Last week I buried my grandmother. Though I rejoice knowing I will see her again one day, the world feels emptier without her. I was blessed with great-grandmothers, great aunts, and three grandmothers who all loved the Lord and who are all now in His presence. The loss of these generations of mothers cuts me deeply, but the significance of their lives reverberates within my own. Though some of them never bore physical children, Heaven will be fuller from the spiritual children they produced, fostered, and discipled. The faith of these women cultivated my own and bore me forward into the arms of my Savior. There is something incredibly beautiful and beneficial about a faith that is passed down from generation to generation. We see an example of this in the beginning of Paul’s second letter to Timothy when he writes,
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Tim. 1:5). A few chapters later he writes again,“But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 3:14-15).
What a blessing for Timothy to have been raised in a home where two godly women taught him to love God and to know Scripture. God raised Timothy up at a young age to become an influential leader, teacher, and example of faith and godliness; and He did so by building upon the foundation of faith poured into Timothy through the daily dedication of two mothers.
Although Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him God’s Word and how to live morally in a corrupt, godless world, their child’s faith was his own. Despite mine and Timothy’s godly heritage, the faith of our mothers could not save us. Faith in Jesus is a personal decision every individual must make, and just because a parent loves Jesus does not mean that their child(ren) will follow in the faith.
After Moses died, Joshua led the Israelites into the long-awaited promise land, and they saw the faithfulness of God demonstrated in mighty ways. The sun stood still. The bigger, badder Amalekites were defeated. The Jordan river dried up during its fullest season so the people could walk across on dry land. The walls of Jericho tumbled as the trumpets blew and the people shouted. God was clearly at work in this generation as he led them triumphantly forward, defeating their enemies before them. But then something tragic happened:
“The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel….. After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7, 10).
How heartbreaking. The understanding here isn’t that this next generation did not know of God, but that they did not know him personally. One can only surmise how this happened. Perhaps the parents, consumed by their own faith as they defeated their enemies and dealt with their struggles, neglected to cultivate faith in their children. Or perhaps the parents grew complacent in their faith, thinking they deserved all that they had rather than remembering that they were once slaves set free by the grace of God, not by works of righteousness, for God’s glory not theirs. Whatever the reason – distraction, complacency, etc. – this example serves as a warning.
While a heritage of faith brings blessings, the responsibility of faith is the intentionality with which it is passed on to our children.
So how does a mother intentionally pass on her faith to her children? Lois and Eunice knew. They taught Timothy God’s Word. According to Paul, the Holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15b). He was referring to the Scriptures Timothy had been taught since infancy. It appears that Timothy’s faith in God was firmly established by a thorough understanding of God’s Word, so that when Paul brought the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection to Timothy’s home, he was saved, as were his mother and grandmother. Intentionally instructing our children in Scripture sets the foundation for their salvation.
Paul continues in the next verses: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). Intentional Scriptural training is not merely beneficial in leading our children to faith but also necessary for growing their faith into maturity and developing spiritual effectiveness. Someone or something will inform what our children believe, and they will be conformed, either to the image of the world or into the image of Christ. To avoid raising up a generation who does not know God personally or is not equipped to serve Him faithfully, we must intentionally raise our children up in the Word of God.
I am indebted to the mothers who came before me, who passed their faith from generation to generation. They taught me to love others, to serve my church, to give generously, to work diligently, to trust God’s provision, and above all that to be a woman of God one must be a woman of the Word.
What woman in your life has enabled your spiritual growth by her faithfulness? How might you thank her this Mother’s Day? And who are you intentionally investing God’s Word in to ensure the faithfulness of the next generation?