Mother’s Day is a sweet opportunity for Christians to celebrate one of God’s most significant means of his common and redeeming grace.
For most, there’s some bitter flavor somewhere. We live in a fallen world. All mothers are sinful — even Jesus’s own mother knew well her need for a Savior (Luke 1:47) and for God’s mercy (Luke 1:50). Whether your own mother monumentally failed you, or you’re a mother who’s all too aware of how you’ve failed your children, there is goodness and grace to acknowledge and appreciate in almost every situation, even when deeply tarnished by sin.
But for many of us, our hearts soar in thanksgiving when God brings to mind our mothers and grandmothers, or our wife, the mother of our children. Among those of us raised in believing homes — in which our parents were faithful in teaching and modeling the faith — we may enjoy, all the more, the priceless privilege of fulfilling Proverbs 31:28 on Mother’s Day: “Her children rise up and call her blessed.”
Such Influence over the Heart
The great English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) had such a privilege. When he writes about his “Early Religious Impressions”, he not only says, “Fathers and mothers are the most natural agents for God to use in the salvation of their children,” but in particular he celebrates his mother.
I am sure that, in my early youth, no teaching ever made such an impression upon my mind as the instruction of my mother; neither can I conceive that, to any child, there can be one who will have such influence over the heart as the mother who has so tenderly cared for her offspring. . . .
Never could it be possible for any man to estimate what he owes to a godly mother. Certainly I have not the powers of speech with which to set forth my valuation of the choice blessing which the Lord bestowed on me in making me the son of one who prayed for me, and prayed with me.
If anyone would have had the powers of speech to set forth the blessing of a godly mother, it would have been Spurgeon. And yet he knew how invaluable and ultimately indescribable is the good a godly mother is for her children. It was his mother, more than any other mere human, who was God’s means in making Spurgeon great.
A Mother’s Unforgettable Sway
How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come? I thought her lips right eloquent; others might not think so, but they certainly were eloquent to me.
How can I ever forget when she bowed her knee, and with her arms about my neck, prayed, “Oh, that my son might live before Thee!” Nor can her frown be effaced from my memory — that solemn, loving frown, when she rebuked my budding iniquities; and her smiles have never faded from my recollection — the beaming of her countenance when she rejoiced to see some good thing in me towards the Lord God of Israel.
And it was not just her example and beaming countenance, but her words, communicated with manifest grace and gravity.
I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom, on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the table, and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scripture to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little piece of Alleine’s Alarm, or of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked, how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord.
Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of that prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember, on one occasion, her praying thus: “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience, and stirred my heart.
Mothers Who Gave Us God’s Word
Countless characteristics of a godly mother could be celebrated this weekend, but for the Christian it may be captured best in 2 Timothy 3:14–15, where Paul writes to Timothy his protégé, and notes the eternal influence of Timothy’s mother.
Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
What Paul has in mind with Timothy being acquainted with the Scriptures from childhood is made plain earlier in the letter: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).
According to Acts 16:1, Timothy’s father was Greek, but his mother was “a Jewish woman who was a believer.” It was Timothy’s mother Eunice and grandmother Lois who gave to him God’s priceless self-revelation in the Scriptures and, under God, made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” John Piper comments,
The apostle of Jesus Christ in this text bestows on motherhood and grandmotherhood a great honor. You have a calling that can become the long-remembered ground of faith, not just for your children — mark this — but for the untold numbers who will be affected by your children. And that’s in addition to all the other thousands of ripple effects of faith in your life. (“Honoring the Biblical Call of Motherhood”)
Whether Mother’s Day for you is bittersweet, or just plain sweet, here is perhaps the single most significant thing to celebrate in a Christian mother, and aspire to be with what life we have left to live: bringing the Scriptures near to our children.
In this way, the charge of Hebrews 13:7 to recall our leaders may have this special application to us in those we celebrate today: Remember your mothers, especially those who spoke to you the word of God.
For a memorable sermon from Sinclair Ferguson on 2 Timothy 3:14–15, especially relevant for Mother’s Day, see Don’t Hide God’s Word from the Little Ones. See also John Piper’s special Mother’s Day sermon giving tribute to his mother, Honoring the Biblical Call of Motherhood.