A Mother’s Faith
If you have been in the stores lately or checked your calendar, you are likely aware that Mother’s Day is May 8. As a mother of four children, I am always grateful to receive words or acts of appreciation from my family, and to have the opportunity to express words of thankfulness to my own mother, on this special day. But I am also well aware that Mother’s Day is painful for many, especially for the single woman who longs for marriage and children, the married couple who has faced infertility or infant loss, the single mother who faces the challenges of raising children without a husband by her side, or the woman grieving the death of her mother. For this reason, I want to focus our attention not just on biological mothers, but on spiritual mothers as well, and the unique role they have in teaching the next generation to love and serve the Lord.
We find the concept of spiritual mothering embedded in Paul’s words to Timothy when he exhorts him not to “rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2; italics mine). Mothers, whether biological or spiritual, have a very significant role to play in the church. They are to pass the faith to the next generation.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul told him that he was “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” (2 Tim. 1:5). It is significant that Paul assumed Lois and Eunice passed the faith to Timothy. “From childhood” Timothy had been “acquainted with the sacred writings” which were “able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (3:15). What a tremendous opportunity these two women had, which they not only seized, but in which they persevered, as they raised a young soldier of Christ. So, what does it mean to pass the faith to the next generation as mothers, whether biological or spiritual?
First, it means raising children who worship God alone. David declares, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4). Mothers should daily declare to their children the mighty acts of the Lord as recorded in Scripture. They should also take every opportunity to share with their children how God has mightily acted in their own life, and how they have seen God act in the lives of their children. Dear mother, how are you seizing the moments when you are sitting on the floor playing with your young children, or driving with your teenager to drop him or her off at work, or walking with your young adult child at a park to talk about God’s “wondrous works” (v. 5)?
Teaching our children to worship God includes helping them understand what it means to fear the Lord. We help them understand what it looks like to “walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord…for your good” (Deut. 10:12-13). When they sin we weep with them and lead them to Christ, “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). When they suffer, we grieve with them, and lead them to “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). When they feel lonely, we remind them of Christ’s words, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). When they feel anxious about the things they need, we tell them “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matt. 6:32). How are you, dear mother, teaching your children to worship God?
Second, mothers pass the faith to the next generation by teaching them to work for His glory. From a young age we teach them that God created us to work six days and worship Him on the seventh. We help them identify the gifts that God has given to them and how they might best use these to serve Christ and His church. We remind them to thank the Lord for these gifts, so that they will only boast in Him. And when work is difficult, we remind them that “You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:24) and that His grace will strengthen and sustain them. Mothers, how are you teaching your children to work for God’s glory?
Finally, mothers pass the faith to the next generation by training their children to be witnesses for Christ. Since “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Jesus]” believers are to “make disciples of all nations” with the confidence that Jesus is “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). As mothers, making disciples begins in our family and church family as we raise covenant children to love and obey God. But as we raise children to worship God and work for His glory, we also need to train them in witnessing about the kingdom of God. Helping them have a mindset of making disciples means that we speak and pray about missionaries and their ministries in our home, pray for the persecuted believers around the world, asking God to give them courage to stand strong for Christ, do the work of missions with our children, beginning in our own city, and train them how to share their faith with others. How are you training your children to proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ?
As we celebrate mothers this Mother’s Day, let us remember the important role all women in the church play in passing the faith to the next generation. May we be faithful to teach our covenant children to worship God alone, to work for His glory and to witness about the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps one day your name will be heard on the lips of an older pastor commending a younger pastor of his “sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother…and your mother…and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Tim. 1:5).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.