Happy Mother’s Day

Donald Grey Barnhouse, a great man of God who ministered for many years at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia until his death in 1960, once told the true story of a boy whose mother died when he was only six.

Knowing she was ill and would never live to see her child grow up, this saintly mother diligently poured her life into his. Every day she taught her child Scripture and helped him memorize verses, entrusting his soul to Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep. When the Lord took her home, her son was given to her brother, a godless man who vowed that his nephew would not grow up to be a “sissy.”

By the time the boy turned 19, he was in charge of training cadets in Queen Victoria’s navy and was well-known for his profuse profanities and sacrilegious behaviors.

One beautifully clear day, when he was training the cadets, this profane man climbed into the crow’s-nest near the top of the ship’s mast; looked up to the heavens; and in defiance of God, shouted, “If there is a God, I dare Him to strike me dead!”

Instantly the ship shook violently and the man was hurled from the crow’s-nest into the sea, where the waves dragged him under. The crew frantically scoured the black ocean, searching for him. When they finally found him, they threw him a line and pulled him aboard. Faintly, they could hear him mumbling, “Jesus, Jesus.”

Even now, they thought, he takes God’s name in vain. However, as they listened more closely, they heard him say, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.”

That day, taught Dr. Barnhouse, God performed two marvelous works of grace. He not only rescued a man from drowning in the ocean, but He rescued him from spending eternity in the lake of fire. The sailor had remembered his mother’s instruction while in the cold, black ocean and had asked the Lord to save him. He went on to become a famous street preacher in England.

We do not reap in the same season in which we sow. But eventually, the harvest comes. The labor-intensive job of being a godly mother generally does not yield immediate results. But when the harvest comes in, it can be glorious.

Lois and Eunice are two women whose names God preserved in Scripture for one reason alone: They were godly mothers. They sowed to the Spirit, wisely and diligently. And though Scripture says little about them, it says much about Timothy, the fruit of their harvest.

Timothy, Eunice his mother, and Lois his grandmother came from Lystra, a Roman province in Galatia (modern-day Turkey) and a stop on the apostle Paul’s first missionary journey. All three probably became believers during that time. Although Eunice and Lois were Jewish, Timothy’s father was an unbelieving Greek (Acts 16:1) who likely worshiped at pagan shrines and altars. Timothy was not circumcised when he was eight days old, as Mosaic Law commanded. Perhaps his father had prevented it (Acts 16:3).

No matter. Lois and Eunice poured their lives into Timothy’s, teaching him Scripture from his earliest days. When Paul wrote to Timothy, whom he affectionately called “my own son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), he reminded him “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).

In the same Epistle, Paul said he remembered the sincere faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother and believed Timothy’s faith was of the same caliber. He knew what Timothy would have to endure and encouraged him to have the same devotion to God as Lois and Eunice.

Their devotion must have been strong indeed because Paul wrote 2 Timothy around A.D. 67, when it would have been safer, humanly speaking, to renounce Christ than to follow Him. Three years earlier, Rome’s emperor, Nero, a 27-year-old madman, had blamed Christians for a fire that had ravaged Rome for nine days—a blaze many suspected Nero set himself. He viciously persecuted believers, delighting in watching them being torn to death by dogs and impaled on stakes, then set on fire to light his garden parties and chariot races.

Lois and Eunice had remained faithful. They taught young Timothy, diligently sowing the seeds of righteousness. Today God gives many mothers the unequalled privilege of leading their children to Christ. Youngsters are capable of understanding the gospel and often come to faith easier than adults do. The Lord Jesus Himself cautioned believers not to be detriments to “one of these little ones who believe in me” (Mt. 18:6).

Mothers have a truly monumental privilege. They have the unparalleled opportunity to teach their children spiritual truth. It has been roughly forty years since the women’s liberation movement began in earnest, and women excel in all areas of life today. But as this age draws to a close, we may yet discover that God has entrusted the greater power, not to women who run countries and corporations, but to those who rock the cradles.

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