What kind of legacy are you leaving for your children? Are you succeeding as a mother according to God's standard of success? In this message Stephen helps you answer that question as he shows you women in the Bible who God called successful.
An article in USA Today caught my attention this past week. It was an article on Mother’s Day.
It all began in 1907 when Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia wanted to honor her deceased mother by wearing a single white carnation, her mother’s favorite flower.
In 1914, after several years of letter writing campaigns and public meetings, Anna Jarvis convinced President Woodrow Wilson to declare the second Sunday in May a national holiday called, “Mother’s Day.”
After the second Sunday was officially selected, cards, candy, flowers began to be sent to mothers like never before.
It was interesting for me to learn that as the years went by, Anna Jarvis was rather upset by the explosion of mass-produced goods and profit making. She intended it to be a quiet day of reflection and thank you’s. She was especially upset by these ready-made greeting cards – which she called, (quote) “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.”
USA TODAY, Thursday, May 8, 2003; 15A
In spite of her sentiment, this year, 2003, more than 144 million cards will be sent or given to mothers all around the world.
Some of them will be serious . . . some will be funny . . . some will be apologetic . . . and some will even play jokes on very secure Moms moms.
One such card has 3 women pictured on the front; they are sitting together, bragging about their grown sons. The first one said to the others, “You should have seen what my son did for me on Mother’s day. He threw a big party at a fancy restaurant and even hired a big band to come and play.” The second woman said, “that’s nice, but my son gave me an all-expense-paid cruise to the Greek islands. Inside the third woman said, “That’s nothing! For the last three years my son has been paying a psychiatrist $100 dollars an hour, twice a week – and the whole time he talks about no one else but me.”
The truth is, every card sent this year will have one thing in common; they will be unable to communicate adequately what needs to be said to and about Mom.
I want to do something different this morning; I want to pause in our study in Romans, and deliver a sermon on the subject of Motherhood.
I tried to find a mother somewhere in Romans chapter 6 and I just couldn’t find her.
So, from various passages of scripture, and from the lives of several women, I want to reveal some portraits of godly mothers.
I hope our session this morning will be nothing less than a gift from God to every mother – and a special infusion of God’s grace into the heart of every Mom.
I want you to first of all turn to Proverbs 31.
Now immediately, when I mention that passage, I can feel the stress rise in every woman’s heart. This is the dreaded passage that most women would rather not look at.
It’s a picture of “The perfect woman.”
One woman told me that every mother’s day, her mother would leave church totally depressed after the pastor preached his annual message from Proverbs 31 on “The perfect wife and mother.”
You scan the chapter and discover that this woman,
- (v. 24) She makes all her families clothing – you have trouble buying it fast enough to keep up, right?!
- (v. 16, and verse 24) She sells real-estate and certain clothing for tradesmen – you still can’t pull that yard sale together;
- (v. 18) Her candle never goes out at night; you can’t wait to turn out the lights and fall into bed;
- She exports food from afar – you never can keep enough milk and bread in the refrigerator;
- (v. 22) She’s always dressed in fine linen and purple; the only purple on you is grape juice from your child’s sippee cup.
That’s as close as you get to Proverbs 31.
And you’re probably thinking, I thought you said today would be an infusion of God’s grace and encouragement, but you have us looking at “That Perfect Woman passage.”
Have you ever thought about the fact that this woman did all this stuff in Proverbs 31 because she had employees – called handmaidens – she managed a full staff that operated her vast and expansive enterprises.
That one point is most often ignored.
My wife as often kidded with me and said, “Listen honey, I’ll do everything in Proverbs 31 if you’ll hire me some handmaidens!”
This morning, as I take you to this text, I’m really not interested in persuading any of you to dress in purple or sell real-estate.
The first portrait I want you to see is the woman who wrote Proverbs chapter 31.
That is what I find absolutely fascinating.
She’s would have never won, Mother of the Year; or wife of the decade.
God used an unlikely author to write a standard for her generation . . . and no woman is able to ever completely fulfill it.
God does that by the way. He records His standard of excellence – like this one, “Be ye holy for I am holy.” He writes of men who will accept the responsibility to be spiritual leaders in their homes and in the church, “He must be blameless.”
God doesn’t write these kinds of thing to discourage us, but to direct us. This is simply the direction we’re to travel, by His grace and leadership. And not one of us will ever say, “There, I’ve arrived.”
1) Proverbs 31 was written by an ungodly woman who later became a godly counselor.
Her name was Bathsheba. To this day, her name conjures up thoughts of deception and infidelity.
Her rise to shame is recorded in 2 Samuel (11 and 12) where David, the King is on his rooftop. He sees Bathsheba carelessly bathing – some believe she was purposefully doing so in broad daylight. David called her to his palace, had relations with her and sent her home. Later she sent him news that she was now carrying his child. David immediately sent for her husband, Uriah, who was serving on the field of battle. Uriah had been a faithful warrior and friend of David’s. David offered him a vacation with his wife Bathsheba, which he refused.
He wouldn’t even spend the night in his home, in honor of his fellow soldiers who were still fighting in battle.
David sent him back to the field, with a sealed note to his general that when the fighting grew dangerous, they were to pull back and leave Uriah unprotected so that he will be killed.
The order was followed, Uriah was killed, and after a brief period of mourning, David married Bathsheba in a public ceremony.
Everything looked good on the outside. But Nathan the prophet came and confronted David’s sin. David repented amidst great sorrow.
A little less than 9 months later a baby was born to them – but God judged them by taking the baby boy home soon after his birth. Both David, and evidently Bathsheba mourned their sin and never forgot this lesson.
God then acted with grace toward them and gave them another son – they named him Solomon. He had a number of names – Jedidiah was one – this one in Proverbs 31 is Lemuel which is simply a translation of the phrase, “belonging to God.”
The advice Solomon wrote concerning the virtuous woman was given to him by none other than Bathsheba, his mother.
Before we go any further, let me make an observation which is true to this day.
- It is possible to have failed early in life, but wield godly influence later in life.
Imagine, how many men through the centuries have learned from Bathsheba what to look for in a wife. How many sons has this once unfaithful wife taught.
Imagine the irony of her counsel to Solomon to find a woman like this for, verse 11 records, “the heart of her husband will trust in her.”
It’s as if she is saying, “Take it from me, a woman who engaged in an illicit affair – becoming an accomplice in deception and cover-up, including my silence as the order was given to have my own husband killed. You want a woman you can trust – let me tell you what she is like.
There’s another timeless truth that comes from the life of Bathsheba;
- Life long consequences do not erase the potential for a godly legacy.
Bathsheba had every right as she grew older to grow bitter . . . she could have blamed David the king for his lust and his invitation to the palace; she could have excused her sin and deception as something she couldn’t help.
She could have blamed God for the way her life had turned out.
And the consequences for her sin were life-long. Centuries later in Matthew as Solomon is recorded in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the inspired text of scripture says it this way, “and to David was born Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah;.”
It was something she would have wished to conceal – but God displayed it so that every woman on earth would know that sin, in the past, does not erase the potential for godly living in the present.
A shady past, does not erase the potential for a godly legacy.
Bathsheba’s lasting legacy is found in verse 30, one of the most well known verses in all of the Bible, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”
2) There is another portrait I want to unveil for you. It is the portrait of a single mom who exercised great faith in God’s word.
As difficult as it is to raise children in a two parent home, the burden becomes nearly unbearable in a home where a mother is left to raise them on her own – either by the death of her husband or divorce.
Either way, it is what most would call close to impossible.
A chapter to study at length is I Kings 17 where the story of a widow unfolds.
A woman who was raising a son – without the help or provision of a husband.
Verse 8 informs us that she lived in a place called Zarephath – which is an interesting Hebrew word. The verb form literally means, “to refine.” When used as a noun, it refers to “an instrument of refining.”
Charles Swindoll, A Family Album (Insight for Living), 1984, p. 21
What an appropriate name for the place where this widow lived, and nearly died along with her son as she is refined by her difficulty into a woman of great faith.
Elijah the prophet has announced a drought in the land as a judgment from God on the rebellious Israelites. For several years it didn’t rain.
Caught up in this Divine judgment was this widow who was already facing the pressures of raising a son on her own.
Elijah is sent by God to her home for care and provision.
When he arrives in Zarepheth he sees the widow gathering sticks and he asked her for a drink of water.
Verse 11 picks up the drama (I Kings 17) 11. As she was going to get [the water], he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12. But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.”
You can’t help but hear the solemn desperation in her words. For this widow, the resources had run out but the demands kept coming. . .and now, a prophet of God is adding to her burden. As far as she was concerned, there was no way out of this alive.
Elijah then encouraged her to believe his word and act in faith;
13. Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’ ” 15. So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.
This, ladies and gentlemen, provides the secret of cooperation for us all. She, by faith, did everything she could do to obey the word of God; and God did everything He needed to do to provide a way out of an impossible situation.
- The timeless principle that comes from this portrait is simply this: While God’s method of provision will vary from generation to generation, His faithfulness will never fail.
No matter how difficult your environment; no matter how deep your needs are felt, God has not forgotten you. What you truly need – He will provide.
This boy would grow up with a mother who could testify over and over again about her obedience and God’s faithfulness.
Abraham Lincoln who himself was born to impoverished parents, once said, “He is not poor nor destitute who has had a godly mother!”
A similar scene to this is played out in homes across our country: we could call them spiritual widows; they are . . . the third portrait;
3) Women who are married to unbelievers, yet who exert godly influence in the home.
These are women who either knowingly violated God’s command to not become unequally yoked with an unbeliever, or they became a Christian some time after they were married; or perhaps they married a man who said he was a Christian, only to discover later that he was not telling the whole story.
But the story remains the same. These women are, on their own, trying to raise Godly children, without the help or encouragement of their husbands.
An early example would be a woman we know very little about. She is the wife of King Saul and her name was Ahinoam.
In fact, the only time we read anything about her at all is when Saul explodes in anger toward their son Jonathan and says to him, “you are the son of a perverse and rebellious woman.” (1 Samuel 20:30).
This verse actually tells us a lot about Ahinoam. Since the context of Saul’s explosion related to Jonathan’s friendship with David, it is obvious that Jonathan’s mother also disagreed with Saul’s hatred for David.
And her godly view of Israel’s future king caused no shortage of difficulty and heartache.
Another woman who exemplified this principle of holy living in spite of an unholy husband was Eunice.
She was the mother of Timothy, the young man who would be led to Christ by Paul and would later become the pastor of the church in Ephesus.
The Bible says in Acts 16:1, “And there was a certain disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.”
In other words, Timothy’s mother was a Christian and his father was an unbeliever.
In 2 Timothy 1:3 we read this insight into Timothy’s upbringing: Paul writes, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure it is in you as well.”
Later in this same Epistle, Paul says that Timothy was taught the scriptures from a very early age (2 Timothy 3:15).
Eunice, along with the help of her mother, were committed to teaching Timothy the word of God. And when God later brought Paul into their lives, he was able to take what they had already taught Timothy, and lead him to faith in Christ and mentor him in the faith.
Timothy would grow up to become the leading pastor in the church at Ephesus . . . a man of character of faith.
- Principle: The absence of a godly husband does not automatically forfeit the potential of godly children.
There is no telling how difficult it must have been for Eunice.
In fact, there were so many women who had come to faith and their husbands had rejected the gospel, they wondered if they could divorce their husbands and start over.
Paul answered in I Corinthians 7 that they were to remain in their current marriage and sanctify their home and children – even providing a godly influence over their unbelieving husbands.
Eunice illustrated what the Apostle Paul referred to as that sanctifying influence of a godly woman in the home with an unbelieving husband.
- Another encouraging principle from the context of Eunice’s life would be this: an ungodly husband cannot extinguish the testimony of a godly wife and mother.
Let me pause before closing and warn every single man or woman.
Don’t lower your standards.
Don’t become attached to someone who isn’t interested in the things of God.
Don’t settle for some pseudo-spiritual confession from a young or older man like, “I’ll go to church if you want me” or “Yea, I believe in God.”
Learn from the lessons of these we’ve just studied – pull out these texts in the future and study them in more detail.
Listen, it’s hard enough raising children when both parents are committed believers. Amen?
It’s difficult enough to raise godly children in our ungodly culture even when both husband and wife are committed to Christ!
There are so many challenging issues . . . so many decisions . . . and so many things to disagree over with your spouse, right?
Even if both of you want the same result, you’ll disagree over a multitude of things related to the process.
It is amazing how God consistently puts two different people together in a marriage so that they ultimately balance one another.
One Christian author wrote, “Listen, if you two agreed on everything, one of you would be unnecessary.”
God has a better idea. What the husband has, the wife doesn’t have and what she has, he doesn’t have – each of them needs what the other one has and cannot progress without it.
Anthony Evans, Guiding Your Family In A Misguided World, (Focus on the Family Publishing), 1991, p. 16
And so Moms . . . you pray and work and labor and love and cherish and teach and discipline and pray some more and then pray some more.
It will take heaven to calculate the impact of a mother’s prayers for her children.
And you’ll pray a lot of different prayers along the journey.
Chuck Swindoll wrote in his book, The Finishing Touch, “One of my favorite Mother’s day cards has a 2nd grader printed on the front – he’s dirty, his pants are torn and he’s pulling a wagon full of toys. Underneath it read, “Mom, I remember that little prayer you used to say for me every day . . . “ and inside, “God help you if you ever do that again!”
My mother prayed that same prayer!
Remember this, while you will be unfaithful at times and unspiritual at times and unholy at times; God will remain faithful.
In fact, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9)
He is the perfect Father, the perfect Parent . . . His Son is the perfect Husband . . . His Spirit is the perfect counselor, teacher and comforter.
Great is His faithfulness.