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Mothers to the Next Generation

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Last Monday I returned from China after visiting my wife there. She is getting medical treatment for her stroke. Sitting next to me on the 13-hour flight was a young woman. An American who spends most of her time in China. She is 26-years old. She is tall, thin, and beautiful. She is a model, and apparently well-known in the modeling world.
From outward appearances, she seems to have everything a woman might want. If she walked into this room, 90% would stare at her for her beauty and her charm.

Yet as we talked, Kelly admitted she is sensing her life is a wreck. She was married for a year about age 20 to a Russian man who lived in China. She had a son and got divorced within a year.

She told me she doesn’t like being a mom. Takes so much work. She can’t live the life she wants, free to travel the world doing modeling gigs. In fact, her son lives with his dad. And Kelly made very little mention of her son.

When I told her my wife and I have four daughters, she could not grasp how my wife and I could have ever done that. She said she couldn’t handle one kid.

She now seems to be searching for answers to life. She is slowly realizing how empty her life is.

Among many things I shared with her, including some fatherly advice, the most important thing I could tell her is to point her to Jesus.
One verse I shared with her is Jesus’ words:
John 5:24 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
We spoke freely for a while about why Christ came. Why I need Christ. And why she needs Christ.

As I’ve thought about my conversation with her since then, my heart has been even more saddened. Her lack of love and unwillingness to sacrifice for her son is grieving to me. And even worse is her lack of interest in the God who made her and died for her.

We can get so enamored with the outward. The beauty and the charm, like this young woman has. But unless Christ has saved us and is at the center of our lives, everything else becomes quite unimportant. Even worthless.

Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?”

Today is Mother’s Day, and I commend all of you moms. What a job you have, and what a job you are doing.

But even more important…more important than motherhood…is our relationship with Jesus.
And ultimately that is a mother’s greatest job description: Point her children…and the next generation… to Jesus.

That is our topic for this morning.

Motherhood

Let me ask a basic question: What is motherhood?
At its core, motherhood is about influencing the next generation.
And of course we obviously think about biological and adopted children. That is obvious.

But women can have a motherly influence on many others who are not their actual children.
For example, the Apostle Paul noted a woman in the church in Rome who influenced him.
Romans 16:13 ESV “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.”
I love that.

This morning, I want to focus on, of course, a mother’s influence on her own children in her home. But I want to broaden that out to the influence all women—married or not, young or old—can have on the next generation.
And by the next generation, I mean young children. Grandchildren, nieces and nephews. But also younger people in general. College students, young singles and marrieds.

All of you women can and should have some influence for the sake of Christ on the next generation. There is a motherly role for you, even if you are not their mother.

God Desires Children

Let’s step back further from that. Ultimately, what does God want?

He wants children.

We are preparing for a series on the Gospel of John, so I have begun digging into it. One verse that’s been on my mind:
John 1:12–13 ESV “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
God as Creator gives physical life and gives us our souls. But sin interferes with that. God’s judgment brings death to our souls. So because he is merciful, he desires to save souls. And he sent his Son into the world to take our punishment upon himself so that we might go free and be adopted as God’s sons and daughters. We then are born into the family of God.

This is what it means to be born again, like later in John chapter 3.

So if this is God’s passion, this ought to be our passion. This ought to be our passion for our children if we are moms and dads. And this ought to be our passion for others even if our parenting years are long over. And even if we have never been parents.

God’s passion is for the each generation to seek him and to know him. He wants children.

So an important question for each of us—and I’m focusing on women this morning, but obviously this relates to men, too—Here’s an important question:
How can I (and how can we together) influence the next generation and point them to Jesus?
Again, married or not, young or old—the Lord wants to use us.

Stories

Let me tell some stories this morning. Some of them are good. Some of them are sad. But they all reveal an influence on the next generation.

Let’s start with the good news. A few examples of godly women who impacted the next generation.

Timothy
Timothy became the protégé of the Apostle Paul, and he became an Apostle, or at least had the influence of an apostle. How did he get there?

The foundation was laid by two very important women in his life: his mother and grandmother.
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV “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.”
The only mention in the Scriptures of his father was that he was a Greek, not a Jew. I surmise from that that Timothy’s father was not a follower of Jesus. But his mother and grandmother were.

What a blessing for those two women to know that Timothy walked with Jesus his whole life. Grandma influenced her daughter. And then both of them influenced Timothy.

How inspiring for you women. You can pray, “Lord, make me like Lois and Eunice.”

My own story.
In my own story, I owe much to my mother. She along with my dad didn’t get saved until they were in their 40’s. I was a freshman at Iowa State. And the Lord used them both, but especially my mom. She became the primary influence for me and my three sisters. She basically led all four of us to Christ in one summer. So in a way, I owe my physical life to my mother. And I owe my spiritual life to her.

Mary Slessor
Mary never married. Never gave birth to any children. But she was a woman who, through the power of God, became one of the most influential mothers that I know of the 19th century.

Mary Slessor was born in 1848 in Scotland, the second of seven children, only four of whom survived childhood. Her father was drunk, and often violent. A very poor family. Her mother was a godly woman, and gave Mary a heart for mission work.

In spite of her dysfunctional upbringing, God’s grace poured out into her life as she spent the last 40 years of her life as a missionary.

But truly, her label should not be missionary. It should be Mother. Or “Ma”, as she was affectionately called.

While in her mid-20’s, Mary went as a missionary to Calabar, today known as Nigeria, in the heart of Africa. (We have a few people from Nigeria here at Stonebrook.)

What she is best known for is rescuing abandoned children. Through this, she became a mother to many.

The people of Calabar were very superstitious. They believed that twins were a great evil. One had the devil as its father, but since no one knew which one, both were buried alive or thrown into the forest. Their mother was driven away to die.

As Mary reached out to these tribes to bring them the Good News about a Savior named Jesus, she worked tenaciously over the years to rescue abandon children and mothers, and to stop the practice of killing twins.

Her house was filled with orphans, twins that she rescued from death, and in this home she poured out the love of her motherly heart. Mary adopted dozens of children and raised them as her own!

In 2009, I was in Iowa City teaching a session in a missions class and I talked about Mary Slessor. Afterwards, a young man from Nigeria. Perhaps in his late 20’s. He and his sister are twins. While he was growing up in the 1990’s, his parents constantly told him the story of Mary Slessor and the killing of twins, and that if he and his twin sister had been born in Nigeria at that time, they would not be alive.

These three examples—Timothy’s grandmother and mother, my mother, and Mary Slessor— three examples of women who had positive influences on the next generation for Christ.

Now let’s look at a bad Mom.

Last Wednesday I watched a video testimony of a godly man, Heath Lambert. He is 38 years old
(Watch his story at https://vimeo.com/124982820.)
He is married and has three children. He has had a significant influence on the Biblical Counseling world.

So surely he had a good mom, right?

As I was listening to his story, I was shocked.

He said this: “My mother was the most wicked woman I ever met.”

You might be wondering: “It’s Mother’s Day….Where in the world are you going with this story?” 
Hang in there with me.

His mother was a promiscuous, violent, angry drunk throughout his entire youth. She kicked his dad out of the house on Christmas Day when Heath was 3 years old. The reason: She was going to marry another man who himself was going to leave his wife.
That second marriage never happened. And she went rapidly downhill. She was an angry woman. She drank heavily. She neglected Heath and his twin brother.

When Heath was 8, his mother tried to drown him. The kitchen sink was filled with water, and she was pushing his head backwards into the sink, trying to drown him. The only reason she wasn’t successful was because Heath’s twin brother hit their mother with one of her vodka bottles.

Another time she was in a drunken rage toward her boys, and as the boys were trying to escape on their bicycles, she actually tried to shoot them with a gun. A bullet actually struck his bicycle.

Heath said he absolutely despised his mother. He hated her.

When he was about 15 or 16, a godly woman led him to Christ. He continued to hate his mother, but within a year or two God began to change his heart.

Then 10 or so years later, the Lord used Heath and his new wife to influence his mom. She eventually got saved, repented of all the evil she had done to so many people. And she spent the remaining years of her life following Jesus, until an aggressive cancer killed her not many years ago.

Ultimately, This is God’s World

So you may be wondering why would I share such a terrible story?

I share it for one reason: To give us all hope.

I know many of you in this room are very good moms. Even outstanding mothers.

But still, I suspect many of you often feel like you’re not a good enough mom. You wonder how God can use you to influence the next generation. You wonder, at times, if you are going to ruin your children. You may feel certain you have already ruined them.

I want us all to know that if God can bring good into Heath’s life in spite of a horrific childhood and a wicked mother, how much more can he work in our children’s lives. God saved Heath and has raised him up to have an influence not unlike Timothy of the New Testament. But the childhood experience of Heath’s was very, very different than Timothy’s.

God can and will use you moms.

And what about Heath’s mom? So she is in her 40’s. Her life to that point has been an utter disaster. God saves her. And she comes to her senses and realizes what she had done.

How could she ever recover from so many years of wickedness and violence and drunkenness and hatred and attempted murder of her own sons? How could his mom ever make up for the severe loss she created in her twin sons from so many years of extraordinary pain? What could she possibly do to undo the tragic mess she had created?

She could do very little. All she could do was to throw herself at the feet of Jesus, humble herself, repent of her evil, and plead for mercy. She cannot do anything else. She cannot undo the damage she had done. She cannot turn the clock back. She cannot undo the wicked hatred and drunken days and severe beatings.

But God in his grace and his power is the restorer of all things broken.

Somehow….somehow….God worked through all that darkness and depravity….and brought good into Heath’s life, and eventually into her life.

So to all of you women (and all of you men), you all have had failures and sins and brokenness of your own. Hopefully nowhere near as bad as Heath’s mother. But sin and brokenness still. And we can look back with such guilt and shame and pain. At times, this can overwhelm us.

But remember….and rejoice… and take heart….that God is the Restorer of all things broken.
God is the Undoer of our Undoing.

So thinking now of both Heath and his mother, all of us can take heart. God obviously prefers to work in us and through us as we walk in obedience and faith. And he does. But God can also work in spite of us. His grace is sufficient. His grace is enough.

So while the role of a mother and other women who are influencing the next generation is extraordinarily important, we can also rest in knowing that God is the one ultimately in charge. The next generation… your children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews….and young people in college at Iowa State… belong to the Lord.

And one way or another, God…God…will reach out to them.

The Apostle Paul spoke these astonishing words to a group of philosophers in Athens:
Acts 17:26–27 ESV “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…”
This passage gives me hope. God, in his incredible power and extraordinary wisdom, is able to map out the course of your life in such a way that somehow you are in the unique and best position to seek after God, and perhaps find him. Some of us were born in the United States. Others of us are from China. Korea. Malaysia. Nigeria. Cameroon. Somehow God in his power and wisdom set you in the very best time and place in history to seek after him and perhaps find him.

Now we pray and hope that you and other women (and men) will be as godly and loving examples that you can possibly be to the next generation. That is what we desire. Surely that is God’s desire.

But whether you are an outstanding, godly woman, or if you feel weak and frail…or even if you’ve had a history that might match Heath’s mother, or Heath himself, God is able to work.
You are the Mom…You are the Grandmother…You are the Aunt and the older, mature woman….that God can and will use, by his grace and his power, to influence the next generation.

So if and when you are tempted to feel useless and worthless and inadequate, remember Acts 17.
Remember the grace of God. Remember the heart of God for people all over the world. Remember that God is the only one who can save souls.

Your children need one Savior, and his name is not Mom or Dad. It is Jesus.

I hope you understand what I’m getting at. I am not trying to diminish your role. Your role as a godly woman is enormously important.

But ultimately, our goal is simply yet profoundly point them to Jesus.

I guarantee we will not do this perfectly.

But God is able to work in you and through you and sometimes in spite of you, because he loves your children more than you do. He loves your nieces and nephews and grandchildren more than you do. He loves the young people in this church and on this campus more than you do.

Our Calling

So what is our calling? For you women (and really, the same for us men), what do we need to do to participate with God in influencing the next generation?

Four action steps for us.

Pray for the next generation.
Children. Grandchildren. Nieces. Nephews. Children in this church. Young people in this church and on our campus.
You mothers with kids at home: This is one of your highest priority tasks.
You older women influencing young people: Prayer is one of your highest priorities.

Pray for them often. Pray for their souls. Pray they would know Jesus, and know him well.
Pray they would walk with him all the days of their lives.
Pray they would obey the Lord.
Pray that God would use you….even in all your faltering, failing ways….that God would use you to influence others in even greater ways.
Pray that God would somehow—in his kindness and power— make up for your lack and your brokenness.

Pray for the next generation.

Second,
Seek to discover your role.
What part do you play? If you’re a mom with children still at home, it’s a straightforward answer. The next generation is at the kitchen table with you every day.
If you’re an empty nester or single with no children, you have lots of possible people to influence. Grandchildren. Nieces and nephews. College students. Young families.

My wife loves to help young families. And she and I do a little with college students. She hopes to do even more as her health improves.

How could the Lord use you to influence others? What needs to change in your priorities? How does your schedule need to look?

Seek to discover your role.

Third,
Believe the promises of God.
I know of no promises that guarantee the next generation will love the Lord. The Lord Jesus had one of his disciples not just walk away, but actually betray him. The Apostle Paul had disciples walk away.

But we do have guarantees—the Bible calls them promises—that God will help us and be gracious to us and reward us.

Here is one:
Promise of reward:
Hebrews 6:10 ESV “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”
God would be unjust to forget the work you have done for his sake out of love for him in your service to the people of God.
You young moms, few people notice how you constantly serve your children. And you do the same things over and over again. Laundry again. Meal preparation again. Kids fighting again. And we can wonder, “Is it worth it?” God tells you, “I will make it worth your while. I will never forget.”

Another promise:
John 12:24 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
This is a passage I’ve been thinking about the past few weeks. I realized I need to lay down my life for my wife. I’ve been trying to view myself more as her slave. Her servant.

This truth from Jesus is relevant to all of us. We all want life. We define it in different ways, but the core of it is likely the same. We want hope, satisfaction, joy, peace, love, pleasure. Jesus tells us how: Go and die. Die to your selfish desires. Die to your own plans.

We all want resurrection power. But to get resurrection power, we have to die first. Dying to self hurts. It is painful. But Jesus said, “When you die like the seed planted in the ground, your life will bear fruit.” We don’t always know precisely what the fruit will look like or when it will blossom. But the Lord promises good results to a life offered up for his sake.

Find promises such as these. Then sink the roots of your faith deep into those promises.

Fourth, and finally:
Remember that God is in charge.
God is in charge. Our roles are limited. Very important….but limited.
Even the Apostle Paul, as gifted and influential as he was, understood his limited role.
Ultimately, God has to work in hearts.
Using the metaphor of a Gardener, Paul says:
1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
Paul and his friend Apollos had their God-given tasks to do, but in the end it is God’s job to cause growth in the kingdom of God.
This should relieve us of the pressure of making people change. We realize that ultimately we work for the King. This is the King’s kingdom. We are simply his servants.

This also inspires us to more faith-filled prayer. We realize if we are exerting mere human effort and God is not involved, we will be fruitless. We must be people of prayer. Of a humble dependence on the Lord.

Conclusion

God desires children in his family. And with each new generation, he desires to add children to his eternal, kingdom family. That is why Jesus came.
And so that becomes our calling. Our calling….is to somehow and in some way… influence the next generation for eternity…for the sake of Christ.