What Would Mother Do?
A Mother’s Life Can Impact A Child From The Cradle To The Christ
Four brothers, Milton, Marvin, Michael, and Melvin, left home to pursue their studies in their respective universities. They became successful doctors and lawyers and prospered in their chosen careers. Some years later the brothers got together over a dinner reunion. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who lived far away in another city.
The first son said, "I had a big beautiful house built for Mama."
The second son said, "I had my Mercedes dealer deliver an SL600 to her."
The third son said, "I had an expensive home theater built in the house."
The fourth son said, "You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can't read anymore because she can't see very well. I met this preacher who told me about a parrot that can recite the entire bible. It took twenty preachers 12 years to teach the bird. I had to pledge a church contribution of $100,000 a year for twenty years, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the bible chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it."
Hands down, that happened to be the most thoughtful gift ever. The other brothers were thoroughly impressed.
After the holidays their mother sent out her Thank You notes.
"Milton,” she wrote the first son, “the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway."
"Marvin,” she wrote the second son, “I am too old to drive. I stay home and have my groceries delivered to me. Sad to say, I never get to use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks."
"Michael,” she wrote the third son, “you gave me an expensive state-of-the-art home theater that could hold 50 people, but all of my friends are dead. I've lost my hearing and I'm nearly blind. I know I can never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same."
"Dearest Melvin,” she wrote the youngest son, “you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious! Thank you so much."
Like the four sons in our story, the goal of this sermon is to honor motherhood. But unlike the four sons, the goal is not to outdo and impress each other in giving our mothers the most thoughtful gift, but to help others understand why and how we should uphold our mothers biblically by giving them their rightful place of honor in the family. For this purpose, we will study a passage written by the Apostle Paul to young Timothy. As we read the context of 2 Timothy 3:10-17, we will focus on verses 14 and 15:
“Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But the wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:14-15 once again:
But as for you [Paul is addressing Timothy], continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [the learner is reminded where his source of instruction originated from], and how from childhood [these things that were taught Timothy was when he was still a young boy] you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The Source Of Instruction Faithfully Passed On. Timothy’s faith is founded upon two things: (1) The source of instruction faithfully passed on and (2) the sacred writings faithfully lived out. First, we will examine the source of instruction. Who is Paul referring to in verse 14 when he says, “…knowing from whom you learned it”? If we back track to 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul is mindful of Timothy’s faith, its source, and those responsible for faithfully rooting him as he says, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” Only then do we come to understand that there were two women who were instrumental in raising Timothy with biblical instruction since his childhood days. The names of these two mothers were important enough to mention in our bibles. It took a grandmother and a mother to bring up young Timothy in the word of God. Paul leaves no doubt that Timothy was trained up in the teaching of the sacred writings at such a young age. His grandmother Lois’ faith was passed down to his mother Eunice, who in turn passed it on down to her son Timothy. If there is one thing that we are to remember them by is that they were faithful teachers of the truth. This faithful transmission of the Holy Scriptures is in keeping with a godly pattern that was set even before Timothy was born. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul says to Timothy, “You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.” Likewise, Lois and Eunice faithfully passed on the teaching to Timothy.
At this stage, one has got to wonder why Paul never made mention of Timothy’s father. Where was his father all this time? Why wasn’t the father given any credit during Timothy’s formative years? The answer is found in Acts 16:1 where Luke tells us how Paul came to select Timothy as a missionary partner: “Paul went to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek.” We can gather from this verse that Timothy was raised in the home of a believing mother and an unbelieving or gentile father. That’s why Paul did not refer to the father as influential in bringing up Timothy according to the scriptures. It so happened that Dad did not believe the word of God. But his Mom and Grandma did. They were known believers in the early church.
I’m sure we know of children born to parents of a different faith or religious practice. Do you know of kids raised in the home of a Protestant mother and Hindu father or a Buddhist father and Catholic mother? Have you ever wondered how confused these kids could get when it comes to who and what to believe? In Timothy’s case, it’s safe to assume that the two Jewish women in his life raised him single-handedly through the sacred writings of their ancestors. It also seems safe to say that Timothy’s mother wore the religious pants in the family. Eunice, along with Lois, took it upon themselves to bring up the boy according to their Jewish religious roots and life-changing belief in Jesus.
The Sacred Writings Faithfully Lived Out. The second thing we see in this verse is that the sacred writings was not only faithfully transmitted, but faithfully lived out from generation to generation. What we can grasp from this is that Timothy’s “sincere faith” is founded upon Christ Jesus and those whose faith is anchored in him. The faith of Timothy’s grandmother and mother was not dead and buried, but living and active.[i] Paul described it as the kind of faith that “lived in” or indwelt these two women. It was a bold and powerful faith fanned and filled with love and self-discipline.[ii] Lois and Eunice didn’t just teach the truth to Timothy, but they walked their talk before him. Their life of faith spoke volumes to the young man growing up. I’m reminded of what a young Chinese Christian convert once said, “I am not only believing the bible, I’m behaving it.” Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and show that you are a letter of Christ.”[iii] Saint Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Our lives may be the only bible people will ever read.
We need to note that the context of our passage has Paul reminding Timothy that he was able to observe the apostle’s life with a fine-tooth comb. Every detail did not fail to escape young Timothy’s notice. Paul cries out in verse 11b, “What persecutions I endured!” Yet his young apprentice can stand encouraged that the Lord not only rescued his mentor who was plagued with all sorts of life-threatening persecutions, but also enabled him to live a godly life. In light of what he has just been through, Paul is telling Timothy in verse 14 to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed”—that is, don’t give up on your faith in Christ Jesus and don’t give up on the sacred writings that lead to salvation. When Timothy finds his faith up against the wall of doubt, trials, and persecutions, Paul reminds him to unlearn what he has learned from Lois and Eunice. If these godly women were empowered by Jesus to hold fast to their faith in him through thick and thin, so can he. Paul is saying, “Timothy, when hard times come and try your faith, remember who introduced you to the word of God and the way of salvation and continue to stand firm in what you believe.”
The phrase “What would Jesus do?” was made popular in the 1990s. It became a personal motto for thousands of Christians who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus not only modeled the example to follow, but also approved the manner in which a follower would live out his divine truth in daily life. I’ll have to admit that there are moments in my own life when I come to a major crossroads decision. When confronted with a choice to make, I remember asking the question, “What would mother do if she were in my shoes or situation?”
After all, my mother was a very influential person in my growing up years. I may have had an absentee father and that’s another story, but my mother was always there when I needed her most. She read me my favorite children’s books, cheered me on in my soccer games, taught me how to drive a car or drive a hard bargain [or eventually drive my wife crazy] and she attended my high school and college graduation. In time, she somehow managed to wear the pants in the family.
In 1973, a groundbreaking nonfiction New York Times bestseller entitled The Late Great Planet Earth made its debut in the Christian world.[iv] The author interpreted the account of the end times in a most literal and graphic manner basing his research in the book of Revelation—the last book of the bible. With over 9 million copies sold worldwide and a movie in the works, the message hit home by 1974. It sparked our curiosity and allowing the entire family to discuss the subject one evening. Our imaginations ran wild with excitement. What would it be like living in the end times? Is the world in its twelfth hour? What was the rapture of the saints all about?
After dinner Mom decides to dust off the family bible and open it to the last book. Dad gathers us around as she started reading from verse one. A total of twenty-two chapters read in one sitting and we were all wide-awake. Great signs appeared in the heavenlies, mysterious symbols dotted the landscape, and prophetic warnings were posted throughout its pages. Although we couldn’t unravel the meaning of the visions and strange beasts, we were blown away by its message. We received hope, comfort, and a challenge for the family to remain faithful and true to the One who says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”[v] We all sensed an air of urgency in these encouraging words of Jesus Christ. Little did we know that our family received the promised blessings noted in the beginning of the book when we heard Mom “read aloud the words of the prophecy.”[vi] After ten years, God made good on his promised blessings. Our entire family came to Christ as we kept what was read in our hearts.
The Lord has arranged specific instances in our lives that will change us forever. Even before my mother and father met Christ up close and personal, God was busy working in the background. And like Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Mom was instrumental in leading us to thirst after the word of God. She will forever hold a place of honor in our family as the one who dared to read and believe the Holy Scriptures that instructs us for salvation.
As we wrap up this study, one thing needs to be made clear before we close. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, presents motherhood and grandmotherhood as a great honor. Who are the mothers and grandmothers in our families, churches, communities, and countries? Mothers and grandmothers—though you may come from a multi-cultural or dual-religious or dysfunctional marriage or maybe you are single, divorced, or widowed yet are committed by your faith in Jesus Christ to raise your children single-handedly in the Holy Scriptures—you possess a divine purpose, a God-given calling, that can become a long-remembered ground of faith. The precious faith that you possess can be planted in the hearts of not just your children and your children’s children—and mark this well—but also in the hearts of the untold numbers who will be affected by your children's lives for generations to come. That is the kind of awesome impact a mother’s life can have from the cradle to the Christ.
[i] Hebrews 4:12.
[ii] 2 Timothy 1:7.
[iii] 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.
[iv] Hal Lindsey and C. C. Carlson, The Late Great Planet Earth (New York: Bantam, 1973).
[v] Revelation 22:20.
[vi] Revelation 1:3. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what was written in it; for the time is near.
© 2010, Gicky Soriano. All Rights Reserved.