A Mother’s Influence
“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.”
(2nd Timothy 3:15)
“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”
(2nd Timothy 1:5)
Who can estimate the influence of a godly mother?
Here we have Timothy, a young man, a young minister, an eminent minister, and Paul speaks of four great influences on him when a child – his mother, his grandmother, the holy Scriptures, and especially the Holy Spirit.
“Thy mother Eunice.” Eunice is one of the well-known mothers of Scripture. We think of Sarah; we think of Hannah; we think of Elisabeth; we think especially of Mary. And then Eunice. The influence of godly mothers in the history of the church of God has been immense – their prayers, their example, their teaching: those three things, not separated from one another. Their prayers, but what are prayers without a gracious example?
And then the teaching.
What are prayers, what is an example, if a mother never instructs, never teaches from the Scriptures, never says Yes, never says No, never says what is right, never says what is wrong?
So the influence of godly mothers has been immense.
Was it not the Jesuits who said that if they could have a child till he was seven years old, anyone else could have him afterwards?
“Thy mother Eunice.” Eunice had problems, because she had an ungodly husband; not just an unbeliever: he was a heathen. Why ever this Jewess broke the holy law of God and married this ungodly Greek, we do not know. So she was at a disadvantage: she did not have the help and support of a godly husband. We know there were problems and difficulties, because the rite of circumcision had been neglected (Acts 16:3).
But with all these terrible disadvantages, a husband with no sympathy, she graciously brought up the little boy she loved. She prayed over him. She instructed him. “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures.”
That is a beautiful word: “I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother
So Eunice possessed “unfeigned faith.”
What is “unfeigned faith”?
Well, we can feign faith. We can come to chapel nicely dressed, walking solemnly with our heads bowed – but we are only feigning faith. We can meet with people outside, in the streets, those with whom we work, and they know we are Strict Baptists and we go to chapel. But we may be only feigning faith. But one thing is clear.
We cannot feign faith in front of our children!
If we try to feign faith before our children, they will be the first to see through us. Even little children can discern hypocrisy. Even little children can discern inconsistency. They know whether our religion is real or just pretended; whether it means everything to us or nothing to us.
If we are ever going to do our children any good, it must be “unfeigned faith.” That is the work of the Holy Spirit because feigned faith, artificial faith, pretended faith will neither do us or our children any good.
“From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures.”
I fear that our little children are brought up too much on nonsense books. Perhaps there is nothing evil about them. But Eunice did not bring up Timothy on books like that.
“From a child”: we understand the word here means from an infant she brought him up on the holy Scriptures. She taught him that there was a God and what God requires in His holy law. She taught him he was a sinner. She taught him there was a judgment. She set him an example and told him where he was wrong. We are not told whether at the time she had come into the light of the knowledge of Christ or whether it was still only the light of a Jewess who feared God.
(In Acts 16 she is spoken of as a Christian believer, but this was when Timothy was grown up.) So according to her light, she taught Timothy the holy Scriptures.
Outside Scripture the most famous mother is undoubtedly Monica (whom the Roman Catholics call St. Monica). Like Eunice she too went astray and married a heathen. She had one son she dearly loved, a brilliant boy, one of the greatest intellects the world has known. But he followed the example of his father and became a wicked, immoral boy and man. His mother wrestled in prayer for him until her heart was almost broken, and in the end she went to see a godly man named Ambrose (usually known as St. Ambrose). After listening to her he replied, “I do not think it possible that the child of such prayers can ever perish!” He proved right. Monica’s son was Augustine, one of the greatest instruments for good the church of God has ever had. Monica said, “My pains for his second birth were more intense than the pains of his first birth.”
Many instances might be given. We think of Philip Doddridge as a little boy sitting on his mother’s knee while she spoke of the biblical stories depicted on the tiles by the fireplace. And God was sowing the seed in the little boy’s heart.
But then there was Lois. “Thy grandmother Lois.” We wonder what she thought when her daughter married a heathen. But she must have been a help to her daughter and a blessing to her grandson. Godly grandmothers can have a wonderful influence by their prayers, their teaching and their example.
We well remember our old grandmother, though we were only seven when she died. Her example. A young cousin seemed to be dying. She and her husband stayed up all night praying, and before morning light she knocked at the door where the little boy lived, saying, “That child can’t die!” Then again, an influential lady came unexpectedly to tea one day. It was prayer meeting night. After tea grandmother said, “It is our prayer meeting. You are welcome to come with us.” The lady replied, “It will be my pleasure to do so.” Then we remember how she died – not well enough to go to chapel, but requesting hymn 477 be sung and Revelation 21 read, and dying in the chair before the family returned. How in childhood days, when thinking of her, that word resounded: “Lived a life of faith and prayer.”
We understand that every Lord’s day in chapel, she looked round on all her children and grandchildren, and feelingly said, “‘We too’ – every one of them, Lord; do not leave one out; not me only, Lord –
‘We too, amid the sacred throng,
Low at His feet would fall,
Join in the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all.’”
“Thy grandmother Lois.”
Grandmothers have a wonderful privilege in all their contacts with their grandchildren. May our grandmothers be Loises. Be willing to speak to your grandchildren, to encourage them, to reprove them, to take an interest in them, to pray for them, to set them an example.
It is a remarkable thing that the old grandmother’s name is recorded in Scripture. She was just a private Christian – nobody in the eyes of the world. It would never have entered her head that two thousand years later people would still be reading and hearing about her – when Julius Caesar and Augustus and Hercules and Alexander the Great are almost forgotten.
It is an interesting thing that Timothy’s real coming to faith in Jesus was not through his mother Eunice, nor his grandmother Lois, but through the Apostle Paul. Paul emphasises that Timothy was his son in the faith. That means that he was the one who was blessed by the Spirit of God to bring Timothy to a real, vital knowledge of the truth. That honour was given to him. Whether Lois ever lived to see it we do not know.
But the seeds of grace were there in Timothy’s heart, planted by the Spirit of God from childhood days. So there is real encouragement here for godly mothers and grandmothers.
Eunice and Lois did the sowing, and then later Paul reaped the harvest.
“In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”
By B.A. Ramsbottom