(preached May 18, 2011)
Motherhood for the Glory of God
My mother and I used to disagree on quite a few things, because, like many young men, I knew everything and Momma didn’t know what she was talking about. I remember one time in particular that I got some very wise advice from her, which I thought was ridiculous. I loved playing football in gradeschool days. The war-like scenario of physically overpowering your opponent was something in which I took great delight. Well, I decided at some point that football just wasn’t quite rough enough, and that I needed something even more physically challenging. So, it seemed like an easy choice – rugby; the rougher version of football played with no pads or helmets. I made up my mind, and waited for a chance to tell Momma what I had decided to do. We were sitting at the counter in the kitchen, and I decided it was time to inform mother of my plans, and so I looked at her and said, “Momma, I’ve decided that I’m going to start playing rugby.” And then she gave me some of the wisest advice I ever heard from her: “Over my dead body! If you want to injure yourself why don’t you just go beat yourself with a hammer!” Momma knows best.
And as the years have gone on, I’ve realized with increasing awe just how much my mother did for me; how hard she worked to provide for us; how steadfastly she protected us; how much she sacrificed for us. I can’t help but keep the command found in our first scripture this morning.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
God has placed mothers in high regard
Look at what Paul points out: this command to honor mothers is the first one that comes with a blessing explicitly attached to it. God places great honor on the office of motherhood, and he calls us to do the same. Jesus honored the role of motherhood by being born to a woman who would be his mother. He didn’t have to do this, but he chose to bless the womb of a woman and submit to her as his earthly mother. Moreover, on the cross, some of his final words were to make sure his mother was taken care of. As he is about to die, Jesus looks down at his mother, and at the apostle John. He says to John, “Behold your mother.” With some of his last dying breath, Jesus honored his mother by making sure someone would care for her.
So: Mothers – be aware this morning that God our Father and Christ our Savior hold you in extremely high regard. God promises blessing for us if we honor you, and we are glad to do just that this morning.
The Greatest Role of mothers
Read something about the typical duties of mother: cook, janitor, van driver, nursery worker, daycare specialist, launderer, nurse, and child psychologist. Person writing this article said that the salaries of all those jobs combined would mean a salary of close to $200k. He ended with a note of thankfulness that his wife did not charge him for her tireless services.
Of course it’s true. Mothers have an extraordinary list of responsibilities. I mean, even at the very core of what they do: they are charged with keeping a helpless little infant alive. That’s a big job!
There are a million things we could say about mothers this morning, but let’s cut right to the chase. The biggest and most important task that Mothers have is not to care for their children’s physical needs. The most God-glorifying aspect of motherhood is not keeping their children alive. The most Christ-exalting and eternally profitable task of mothers is to point their children to true life in Jesus Christ!
A Christ-Honoring Motherhood
So, dear mothers: Christ has set you in a place of high honor. How is it that you can go about honoring him as well? How can you make the most of the task you’ve been given for the glory of the kingdom?
- Spend time at the Savior’s feet (Luke 10:38-42)
Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha, and we see something which I’m sure many of you mothers can identify with. Martha is busy. She has a house to clean, food to prepare, dishes to wash, guests to host. Moreover, she feels like she’s been left alone to do all these things, and is indignant that Mary isn’t helping.
Have you ever felt this way, moms? You feel like there’s so much going on around you that you can barely keep up, and you’re running your legs off trying to get everything done, and it seems as though nobody is helping you.
Jesus responds to Martha’s indignant question, and if you’re not careful you will miss what he’s saying. Jesus says that Mary has chosen what is better. It would be easy to make this the central point and miss what Jesus says in the sentence just before. Right before this, Jesus says, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” One thing? What are you talking about Jesus? I have about 50 things that I need to do. What is this one thing that Jesus is saying is needed?
We see Jesus talking the same way when he meets the rich young ruler. Do you remember what Jesus says to the young man? The young man claims that he has kept all of God’s commands, and Jesus replies: “This one thing you lack, go sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and come follow me.” Here again you must be careful to not let the emphasis fall on the wrong thing. Jesus is not telling this man that selling all his possessions will get him into heaven. Jesus is not telling Martha that there’s just one thing she really needs to get done around the house.
In both of these circumstances, what Jesus is saying is that the ONE THING which is needed is Him! To the rich you ruler, Jesus says – “This one thing you lack: me! So go get rid of everything that’s keeping you from me and come be with me!” To Martha, Jesus says – “There is one thing that will always be far more important than any household chores you have: me! So stop all you’re doing and come to be with me!”
Dear mothers, there is one thing that you must do above all else: you MUST live your life in the presence of Jesus. Spending time with Jesus is more important than the dishes. Spending time with Jesus is more important than picking up toys. Spending time with Jesus is more important than doing laundry. Spending time with Jesus is more important than all the things you do. So, at ALL costs, whatever it takes, spend time at the feet of the Savior.
I have heard of one woman who had more than a handful of children. She had extreme difficulty in setting aside time during the day to spend with Jesus. So, her way to set aside that time was to sit at the kitchen table and drape her apron over her head while she read the Word of God. Her children came to understand that when Mother was doing this they were not to disturb her, and even if she was only able to do so for 15 minutes, she would sit at the table every day in order to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Whatever it takes, be a mother who lives at the feet of Jesus.
This is vital for you personally, but also for your children.
- Train your children to know Jesus (2 Tim 1:3-7,14)
The greatest missionary theologian of all time – Paul the apostle – points to the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother as being pivotal in the faith of Timothy himself. Dear mothers, there is an extraordinary mercy of God whereby he has given you a highly intimate level of influence on your children’s spiritual vitality. Your example of Godliness can have massive, unbreakable effects on the life of your children.
Archibald Alexander, a Professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1800’s, recounts the story of a young man who was saved by his mother’s example:
“I recollect a young gentleman, who, although he had an uncommonly pious mother, broke over all the restraints of his education, and became a professed infidel and the advocate of licentiousness in its vilest forms; but a gracious God heard the unceasing prayers of his mother, and by means somewhat unusual he was converted from the error of his ways. In speaking of his former career—which he evidently did with shame and humility—he said, “I could get over all arguments in defense of religion but one, and that I never could eliminate, which was the pious example and life of my mother. When I had fortified myself against the truth by the aid of Bolingbroke, Hume, and Voltaire, yet, whenever I thought of my mother, I had the secret conviction which nothing could remove—that there was a reality in vital piety.”
Ladies, never be fooled into thinking that you have little influence over your children. Even when they are far astray from the godly fields in which you have raised them, the light of your faith and godliness may be the light which the Lord uses to guide them into salvation.
This is true even when the husband or father is unable or unwilling to serve as a godly example. We don’t know anything of Timothy’s father. He may have been completely out of the picture, or he may have been a pagan worshipper of idol gods. What we do know is that Timothy’s mother and grandmother deposited and nurtured the true gospel in him, and he became the apprentice of the greatest apostle.
Dear women, how glorious it is to know that your example and faithful witness to your children may lead them into the sort of faith that moves mountains! What small service I may be blessed to accomplish for the glory of Jesus my Savior must, in part, be credited to the account of my dear mother.
- Encourage your children to love Jesus more than you (Luke 14:25-27; 18:29-30)
Now, this is a difficult thing. It is not easy to raise children with the express intent that they love someone else MORE than you. It is difficult to fix your mind so steadfastly on eternity and the glory of God. However, even in the mundane things of every day, eternity hangs heavy in the air. When you discipline your children, you are working for the glory of God. When you pray with your children, you are preparing them to glorify God. When you teach your children spiritual things, you are entrusting the good deposit of the gospel to those who will grow up and fight for the king.
So, when you raise your children, let more than their daily needs be on your mind. Let eternity and the glory of God, and the Kingdom of Christ be on your mind. Raise children who will affect the world. Raise children who will sacrifice everything they have for the glory of Jesus. Prepare your children to follow Christ no matter the cost. Be a mother who raises soldiers for the kingdom. Be a mother who bears the fruit that will glorify the eternal kingdom of God through your work in preparing your children to follow Jesus at all costs.
Momma gets scared every time I go somewhere dangerous to proclaim the gospel. I understand, and I hate that she gets scared, but I would willingly give my life to honor Christ. And THAT, above all else, eternally honors my mother as well. There is no greater way I know of to honor my mother than to give my life fully in obedience and sacrificial service to Christ.
- Do not despair.
Some of you, through choice or physical inability or prolonged singleness, do not have children. The first thing I want to tell you this morning is that God sees your pain. He knows the hurt you have, the longing for unfulfilled desires. And God have a very special grace for you. He will sustain you and be nearest to you in moments of pain. Our Lord Jesus Christ will comfort you.
Secondly, I want to tell you this: realize that the reason God has placed you in the fellowship of saints and believer is to be a spiritual mother to those around you. Please don’t think this is some sort of conciliation prize; something just to put a band-aid on the aching wound. No! Your spiritual influence to care for and nurture your brothers and sisters in Christ is a very real calling. The Lord calls you to pour out your motherly care and love on those around you, who will be lastingly affected by your spiritual care.
There have been a number of men and women in my life who have acted as spiritual mothers and grandmothers – women who have encouraged me and prayed for me and nurtured my gifts and calling. Please understand that this is a massively important role for you in the context of the church. You effect eternity through your motherly love for those around you week in and week out. Please do not neglect this glorious calling.
Also, some of you ladies may be thinking: “I haven’t done these things. I’ve missed my chances. It’s too late for me to do any of that.”
No! Dear ladies, today is a glorious day for you. Today, the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal King and Savior, invites you to live from this day forward in the power and honor of motherly affection. And He will honor those who honor you, and you will be honored in the eternal, lasting spiritual fruit that will come.
You know, there are days when I’m simply overwhelmed at the great blessings God has poured out on me through my mother. Who can say what her eternal impact will be as her children live their lives for Christ.
And for you mothers also: who knows what impact you can have for the kingdom? When all God’s children stand rejoicing at the throne, there will be great honor given to the women who cared for and instructed God’s children. There will be a great multitude of women who spent their earthly lives at the feet of Jesus, showing their children by example what it means to have everyday faith in Christ. There will be a great many sons and daughters of God who will say, “My dear mother was a great influence in bringing me into the King’s household.” There will be a great many of those in heaven who we will call blessed: the saints, those who suffered for the name of Jesus, those who sacrificed life and limb for the glory of God, those who lived with fiery passion to exalt the name of Jesus Christ – many who were encouraged to do so by loving, godly, Christ-exalting mothers.
Oh, what will your impact be, mothers!? God our Father has set you in high esteem and commanded that everyone honor you. Will you now honor him with your life and service? Will your life exalt your Savior? Let it be so! And may you be richly blessed in the pursuit. Amen!