For those of you who are mothers, I hope you have already received some words of affirmation this morning. There is nothing like a homemade card with some heartfelt words of love and appreciation on it. I’m reminded of an overzealous little boy who was pledging his devotion to his mother in a card he had made especially for her. He wanted her to know just how special she was and what he intended to do in the future to show her how much her mothering meant to him. He wrote in the card, “Mom, when I grow up I’m going to buy you an electric can opener, an electric toaster, an electric stove, and an electric chair.”
For those of you who are parents, isn’t it a proud moment when your child exhibits that they have mastered a certain skill or set of manners you’ve tried to teach them? It’s better than any gift of act of kindness. As mothers, we all want to know that what we are taking time to painstakingly teach our children isn’t going in one ear and out the other.
What an awesome time it was in our home this past Thursday when we were having a nice dinner with a pastor from Northeast, OH who was on sabbatical. He came to talk with us about helping him with ideas to get his church to be outward focused and on mission for God in their community. While we were enjoying our dinner, Joshua stood up and exclaimed, “Excuse me. I need to do something I’m not allowed to do at the table.” I started to pray. He went around the corner, but not out of earshot. That boy let out a burp that could have been heard in the next county. What a proud moment as a mother! He was just practicing what he had thought I had taught him.
We all learn many lessons from our mothers, and I thought on this Mother’s Day, it would be good to explore some life-changing lessons we can learn from some mothers in the Bible.
The mother of Moses –Life of Faith (Exodus 2 and Hebrews 11:23-28)
Go ahead and find Hebrews 11 and we’ll read a few verses there in a minute. The Hebrew people had been transplanted to Egypt during the famine and as leaders changed over time, there arose a Pharaoh who didn’t know about Joseph, the Hebrew that had basically masterminded the operation that got Egypt through the famine. This new Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrew people, and when he observed that they were becoming too numerous for the Egyptian slave masters to handle and keep under control, he devised a plan to reduce the number being born. His first plan of asking the Hebrew midwives to kill all of the baby boys as they were being born was foiled by some God-fearing women who would do no such thing. When that didn’t work, the edict was sent to go ahead and kill the baby boys by throwing them into the Nile River.
Moses’ father and mother were also God-fearing people. We read about their efforts in Hebrews 11: 23-28 “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Let me say first of all that Moses was born at a difficult time in history. The future of the Hebrews was unknown. He was born into slavery, born into oppression. He was born into adversity and troubled times. It could have been easy for his father and mother to have come to the conclusion that there would be no hope or future for Moses anyway. Why not comply with the king’s edict and avoid risking their own lives? But Scripture tells us that they weren’t people who lived without hope. Instead, they were people who were full of faith.
When you are full of faith, it doesn’t matter what kind of adversity is around you. It doesn’t matter what is pressing down on you. It doesn’t matter what the king says or society says or what people around you say, what matters is what God says.
Hebrews 13:5-6 “God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Someone ought to rejoice today. If you are in Christ, you are never without hope. Turn to your neighbor and tell them, “God’s got this.” Whatever it is, God has it.
Moses’ mother wasn’t afraid of the king because she trusted God. So she went into protective mode. She hid her son. She hid him for three whole months. She did all she could do. He was getting too big to hide. Disobeying the king’s orders and hiding her son took faith, but can you imagine the faith it took three months later for her to put baby Moses in a basket and place him on the Nile River, the very river the king had ordered the babies to be drown in? In doing so, she no longer had a hand of protection on her child. She no longer could do what was in her human strength and physical power for the baby. She had to completely put Moses into the hands of God. What faith!
Moms and dads, you know there will be times and are times when your children are away from you, out of your reach, out from under your authority and though it is difficult because you want to protect them and keep your hand on their lives, you must place them into the Lord’s hands. And listen, it’s the safest place we can put them.
Parents, we know there always comes a time when we have to let go of our children. Perhaps that’s when our faith in God’s watch care over their lives becomes more intense than ever. Parenting involves far more than feeding, educating, housing, and clothing a child. The spiritual aspects of parenting where we share God’s Word with them, pray with them, teach them about the Lord and pray over them throughout the day and while they sleep, and giving them opportunities to see us living by faith instead of the fear of man, these demonstrations of faith, these will determine our success as parents.
We see that Moses’ mother understood there was a spiritual component to parenting. You won’t always be able to physically protect your child and hide them from the world’s hostile environment, but listen to me clearly this morning. You can always be praying a protective covering over your children and trust the watchful eye and powerful hand of God to keep them safe! He’s faithful!
Not only was Moses safely discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter and adopted as her son, but his mother was able to become his nurse and assist in raising him and be close enough to transmit her faith for a few years. Now that’s God’s amazing grace. To go from being told to throw your baby boy into the Nile River to being able to nurse him and get paid for it! (Exodus 2:9) What an outcome of faith! Cast your bread upon the waters, it will return to you. She got to take that baby home with her and raise him for several years. Live a life of faith. It will pay more than you could ever dream!
Parents naturally want their children to have more than they have had and to achieve more than they have achieved. Look at what happened in the case of Moses. Moses’’ mother’s faith was multiplied in Moses. Her faith was mentioned once in Hebrews eleven, but Moses’ faith was mentioned four times in the King James Version and three times in the NIV. Look at verse 24:
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
Where do you think Moses learned about faith? Moms and dads, your children need to learn how to exercise faith by watching you live it out day to day. They need to see you pray. They need to hear you praise the Lord for His goodness. They need to listen to you speak words of faith and blessing over your circumstances rather than watch you wring your hands in worry and spout words of doubt. I know life is difficult. I know there are uncertainties. I’m not asking you to fake it, but to “faith it” and believe that God will work it all out.
How about the Mother of Samuel? She lived a Life of Surrender. Turn to I Samuel 1:10
Hannah was a woman who longed to be a mother. In that culture, there was a certain stigma about not being able to have children, and added to Hannah’s sorrow about her situation. To make matters worse, there was a woman in her life that berated her about her barrenness to the point where it caused Hannah great emotional distress. We read in I Samuel 1:10 “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
Like Moses, Samuel made the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11:32. We know Hannah, like Moses’ mother, displayed great faith. However, I want to point out that her surrender was the display of her faith.
She didn’t ask God for a son so that she could gain the favor of her husband. I Samuel 1:5 tells us how much he loved her. She didn’t ask for a son just to get the woman who was tormenting her off her back. She didn’t ask for a son like many did in that day, so that the son could help perpetuate the family name.
No, the reason she asked for a son was so that she could give Him back to the Lord. She wanted to nurture a son who could be in the Lord’s service. Isn’t that awesome? She wasn’t suggesting that her son take a short-term missions trip or devote ten or twenty years in the Lord’s service, but she prayed that her son could serve the Lord all the days of his life. What a surrendered heart and life! The thing she wanted most was already surrendered to the Lord before she even possessed it!
The surrendered life is lived with open hands. When we receive a new promotion, we say, “Thank you, Lord, now how do you intend for me to use this money to be a blessing for Your kingdom?” When we are able to purchase a new car or home, people who are surrendered say, “Thank you, Lord, now how can I glorify You with these possessions?”
Moms and dads, we must teach our children that everything we have is on loan from God. He gives it to us that we my dedicate it back to Him and set it apart for His use.
There was no mistaking that Hannah knew the baby she conceived was a gift from God. She named him Samuel meaning “God has heard.” She could have been tempted to convince herself that it was just coincidence that she got pregnant after that prayer time, that God may have had nothing to do with it, that it wasn’t really an answer to prayer and therefore, she didn’t have to make good on her promise.
But she didn’t. That’s how we know Hannah wasn’t bargaining with God. She wasn’t giving lip service in prayer to try to manipulate God. She wasn’t a God-follower just to get what she wanted and once she would get it she would be on the next train headed out of “Surrenderville.” No, she was consecrated before the prayer ever came out of her mouth. The decision started in her heart before it ever entered her head. She was a surrendered woman. Year after year, though her circumstances didn’t change, she continued to go to the house of worship. Though her problems grew even more painful with the mistreatment of her rival, she didn’t let pressures from the outside and even pains on the inside keep her from worshiping her Lord.
Listen, if you aren’t surrendered, it’s hard to stay the course in your Christian walk. Oswald Chambers, in his daily devotional, “My Utmost For His Highest,” said, “To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things.” Isn’t that the challenge? We’re happy to give up our sin. We are thrilled to get that load off our back. Saying “bye bye” to that burden is easy and brings great joy. But being willing to live the surrendered life, being willing to look at life-all of it-from Jesus’ perspective and letting Him do what He will with our lives is a different story. Does anyone know I am telling the truth?
If your spiritual eyesight is surrendered you’re going to be able to thank God for trials because they are producing some new great aspect of the life of Christ in you. Look at them as opportunities to grow. View them as more to trust God with and more to pray about which gives God more ways to do miracles in and through your life. Every person in the Bible who did anything great for God had to surrender to God in times of adversity. As they laid down their lives, He worked through them in miraculous ways.
Jesus brilliantly demonstrated the surrendered life. He proclaimed, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me” (John 6:38). The surrendered life isn’t imposed on anyone. Jesus said in John 10:17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
The now late David Wilkerson wrote in his blog on April 9th, 2009 about this Scripture:
Jesus was telling us, “Make no mistake. The act of self-surrender is totally within my power to do. I’m choosing to lay down my life. And I’m not doing it because some man told me to. Nobody’s taking my life from me. My Father gave me the right and the privilege to lay down my life. He also gave me the choice to pass up this cup and avoid the cross. But I choose to do it, out of love and full surrender to Him.”
Our heavenly Father has given all of us this same right: the privilege to choose a surrendered life. No one is forced to yield his life to God. Our Lord doesn’t make us sacrifice our will and give back our lives to him. He freely offers us a Promised Land, full of milk, honey and fruit. But we may choose not to enter that place of fullness.
You will never truly know the will of God and the intense joy and contentment that comes from doing it until you fully surrender to God. You can’t be in control of your life and do the will of God at the same time. It’s impossible.
For Hannah, surrender involved an inward and outward component. Her heart was consecrated. She made a vow. She prayed prayers she couldn’t even voice because they were so intense and would have made her soul vulnerable to anyone who would have been listening. The prayers were straight from her heart to God’s. She was serious.
It also involved an outward component. Her son would be a Nazarite. Her vow said she wouldn’t let a razor touch his head. Numbers 6 details what it means for someone to be a Nazarite. The word itself means “one separated.” It described a person who was bound by a vow of a peculiar kind, to be set apart from others for the service of God. In addition to not cutting his hair, the child would be not drink any alcohol. There were also some other restrictions.
It’s one thing to talk surrender and vow to surrender, but another thing to display it. Hannah showed that her surrender would live on in her son as she took this vow on his behalf and then actually physically handed her son over after he was weaned to the priest to raise and train in the things of the Lord.
We say we are surrendered, but do our lives match our words? We sing “I Surrender All,” but then we’re hit with a crisis on Monday and rather than be conformed to the image of Christ in the situation, we get all bent out of shape. We forget to consult the One who knew the crisis was coming and who knows how to navigate us through the crisis so that not only do we come out alive on the other side, but that we bring glory and honor to God in the process. Many people can weather a storm, but only one who is surrendered to God can bring glory to God in the midst of it. Surrender isn’t about getting through the storm. That’s tenacity or perseverance. They’re important too. But surrender involves how you go about getting through it. What will your attitude be? How will God’s grace flow through your life into the lives of those around you? Will you be better or bitter? It all depends on surrender.
Surrender starts in the heart and moves up to your attitude. It is the attitude that no matter what it costs you, you will be all about God and His glory and advancing His kingdom. Surrender starts before the crisis and before the sacrifice is made. Surrender is counting the cost of being like Jesus up front. Hannah did that. What an example she was to her son who would then live the surrendered life and be listed in the “Hall of Faith.”
The Proverbs 31 Mother-A Life of Excellence
This mom had it going on. If we read the whole chapter you’d be amazed at everything this mom accomplished and everything she meant to the people in her life. She truly lived a life of excellence.
“Success means being the best. Excellence means being your best. Success to many means being better than everyone else. Excellence means being better tomorrow than you were yesterday. Success means exceeding the achievements of other people. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.” (Paul Borthwick, Leading the Way, Navpress, 1989, p. 64.) God has created you on purpose with great potential. Go after it. Be the most excellent you, you can be and people will be inspired, transformed, and better because of it. Most of all, you’ll make God smile and He will be glorified!
“Excellence is taking every assignment seriously for the glory of God.” –Kent Crockett
We see in verse ten that the Proverbs 31 mom had an excellent reputation for many reasons. She was a person of “noble character.” Verse 11 tells us her husband had full confidence in her. Her partnership made him better. What an awesome example this mom was for her children of what a wife should be.
She was also an excellent servant. Verse 20 tells us she extended herself beyond her family in order to help those in need. Her children saw first-hand from their mom what it meant to care for people with compassion.
She was known as an excellent and wise teacher according to verse 26. She gave good advice. She knew how to succeed at life and how to help other people do the same.
She was an excellent worker. Verses 13-19 and verses 21-24 talk about her creative skills and business savvy. From dawn to dark she was living on purpose to work using her God-given skills and to work in order to take care of her family. Verses 27-29 detail that she was always looking for ways to meet the needs of her family.
Most important, we see in verse 31 that this woman was connected to God in a right way. She honored and revered Him. She was an excellent Child of God. The rest of her excellent life flowed out of this excellent foundation.
Being your best with the excellent foundation of Christ will create your best possible life. We see this is true for the Proverbs 31 mom because she was blessed. Verse 28 tells us that her children would rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also couldn’t stop talking about her. Why? Because she chose to focus her life with excellence on excellent things. She invested her life in others. Serving her family, serving others, working hard, developing her God-given talents, leading others with integrity and wisdom . . . she did all of those and more with great excellence because she feared and loved the Lord.
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” When you realize that everything you do is an opportunity to serve God, you want to go above and beyond. You want to exceed expectations. You want to be excellent in order to put Him on display.
A guest at a hotel was in a hurry to check out when he realized he did not have his briefcase. He went to the bellhop and said, “Would you please hurry to room 1203 and see if I left my briefcase there? My limo for the airport leaves in six minutes, so please hurry.” The man checked out, and after a few minutes the bellhop came hurrying across the lobby. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Your briefcase is still there in 1203.” He did just as he was told.
Many people do the minimum, spending just enough effort to get through the job or life. However they are often unhappy. There is no joy in minimum performance.
Biblical faith, however, challenges believers to live life to the maximum, to “the max.” Paul urged the Corinthian Christians, “As you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7). Our best life will be a life committed to the Lord and being excellent in all we attempt to do for Him.
A life of faith. A life of surrender. A life of excellence. What kind of life are you living?