In a letter to young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul writes, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also (2 Timothy 1:5). Another wise man once said that "God has no grandchildren." I know what he meant and I agree with him, in part. He was trying to convey that we must each come to our own faith, that we can't "inherit" faith from our parents. But I must disagree, as well. There is a legitimate sense in which our ancestral heritage also becomes our spiritual heritage.
It's strange that Paul doesn't mention Timothy's father or grandfather. Maybe they simply weren't men of faith. We know that Timothy's mother was a Jewish woman and a believer in Jesus (Acts 16:1), and we know that his father was a "Greek," meaning that he was probably a gentile (or a non-Jew). What faith he did or didn't have and how involved he was in young Timothy's life we have no way of knowing. What we do know is that two strong women shaped Timothy's life in such a way that he became a trusted and talented assistant to the great apostle Paul.
Today I speak of - and to - mothers. And not just any mothers, but especially those of you who are "going it alone" as you try to bring your children up to love God. Maybe you're literally alone and doing your best to raise your children amidst a flurry of sitters and school and soccer practice. Maybe you're simply alone in your desire to give your children a chance to come to a "sincere faith" in Jesus Christ.
Today I want to give you hope. I want to tell you that you're not alone. There stands Lois, Timothy's grandmother. Her gentle hands changed his diaper, and her faith changed his life. And there is Eunice, Timothy's mother. A "single mother" with regard to the faith, anyway. Like so many of you, she prayed and longed for her child to someday fall in love with the Lord, as she had. And one day the Lord answered her prayer, kindling in Timothy something Paul calls a "sincere" faith. Literally, an "un-hypocritical" faith. A faith that, though perhaps not inherited, was certainly passed down to him by these godly women.
I once was privileged to sit in the humble living room of an elderly member or our church. She had called me to come and pray with her. Her heart was troubled by the thought that she had done so little for God over her lifetime. She had "only raised a family and stayed at home most of the time."
As we visited, she began to show me pictures of her sons, as a proud mother will. I noticed that most of the pictures seemed to have been taken in foreign settings. When I asked her about this, she told me, with no awareness of the acute irony, that her six sons were all missionaries, serving around the world to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Take heart, young mother. Your faith is contagious. Take heart, grandmother. Your heritage of faith will change your family - and who knows? Maybe it will change the world!
God bless you.
Matt Condon is pastor of Garden City Church. You may reach him by calling 542-2455 or by visiting the Web site at www.gardencitychurch.org.