My mother is 85 years old. She is a very wise, determined, and faithful woman of God. She was born in a wealthy family in the northern side of Korea. But during the Korean War, she had to flee with her family from the communists, leaving everything behind when she was only 12 years old.
As we were growing up, my three sisters and I often heard my mother’s horrific stories of escape at night, a long and harsh journey to South Korea, settling in a new and strange city, and death of her mother - my grandmother.
She came to believe in Jesus in her 40s. Since then, she has been a devoted woman of prayer. As long as I remember, she prays every night for her family, her friends, and her church. When I stay over at her place, the sound of her prayer I can hear from my room makes me so peaceful and thankful. And I am reassured that I am here because of my parents’ and particularly my mother’s sincere prayers.
Besides, she never stops reading the Bible. Wherever she goes, she carries her Bible and reads it. She reads the whole Bible twice a year.
As I was leaving for my military Chaplain course three weeks ago, I asked her to pray for the angels of God to help me. And guess what? God sent several angels to help me during the intense and very stressful course. I could feel that my mother was praying for me fervently. As I grew up listening to my parents’ prayers, I've also tried to pass down the same blessing to my own children.
Today, we are going to look at two godly women who passed down their faith to the next generation. While the text may not talk about mothers in detail, what it does say is powerful.
Today’s scripture reading comes from a letter that was written from Paul to Timothy. Near the end of his life, and imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy encouraging him to hold onto the faith no matter what and to be confident in the work of the ministry.
As Paul thought of Timothy, he couldn’t help but remember the two women who were extremely influential in Timothy’s life - his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois.
If we look in Acts 16, during his 2nd missionary journey Paul went to Lystra, where Timothy lived. Luke introduces Timothy to us, saying “Paul came to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.”
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Eunice except that she was Jewish and a believer, but from this passage, we can imagine that, as an infant, Timothy was not circumcised, as all Jewish boys were, because his father was Greek. It was the responsibility of Jewish fathers to oversee that rite, and, since Timothy’s father was Greek, circumcision would not have been his custom.
So, Paul had Timothy circumcised before they began their missionary journeys together in order not to offend their Jewish audiences. It is also possible that the father had died while Timothy was young since Paul took on a fatherly role with Timothy and often referred to him as “my true son in the faith.”
In the midst of this mixed-race and mixed-faith household, and the negative influences of living in a gentile nation, we might wonder how they taught Timothy into becoming a strong believer.
First, we can find the answer from Chapter 3:15. It says, “...and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Timothy was raised knowing the teachings of the Scripture from his mother and grandmother. He would have been told the stories of how God created the world, how God chose Abraham as the father of the nations, and how Samuel anointed David as king of Israel.
He would have learned the wisdom of Solomon, the great leadership of Moses, and the prophecies about the Messiah who would come to redeem Israel. And later, about Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Behind Timothy’s strong faith, deep convictions, and solid doctrinal foundation about Jesus Christ were then… the years of being nurtured in the word of God. Timothy was able to grow in the Gospel because of his mother’s and grandmother’s commitment to teaching him the word of God.
In V 5 of today’s text, we see that Paul highlights the importance of Timothy’s faith heritage, passed down by his mother and grandmother. “For 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.”
Here, Paul mentioned two things about their faith. First, their faith is “sincere,” or the New King James version translated as “genuine faith”. Eunice and Lois have a deep-rooted, sincere, and genuine faith, that had a huge impact on Timothy’s life and he grew up to possess the same faith.
Secondly, the King James version used the verb “dwell” when Paul talked about their faith. The word “Dwell” means to abide… to live in a place… to remain. They didn’t look for God only when they needed God’s help. Their faith was not dead or lukewarm, but alive and active. In other words, their faith was deeply rooted and grounded in their lives. Everything they did in life was based on what they believed.
I’m sure many of you have heard about St. Augustine. St. Augustine is a very famous early Christian theologian and philosopher and is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity. One of his most prominent works is his writing, “Confession.”
In his book, “Confession”, he shared about his mother, Monica. Monica was a faithful Christian, but her son was not. Although brilliant and gifted, he ignored his mother's warnings against youthful lusts and pursued a life of self-gratification and immorality. He lived with a woman, not his wife and fathered a child.
Monica didn't have the words to convince her son of the truth of Christianity, but she was determined never to stop praying that he would turn to God. She prayed daily and intensely for Augustine, fasted for his sake, and begged God to help him return to faith. And by Monica’s ceaseless prayer, he turned away from all his sinful lives and ultimately became a bishop.
I am sure there have been thousands and thousands of mothers like Monica who never gave up on their children. Parenthood is challenging and complicated. However, even in the complexity and hardships of our relationships, it is crucial for us to pray over the lives of our children and grandchildren. Believe that your prayer works.
For some of you, Mother’s Day is not really a favorite day. Because your mother passed away and you miss her so much. OR you have not had a good relationship with your mother or with your child. OR you never had a child. OR your child is not with you anymore. Whatever the reason, Mother’s Day can be a rather stressful day. If it is so for you, then I am sorry. May the Lord comfort you right now.
However, today’s text is not only for mothers or grandmothers. It is for all of us. As you know, we do not see many children in our Sunday School - not only in our church but in numerous other churches, we do not find children running around, laughing. We do not get to hear Sunday school songs like, "Father Abraham had many sons ~~” or “I’ve got peace like a river ~~” Our own children do not want to come to church. It is a reality. Then what can we do?
We should not remain in the glorious days of the past; however, we should remember that we are here because of the faithful men and women of God who devoted their lives to God and the church; who committed their time and resources to education; who willingly gave up their comfort zone for the sake of the children.
Lois and Eunice are examples of the powerful influence godly men and women can have on a young man's or a young woman’s life. As much as we hear personal testimonies such as “My mom (or grandma) took me to church, taught me right, and prayed for me every day,” we also hear, “My Sunday School teacher was always patient with me and taught me the love of God.” “An elder from my church encouraged me to go into a ministry.” “My church people never scolded us when we ran around the sanctuary and broke the chair.”
I’d like to encourage all of us to become Eunice and Lois to children, youth, and young adults around us. As Eunice and Lois taught Timothy the sacred word of God diligently, prayed for him ceaselessly, and therefore, passed down their sincere and genuine living faith to Timothy, let us pass down a spiritual legacy to the next generation. Not by forcing them to be like us but by encouraging them and by praying for them earnestly.
Regardless of whether you have a child or not, regardless of having a godly mother or not, each of you is here because someone in your life influenced you to come to believe in Jesus, right? Let us take a moment to honor them whether they were your parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse, friends, coworkers, neighbours, or a stranger. And let us become someone who can give a life-changing influence to the ones you care about.
Paul recognized the life-changing contributions of these two women in a day when women were rarely mentioned by name. He honored their impact in preparing his young helper and companion, who eventually became the pastor of the church at Ephesus.
The story of Lois and Eunice should encourage all Christian mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, and teachers, reminding them that their godly influence has an eternal impact on the lives and futures of the young people. Remember, your Prayer is powerful and is an important tool through which you can bestow blessings of faith to the next generation.
Brothers and sisters, what legacy would you like to leave behind? It is never too late.
Young mothers, let us start pursuing God instead of chasing the worldly vision of a perfect family. Grandmothers now is the time for you to pray for your children and your grandchildren. Instead of thinking that your motherhood is finished, pray fervently for your families, friends, and for our church. Fathers don’t forget your responsibility as a spiritual leader of your household. Children do not neglect your parents’ teachings.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, today’s Bible lesson should be a reminder of God’s gift to all of us. His gift is that He surrendered His only begotten Son on the cross to save us from our sins. Let us surrender our lives and our children to God who is the perfect and the most loving parent. Thanks be to God who requires us to raise up our children in a godly way is the One who gives us wisdom and strength to do so. Amen.
Let us pray.
Father God, we thank you for our mothers - biological mothers who gave us life, godmothers, spiritual mothers, foster mothers, aunties, and grandmothers for their godly influence in our lives. Help each of us here also become a godly man and woman of God who passes down spiritual heritage to the young people. In the name of Jesus our Savior, we pray. Amen.