Marriage and Family-Mothers: God’s Gift to Us All

Dr. Jeff Nave

Community Group Discussion Guide

Sermon Summary

The testimony of God’s word is that men and women are both created in God’s image and are of equal value to him as individuals. God’s word also tells us that both men and women are possessed of unique characteristics that result in complimentary functioning in marriage and in community and organizational settings. Women are distinctly different from men in some obvious and some not so obvious ways, and many of the distinct gifts and characteristics of women find expression in motherhood.

The Christian church has a biblical mandate to support the role of mothers and encourage and assist mothers in our church and community, that they might have the healthiest relationship possible with their children and their families.

Community Group Discussion Questions

1.  What as you earliest memory of your mother? If you were not raised by your biological mother, what is your earliest memory of the person who took on that role in your life?

2.  What area of your life is the easiest to fit into God’s plan as you understand it? What area is the hardest? (Read Romans 12 :1-2 together as a group)

3.  What can your community of faith do to help and encourage mothers to be the best mothers they can be? (Read Philippians 2:1-4 and 1 Timothy 5:1-3 together as a group)

4.  What can you do to help your community of faith be a resource for families with children?

SERMON

In 1914, almost 100 years ago, “Mother’s Day” was officially recognized throughout our nation for the first time, and it was determined that the U.S. national celebration honoring mother’s should be held on the second Sunday in May each year. While I am certainly in favor of this celebration, the choice of dates has often created a minor dilemma for me.  I was born on the 8th of May, which sometimes falls on the second Sunday and often falls close enough to Mother’s Day to be eclipsed by family celebrations of the same. I know, I know, of all people, I should be especially grateful on Mother’s Day, but as a kid, I often invited friends to my birthday party only to be told, “Can’t come, it’s Mothers Day.”

 At Northshore Church, we have followed the modern evangelical church tradition of making a special acknowledgement of mother’s in our worship services on this special day. And this year is no different. We intentionally scheduled Baby Dedication on this day to celebrate the role of mothers,…and fathers too; and the focus of our study of God’s word today is the role of mothers.

But we are not leaving anyone out. This Mother’s Day service is a part of a series on the family that our pastor introduced last week. You’ll hear again from our pastor and others on our ministry staff as we examine all of the individual roles and a number of issues that impact our families.

The Christian church has a biblical mandate to support the role of mothers and encourage and assist mothers in our church and community, that they might have the healthiest relationship possible with their children and their families.

Not all women will be mothers, but there is something special in every woman that benefits our families, our churches and our community.

Women are distinctly different from men in some obvious and some not so obvious ways, and many of the distinct gifts and characteristics of women find expression in motherhood.

As our pastor shared with you last week, the testimony of God’s word is that men and women are both created in God’s image and are of equal value to him as individuals. God’s word also tells us that both men and women are possessed of unique characteristics that result in complimentary functioning in marriage and in community and organizational settings.

As obvious as it is that men and women are different, the observation and acknowledgement of such has been the source of significant controversy. It has been popular in some movements and organizations to claim that there are no functional differences between the genders; that differences in physical characteristics are minimal and inconsequential to the social functioning of individuals.

I will respectfully disagree. In fact, there are a number of positions pertaining to the nature of men and women, the types of relationships that they seek, and that which represents healthy family functioning that I disagree with because, in my estimation, they fall outside the pattern for healthy relationships outlined in God’s word.

This is an issue that our pastor spent some time on in his message last Sunday, and I will not belabor the point by listing positions or beliefs that I or the staff and leadership of Northshore Church disagree with.

I would prefer instead to take the briefest of moments out of our celebration of Mothers to say that at Northshore Church we are committed to sharing with all who will listen; the message that God loves each and every one of us so much that he took on flesh, dwelt among us, died a horrible death and then rose again that we might experience a full and abiding relationship with him.

This God who dwelt among us and sacrificed himself as the Christ is the same God who created all that is and each one of us. He knows every person intimately, and he also knows and wants what is best for each one of us. We believe that his intimate knowledge of us as men and women and his desire to see us experience the very best that this life has to offer is reflected in the instructions given to us in his word.

Many in this society, in our local community, and perhaps some of you will disagree with the positions we take as a church on social, family and relationship issues. For those in that number, the good news is that we live in a free society established on principles that prevent any church or religious organization from dictating public policy.

There are those who would accuse us of seeking to override this protection, but it was our Baptist forbears who insisted that this separation of church and state be permanently codified as a part of this nation’s founding documents.

Other’s may seek to force or coerce people to believe or live the same way that they do. In response, we will be among the first to cry, “Foul.”

But we will focus our energies on the communication of the central truths of God’s word. God loves us and wants what is best for us. There is no better life to be had than the life fully surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and patterned after his direction.

If you find this morning that you are in complete agreement with a traditional biblical view of family and have found a comfortable existence that seems completely compatible with biblical roles for husbands and wives and parents and children, I need to say this to you:

Our challenge as Christians is to surrender every part of who we are to God’s will. Many of us find that some parts of our lives just naturally seem to fit. This is not true of everyone who is seeking God. There are some who look to God’s word for guidance and find a pattern that doesn’t seem to fit; that may even feel wrong somehow.

Instead of harshness or condemnation, we need to show to these individuals a humble awareness that what is required of them may be a more difficult sacrifice. And before we judge the man or woman who struggles to fit their wants and desires into God’s plan, we must examine ourselves and ask the question, “Am I fully surrendered to God?”

God created us to be unique; he gave us a personality. Each one of us is different from every other person in some meaningful way. We find additional meaning in the common differences between men and women. For many, this is reflected in the drawing together of men and women in romantic and sexual relationships.

The first teaching of God’s word on relationships is found in Genesis 2:18- The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.” This is not a statement about incompleteness and it is not a reflection of the Fall. God’s perfect created order is expressed in our relational functioning, our longing for intimacy. Man or woman, married or single, we need to be connected to others.

All Relational functioning requires relational support. We can find completeness as individuals through our relationship with Christ, but in order to function well in the range of relationships that define our existence in a society, in a world filled with disappointments as well as victories, we need the resources that come from healthy intimacy with those closest to us.

In order for us to benefit from the full range of resources available to us through relationships; as individuals, as families and as a church family, we need to embrace the differences between men and women and the specific benefits these differences bring.

Churches and other organizations have, at times, been guilty of only partial acknowledgement of the complementary nature of our created differences. We say, "Here are some roles that will be most suitably performed by men, and here are some other roles that a woman might be competent to perform."

The implication being that men are better equipped or better suited for almost every organizational and leadership role, but we'll throw the women a bone and say it probably won't hurt to let them perform some less vital tasks.

If we truly embrace the biblical notion of the distinctive, complimentary nature of gender, then we must acknowledge a three-way division of specific roles and tasks within the church and the family. There are those roles and tasks that will be most satisfactorily performed by the man fully surrendered to God.

There are those roles and tasks that will be most satisfactorily performed by the person fully surrendered to God, regardless of gender. And I believe the New Testament teaches that the greatest number of functional tasks in the life of the church and Christian family fall into this category.

And finally, what seems to get left out of this view; there are those roles and tasks that will be most satisfactorily performed by the woman fully surrendered to God.

Motherhood and all it entails fits firmly into this last category. Motherhood is a role that is most satisfactorily performed by the woman fully surrendered to God. It may sound strange to say it this way, but we should acknowledge that in some situations men have done a courageous job of raising their children without a mother. It’s clear, however, that women are better equipped for the relational functions of motherhood.

Mother’s have a unique and powerful relationship with their children.

We see this special intimacy between Jesus and his mother in Luke 2:51. Jesus parents discovered that he was not with their large family group returning home to Nazareth after the Feast of the Passover. This is the first historical record of the often heard story of parents accidentally leaving a child behind somewhere; a gas station, rest area, amusement park, or, in the case of Jesus parents, the Temple in Jerusalem.

Mary may have been the first mother to utter the phrase. “Oh, I’m the worst mother in the world!” when it was discovered that her 12 year old son had been left behind. Joseph and Mary rushed back to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the Temple actually teaching the religious leaders. He was surprised that they were upset, but readily returned with them and submitted himself to their authority as parents.

Luke 2:51 NIV

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

There was something about this episode in the young life of Christ that was understood most fully by his mother.

Mother’s can communicate spiritual truth to their children relationally, as well as through direct teaching.

The apostle Paul had this to say to Timothy, a young pastor under his mentorship:

2 Timothy 1:5 NIV

I have been 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.

We don’t know what role Timothy’s grandfather or father played in his upbringing. It’s possible that both men died relatively young. But it would not have been uncommon at the time for the women in this family to be exclusively responsible for the care and teaching of Timothy until he was an adolescent ready to apprentice with his father or someone else to learn a trade.

No matter the circumstances, it was clear to Paul that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had raised him well in the Christian faith.

Most of us would acknowledge the importance of both mother and father interacting with, expressing love to and correcting children regularly and consistently.

But almost all developmental psychologists agree that even in the two-parent home, children form a more intimate relational bond with their mothers and do not connect as deeply with their father’s until a later stage of development.

The powerful emotional bond that mothers form with their children can be a blessing for both and can change our world for good, but mothers must exercise wisdom and responsibility because:

Mothers can influence their children for good or for evil.

There are a few stories in scripture that serve as examples of the influence of a mother used for evil rather than good. I think these accounts were included in God’s word to remind us that the unique differences between men and women, mothers and fathers are a resource for good, but can be misused as well.

2 Chronicles 22:3 NIV

He too walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong.

This passage characterizes the relationship between Ahaziah, the king of Israel, and his mother, Athaliah. The king’s mother used her special influence over her son to encourage him to do wrong.

The influence of mothers over their children can be both active and passive. Every mother has an obligation to use her influence to encourage her children to do what is good and right. She also has the obligation to steer her children away from wrong.

A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces on earth.

One Friday night in March of 2012 a tornado, one of 140 reported twisters in a in massive super-storm, roared into Henryville, Indiana. Stephanie Decker, was at home alone with her children, 8 year old son Dominic, and her 5 year old daughter Reese. Though she hoped their home would not suffer damage and remembers not feeling worried, she gathered her children at the top of the stairs to their basement. There was little time to plan or anticipate what happened next. The tornado ripped the roof off of the Decker’s three-story home and began dismantling each floor beneath. Stephanie grabbed her children and carried them down the stairs into their basement where she covered them with her own body and held on for dear life. Every room of the home was demolished and scattered. Stephanie held on to her children and fought to keep herself in place as the tornado ripped at her body and sucked everything out of her basement.

When the storm passed, both of Stephanie’s legs were crushed so badly that they would have to be amputated. She had a punctured lung and numerous cuts from flying debris.  Amazingly, she never lost consciousness, but continued to comfort her children until the winds died down. Eventually she was able to move her body enough to allow her children to emerge, entirely unharmed. Her son climbed out of the pile of debris in the basement and found help for his mother.

Interviewed from her hospital bed after her legs had been amputated, Stephanie Decker’s only words were, “My love for my children is the most important thing in the world.”

Of all the available earthly examples to describe the power of his own love for us, God chose the love of a mother. Through the prophet Isaiah, he said:

Isaiah 66:13 NIV

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

Stephanie Decker’s story is only one of hundreds you can find in print or on-line, but it typifies that almost superhuman, sacrificial love that we know mothers are capable of. But mothers aren’t really superhuman.

Mother’s are human.

Just like the rest of us. They need rest.

We can all find rest in Christ.

Matthew 11:28 NIV

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Jesus spoke these words to Jewish men and women who had become overwhelmed by all that the religious leaders of their day were demanding of them. Perhaps mother’s here today will receive this invitation in the midst of the demands that we place on them, and the demands they place on themselves.

Jesus offers rest to all who are burdened with the demands of life, especially those burdened by their attempts to do what is right and best, but he also expects us all to be aware of and respond to the needs of those around us who are burdened.

Every Christian who is not a mother has a responsibility for helping the mother’s in our church and in our community.

Our pastor’s sermon last week was titled Marriage and Family - God's Design, Satan's Distortion. One of Satan’s distortions is that women and mothers are obligated to fulfill their God given role perfectly, without complaint or frustration even if the men in their lives are failing miserably at their own God given responsibilities.

Let’s revisit the very beginning of a longer passage of scripture we examined together last week.

Ephesians 5:21 NIV

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

All the other stuff about the separate and complimentary roles of husbands and wives that follows begins with this; as Christians living together in a community of faith, we are to be submitted to one another.

We could spend a lot of time talking about everything that this entails, but it is without doubt that we are obligated to do whatever it takes to help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ fulfill their God-given roles and responsibilities in a way that honors him, without becoming an overwhelming burden to them.

We have already examined God’s first word on relationships in

Genesis 2:18,

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.”

 Just a few verses later, we find these familiar words:

 Genesis 2:24 NIV

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

These words a repeated in the Old Testament in Malachi, twice in the Gospels in Matthew and Mark, and again at the end of our “Family Roles” passage in Ephesisans 5.

We are all bound to each other as a community of faith; obligated by this bond to submit to one another. It means we are obligated to help meet one another’s needs before we indulge our selfish wants.

Husbands are bound by an even more powerful obligation to put their wives needs before the needs of anyone else, including their own parents.

In fact, Paul says in

Ephesians 5:28-29

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—

Essentially, not only is the husband responsible to God for meeting his wife’s needs, he is obligated to meet her wants as well, as long as to do so is not morally wrong or irresponsible.

Mother’s enrich all of our lives and contribute to our families and our community an example of God’s character we will not find anywhere else. In return we should all seek to enrich the lives of our own mothers and mothers throughout our community and support and encourage them to find their rest in God, and in him find strength to do their part in a way that honors him.

Our invitation today is for everyone, not just mothers. As Byron and the praise team come to lead us in a time of worship and reflection, I want to challenge you to examine your life with the question, “Am I fully surrendered to God, as a man, as a woman, as a husband, as a wife, as a mother, as a father, as a son, as a daughter? Am I fully surrendered to God in all my relationships? Will I be directed by his plan for my life, or only by what feels right to me?

I want to pray for you this morning and then we’ll spend some time thinking about what God is saying to each of us. You are welcome to come to the front during this time to pray with one of our pastors or just to spend some time in prayer on your own.

Please stand with me as I pray, and then we’ll seek God together.