, whether or not they are our own children.
Let me be quick to say if you aren’t married or don’t have children you are not inferior. Womanhood is not only about marriage and children. Your worth as a woman goes far beyond your marital status or whether or not you have kids.
As we begin, I want to give a “shout-out” to those of you who are raising young children. Some of you are battling bedtimes and wondering when all the whining is going to stop. You’re juggling schedules and running on emotional “empty.” Many of you can relate to Proverbs 31:15 which says, “She rises while it is yet night…”
May you know the sweet gentleness of the Shepherd as He leads you to love the little lambs in your care.
Would you take a deep breath right now and listen to these comforting words from the Good Shepherd in Isaiah 40:11? “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” May you know the sweet gentleness of the Shepherd as He leads you to love the little lambs in your care.
This is the first message in a new series we’re calling, “Family Matters.” Next week our topic will be, “Marriage as It’s Meant to Be” from Genesis 2. Other topics include, “Finding Security and Significance,” “Single and Satisfied?,” “What to Look for in a Mate,” “Gospel-Centered Parenting,” “Fathers Who Lead,” “Intentional Grandparenting,” “Rescued and Replanted” and a message focused on how God is using students who live on mission.
In her book The Missional Mom, author Helen Lee asks this question, “Why aren’t today’s women…discovering more joy and fulfillment in their journeys as mothers?” She believes the answer is for moms to become more missional: “Moms need to explore the idea of calling and understand both the specific part God has given them and also how the melody of motherhood fits into the grand symphony of God’s work.”
A mom can be a spiritual mentor to her children with or without the help of a dad.
Our text for today is found in 2 Timothy 1:5: “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.” This mother/daughter team took their roles seriously. Paul gave a public shout out to these missional mothers in a time when women were rarely mentioned by name. We could say it like this: A mom can be a spiritual mentor to her children with or without the help of a dad.
Before we unpack the text, let’s consider the context. That’s always a good practice because a text taken out of context is a pretext for a proof text. The Apostle Paul, who was the human author of much of the New Testament, also mentored Timothy, the son of Eunice and grandson of Lois. Timothy had become a partner in the gospel and was serving as the pastor of the Ephesian church. Paul had written a previous letter to him known as 1 Timothy and now, years later, as he neared the end of his life, he wrote another letter found in our Bibles called 2 Timothy.
Let’s consider his introduction found in verses 1-2: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child…” Most of Paul’s letters were written to groups of Christians gathered in churches; but here, he singles out Timothy and calls him his “beloved child.” Timothy’s name means, “Honoring God” and “beloved” refers to someone “dear and highly valued.” Even though Timothy was not his physical child, he had become like a spiritual son to him. He writes something similar in 1 Corinthians 4:17: “That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.”
After greeting him with “grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord,” Paul becomes quite personal in his feelings which leads him to pray tirelessly for Pastor Tim. Check out verse 3: “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” When Paul remembers Timothy, he prays for him unceasingly, incessantly and continuously.
It means a lot to be thought of, doesn’t it? When we think of someone, we should thank them. Beth and I experienced this Sunday afternoon when a whole stream of cars drove by our house honking their horns. When I went outside, a couple kids ran up and handed me a plate of cookies and a thank you note and then quickly jumped in their car and drove away. I noticed the window of one car had these words on it, “Thank you for all you do! Gather, grow, give and go with the gospel!” Another car was covered with hearts. Those who did this drive-by-blessing did the same for all the pastors on our team.
Paul is honking his horn for Timothy. Not only does he think and thank, he also stays and prays. When we come to verse 4, we see this triggered a tender memory for Paul: “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.” As Paul recalls Tim’s tears, it makes him “long” to see him. It’s been about 11 years since they last saw each other. This word means to “to yearn and desire earnestly.” The word “filled” has the idea of being empty or hollow.
I’ve been experiencing some of these hollow feelings these past weeks. While I’m grateful for technology which allows us to meet virtually, I miss seeing each of you face-to-face. In a recent letter to our congregation, I began with these words, “I miss you!” and ended with, “Missing you.” Even as I say these words my eyes fill with tears.
The Apostle Paul felt like this when he wrote a letter to the believers at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20: “But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again…for you are our glory and joy.”
Paul’s love for Christ and for the followers of Christ was palpable. To the church at Philippi he wrote in Philippians 1:8: “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” As he prepared to leave the elders at Ephesus, he said these words in Acts 20:31: “For three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.”
When he departed, he describes how they fell apart in Acts 20:37-38: “And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.” Later, in his correspondence with Timothy, Paul was done with social distancing in 2 Timothy 4:9: “Do your best to come to me soon.”
As Paul writes these words from his prison cell, he remembers where Timothy’s sincere faith had its roots. His mind immediately fills with memories of two missional moms – Timothy’s mom Eunice and Eunice’s mom Lois.
As Paul reminisces about these relationships, he recalls Eunice being raised in a religious home where she was greatly impacted by her mother Lois. They lived in Lystra; a pagan place filled with idols. She loved hearing stories from the Bible and enjoyed gathering in services where she could learn about God.
As she approached her teenage years, she became attracted to a dude who was not into religion at all. Against the best wishes of her godly mother, the teaching of her faith, and the tug of her conscience, she married the unbelieving man. We’ll learn more about why this is not wise in a message called, “What to Look for in a Mate” on June 7.
After a couple years of marriage, Eunice and her husband had a baby boy they named Tiny Tim (Ok, I made that up). In the meantime, Eunice’s dad died so they asked her mother Lois to come and live with them. Little Timmy was a delight to everyone. Both his mother and grandmother spent hours with him, teaching him the Bible, praying with him, and training him in the things of God, creating a spiritual environment where he could flourish.
Acts 16:1 tells us Eunice was raised in the Jewish faith and had recently become a Christian. These new believers in turn focused on teaching Timothy all about Jesus.
We don’t know much about Timothy’s dad other than he was a Greek and an unbeliever. We’re not told if he deserted the family, or if he died, or if he was around but just absent spiritually. Incidentally, I’m not suggesting that dads don’t matter. In fact, they matter a lot. We’ll focus on the importance of fathers on Father’s Day with a message called, “Fathers Who Lead.”
Listen to 2 Timothy 1:5 again: “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.” When he recalls the last time they connected, he remembers Timothy weeping, which reminds him of the hollow place in his heart for his ministry partner. Paul had already used the word “remember” twice and now he writes the word “reminded” which is a bit more active and purposeful. It means, “When I called to remembrance” or more literally, “Having received a reminding.”
The word “sincere” means “genuine, without hypocrisy or pretense.” The King James translates this as “unfeigned faith.” Timothy’s faith was not a false façade. He was the real deal.
A hypocrite was one who wore a mask. How are you doing with wearing a mask right now? I find it unsettling to see someone in a mask because I can’t tell if the person is smiling or frowning. It’s easy to hide behind a mask, isn’t it? I find it interesting how people are now wearing masks to identify themselves or their interests. An EBC member made me this one (hold up the one with “Edgewood” on it). I was also given a Green Bay Packers mask I like to wear to rile up Bears and Vikings fans. Incidentally, Edgewood members have made over 2,000 masks for people in our community, including nursing homes and police departments.
As Paul is reminded of Timothy’s sincere spirituality, he recalls the godliness of his grandmother Lois. While tracing his family tree of faith, he uses the phrase, “a faith that dwelt.” The word “dwelt” means “to inhabit, to take up residence, to be at home with.” One Greek expert translates it this way: “To house in you continually.” Faith didn’t make a guest appearance a couple times a year. Instead, her faith was a full-time, year-round resident.
Lois then passed on a legacy of faith to her daughter Eunice, who had the same kind of all-in faith: “and your mother Eunice, and now I am sure dwells in you as well.” Paul is convinced that Timothy’s faith commitment can be traced through his mother and grandmother. Observe the word “dwells” is in the present tense, meaning Timothy’s faith is alive and active. I like how one commentator summarized this: “A mother’s duty is to give to a child a home of faith and to faith a home in the child.”
Here are five principles that come from this passage.
- Sincere Christ-followers stand out. Paul is in prison and knows his time is short. Many of his friends like Demas, deserted him (see 1:15, 4:16) but he remembers the sincere spirituality of Timothy, Eunice and Lois.
- Focus on your family first. Grandma pointed her daughter to the gospel of grace. Then mom modeled the faith and mentored her own son. The principle is to focus on the faith formation in your family first because your closest neighbors to love are your own family members. The character of our children tomorrow depends on what we cultivate in them today. If they’re going to live it out, we must first pass it on. Moms, your first and most important mission is ministry to your children. One Jewish proverb says, “One mother achieves more than a hundred teachers.”
- Faith is both taught and caught. This faith dwelt first “in” his grandma and “in” his mom. Paul notes it is also “in” Timothy – “I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Grandma Lois and mother Eunice taught Tim and he caught their faith because he saw their sincerity. People may listen to our words, but they watch the way we live to see if we’re sincere.
- There are no perfect moms. You don’t have to be a perfect parent because there aren’t any. God is looking for ordinary moms in ordinary circumstances who are faithful in rather ordinary ways. I like what Matt Chandler says, “God is awesome. He doesn’t need you to be awesome. He wants you to be obedient.”
- Even in a less than ideal situation, you can make an eternal impact. Some of you are parenting on your own, and you find yourself in a very difficult place, but with God’s help, you are not alone.
Moms, you are on mission. Take the long view which stretches beyond diapers and dinner time. Your role is extremely difficult and messy, but what you do matters because motherhood is your mission field.
As we study how Timothy’s faith was impacted by his mother and grandmother, we can find encouragement to do the same. Here are three ways moms can spiritually mentor their children, with or without the help of a dad.
1. Sow salvation.
Jude 3 says we are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Faith must be delivered to the next generation. When mothers model genuine faith, salvation can be sowed in the soil of their children’s souls. Timothy heard the gospel, but he still needed to repent and receive salvation in order to be saved.
Having said that, some of you are doing the best you can, and your child has gone “prodigal” – I hurt for you. I certainly don’t mean to imply you’ve done something wrong or that there’s some failsafe formula to follow that guarantees faith in your kids. What I am saying is this: Christ must be at home in your heart before He can be at home in your home.
I’m reminded of a cartoon in which a young daughter asks her mom a very important question: “Mommy, what is a Christian?” The mother thought for a moment and replied: “A Christian is a person who loves and obeys God, loves their friends, neighbors, and even their enemies. They are kind and gentle and pray a lot. They look forward to going to heaven and believe knowing God is better than anything on this earth. That is a Christian.” The little girl pondered this for a few moments and asked, “Mommy, have I ever seen a Christian?”
Timothy saw two sincere Christians every day! There was no phoniness about their faith. They were fully devoted and completely committed. And Timothy knew it. No one knows better than a child whether a parent’s faith is genuine. It’s as if they have a “phony faith” detector – they can spot it quickly. Do your children and grandchildren see you as a godly guide?
Moms, if you want to instill authentic faith in your children, make sure to take your own faith seriously. If you’re just going through the motions spiritually your kids will eventually see it, and tragically, may do the same thing when they are older. That leads to a question: Is your faith actual or an act? As you demonstrate your faith consistently by gathering, growing, giving and going, you will send a strong message to your children.
I heard about a pastor who had a long conversation with a guy about becoming a member of his church. When he was done the young man said he was ready to join. The pastor was pretty pleased with himself, so he asked, “What did I say that convinced you to join the church?” The man answered, “It was nothing I heard you say. It was the way my mother lived.”
A mother can touch a whole generation just by loving her own child well. Actually, she can affect the next 100 years. I like how one mom captured her purpose: “Our work as moms is to glorify God who sent His Son to do His mighty work on the cross in our place to pay the price for our sins. Humbly receiving God’s grace and inviting our children to share our joyful gratitude for what Jesus has done…is our happy mission in this fallen world…it is only by the grace of God that moms can nurture the souls of our littlest neighbors.”
Timothy’s family environment was fertile to his faith development. Both his mother and his grandmother held their faith deeply and shared it freely. It wasn’t the facts they knew but their faith that grew him. How fertile is the environment in your family for the reproduction and nurturing of authentic faith in the lives of your children and grandchildren? A mom can be a spiritual mentor to her children with or without the help of a dad.
2. Share Scripture.
Grandma and mom not only sowed salvation, they also shared the Scriptures. Turn to 2 Timothy 3:14-15: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The phrase, “from whom” is plural, referring to how a grandma and a mom intentionally taught the Scriptures to Timothy.
The word “childhood” refers to a newborn baby or a toddler. Lois and Eunice teamed up to provide Bible classes for young Timothy – even before he could crawl! That’s one of the many things I appreciate about our nursery director, Suzy Crosby, as she and her team share Scripture and song so infants can learn the Word of God.
Mothers, it is never too early to start teaching the Bible to your children – and, it’s never too late to start if you haven’t already.
It’s important for parents to make sure children are swimming in the Scriptures because Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Remember Timothy lived in a pagan culture under the roof of a pagan father and yet he knew the Scriptures from infancy.
To make a son or daughter “wise for salvation” means to work hard connecting all the stories and narratives so your children know how they all point to Christ. They taught Timothy the Old Testament, pointing out how all the prophecies were fulfilled in Christ. A great resource to help in this regard is the Jesus Story Book Bible. I love the tagline: “Every story whispers His name.”
Four scholars were arguing over Bible translations. One said he preferred the King James because of its eloquent English. Another said he liked the ESV for its literalism. The third scholar was sold on the New Living Translation for its use of contemporary phrases and idioms. After being quiet for a moment, the fourth scholar admitted: “I have personally preferred my mother’s translation.” When the other scholars started laughing, he said, “My mom translated each page of the Bible into life. It is the most convincing translation I have ever read.”
Mothers, what kind of Bible is your child reading when he or she observes your life? Remember, a mom can be a spiritual mentor to her children with or without the help of a dad.
Moms, do all you can to sow salvation and share Scripture. That leads to the third challenge.
3. Start serving.
Now, turn to Acts 16:1-3: “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 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.” I see some character qualities in Timothy that were no doubt passed down from his mother and his grandmother:
- He was a strong believer. He is referred to as a “disciple.” Luke, the author of Acts, could have referred to him as a believer or a Christian, but he chose to call him a disciple. A disciple is a learner and a follower. A disciple is one who is serious about Christ, not just one who is going through the motions. We’re all called to be disciples who make disciples. Timothy was a full-fledged follower, not just a “fan” of Jesus.
- He had a good reputation. He “was well spoken of” by the Christians who lived around him. People knew him as a man of integrity and as a man of the Word. He was rock solid.
- He was available. Paul wanted “Timothy to accompany him…” As you read the Book of Acts, you’ll see he knew how to minister. He understood it meant leaving home and facing hardship. In Philippians 2:20, Paul can’t think of anyone like Timothy when he writes: “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” Paul thought very highly of Timothy and couldn’t wait to unleash him for ministry.
Susannah Wesley, mother of 17, two of which were John and Charles Wesley, spent hours each day praying for her children. In addition, she took each child aside for a full hour each week to discuss spiritual matters. No wonder her children were used of God to bring blessing to all of England and much of America. I came across some parenting guidelines that helped her as a mother:
- Subdue self-will in a child and thus work together with God to save his soul.
- Teach the child to pray as soon as he can speak.
- Give the child nothing he cries for and only what is good for him if he asks for it politely.
- To prevent lying, punish no fault, which is freely confessed, but never allow a rebellious, sinful act to go unnoticed.
- Strictly observe all promises made to your child.
- Commend and reward good behavior.
Moms who mentor make sure their children start serving. The mother of our children reminded me for years our primary job as parents was to disciple our girls so they would grow up to be young women of God who would serve Him wholeheartedly for the rest of their lives. That’s now happened, by the grace of God. I’m thankful for Beth’s strategic and intentional mentoring of our daughters, and now our grandchildren.
If you are a mom or a grand-mom, you are on a mission. The values you leave your children and grandchildren are more important than the valuables you may leave them. Let’s summarize…
- Sow salvation
- Share Scripture
- Start serving
Your mission is to be a spiritual mentor to your children with or without the help of a dad.
Davida Dalton describes an incident that happened between her and her young child: “It was a busy day in our home. But then, with 10 children and another one on the way, every day was a bit hectic. On this particular day, however, I was having trouble doing even routine chores—all because of one little boy. Len, who was three at the time, was on my heels no matter where I went. Whenever I stopped to do something and turned around, I would trip over him. Several times I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. ‘Wouldn’t you like to play on the swing set?’ I asked again.
But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said, ‘Oh, that’s all right, Mommy. I’d rather be in here with you.’ Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me. After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose patience and insisted that he go outside to play with the other children. He still wouldn’t go. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up at me with his sweet green eyes and said, ‘Well, Mommy, in Sunday School my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see Him…so I’m walking in yours.’”
If you want to make sure you’re following in the footsteps of Jesus, would you make this prayer your own?
God, I confess that I am a selfish sinner. I repent of my sins and turn to You now. I can’t parent on my own but more than that, I can’t do life in my own power. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die as my substitute on the cross. I believe He died for me, in my place, His blood paying the price for all my sins. Thank you that He rose from the dead on the third day, demonstrating His power over sin, Satan, and death itself. And so, I repent and now I receive You into my life. I don’t want to just say I’m a Christian; I want to live as your disciple, on mission for Your glory and Your honor. Help me to walk in your footsteps, Jesus, so that those I’m called to mentor can walk in mine. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
May God be with you until we meet again.