Many Christian mothers find themselves in the position of raising their son(s) without a father, or at least without a Christian father. They find it difficult to believe that their son can develop into a man of God without a godly father active in the home. Though a godly father is a crucial element in God’s original design, God’s grace is more than able to overcome this deficiency. Luke introduces us to a young man who provides undeniable proof that it is possible (Acts 16:1).
Timothy was raised in a disjointed family. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, were believing Jews (Acts 16:1) with a godly testimony (2 Tim. 1:5). His father, on the other hand, was a Greek and probably not a believer (Acts 16:1, 3).How Eunice came to marry this man is not certain. Whether or not he was alive or active during Timothy’s upbringing is equally uncertain.
To further complicate the situation, Timothy was raised in the superstitious, pagan town of Lystra. When Paul and Barnabas visited the town for the first time, the citizens associated them with Hermes and Zeus (Greek gods) and declared a festival. As soon as Paul convinced them of their error, they carried him outside of the town limits and stoned him to the point of death. Talk about unstable!
Being raised in a disjointed family in a disjointed town, spiritual success hardly seemed possible. But Eunice and Lois believed God against the circumstances. As a result, Timothy grew into a teenage young man living a reputable, upstanding life of faith and character. How was this possible? Maternal loyalty to the scripture and an unselfish attitude.
From the earliest days of Timothy’s life, his mother and grandmother deliberately situated scripture as the preeminent influence in his life (2 Tim. 3:15). This decision was not a creative solution or an emergency stopgap measure. It was loving parental obedience to God’s sacred, timeless charge in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
They did not dip the flag because their home and community were disjointed. They lovingly obeyed God. They trained Timothy to fear God and respond to His divine authority.
When Paul invited Timothy to join his itinerant missionary team, Eunice and Lois willingly released him to go. Scripture never indicates that Timothy returned home to visit. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But Eunice and Lois surrendered this to the Lord. They did not blame God for taking Timothy away from them. They realized that this was God’s eternal purpose for their beloved son, just as Hannah relinquished Samuel. As a result, Timothy left an empty bed in his home and an eternal mark on the world.
If single Christian mothers will establish the authority of scripture in their homes and surrender their son(s) unconditionally to the will of God, grace will abound and God will deliver. Proverbs 22:6 is not just a promise to fully-functional families, it is a promise to any believing parent under any circumstances. God will prosper any son who has been trained to let the Scripture guide him (Josh. 1:8).
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.