Lois and Eunice, grandmother and mother of Timothy
Today’s message is from Acts 16:1, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:5, 2:5, and 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
Many people talk about a purpose-driven life, and indeed the Lord wants to see his purpose driving our lives. Today, I want to honour two women who were living God’s version of purpose-driven lives, producing at least three generations of strong believers. We have Lois, the grandmother of Timothy, and Eunice, Timothy’s mother. (We are not told if either Eunice or Timothy had siblings.)
To identify their depth of faithfulness we need to read between lines of scripture, but not too far, because, as we travel down to the third generation, Timothy, we see a mirror of faith and character reflecting his mentors, Eunice and Lois.
All families pass down generational patterns or habits. Like DNA, these behaviours shape the children to a degree. This hand-me-down principle is used by God to train children and grandchildren. In this family, Lois the matriarch has followed the Lord’s blueprint for success in teaching her child and grandchild. That desire for God's way may even go back beyond Lois, although we are not told.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This scripture is probably the better-known training verse used by Christian families to raise their children, although most of us parents find out later that it's more difficult to carry out than we thought. Lois seems to have looked at this scripture, worked out the destination for Eunice, and commenced nurturing the right way for her child.
Another scripture used by believers is Deuteronomy 4:7-8 “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them to thy sons, and thy sons' sons;”
In raising Eunice, Lois was not simply getting her daughter to recite laws and statutes as if she were training a pet parrot. Her goal was to patiently shape her daughter’s heart with love and wisdom. Lois seems to have kept her own soul diligently, then taught Eunice to do the same, and then they both taught Timothy. What did she keep her soul from? From doing what it liked.
The Apostle Paul, chiefest of all apostles, pays several tributes to this family.
Firstly, he recognised Timothy with one of the highest compliments of faith available, in 1 Timothy 1:2 "Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord."
All through the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, the Lord calls the sons of faith (whether women or men). It is a non-stop voice calling throughout every era, "Come up higher." "Come deeper into my presence", "step up to the sonship from the servanthood."
One of the Lord's greatest purposes in every generation is to produce sons and daughters of strong faith who grow to become spiritual adults of their generation.
There is a generational baton of faith to hand down. Within this spiritual baton is the contents of that era; the teachings of faith learned, the battles overcome, the tears shed, and the greatness of our Lord and Saviour in raising those spiritually dead to life ("I once was lost by now I'm found").
Over the years of our lives, we pass that baton down with purpose in the spirit of faith, love, and overcoming. Lois, in her single-minded manner, handed those stories, scriptures, and her own testimony to Eunice, gently shaping her life but ever pointing it towards its destination. Eunice and Lois used the same patient building of Timothy’s life.
Paul knew Timothy had been faithfully raised by Lois and Eunice. If these two ladies could sit and talk with us, we would not only be invigorated by their resolve and persistence in following the Lord but also captivated by their deep understanding. They knew in whom they believed.
Secondly, and this time in his second letter, Paul lavishes high praise upon this faithful family, specifically to Lois and then Eunice for what their faith meant to him in his ministry with Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:5 "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."
Paul sees this unfeigned faith as Timothy’s heritage, and he chose these beautiful words well. Unfeigned faith makes no room for hypocrisy. The mind had been transformed. It is synchronised and in one accord with the heart and mouth. Nothing is false. Every offering of thought, feelings, or praise, is a sweet-smelling savour to the living God, and he is pleased to receive the offerings. He would have considered Lois and Eunice about as valuable as anyone he ever wrote about.
Jesus calls us as well to lay aside the desire for the treasures of this world and seek eternal riches. He expressed those words because where our treasure is there our heart will be also. He doesn't want our hearts wasted when he has so many riches available that transcend death. Some hearts just idle through life like a car at a stoplight, sitting there with little spiritual purpose, going nowhere. Jesus calls us to greater things.
Thirdly, Paul here authenticates Lois's approach, as he encourages Timothy to continue in it. He could very well be talking to us. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
According to Acts 16:1, Timothy's mother, Eunice was a Jewess with a Greek husband who doesn't appear to be a man of faith. Neither does he appear to be alive at the time or maybe he was just insignificant to the story. Then came he (Paul) to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
The faith of Timothy’s mother could not convert the father. Faith flowed easily from Lois to Eunice and then to Timothy, as their hearts had been worn smooth by the flowing of the Holy Spirit over time. Yet, it couldn't flow into the heart of the husband. This left Eunice as the spiritual leader of that household. Eunice forged on quietly in faith with greater resolve and the help of mum. Many women are placed in similar positions and have Lois and Eunice as role models.
One thing seems clear to me in their teaching. There is an excellent saying, “we don't pour poison downhill.” This means we don't pass on our bitterness or the like to our children. It is better to send our pain uphill to God. I can't see in scripture where Timothy received any of those negative thoughts, can you?
Lois and Eunice, although Jewish, found Christ easily. When Christ's ministry finally came, many of the Jewish faithful recognised him from prophecy and followed him. Lois and Eunice, when they heard of Jesus Christ long after his resurrection, easily transitioned by faith to follow him.
Like any religion or culture, there were also varying levels of belief with the Jews. Some Jews, like some Christians today, went through the processes of 'church' without moving through the processes of faith. Every one of us is called to look at this.
Jesus mentioned a key indicator of our growing faith, when he said, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:38.
Many words and actions flow from us, but are they living waters from the throne of God? Do we give life when we speak?
I believe I have seen many like Lois and Eunice in my time; faithful women, dedicated to their Lord. Their Bibles are always open, prayer and thanksgiving readily spring from their lips, and they always seem to be helping someone in need while trying to raise their own family of faithful followers.
I think we can overlook the fact there are few verses available to tell us of the lives of these two important women because the spiritual riches passed down to Timothy tell us volumes.
Timothy was called to be an evangelist. (2 Timothy 4:5), and looked after numerous churches for Paul. It’s always encouraging for a leader to have a trustworthy righthand person, and Timothy was such a person for Paul. Paul could leave Timothy in charge, knowing things would get done Paul’s way, and not return to find Timothy’s ego had taken over. Lois and Eunice trained him to be like that.
If not for the unfeigned faith and vision of Lois in righteously preparing Eunice and then Timothy, Timothy would have been insignificant, unknown to any of us. He rose to fame on the back of these two women.
Timothy didn't forget that fact all his life, neither did Paul, and neither should we. Let’s thank God today for Lois and Eunice, as there are many attributes we could adopt ourselves.
Whenever you read about Timothy, include thoughts on these two faithful women, and think on the unfeigned heritage of faith you will be leaving.