Get a Grip on Parenting

II Timothy 1:1-7

I’d like to share a quote with you on parenting I have come to appreciate, and I think you will too. It was written by pastor and author Chuck Swindoll.  “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”

As Christian parents, Julie and I worked to deposit many things into our children, such as our love for them, how much we value them, our wisdom, our knowledge. We tried to give them our best. We also passed along our love of music, learning, reading, baseball, and the Minnesota Twins. Our love for our extended family. Our values, service and respect, kindness and compassion, love of neighbor, citizenship, acting rightly, doing one’s best, working hard, being honest. At the end of our lives when Julie and I are in heaven, we will pass along some of our possessions to them through our will as well.

We have also passed on our faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, it is at the top of our list. We want our children to always trust in Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. We want them to follow Him, serve Him, and shine for Him. I’m glad to say they do.

It all began at the baptismal font when they were infants. We promised God we’d do our best, and it continues even today as they are grown and have their own children. We love being grandparents and want to pass the same spiritual legacy onto our grandchildren as well. After all, without Jesus Christ they would be lost now and for eternity. They’d be lacking in the fruit of the Spirit – joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control – which enriches one’s life and their relationships with others. Without Jesus they’d be living without knowing God’s true purpose for their lives.

As followers of Jesus, we were taught by our parents who modeled the importance of parenting. It is a sacred trust from God. He loves our kids even more than we do and wants them to follow Jesus Christ. Someone once said, The home is God’s built-in training facility to relay the truth of Jesus diligently and consistently. So how does one get a grip on this high, challenging calling called parenting?

Today, we read the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy about his Jewish mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, who took their calling quite seriously. They were a real blessing to Timothy, and they passed on some good things to him. Good deposits.

Of course, they loved Timothy and saw to his physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. Family was an important part of the Jewish culture. We read about the importance of family in the books of Psalms and Proverbs. The Old Testament has many stories about family – parents raising their kids, taking care of them, and loving them.

Eunice and Lois also saw to Timothy’s spiritual needs. They introduced him to Jesus Christ and raised him in the faith. They wanted him to know and follow Jesus and to have eternal life. They recognized the value of the Christian faith from their own experience. Lois and Eunice had become believers in Jesus in the early days of Christianity when they heard the Good News of Jesus during Paul’s first visit to their area. They lived in a place called Lystra. They were Galatians. Eunice was married to a non-Jewish man. We don’t know if he even had a faith life.

Paul, on his second visit, was so impressed with young Timothy and his faith in Jesus that he took him on his mission trip and mentored him. Timothy eventually became Paul’s right hand man in his ministry and spent many a night, I suppose, in jail with Paul. When they’d enter communities and share the Good News of Jesus, they would often be arrested. Timothy learned what it meant to deny oneself, pick up the cross and follow Jesus. Paul came to love him like a son.

Years later when Timothy was leading his own church, Paul wrote him a letter of encouragement. He had heard Timothy was having troubles, and he wanted to strengthen him in his resolve and his leadership. The letter was written from prison. These words could very well be considered Paul’s final words before his death.

In this touching letter, Paul makes a point of talking to Timothy about his mom and his grandma, and the positive influence they had on Timothy. He writes, “I am reminded of your sincere genuine faith, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.”

Paul is reminding Timothy that his saving faith was passed on to him by his mother and grandmother who shared the gospel, the Good News of Jesus. We know, of course, that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the power the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit has His tools. I would imagine they prayed for that boy as he was growing up. Lord, may Timothy grow up to trust in you and serve you all his life. Help me to lead him on the right paths and bring him along to enjoy a personal relationship with you just as I have. The Jewish believers were people of deep prayer.

Even before becoming Christians, Lois and Eunice had regular, set-aside times for prayer each day like any good Jew. They were people of prayer. They modeled what it meant to follow Jesus, and brought Timothy to worship each Sunday. Lois and Eunice modeled what it meant to walk obediently before God, walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and to love God and love neighbor as best as they could.

Children learn what’s important to their parents as they observe their actions and attitudes in living out their own life. Faith is caught as well as taught. They knew from their Jewish roots a bit of wisdom from the book of Proverbs 22:6,
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not stray from it.”

Timothy was faithfully trained to follow Christ’s great commandment –
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
“I (Jesus) am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

Timothy was blessed with a mother and a grandmother who loved him and wanted him to trust Jesus. Maybe you were too. Thank God for the parents in your life.

I know I was blessed in that way. My mother and father brought me to the baptismal font as a baby in 1954. They promised to raise me in the covenant of my baptism. As I grew, they taught me to pray, and they prayed for me. They brought me to worship and Sunday school each week and helped me prepare my weekly lessons. I fondly remember our Saturday night routine of taking a bath, polishing my shoes, and sitting at the kitchen table with Mom as she prepared to teach her Sunday school class and I worked on my lesson for the next day. When it was finished, we put away our materials and watched the TV show Gunsmoke. Then it was bedtime.

As I grew into my junior high years, Mom and I worked on my memory assignments of Luther’s Small Catechism. On Confirmation Day, Dad and Mom stood next to me in front of the church as I signed my baptismal certificate as an affirmation of my faith.

After confirmation, Mom and Dad never let me off the hook. The discipling was not done, and they knew it. Each week I went to worship and High School Sunday school. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. They never stopped praying. As I fought for my independence in my rebellious teen years, I gave them plenty cause to worry, but their love for me never stopped. Neither did the prayers and the questions about where I was in my walk with Christ. There was never a doubt, we were going to worship on Sunday as a family, whether I felt like it or not. They saw this as their calling, and I was blessed.

My mom is in heaven now, but Dad, if you’re listening today, thank you.

Later in Paul’s letter, he brings up Timothy’s childhood again in regard to the importance of sticking with the Bible in his life and ministry. He calls Timothy to hang onto the basics handed down to him by his mom and grandma in “the sacred writings,” as he describes them. Listen to these words:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:14-17).

They passed on the family-of-God stories to Timothy, their love for the Psalms, the wisdom of the Proverbs, and the words of the prophets. They passed on the sacred writings of the Old Testament, which was the Bible for the early Christians and the first Scripture they had. They learned the big picture of what God had accomplished for a sinful world through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. They were always looking toward Jesus, and now they looked back through the eyes of Jesus at the Old Testament.

These writings had lessons to be learned for following Christ. Paul seemed to be saying, Timothy, the Scripture your mom and grandma taught you changed your life, and it can still change the lives of people in your church. It’s powerful stuff! Stick with it! Keep feeding your congregation the solid food of God’s Word. Paul reminds Timothy that Scripture is inspired by God, literally meaning “God breathed.” Just as God breathed His life into Adam in the book of Genesis and gave him life, so God breathed His Spirit into Scripture. It’s alive and it’s powerful.

• It’s useful for teaching – it tells us the truths about Jesus.
• It’s good for reproof – it tells us when we’re being knuckleheads, when we’re going wrong.
• It’s good for correction – it points us in the right direction and not be a knucklehead.
• It’s good for training in righteousness – it teaches us what it means to live God’s way. It prepares and equips us for service in the kingdom of God and makes us useful to God and the people around us.

Stick with Scripture, Timothy, the Scripture your mom and grandma passed on to you.

Again, we see behind Timothy’s faith was a mom and a grandma who passed along their love for God’s Word, which they valued in their own lives. Now the seeds that were planted had taken root. The boy grew up to love Jesus and serve Him.

You might wonder what became of Timothy. As his right-hand man, Paul had a lot of complimentary things to say about Timothy’s service in the kingdom of God and about what a trustworthy servant of Jesus he was. This young man made a major impact for the cause of Christ in this world, and we know he stuck with it to the very end. Church tradition says he was martyred for his faithful service to the Lord Jesus. Just think about it, behind this faithful man of God was a mother and a grandmother who, I’m sure, Jesus welcomed into His heaven with these words, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Moms and Dads, you have been given a great calling in life to raise your children to trust, follow, and serve Jesus Christ. It is an enormous privilege to raise your children to be followers of Jesus Christ. It’s challenging, I know – perhaps the greatest challenge you’ll ever face in life. The good news I have for you is God knows and has provided help for your mission.

First of all, you have been given a promise by Jesus: “Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He promises to be with those who He commissions to make disciples. Be confident. Lean on me. You are not alone.

Furthermore, He has given you the Holy Spirit, who gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies a person with the Good News of Jesus. You plant the seeds, and the Spirit will take care of the growth. The seed is good and powerful. Keep planting the seeds of God’s Word, God’s Good News.

We also have the power of prayer. Your heavenly Father loves you and is available to strengthen and guide you as you surrender yourself to Him in prayer. Keep praying.

Finally, we have His all-sufficient grace. We receive forgiveness when we fail, strength and power when we’re weak. Billy Graham once said, “Parenting is the most important responsibility most of us will ever face, and none of it us does it perfectly.” So there is grace.

Moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas – your mission field is right before you: your children and your grandchildren. The commission has not changed. Go. Make disciples of them so one day they will look back on their lives with Christ and say, Thank you, Lord, for parents who gave their all to bring me to You. Amen.

Rev. Steve Kramer