By, James L. Thornton
2 Timothy 1:5. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee (Timothy), which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”
After a personal greeting to Timothy, Paul addresses the quality and origin of his faith in the Lord, which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois. How his grandmother came into the faith is unknown, possibly she was at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first poured out, but most likely it was when Paul and Barnabas came through her hometown of Lystra on their first missionary journey (Acts 14).
Evidently "Grandmother Lois" got what is called today “Old-Time-Religion.” Something that not only makes you shout but makes you hang-in –there when the going gets tough. What a home to be brought up in when parents and grand-parents both are praying, practicing, Christians.
Paul calls Timothy’s mind back to those years when his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois, set the example for him to follow. In this lesson I want to call our minds back to the time when our mother’s and grandmother’s prayed and shouted and read, and believed, and practiced what they read, from their Bible, and by their life style, left us a very high mark to live up to.
At the time when Paul wrote this, his final letter, to Timothy he was shut up in a Roman prison never to see freedom again. Paul had left Timothy, who at this time is estimated to be about thirty years old, in Ephesus to be the overseer of that large, thriving, Congregation. Paul knew that it was a difficult position, and in very difficult times, so Paul reminded Timothy that he would never cease to pray for him.
We can see Paul’s anxiety- list, after all, this humanly young man could fail before the onslaughts of persecution, or sink beneath the weight of the burdens of his pastoral duties. So all the wealth of this big fatherly heart surrounds the youthful warrior in the fight; but our present study is to stress a Grandmotherly influence. Paul, in effect, goes the length of congratulating Timothy that his faith is the very same as his grandmother's.
I wonder what the moderns will say to that. Doubtless they will impatiently assure us that those old “Gospel Bells” are cracked long since. They used words like atonement, reconciliation, propitiation, redemption, blood, salvation, worship, and such like – those words are old-fashion, like cracked bells!
Well, as somebody said some while since, the way to tell whether they are cracked or not is to ring them. In very truth, those who do ring them, instead of merely discussing them, find that the old sweet music is in them still, and that there's no appeal like the old peal.
Or, taking a different line, our modern friends will say that these ancient Bells need re-casting; we want something more up-to-date; if you must keep to these old-world conceptions, at least let us have them in a more present-day dress; drop the out-worn, and out-dated, phraseology. We celebrate instead of worship. That sounds reasonable enough; but the trouble is that in translating these old truths into new language, something of the old truth is so often found to be sacrificed.
In trying to say the same thing in different words, you discover that you haven't said the same thing after all.
Anyhow, the keen, philosophically-minded, university-trained intellect of Paul was all in favor of what we have called Grandmotherly Religion. Some of its features are hinted at in our passage.
THE UNFEIGNED FAITH:
The Genuine Article, not merely of the head, but of the heart; not just an intellectual acceptance, nor a creedal agreement, but a complete trust of heart and whole being. For Paul, faith means faith in “CHRIST.” Yes he always runs beyond, and behind, things, to the Person of CHRIST.
It is worth noticing that this quality is spoken of here as having “Dwelt” in them - as if it were not just a visitor, but a resident; not merely a fair-weather friend, departing in foul. It was a faith that was always there, always solid, always rising up.
Some Christians seem to lose all our faith when the storms of life overtake us – when trouble comes, or pain, or loss, or bereavement, or failure, or anxiety, or distress, faith in Him seems to leave us; we read of those who, in such sad circumstances, have lost their faith.
I heard the story of the children at a Sunday-school treat were given as they went home, an orange, an apple, a bag of sweets, and a text card: Mary's text was “Have faith in God,” Mark 11:22. As she got on to her bus, a sudden gust of wind blew the card out of her hand. “Oh,” she said, “stop the bus; I've lost my Faith in GOD!” Enough to stop any bus!
But do not let any gust of the wind of ill fortune deprive you of your faith in Him. Verily, it is in the storm that faith should stand us in such good stead. Yet we let it go - just when it could be such a help!
Do you recall how when, in the boat, the MASTER had stilled the tempest, He said to the disciples (Luke 8:25), “Where is your faith?” It had gone a-walking, when its presence would have proved such a stand-by.
Such a faith is one of the fundamental characteristics of this Grandmotherly Religion which we are contemplating: faith in Him and faithfulness to Him - a simple trust; a steadfast fidelity. “The Unfeigned Faith,” which was the common property of this godly family, and which, please GOD, is shared, with all its attendant blessings, by every member of their family.
GRANDMOTHER’S FAITH WAS A FRUIRFUL FAITH:
Timothy’s faith was the fruit of personal contagiousness - the faith that is passed on from one to another, one “catches it” from another; and that is a true mark and sign of spiritual life. Everyone “caught” grandmother’s faith, she never let you go until you got it. Anyone around Grandmother caught it.
“First in thy grandmother Lois” - I wonder how she got it? Was she a fruit of Paul's ministry? We do not know; but I hazard the suggestion that she was already a believer when the apostle first visited her home town of Lystra (Acts 14). Perhaps, indeed, she was one of that first numbers of “about three thousand” who believed and was baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
After all, that group consisted of people gathered at Jerusalem for the Feast from far and near, and when it was over they scattered again, returning to their homes, some of them at long distances.
How often, for instance, have people discussed how there come to be a church in Rome? Well, but Acts 2:10 tells us that there were “strangers of Rome” on the Pentecostal occasion. What is more likely than that some of those were amongst the converts? And then they would go back to their own city and “infect” others for Jesus Christ.
So that many little churches would begin with the little company, perchance even the solitary individual, who had caught the faith that day in Jerusalem. So perhaps this is the way Timothy “caught” the same “Unfeigned Faith” which had at first infected his grandmother Lois.
I know many a young man and woman who were infected by the faith of their grandmother. How many people would not be in Church or even have heard about Jesus without such a grandmother. It is interesting to see the way people find their way to Jesus; I love to hear stories of how a person was converted.
“And thy mother Eunice” - I think I can see how it happened to her. Old lady Lois returns home a converted woman; and her faith being of a healthy quality, she longs to win others for the Lord. But where shall she begin, whom shall she try first? Why, in her own home, of course: her daughter, Eunice. If only she can win her, what a difference it will make to the home.
It quite often happens that people who become Christians, and who have an urge to serve, are perplexed as to where they shall start. In Mark 5:19, Jesus had healed a man in whom there were legions of demons, the man wanted to follow Jesus but Jesus sent him back with the message, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.”
Home first: that is the Divine order, “beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke 24:47 - your Jerusalem, your home town, your home, your family circle. So Lois began with Eunice. And the contagion spread to Timothy and from Timothy to untold numbers. Without Lois’ contagious "unfeigned faith" we would most likely never heard of Timothy.
Let us see to it that we are touching people for God, having a share somehow in influencing them towards Jesus Christ. Let us covet to be soul-winners, at whatever stage our winning contribution shall be made. So did the Godly women of Timothy's home prepare him for Paul to give the finishing touch.
Let us look at the real lasting effects, and results, from this old-fashioned, Grandmotherly Religion. Some people sneer at it: wait a bit - has it done anything worth while? If not, let us all sneer; let us continue to sneer; but what are the facts?
If it were not for this Grandmotherly Religion there would not be half the number of Christian Churches in our community. There would not be as many moral laws on the books.
In spite of frequent accusations to the contrary, it has not been gloomy and dull, but it has viewed life's responsibility seriously, as something for which an account must be given to God; it has not dealt loosely and flippantly with God’s Word, and God’s Law, and God’s Day, and God’s Things; it has ever carried that grand word “Duty” in the very forefront of its mind.
Grandmotherly Religion Stressed Holy Living. Many of its representatives may have come far short of its ideals, but it has ever stressed the urgency of holiness, and earnestly sought it. What we have termed Grandmotherly Religion cannot be so unworthy after all, if it has produced such fruits.
Grandmother’s Religion Did Not Have The The Spirit Of Fear: We will not dare to criticize Timothy for any tendency to fear, for are we not also much inclined that way? How often we refrain from some right word, or action, because we are so dreadfully afraid of what other people would think, or say, or do!
Do we not hesitate again and again from witnessing for Jesus, or some other undertaking, because of that stupid fear of failing, of not being able, after all, to carry it out, or to keep it up? Are we not constantly halted, or crippled, in Christian endeavors because we are afraid of looking like a fool? Well, this “spirit of fear” has no right to be there. As we think of the old Saints of past days, how completely free they were of all such unworthy feeling.
Yet this fear has very little place among the moderns. You have only to mark their flippant familiarity with God - a thing so different from the older saint’s blessed intimacy with the Most High, which is always accompanied by a reverent awe of Him.
The old religion was shot through with this godly fear. A number of elder boys were out together one time when some piece of mischief was proposed. On one of them refusing to join in, a companion said, “I suppose you're afraid that, if he finds out, your father will hurt you?” “No,” was the reply, “I am only afraid I might hurt him.”
What a noble response; and that is, in part at least, what the fear of GOD really implies. The presence of this fear, and the absence of all other fear, make up together that quality of fearlessness, which is such a marked feature of Grandmotherly Religion.
Shall we, then, in view of the hints and suggestions in this passage, be prepared to despise, and even to discard, this Grandmotherly Religion? Shall we not, rather, seek more and more to get back to it - back to its reality, to its sincerity, to its fidelity, to its humility, to its activity, to its virility.
I shall forever be grateful for the grandmother’s in the Churches we attended when we were small, roll models, and later for the grandmothers who were a vital part of the Churches we pastured. I’m sure that without them my life would have taken a different turn.
What was good enough for Paul, and for Timothy, is good enough for me. I would hope and pray that this generation will produce some grandmothers that will, in the years to come, perpetuate the Grandmotherly Religion.
By, James L. Thornton