Leslie Basham: A mom has a rich and varied job description, according to Holly Elliff.
Holly Elliff: As mothers we are called to teach and train and nurture life, to love, correct and lead our children. We have the privilege of becoming participants in God’s process of multiplication and giving life as we recognize it and embrace it.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, April 16.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yesterday we began a message from Holly Elliff called Turning the Tide. We were swept up in some of the adventure that comes with mothering and we caught a vision for the privilege of investing in the next generation. Holly is the mother of eight. She’s a pastor’s wife, and she’s a familiar voice to Revive Our Hearts listeners.
She delivered this message at our True Woman Conference last fall in Schaumburg, Illinois. At the end of today’s program we’ll let you know how to get a copy of a helpful booklet by Holly to help you apply what you hear. Now here’s Holly Elliff with Part Two of Turning the Tide.
Holly: One way in which we know that mothering is important to God Himself is that so many mothers are mentioned by name in Scripture. Jochebed was a Hebrew woman who stood against the political climate of her day. Rather than kill her newborn son as commanded by the Pharaoh, she protected him.
Can you imagine trying to hide that child for three months so that no one knew he existed, so that it would be assumed he died at birth, which was the command? Scripture says in Exodus that when she could no longer hide him, she released him into God’s sovereignty.
She built a little basket of reeds and covered it with pitch. You remember that she placed him in the water. Do you know that the word for that basket is the same word that describes the ark that Noah sailed in? God ordained that moment in her life as a mother. She listened and she obeyed, and her cooperation with God’s plan for her life nurtured a child that God would use to free the entire Hebrew race, to deliver His commandments to the nation of Israel.
Hannah is one of my favorite moms in Scripture. Do you know why? Because it didn’t come naturally to her. Hannah had to make some really tough life choices. When we see Hannah at the beginning of Scripture in 1 Samuel, she does not look like a Proverbs 31 woman, right? She is miserable and she is unhappy and her marriage is not happy and her home is not happy and she is not fulfilled. She is a miserable woman.
But you know what? Her circumstances were beyond her control. She waited a long time for God to change them. There’s an amazing moment in Hannah’s life recorded in Scripture when she came to the end of herself and she laid down her desires, she laid down her rights. She came to the point of surrender to God Himself.
The Scripture says that nothing in her life had changed, but that she went her way and her face was no longer sad. Some of you this weekend will have moments when you get to the end of yourself and you go before the Lord and you lay down your life. And you will go your way and your face will be changed. It’s the world’s quickest facelift, and that’s what happened to Hannah.
The Lord went on to use her son and her faithfulness as she surrendered him to the Lord to be a Nazarite, took him to the temple even as a young child, left him there, and trusted him to God’s sovereignty. God eventually used the life of her son Samuel to affect two kings, David and Saul, and to change the course of what was happening in the nation of Israel, because God’s glory had departed from that place because of the wickedness of the priesthood.
Through Samuel, because he was a faithful man, His glory was returned to the temple at Shiloh.
Chapter two of 1 Samuel was written by Hannah. It is an amazing prayer of God’s sovereignty, of giving Him glory. You know what? Hannah was a farm wife. She was not a scholar. She didn’t study in the temple. But Hannah knew who God was.
How did she learn who He was? She learned during all those years when she was first longing to be a mother and then learning how to be a mother. As she released her children to the Lord, as she was faithful to her vow to release Samuel to the Lord, she learned who God was.
Another woman in Scripture we simply know as the widow of Zarephath. We don’t know her name; we know her circumstances. What happened was that this was a Gentile town in a time of great famine. The prophet Elijah came into town and he said to this widow, “I want you to feed me. I need food. I need sustenance.”
The widow knew that she only had enough left for one meal for herself and her son. But she made the choice to surrender in faith to that prophet, and because she did—you remember the story? God provided, for the next three and a half years, oil and flour in her containers. Every time she opened them she had what she needed. What a cool parallel for us as moms, right?
Because of her obedience, she fed Elijah during that famine and never ran out of what she needed.She didn’t know what was coming in the future in her life, but that choice to be faithful was part of God’s provision for her.
The way we know that is that her son eventually became sick and died. But because Elijah was still in her household she went to Elijah—you remember the story? Elijah raised her son from the dead and gave him back to that mom.
What if she had ignored the call of God on her life? Would Elijah have been there to raise the life of her son? We don’t know, but I believe God knew three years out what she was going to need eventually.
She was a single mom, a widow, and the interesting thing about this account is that Jesus repeats her story to the Jews in the synagogue in Luke 4:25-26. He said this, “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath”—this was a Gentile town—to a woman there who would respond in faith.
God sent Elijah to a Gentile woman who, because of her faith, unlike the people of Israel who were not responding in faith, who were rejecting God, her obedience meant that God’s provision was evident in her life. You know what? She had a lifelong testimony of God’s provision, and so did her son.
We can’t imagine the impact that our personal walk has on our children and our grandchildren. We cannot get away from it.
Second Timothy 1 illustrates that for us in the lives of two women—the grandmother named Lois and the mother named Eunice. The book of Acts tells us that Timothy’s mother was a believing Jew. His father was a Greek. We know that they lived before Timothy, their son and their grandson, in such a way that he also came to faith.
Second Timothy 1:5, Paul says to Timothy: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”
These women, these mothers, are teaching us even today as we look at the example of their lives. I want you to think for just a minute about the characteristics displayed just in the lives of these four mothers that we’ve mentioned here.
Jochebed is a picture of courage and creativity. Somehow she knew how to make a basket out of reeds and pour pitch over it so it would float and keep her son safe. From Hannah we learn surrender and obedience.
From the widow, we see faith and a servant’s heart. And in Lois and Eunice we see modeled a transparent walk and ongoing discipleship that affected eventually the nation of Israel as Timothy became a faithful servant of Christ.
If we had time we could camp out right here and we could peek into the lives of many, many other women—Rebekah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary, Ruth, Bathsheba, Eve, Rachel, Leah. That’s just a partial list of mothers that are named in Scripture. These were women whose life message and faith left an imprint—not always perfect—on the lives of their children.
We know that God highly regards the call to mothering. In earlier years in our society it was also highly regarded, right? Hannah Whitall Smith said, “In the 1800’s the mother is and must be, whether she knows it or not, the greatest, strongest and most lasting teacher that her child will ever have.”
William Ross Wallace in 1865 wrote this poem:
They say that man is mighty; he governs land and sea.
He wields a mighty scepter o’er lesser powers that be.
But the mightier power the stronger man from his throne is hurled.
For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
We need to ask ourselves this question: What do we really believe about the call of motherhood and about God’s perspective on motherhood? Do we understand and embrace our lives as moms?
Romans 12:2 urges us to present even our bodies as a living sacrifice before the Lord, to make sure that our thinking is not governed by this world but as we align ourselves with what God has ordained, we prove that His will is good and acceptable and perfect.
Ephesians 5:17 says, “Do not be foolish.” How sad that would be, right? “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Does our worldview line up with the plumb line of God’s Word? Are there discrepancies between what we believe about motherhood and what God says about that calling?
If we do agree with that; if that answer is yes, then we need to understand that the Lord has two very distinct purposes for us. The first of those is just having children. That may be through natural birth. It may be through adoption. It may be through foster care. However God moves children into your life, He is interested in us having children and then raising those children for Christ.
When I was younger I did not understand the importance of this call. There were several years after I became a mom that were focused on just learning how to love my kids and keep everybody fed and keep everybody from getting killed. Those were my priorities and that was as it should be.
I didn’t have time to think deeply about why I was doing this. I was just doing it. But you know what? As my understanding of the scope of the importance of choosing to be an intentional mom has broadened the longer I’ve done this, I’ve learned some really sobering facts.
Although God’s opinion on children and choosing the calling of motherhood has not changed, the number of women taking that path certainly has. Not only are fewer of us mothers but we are having fewer children. In 1790 when the first U.S. Census was taken, the total fertility rate or the total number of children born during a woman’s child bearing years was almost eight children per woman.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Children swarm across the countryside like locusts.” He really did!
Demographically that number has been shrinking for decades. Currently in America our birth rates hover just below the 2.1 children that are required to replace ourselves. Not only are we not having children, but as believers our children are walking away from Christ at an alarming rate.
If nothing changes, the influence of Christ in this nation and around the world will shrink, not because the message is impotent, but because there will be so few messengers. We are making life choices that will affect our culture, our world, and God’s kingdom. What we do with the call of God on our life really does matter.
I want to suggest some things that I’ve discovered in my journey so far. As we’ve already seen, God has a plan for us, but I want to share with you four essentials for our own life.
First is, we must be women who embrace God’s purposes. God has a plan for blessing the world. It includes couples being fruitful and multiplying or having children through adoption or foster care, however God puts children in your life. For women, even the design of our bodies is evidence that God intends to use many of us for His purpose in having children according to His plan.
As mothers we are called to teach and train and nurture life, to love, correct and lead our children. We have the privilege of becoming participants in God’s process of multiplication and giving life as we recognize it and embrace it.
Then we must yield to God’s molding process. Years ago when I was going through something really tough as a mom, I had an older woman in my life who kept saying to me, “You know this is for you.” When I was dealing with kids being cranky or not sleeping or not eating or, you know, destroying my house or not being able to keep up with the laundry or feed them or just the myriad things that go along with mothering, she would always remind me, “You know this is not just about your children. This is for you.”
I did not appreciate that statement back then; I really didn’t. But you know what? I understand it now because motherhood is the greatest tool I know for God to shape me and mold me and chisel me for eternity.
As I view life from God’s perspective, from that threshold of heaven, I realize that His purposes are big picture. They are eternal. They are generational. In his book The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn challenges us to think about whether we live for the dot or the line. Is my life about this moment? Is it about me or is it about eternity?
Motherhood is about eternity. It is not just about this moment. God clearly defines this in Romans 8:28 and 29. That verse where it says God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
What is His purpose? For us to be conformed to the image of Christ. Motherhood is one of God’s very best tools for that molding, that conforming in our life.
And then we must become women of the Word. Only the Word of God contains the instruction we need to see God’s perfect will accomplished here on earth in the lives of our children. We must settle the issue of the sovereignty of God, of the authority of His Word in our life. It will take a lifetime for us to learn all that is revealed about God in His Word. We will never run out of instruction if we are faithful students of this book.
Just as we feed our children physical food, so we must be spiritually nourished ourselves so we can impart truth to our kids. Proverbs says the Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.
If we will just open the lid on the vat there will always be there what we need—maybe not flour or oil but God will have the wisdom that we need for every circumstance.
And then we need to learn to walk in grace. I am really grateful for grace because I need it. I could not live the life that God has given me apart from His grace. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that [you either love or hate this Scripture] having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work.”
You could plug in a lot of things right there. So that you have an abundance for that child that is testing. So that you may have an abundance for the teenagers in your home. So that you may have an abundance for that prodigal child that is breaking your heart. An abundance for every good deed.
In the context of motherhood, grace is God’s enabling that infuses us with the strength and the power we need to desire and accomplish His will. God’s grace is readily available to us if we just have a heart of humility that recognizes and acknowledges our need.
You know how hard it is to get God’s grace? What do we have to say? All we have to say is “help.” Lord, I cannot do this. I am incapable of what you have placed in my life. But You have everything I need. And so Lord I’m going to turn to You in a heartbeat.
At any moment of my day I can turn to the Spirit of God within me. I can pick up His Word for wisdom. I can ask a sister to pray for me at a tough moment. God pours grace into my life, the power and the desire to do what He has called me to. I do not have to manufacture it. I only have to receive it. It is always there when I come with a humble heart.
Nancy: Aren’t you grateful for the grace of God? As a mother of eight, Holly Elliff knows what it’s like to lean on God for everything. She originally delivered today’s message at our Revive Our Hearts’True Woman Conference last fall. Women are still enjoying the effects of that amazing event, and it’s helping them to serve in their homes and in their churches, in their communities, with a new appreciation of what it means to be a woman of God.
Virtually every week, by the way, we’re hearing about new True Woman events that are being creatively developed by women like you all around the country and literally popping up around the world too. It’s very exciting to our team here at Revive Our Hearts.
If you’re not sure how to take on your next challenge as a mom, here’s what I hope you’ll do: because Holly is so helpful when it comes to mothering both biblically and practically we asked her to develop her thoughts on paper. As a result we have a Revive Our Hearts exclusive to share with you today.
For your donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts we’ll send Holly’s booklet called Turning the Tide along with her message on CD. I know that moms are incredibly busy so I hope that getting the CD will allow you to listen whenever you want. Holly’s booklet will allow you to explore what the Bible says about motherhood. It’ll encourage you to lean on God’s power and it’ll show you why your work is so valuable.
It’ll help you or another mom you know to embrace motherhood in a fresh way for the glory of God.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts. Click here to listen to the audio.