In 1928, pastor W.L. Caldwell preached a message to a mother's day audience. This is what he said, "Well may we pause to pay honor to her who after Jesus Christ is God's best gift to men, mother. It was she who shared her life with us when as yet our members were yet unformed. Into the valley of the shadow of death she walked that we might have the light of life. In her arms was the garner of our food and a soft couch for our repose. There we nestled in the hour of pain, there was the playground of our infant glee. Those same arms later became our refuge and stronghold. It was she who taught our baby feet to go and lifted us up over the rough places. Her blessed hands plied the needle by day and by night to make our infant clothes. She put the book under our arms and started us off to school. But best of all she taught our baby lips to lisp the name of Jesus and told us first the wondrous story of the savior's love. The pride of America is its mothers. There are wicked mothers like Jezebel of old, there are unnatural mothers who sell their children into sin. There are sin cursed, rum soaked, and abandoned mothers to who their motherhood is the exposure of their shame. But I am glad to believe that there are comparatively few in this class."
Few maybe in 1928, but in 1998, not so few. Are mothers still the pride of America? In the self-centered society in which we live, the sentiments that Caldwell expressed are almost funny. What has happened to American motherhood? There are one and a half million legal abortions a year in this country. The divorce rate today is astronomical. The number of illegitimate births continues to rise. The rate of battered children in the United States grows every year. Sexually molested children are almost the norm. This is particularly scary in light of Caldwell's words that, "no nation is ever greater than its mothers. For they are the makers of its men."
Mothers, please understand this, please let this grasp your soul, "no nation is ever greater than its mothers. For they are the makers of its men." Mothers, your influence is great!
Our mission statement puts our mission this way: To influence friends who are living in spiritual darkness that they also may know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ. We put the word "friends" in there because we believe that we have a much greater influence over our friends than we do over our acquittances. But how much greater influence do we have over our own children? And who has the greatest influence in the home? I think we would all agree that it is the mother. Moms, your influence is great!
We see the power of a mother's influence over and over in the Scriptures. Particularly in the books of 1 & 2 Kings where the mother's influence over the kings is stressed.
1 Kings 22:42-43 (NKJV) Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. 43 And he walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD. Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for the people offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
Why does God give us the name of the king's mother? I think it is because she is the greatest influence in her children's lives.
2 Kings 15:1-3 (NKJV) In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, became king. 2 He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. 3 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done,
2 Kings 15:32-33 (NKJV) In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok.
This phrase, "His mother's name was," is found 23 times in Scripture and in 22 of them the verse also says, "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD," or "And he did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD." Now, I don't know about you, but that strikes me as interesting. The Scripture tells us who his mother was, and then it tells us they either did evil or good in the sight of the Lord. I think that the Scripture is trying to emphasis the influence of the mother.
Now, I'm not saying that how children turn out is totally dependant upon the Mother. Some good mothers raise bad children and some bad mothers raise good children. But what I want you to see here is that the mother has a tremendous influence on her children.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NKJV) and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul says that Timothy knew the scriptures from childhood. Now, who do you suppose taught him those scriptures?
2 Timothy 1:5 (NKJV) when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
Paul says here that the sincere faith that dwelt in Timothy was first in his grandmother and mother. I don't think there is any doubt that Timothy was taught the Christian faith by his mother. How could a mother not influence her children with all the time they spend with them?
Look with me at a very interesting verse in:
1 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
It says that the woman is saved in childbearing. What does that mean? To really understand its meaning, we need to examine its context. The word "nevertheless" means, "despite all this." Despite all what? In Chapter 2 of 1 Timothy, Paul is talking to Timothy about the roles of men and women in the church. Notice what he says in:
1 Timothy 2:11-14 (NKJV) Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Despite how anyone feels about this, Paul is saying through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the women are not to lead in the church. They are not to be preachers or teachers of the church. Then just to make sure no one tries to make this cultural, he ties it back to creation. Now, Paul tells us later in this letter that the church is to influence its world with the truth:
1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NKJV) These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
The church is to display the truth of God to a lost world. Now, if the women can't preach or teach in the church, how are they to influence their world? The answer comes in verse 15, "she will be saved in childbearing." What does this mean? Is she saved in the sense of getting eternal life by having babies? No, of course not. Some say it means that she will be physically delivered from death in childbirth. We know that is not true. Many women have died in childbirth. What does it mean?
The Greek word used for "saved" can mean "deliverance." I think what this verse is saying is that a woman is delivered from spiritual uselessness, from longing for purpose, delivered from feeling she makes no significant contribution in life.
It is God's purpose that a woman influence society through her children. Woman's contribution to influencing the world is through her children. Women have the responsibility of raising a godly seed.
The word "childbearing" means parentage, the performance of maternal duties. It is not just having babies, but raising them in a godly manner.
Our society depreciates motherhood, a woman is often looked down upon if she is simply a mother. But God says that women find their fulfillment and purpose in raising children. Now who are you going to believe, God or our society?
Mothers, you must not assume that secular employment is a greater challenge or a better use of your life than the countless opportunities of service and witness in the home, the neighborhood, the community, the church, and the world. Moms, you should not only pose the question: Career vs. full time mom? But you should also ask as seriously: Full time career vs. freedom for ministry? You should ask: Which would be greater for the Kingdom -- to be in the employ of someone telling you what to do to make his business prosper, or to be God's free agent dreaming your own dream about how your time and your home and your creativity could make God's kingdom prosper? And that in all this, you make your choices not on the basis of secular trends or yuppie lifestyle expectations, but on the basis of what will strengthen the family and advance the cause of Christ.
Women will be delivered in child rearing if, "they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." Women will find their fulfillment in child rearing when they live a godly life, thus being a godly influence to their children.
If you think a woman is stifled in her God-ordained role, you've totally missed the point. We see an amazing woman in Proverbs 31 who is not stifled at all.
Each year we witness the coronation of another Miss America. For millions of little girls and young ladies Miss America is a model woman. As Bert Parks used to sing, "There she is, Miss America, There she is, your ideal." For many, then, the ideal woman is young, single, sexy, and sophisticated. The ideal woman of Proverbs 31 is quite different. She is married and she has children. We are not told her age or whether she is pretty. The most important quality of the ideal woman is that she is godly.
Let's look at Proverbs 31 and see the character traits of a godly woman.
First, this description of the woman in Proverbs 31 is one that is carefully composed. It was not written by a husband who had forgotten it was Mother's Day, and hastily penned a few words of praise after picking up a dozen roses on a street corner. This piece of Hebrew poetry is an acrostic, a poem in which the first letter of each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The passage is a literary masterpiece, very carefully constructed.
Second, the woman described is to be a model not an ideal. A model is to be imitated, but an ideal will never be reached. She is a woman of godly character, and in this both men and women should seek to follow her example. But beyond this, she is a woman of great ability.
The distinguishing marks of a godly woman are:
Proverbs 31:10 (NKJV) Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
She is described in verse 10 as an "excellent" (NASB) wife. In the NIV she is said to be a "wife of noble character." The implication of verse 10 is that a woman of her quality is rare and very valuable.
Proverbs 31:11 (NKJV) The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.
The first thing about a virtuous woman is that she is a faithful and supportive wife to her husband. "The heart of her husband trusts her.... She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life." That's where the tribute begins, and obviously that is her first priority. Evidently she knows that a stable and loving marriage is basic to success and happiness of all other areas. She knows that marriage fulfills her as a person and that the first essential of motherhood is to create for the children the environment of a loyal and loving home.
Proverbs 31:12 (NKJV) She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.
Rather than being a detriment to her husband, she is his helper, bringing him nothing but good. She supports her husband. A man who has married a godly wife has a wife who will bring honor to him. She is truly a helper to her husband.
An ungodly wife humiliates and harasses her husband. She is not a helper but a hindrance to her mate. She is "as rottenness in his bones" (12:4). By her haranguing, she makes him miserable. The ungodly woman is spoken of in very unbecoming terms. She is vexing, due to her contentious nature:
Proverbs 21:9 It is better to live in a corner of a roof Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
Proverbs 21:19 It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman.
Proverbs 31:13-14 (NKJV) She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar.
This woman is no sluggard. Repeatedly she is described in terms of her diligence and strength. She works with her hands.
This lady goes a long way to get a good deal on wool and flax, and according to verse 19, when she gets it, she puts it on the spindle and the distaff and makes thread. And with the thread she begins to make things. She is a hard worker.
Proverbs 31:15 (NKJV) She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.
She cares more about her family than her own comfort. Her primary concern is to live for her family. In our society she would not sit around the house watching soap operas, for she has no idle time.
Proverbs 31:16-19 (NKJV) She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle.
Some women seem to think that the world of the wife is exceedingly small, restricted largely to dirty dishes and diapers. Is their ministry confined only to doing the housework? Is their world defined by the walls of their home? No, She is a purchasing agent for the family. We all know how much a family consumes. The ideal wife contributes to the family by purchasing the necessities of the family. She looks, I assume, for the highest quality at the lowest price. She does not buy her groceries on the spur of the moment at the Seven-Eleven store on the corner, but she searches out the finest of goods, going some distance, if necessary, to get both quality and economy. She has a very practical wisdom, for she is able to make wise investments.
In verse 17 we see that she is not frail, self-indulgent, and fixing herself to be beautiful all the time. She's out there working with her arms to provide a little extra because she is planing for the future.
The traditional stereotype is that the "pretty little woman" has no brains for business. How could she possibly understand the stock market, or have a grasp of the pros and cons of buying gold or real estate? But this woman did make investments, and it is obvious that she did well at it.
Proverbs 31:20-24 (NKJV) She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.
She's enterprising, first of all, so she can give to those who don't have anything (vs 20). This woman has concern for the poor and the needy, giving of her income to minister to their needs. Since she had something left over from what she gave to the needy, she clothed her household in scarlet so they would have something a little nicer (vs 21). After the needs of the needy were met, and the family had some nice clothes, she made herself something nice-- a lined overcoat out of tapestry, and clothes of white linen and purple (vs 22). After she met the needs of the poor, the needs of her family, and her own needs, she started a little business out of the home, making fine linen, selling it, and delivering belts to the merchant. And notice that it is all in the right sequence of priority.
Proverbs 31:25-27 (NKJV) Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Notice in verse 26, that the teaching of this woman is called the "teaching of kindness." I understand this to mean that she instructs in a gentle way, and that her teaching is encouraging and edifying. The godly woman is a woman of wisdom, a woman who fears God and who manifests godliness in her doings. Much, perhaps most, of the teaching of this godly woman would be directed to her children. An example of this kind of teaching is found in the first 9 verses of chapter 31. Here the godly mother of King Lemuel (v. 1) instructs her son concerning those things which would hinder a godly reign. But the teaching of this woman may very well have extended beyond her household, especially to other women in the community who could gain from her wisdom. She is a capable leader and administrator (vs 27).
Proverbs 31:27-28 (NKJV) She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:
That is her reward, she is blessed by her husband and children.
Proverbs 31:31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.
Husbands, listen up: Verse 31 instructs the husband to give his wife the praise she deserves. Her works are to praise her in the gates. Now who, I would ask, is at the city gates? It is, of course, her husband (v. 23). The godly husband is at the gates of the city, in large part, because of the godly wife who is behind him. It is there, in the gates of the city, in public, that the godly husband should praise his wife.
Proverbs 31:30 (NKJV) Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
This woman is praised, not for her charm or her beauty, but for her fear of God. Mothers, you are an influence. It is so important for your children's sake that you be a godly one.
Let me share with you an example of a godly woman who greatly influenced her children. Susanna Wesley was the wife of a pastor and mother of 19 children. She was an attractive woman who taught her children six hours a day. She was well read and valued book learning. Her main concern was to raise her children to act strictly and honestly. The children were taught to fear the rod, and cry softly by which means they escaped abundance of correction. Mrs. Wesley sincerely believed that by her method she was training her children to obey God. Even if in the first instance, they were obeying her.
The code of conduct she taught never left them; the picture of God which she gave them in childhood shaped their conceptions through life. John Wesley said he owed to her the discipline of his mind. Her goal was to instill into his mind the principles of true religion and virtue. She prayed, "Lord give me the grace to do it sincerely and prudently and bless my attempts with good success."
Some of her rules were: no child was to be given a thing because he cried for it. If a child wanted to cry , cry softly. In her house was rarely heard loud cries. Each child must eat and drink everything before them. No eating or drinking between meals unless sick.
She spent one hour every day shut up in her room praying for her children. Two of her sons, Charles and John, through God brought revival to England. The person who had the most influence on John and Charles was their mother.
Parents, Let us continually seek to establish the qualities of the godly woman as the goal toward which our girls should strive. And let us teach our sons that this is the kind of woman who makes married life such a blessing.
The fact that Mother's Day has become an international institution proves that "time cannot wither nor custom stale" the veneration in which we hold our mothers and their great wisdom in bringing us into the world.
Mothers you are an influence in the lives of your children, that is without question. The question is are you being a godly one? If you are looking for meaning and purpose in your life, God's word says it is found in motherhood. Nobody influences society more that its mothers. Mom's, please remember the words of pastor Caldwell, "No nation is ever greater than its mothers. For they are the makers of its men."