Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GRANDMOTHERS”

Ruth; Second Timothy 1.5

Today is Grandparents Day, what is termed a secular holiday here in the United States. Grandparents Day is also celebrated in a number of different countries throughout the world. Welcome to you who are grandparents, and to you who will someday be grandparents.

I am one of those wonderfully blessed people who grew up with very close and intimate connections with both sets of grandparents, and thankful only two sets of grandparents owing to the fact that my mom and dad were actually married and they stayed married until well after I entered adulthood. That provided my brother and me with a wonderful opportunity to spend time every summer with two amazing grandfathers and two very loving grandmothers. This morning I want to concentrate my remarks on grandmothers. However, keep in mind the very real opportunity given by God’s grace for women to be grandmothers even when there is no blood tie. I think of Sarah’s two grandmothers, my own mom and Pam’s mom, who for various reasons were not as close to Sarah as I was to my grandmothers. Yet here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, not only does Sarah have so many precious aunts who are such a blessing to her, like Momo and Aunt Sophia (along with others), but she also has Grandma French, the most influential grandmother for the cause of Christ any kid could ever hope for. Thank you, Shirley French. We are eternally in your debt.

Let me start with my mother’s parents, John and Luella Conner, who lived just outside Wheeler, Texas, and the little town where I was born. I was named after my Granddad John, and he undoubtedly was the most dominant male personality in my life growing up, an heroic figure by my way of thinking as a little boy. Grandma Conner was a farm woman, married to a small farmer and horse trader, the mother of three. Of the three children she raised, one grew up in scandalous fashion, ending up with four children who all turned out very badly. I am sure it was a surprise to my grandmother to end up raising her grandchildren for much of their childhood. My father’s parents were Ross and Ruth Waldrip, who raised a large family as impoverished sharecroppers in Oklahoma and Texas before moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where my grandfather worked as a service mechanic for Navaho Trucking before his retirement. My grandmother was the daughter of the only French Canadian to ever serve as a Texas Ranger, Francois Lacass. Sadly, they, too, found themselves raising a grandchild because of the misconduct of one of their sons. My grandmothers did not enjoy complete success as mothers, though they were both devoted wives married to devoted husbands. If the standard for success in child rearing is a scriptural one, raising children to “walk worthy of God,” First Thessalonians 2.12, it must be admitted that my beloved grandmothers did not enjoy complete success as mothers. None of Grandma Conner’s children were Christians and half of Grandma Waldrip’s children were Christians. It pains me to admit that they did not enjoy anything like success raising the grandchildren of the children they did not succeed with. However, a realistic consideration of the facts will convince most people that it is unlikely you will succeed raising the child of the child you failed with unless there is a dramatic change in the approach that is used.

May I rehearse two success stories with you this morning? You must grant that the ministry of the grandmother in her grandchildren’s lives is, for the most part, the result of circumstances that are beyond her control, or circumstances that spiraled out of her control. The raising of her kids is done. Whether she raised them properly or not, under the gospel or not, in church or not, is now water under the bridge. Assuming grandma is now a Christian, even if she was not a believer while raising her children, or perhaps without the wisdom as a Christian that she now has, understand that guilt over spilt milk is not a recipe for success as a grandmother. Everyone wishes they had done certain things differently, and it is only the monumental fool who boasts that if he had it to do over he would change nothing. God does use guilt in a person’s life, but He usually does not use guilt for very long. Usually, guilt is useful to God only until wrongdoing is recognized and acknowledged, with comfort, joy, and hope coming as a consequence of repentance. Guilt for a long time is most frequently the Devil’s work, not God’s. Therefore, whether you were a great mom or a lousy mom, a Christian mom or an unbelieving mom, the kind of grandmother a woman can presently be has little to do with the past, but has everything to do with her present relationship with God through faith in Christ, and the challenges she faces in the lives of her children and her grandchildren.

Consider Naomi, the mother-in-law of the Moabite woman named Ruth in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Married to a Jewish man and having born two sons, my own opinion is that Naomi erred by following her husband with her children when they moved to Moab, Naomi erred again by staying in Moab when her husband died, and erred yet again by staying in Moab when her two sons married Moabite women. Naomi was a woman who characteristically made extremely unwise choices throughout most of her life . . . and paid dearly for her bad decisions with a great deal of personal suffering. However, widowed and then left with two daughters-in-law when her sons died, Naomi finally did the right thing, though it may seem she had no choice but to do the right thing. She returned to the land promised to her people by God, accompanied by the widow of one of her dead sons, named Ruth. Listen to Ruth’s response when Naomi advised her to remain behind in her native land of Moab, Ruth 1.16-17:

16     And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17     Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

Thus, as a married woman, and as a mother, it seems there is support for my conclusion that Naomi simply did not know how to make wise decisions. Then tragedy struck once more. Her sons died, one daughter-in-law stayed behind, but what can only be described as God’s grace resulted in Ruth accompanying her to Israel, then working hard to support her in her old age, and finally being surprisingly open to Naomi’s advice when it came to her dealings with Boaz, who she married and bore a son. Was God good to Naomi, or what? Tragedy after tragedy, discouragement upon discouragement, and then God graciously provided her with an opportunity as an old woman to influence Ruth, who was like a daughter to her. Then, in the providence of God, Ruth bore a son who would be the grandfather of King David.[1] Ruth 4.16 records every grandmother’s dream, fulfilled by God in the life of grandmother Naomi, after such disappointment as a married woman and as the mother of two sons: “And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.” Like I said, every grandmother’s dream. I promise you that the bad memories and nightmares Naomi had dealt with over the years were melted away by the goodness of God in her old age, by the answers to the many tearful prayers that had soaked her pillow each night over the years, and the willingness of her daughter-in-law to seek her counsel and to call upon her to nurse her grandson. Naomi would not fully appreciate until she passed from time to eternity what the earlier afflictions and suffering were for, to prepare her, to prepare Ruth, and to prepare Ruth’s future husband Boaz, to be appreciative recipients of God’s grace and mercy at the appropriate time. Naomi’s is one grandmother’s success story, in the Old Testament.

Second Timothy 1.5 is where we find the Apostle Paul recounting the means by which godly young Timothy, who served so faithfully and who brought such joy to the aged apostle, came to be the man he was: “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” A few words about Lois’ success story, here in the New Testament. In this verse, Paul gives indication that he has discerned what he calls “unfeigned faith” in Lois, in Eunice, and in the man he is writing to, Timothy. The question to ask is what is “unfeigned faith”? The word unfeigned translates a word used six times in the New Testament, anupokritoV, basically referring to the opposite of hypocrisy, or sincerity. Three times the word is used with love, sincere love.[2] Twice in connection with faith, sincere faith.[3] And once in connection with wisdom, sincere wisdom.[4] Paul suggests that Lois came to faith in Christ first, followed by her daughter Eunice, with young Timothy being raised in the faith and coming to Christ at a young age, and all three lived lives that displayed unfeigned faith. Of course, Lois’ experiences were markedly different than Naomi’s had been, but life for Lois and Eunice was not necessarily easy. We know from Acts 16.1 that Lois and her daughter were Jewish, and that Eunice had a child by a Gentile man. Was she married to him? We are not told. The implication is that she was then converted to Christ, presumably because of the influence of her mother. Thus, Timothy was either raised by a single mom who was a Christian, or by a Christian mom with an unsaved dad in the house. In either case, Lois’ influence was no doubt crucial in Timothy’s upbringing. However, keep in mind that since Eunice was Timothy’s mother, Lois’ influence could play a part (just as in Naomi’s case) only if the younger woman and mother of the grandchild willingly sought and acted upon the advice and influence of the older woman, the grandmother. Neither Naomi nor Lois was in positions to make Ruth or Eunice do anything they did not want to do. As well, both Naomi and Lois had even more delicate considerations when seeking to influence the men, Ruth’s husband Boaz and Timothy’s father (if he was still in the home).

Grandmothers have wonderful opportunities in the lives of their grandchildren, as well as their grandchildren’s parents, sons or daughters and sons-in-law or daughters-in-law. Sometimes the challenges are great, such as when the grandchild is not being raised by Christians in a Christian home, and sometimes the challenges are somewhat simplified, such as when the child’s parents are godly believers. Whatever the situation, God presents grandmothers who are Christians with wonderful opportunities and challenges to play a role in lives of those precious grandchildren, though such influences are usually subtle and indirect, with a great deal of godly wisdom needed by grandmother. I am amazed at how frequently children grow up determined to do everything in raising their children the opposite of how they were raised. However your grandchildren are raised, grandmothers’ advice about crucial matters is frequently not sought or taken, so wisdom is at a premium with grandmothers to influence without bulldozing, to play a role without that role being so obvious. What is your goal as a grandmother, to enjoy yourself and be the center of attention, or to play a part in seeing your grandchild grow up godly?

There are three people who figure most prominently in your ministry as a Christian grandmother. May I suggest considerations for you to reflect on as you plan and prepare your ministry in their lives?

First, THERE IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD

Your son or daughter, or your stepson or stepdaughter, is the parent of your grandchild. In effect, the most important gift you have given to your grandchild is that mom or dad you raised to be your grandchild’s mom or dad. It would be best if you had actually prepared to give your grandchild his or her mom or dad decades ago, by your own personal consecration and service to the Lord, and by the way you raised that mom or dad to walk worthy of God. However, whether you did that part of it right or not is too late to worry about now. People live in the present. Therefore, even if you were not a godly mom who gave your grandchild the best possible mom or dad, by God’s grace you can still be the best possible Christian grandmother. You can pray for that grandchild every day. You can study God’s Word to learn from scripture how godly women of old influenced others with discretion and subtlety.

You can learn how not to influence a husband or a son from Rebekah, the wife of Isaac. You can learn how to influence a powerful and proud personality from Abigail, Bathsheba, and Esther. You can study Proverbs to make sure you can spot in the beginning the developments in the personality of your granddaughter that will result in her being a loud and contentious woman as a wife. You can study the Song of Solomon to learn how to become an expert at the art of romance, not for yourself, but for your own child’s or your grandchild’s benefit. If it is ever thrown in your face that you were not so great a mom yourself, so how dare you give advice, you graciously and humbly plead guilty. Every one of us has a record of past failures and shortcomings. However, the benefit any grandmother can be to her child or her grandchild can far surpass the kind of woman, wife, and mother she was in days gone by. You see, God forgives, God cleanses, God gives wisdom and instruction, God enables the end of someone’s life to be far better than the beginning, and God enables someone to be a far more successful grandmother than anyone might have imagined.

Just remember that your grandchild is not your child, and your access and influence is directly related to your relationship with your child, as well as your relationship to your grand baby’s other parent. You must become a prayer warrior, a student of God’s Word, experienced at making appeals to those wielding real authority in your grandchild’s life, and above all someone with a plan, someone with an agenda, a woman who never approaches your own child, your child’s spouse, or your grandchild, without an idea of what spiritual goal needs to be advanced if God gives you an opening. Your grandchild is too important for you to go home wishing you had known what to say. Prepare what to say. Become a planner, and a student of God’s Word, and a prayer warrior.

Next, THERE IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR GRANDCHILD’S OTHER PARENT

One of the most brilliant statements I have ever heard someone make came from my own mother on the occasion that I introduced her to my wife-to-be the day before our wedding. I said, “Mom, this is Pam.” My mother said, “You will be my son’s wife, therefore I love you.” My mother recognized the sheer stupidity of a woman who openly disapproves of the person her adult child has already chosen to marry. Rather than set a bad tone, a wise woman chooses to make the most of a situation she has no direct control over. Do you want access to your grandchild? Then smarten up and keep your opinions about your child’s spouse to yourself, and make the most of the situation. It is one thing to raise your child in such a way that he or she knows the type of person you think is best. However, if your child is already married, or is willful enough to marry without any input from you, I suggest you recognize the wisdom of preparing for the long haul by getting along with your child’s choice insofar as is possible. Open opposition to your child’s choice may result in marital difficulties someday being blamed on you. “Our marriage never had a chance because mom always hated her.” A wise grandmother never puts herself anywhere near that kind of scenario. She wants her grandchild’s parents to be happily married, and will do everything she can to see that happen.

Over the course of a couple’s marriage really dumb decisions will be made. As well, decisions will be made that grandmothers disagree with that are more questions of wisdom than of right and wrong. A wise grandmother recognizes her role in the dynamic is not that of major marriage counselor, financial guru, or to express her disapproval of decisions her child and spouse have already made. Not every battle is worth fighting for, especially if you so sour your child and the spouse that they consider withholding your grandchild from you. You don’t think a pastor’s role is anything like a grandmother’s, but you are mistaken. When someone is determined to make his own decision, there is little pastors or grandmothers can do but position ourselves to be nearby if something goes wrong, in case the person in trouble or facing difficulty chooses to seek your advice or ask for your help. I can teach God’s Word and urge a course of action, but I go silent when an action is taken because then it is too late to talk, and the most foolish words I could ever say or imply are, “I told you so.” So, too a grandmother to her son or daughter, or to their spouse. No one looks forward to the company of someone who says “I told you so,” or who looks away and says “Uh huh.” Don’t do it.

Finally, THERE IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR GRANDCHILD

Being a grandmother is almost nothing like being a mother, in that sometimes mommy seems mean to her baby when she is imposing discipline or providing training. Grandmothers can have so much more fun in a purely support role, helping mommy or daddy by encouraging your grandchild to comply with mommy and daddy’s wishes. Then, of course, there are those cherished times when you have the grand kids all to yourself. I loved those times as a kid.

The real challenge for the Christian grandmother comes when her child, who is a mom or dad, and is unconcerned that there is no Christian influence in the home. Especially tough are those situations when you know that your own son or daughter is teaching things to your grandchild that are directly opposed to God’s Word. I am in no way suggesting that any grandmother be confrontational. I only advise that you consider ahead of time what you really are at the core of your being. Are you at your core a grandmother who happens to be a Christian? Or are you at your core a Christian woman who has been given the wonderful and challenging opportunity to be a grandmother?

What do you say, or how do you respond, should an angry son-in-law lay down the law to you, “I forbid you to talk to my kids about God”? What about when you overhear your own child teach as true to your grandchild something that you know in your heart is just plain wrong? Oh, grandmother, there are times when you need real wisdom and discernment from God, when no pastoral counsel can ever completely prepare you for decisions that only you can make.

Allow me to take you to two passages that have application to such situations as just about every grandmother needs to be prepared to face: First, there is Titus 2.3-5:

3      The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

4      That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

5      To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Grandmothers who are godly and mature certainly fit into this passage as aged women, with your daughter or daughter-in-law being someone God wants you to teach and influence. Just remember three things from this passage: First, from verse 4, young women do not really know how to love their husbands, and, second, love their children, apart from godly older women teaching them how to love. Third, tucked into verse 5, we see that you are also to teach that mother to be obedient to her own husband. Oh, how you will help your grandchildren if you so influence their mothers directly and their young fathers indirectly in this way. Next, there is First Peter 3.1-6:

1      Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

2      While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

3      Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

4      But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5      For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6      Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

I will not attempt to tackle this entire passage, except to remind you that if a man’s wife is directed by God’s Word to deal with him in a certain way, far be it from any grandmother who would entertain thoughts of possessing wisdom to think she will help her grandchild’s cause by preaching to or openly challenging and wagging her finger at either her son or her son-in-law, especially if that man is not obedient to God’s Word. Grandmothers cannot do things God does not want their daughters or daughters-in-law doing. Thus, your influence, though necessary, must be of a different type.

Perhaps your relationship with your grandchild will be one of asking questions, such as when you are outside under the stars, wondering, “Who do you think placed the stars in the sky?” Or walking through a garden and inquiring, “Who do you think made the flowers and bumble bees?” Children should be taught God’s Word by their parents, but grandmothers can discreetly cultivate a curiosity and a wonder about the things of God. Just bear in mind that your relationship with your grandchild is contingent upon your relationship with that child’s mom and dad, so prayerfully cultivate and develop those crucial relationships.

Grandmother, God gives golden opportunities to influence young lives, opportunities that I remember one of my grandmothers taking advantage of in my life. She was a woman of the Word, and a woman of prayer. There were times when her own unsaved children and their spouses mocked her. However, no one ever saw her as their enemy, because she was so loving, so tender, and completely inoffensive. Of the four people who witnessed to me before my conversion, my precious grandmother was the second. I well remember her trying to explain as best she could, using the book of Romans, that I was a sinner, that the wages of my sin was death, but the gift of God was eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I pray God gives you such a ministry to your grandchildren as my beloved grandmother had in my life. I pray that before he dies, my own father would remember the words and the prayers of his own dear mother, whose prayers for her two daughters, and whose prayers for at least three of her sons, were answered by God. I know that my own conversion is God’s answer to the witness and the prayers of my grandmother. How I remember her and my granddad sitting at the kitchen table each morning reading God’s Word and praying. Grandmother, your work is not done, your opportunities lie ahead of you.

May God bless you as you prayerfully, studiously, make the best use of your relationships to be the best kind of influence for Christ to your precious grandchildren.



[1] Ruth 4.13-22

[2] Romans 12.9; 2 Corinthians 6.6; 1 Peter 1.22

[3] 1 Timothy 1.5; 2 Timothy 1.5

[4] James 3.17



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org