Our Mother and Her Children (Baccalaureate FBA)
May 13th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
2 Timothy 1:3-5
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:3-5
5-13-84 10:30 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Mother and Her Children. I am so often asked, “Pastor, what do you do when you preach through long series of messages, which is your custom and habit, such as preaching through the Bible?” I preached through the Bible one time for eighteen years, and I am now in a series of four years entitled “The Great Doctrines of The Bible.” So people ask me, “What do you do about unusual days, special days?” And I always answer, “I never hesitate to turn aside in a series to deliver a special sermon on a special day; such as Easter,” prepare a sermon on the resurrection on Easter, a sermon on Christmas at Christmas time; a sermon on thanksgiving at Thanksgiving time. And as you know, you who belonged to the church through the years, on the anniversary of the death of the great pastor, Dr. Truett, I always prepare a message on some facet of kingdom interest to which he gave his life. I have been doing that forty years. And Mother’s Day, unless there would be some providence that I could never think for, I always prepare a special sermon on Mother’s Day. And this is that beautiful and meaningful day.
Turning to 2 Timothy, Paul’s second letter to his young son in the ministry, Timothy; reading the first 5 verses—to Timothy:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers day and night; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; 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.
[2 Timothy 1;1-5]
“The unfeigned faith that dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded,” you inherited it from them, “it dwells in thee also” [2 Timothy 1:5].
I doubt whether I’ve ever been pastor of a church that didn’t have a TEL class in it, Timothy, Eunice, and Lois; grandmother, mother, and son. So we speak of our mother and her children, her babies. Long, long time ago I heard a story that I have oft repeated. It just meant so much to me in the sure and precious interpretation of life when I heard it.
In the gold rush in California back in the—in the 1849s—in the gold rush in California, there was a mother who took her baby to the theater. And when the orchestra began to play, the baby began to cry. And when the baby began to cry, an old prospector, grizzled and rough, stood up, and he said, “Stop those fiddles and let this baby cry. I ain’t heard a sound like that in well nigh twenty years!” So the orchestra stopped, and the baby did its thing, and the people applauded uproariously.
I just think that is so beautiful a facet of life; marriage is never a howling success until the baby is born, never. And a church is never a howling success until the nurseries are filled with babies. Any time you see a healthy baby, it will be pink in its complexion, but it will also be a loud yeller, inevitably—these morning callers, and noonday crawlers, and midnight bawlers, the little citizens of Lapland—are the very spice and heart and spectrum of life itself.
Some time ago I was preaching through Nigeria, just all over that West African nation. And they took me out in the bush—way, way out, where some of those missionaries, a nurse and a doctor had a makeshift dispensary, a movable hospital made out of brush and arbor—and they were ministering to all of those primitives out there in that bush country. So they thought it would be so very nice and impressive if I would go back home and bring with me a picture that they take of my holding one of those little babies in my arms. Now it’s very primitive, and they don’t wear any clothes until they are of such-and-such an age. So the baby didn’t have any dipey or anything else, and they placed the little thing in my arms. And here I am holding it, ready for the picture, and to my amazement, it just ruined me! It just ruined me. I looked down. Oh, dear! I had forgotten that a baby is an alimentary canal with a loud noise at one end and no responsibility at the other. And as they grow up, they are so interesting; no dull or boring moments around those little children.
The little fellow asked his mother as she held the latest little one in her arms, he said, “Mother, why doesn’t baby talk?” And mother replied, “Well, sonny, little babies don’t talk.” And the lad replied, “Well, that’s not what I learned in Sunday school. Last Sunday my teacher read to us out of the Bible, and it said, “Job cursed the day he was born.” They are always interesting and their observations of life and their response to life is an education in itself. This mother was getting her little boy ready for a tonsillectomy—he was going to the hospital to have his tonsils cut out—so she was encouraging him to be brave, you know. And the little lad replied, “Well, Mommy, I’m going to be brave, but I don’t want no crying baby put off on me like they did you when you were into the hospital.” The little boy added, “I want a pup!” But the child and the mother is the very heart of God’s kingdom, and it moves in that spectrum.
When I was a youth, I went to Springfield, Illinois, and there visited the shrine of the tomb of Abraham Lincoln, those soft and long and dimly-lit corridors, and the sarcophagus, and in back of it the words of the Secretary of War Stanton, when his life ebbed away, “He now belongs to the ages.” And then later I was in Washington and looking at one of the most impressive monuments in the earth, the monument to Abraham Lincoln rising above the Potomac River and facing the Mall and the Washington Monument and the Capitol and the governmental buildings—and the heroic statue of Abraham Lincoln seated inside that great marble monument.
Then in the days that I was a young pastor of a village church in Kentucky, driving from the seminary to my pastorate, I passed by Hodgenville. And there is another gloriously beautiful and effective monument to Abraham Lincoln who was born in that place. And under that marble structure is one of the humblest and smallest log cabins I have ever seen. That is where the great president was born. And incised on the marble wall just beyond the little cabin is the word of Abraham Lincoln, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
They were Baptists, his father and his mother; and his home was a Baptist home. And Nancy Hanks Lincoln, his mother, died when the boy was about ten years or nine years of age. And the father, with the boy, out of rough-hewn lumber made a coffin. And the lad, with his father, buried his mother when he was so small a lad. And that word, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother,” is so descriptive and reflective of the course of human history. The whole world follows in that vein and in that direction. It is colored, it is shaped, it is changed, it is molded by these wonderful, godly, Christ-honoring mothers.
I read, as you do, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, a glorious tribute to Moses. And in that tribute the author of Hebrews says:
When he came of age, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,
than to enjoy all of the pleasures and blandishments of the greatest courts in the world for just a season…
For he endured, as looking unto Him who is invisible.
How could such a thing be in the life of this child who grew up in the court of the greatest empire in that known world? The answer is easily found. In that day when Pharaoh had decreed the death—the destruction of every male child in the Hebrew family [Exodus 1:16, 22]—Jochebed, the mother of this latest little baby, took the youngster, put the little thing in an ark, in a basket, and set it among the flags on the edge of the Nile River where the princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, came down to bathe. And seeing the basket, they fetched it for her. And when she opened the ark, there was the little baby; and it cried. Close by was Miriam, the daughter of Jochebed and Amram, and the sister of the little baby. And she ran to the princess when she saw the princess look upon the little child and asked if she might fetch a nurse that the child be brought up as her—Pharaoh’s daughter’s child. And when the princess acquiesced, the girl Miriam fetched the mother, the baby’s mother, Jochebed. And the princess paid the mother to nurse the child for her and to rear the youngster in her name [Exodus 2:2-10]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? In those brief and formative years, that mother so instilled in the heart and memory of that little growing boy the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Israel, that in the after years, the Book could say, “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible” [Hebrews 11:27].
There’s no one of you but that is familiar with, conversive with, all of the gods of Egypt. In the innermost sanctuary they would worship an ox, or a crocodile, or a serpent, or a bird. But this lad; taught as a small, small child the great omnipotent God of the universe who is invisible, and he never departed from it. The whole story is a repetition of that commitment to mother’s God.
In the third chapter of the first Book of Samuel, it says, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that this lad was set to be a prophet in Israel” [1 Samuel 3:20], taught and loved by his mother, Hannah. Isn’t that a glorious reflection of the prayerful life of that wonderful mother? The story continues, it’s here in the text that I read this morning, “The faith that is in thee, Timothy, my young son in the ministry, it was first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice; and now it lives incarnate in thee also” [2 Timothy 1:5].
And if we had time to go through the whole story of human history, it would never vary. It is ever the same, always the same. Augustine was the most brilliant and gifted of the ancient Latin fathers. I suppose Augustine is one of the greatest intellects, one of the most endowed men of mind who ever lived. Augustine, as a young man, was impervious to the Christian faith. He was a vile and evil young man, and he was a Greek philosopher. He was studied and learned in the classics of Greek literature and culture. And as a pagan and as a heathen, he lived a vile and impossible life, but he had a mother. Her name was Monica. When you go out to California, Santa Monica—Monica; that mother was a devout, humble, Christian, God-fearing, prayer-believing woman. And she prayed for that boy so constantly and so fervently that the pastor of the church at Carthage in North Africa said to her, “Woman, go thy way. The child of so many prayers could not be lost.” And if you’ll read the Confessions of Augustine, there will be one of the sentences that you’ll read in it, what the pastor said to Monica. And you’ll also read in the unusual, unusual piece of literature, the marvelous conversion of Augustine: “Mother; A Tribute To A Mother’s Prayers.”
I haven’t time to speak of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Caesar. He had a wonderful Christian mother, Helena. Some of these historians say she was a British girl, that Constantius found her in England and married her there. Some historians say that, but all of the historians speak of the beautiful, devout, Christian life of Helena; and Constantine, who changed the course of Western civilization, is a product, the fruit, a trophy of the praying of that wonderful Christian mother.
Nor do I have time to speak of Vladimir, the first Russian czar. In the [900s], Vladimir embraced the Christian faith and opened the doors of all of the vast domains of Russia to the orthodox faith, to the Christian faith. How could it be? He had a grandmother named Olga, the most respected and loved of all of the women in the history of Russia. He had a grandmother named Olga who was a devout Christian in that rough and barbaric land, and she prayed and guided the footsteps of that grandson, like Eunice and Lois did Timothy. And Vladimir became a child of the King, a disciple of Christ, and filled Russia with those great churches and schools. It’s an everlasting story.
And do I mistake? Am I overly persuaded? When I look at you and say almost certainly the reason you bow in the presence of our Lord and open your heart heavenward and Christ-ward to Him is because of your praying mother. The men and the women in this congregation and these who listen on media by the thousands say, “Pastor, yes. Amen. My godly and wonderful mother opened the door of faith and commitment and devotion for me.”
When I think of how God has entrusted so much to mother, I am almost overwhelmed! I can almost say I can hardly believe that God does such a thing, such an entrustment. Let me show you what I mean. All through this Old Testament I read of Christophanies, theophanies—appearances of our Lord Christ before His incarnation—the preexistent Christ. And when I come to the New Testament, one of the Gospels will start like that:
In the beginning was the logos,
and the logos was with God, and the logos was God…
And the logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we beheld the glory of God, full of grace and truth.
[John 1:1, 14]
That is the Word of the Lord, I read it in the Bible. Then when I begin to think of it, “Lord, Lord, how could such a thing be? The preexistent Christ, the logos of God, the active God, the God of thought and of deed, the only God we’ll ever see and ever know, when I think of the preexistent God, and He was placed in a cell, in a cell, in the womb of a virgin girl named Mary [Luke 1:30-35]—God incarnate—and He was born as a baby, and He grew up in her arms as a baby; Almighty God, how could such a thing be?” I don’t know how you could conceive of a greater tribute to motherhood than the entrustment of the preexistent, theophanic Christ to the womb of a virgin girl named Mary. But that’s the gospel we preach, that’s the message we proclaim—that’s our hope of heaven. It’s the Christian faith; it’s God’s confidence in mother. And I just see that everywhere and have all of my life. Nor do I persuade myself that I’m bringing things new to you when I avow it.
Meandering around one time the streets of Chicago, I inadvertently turned into the Pacific Garden Mission where Billy Sunday was converted. And as I walked in the mission and looked at it, I was dumbfounded. I was amazed. On that side of the pulpit was written in large letters “John 3:16.” And then on the other side in those same large block letters was written, “When did you last write to mother? And I looked at that in amazement, how could you equate the incomparable gospel message expressed in John 3:16 with “When did you last write to mother?”
And as I stood there and looked at that, then it began to come to my heart, as it does yours when I speak of it now. The drifter, and the wayward, and the prodigal, and the lost—coming into that Pacific Garden Mission looking at that question, “When last did you write to mother?” would bring back to the memory of that prodigal home, the Bible, the church, mother’s prayers, mother’s love, mother’s God. They’re synonymous in the heart of the man that did that; On this side God, and on this side the best evidence of God’s love in the world, a praying mother.
And as I thought, God be praised for these who have nurtured us, borne us, borne us, took care of us when we couldn’t take care of ourselves. Lord be praised for our godly mothers, loving God, honoring the church, praying for us, paying the price of our salvation. And how rich and beautiful, how eternal and everlasting must be her reward in heaven.
If I should be living when Jesus comes,
And could know the day and the hour,
I’d like to be standing at Mother’s grave,
When Jesus comes in His power.
There’s coming a time when I can go home,
To meet my family there.
Then I shall see Jesus upon His throne,
In that bright city so fair.
‘Twill be a wonderful, happy day,
Gathered on that golden strand,
When I can hear Jesus, my Savior saying,
“Son, greet your mother again.”
It’s a precious hope, it’s a beautiful promise. It’s the heart of our Christian faith, and that’s our invitation for you this day.
There could be no sweeter day than this day to give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus; to trust Him as your Savior; to accept Him for all that He promised to be. There’s no more beautiful day to put your life in the fellowship, and circumference, and communion of this precious church. Come and welcome, bring the whole family. “Dear wife and our children, we’re all coming today.” To give your life in a new and a deeper way, to walk with Jesus, come today. As the Spirit of God shall open the door and shall make the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. Do it. There’s time and to spare, if you’re in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, Mother’s Day, and I’m on the way.” May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.