Within our various relationships, there is potential to both teach and learn from others. In the workplace, a person eager to build his career might become the protégé of one who has more expertise. In the church, a newer believer might befriend a mature Christian, eager to observe and imitate that person’s tried-and-true faith. In the home, God calls mothers and fathers to be mentors from the moment their child’s heartbeat is heard in the womb.
Mentoring someone, in any context, can be both a privilege and a weighty responsibility. But discipleship with an open Bible is a life-giving ministry. Word-filled mentors point others to life in Christ.
Tim Challies’ short book, Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms, will encourage and inspire as you disciple others. With only 124 small pages, this book is short but not shallow. Each chapter highlights a Christian hero who came to faith through his mother’s discipleship. Though Challies focuses on the mother-son dynamic, there are take-aways for all types of discipleship. Whether you are a pastor or parent, a boss or best friend, Devoted will illuminate the eternal significance of discipleship and give you tools to do it well.
Think of the potential: when you open the Scriptures with someone, you are holding the only book that is able to make a person “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). As Paul intentionally mentored Timothy, he called him “my true child in the faith” (1. Tim. 1:2). Certainly, Timothy was privileged to be Paul’s protégé, learning from what Challies calls “the greatest theological mind since Christ.”
You may not have the greatest theological mind, but you have much to offer as you trust Christ to help you make disciples. Here are ten quotations from Devoted to sustain you in this Word-filled ministry.
1. On limited time
John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” lost his mother to tuberculosis when he was a young boy. But she didn’t waste the little time God had given her to teach him.
“She used what strength she had to express the deepest kind of love for her son. She taught him to know God’s existence, God’s holiness, and God’s demands on his life.” 1
2. On prayer
Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, experienced a crisis of rebellion as a young man. His mother intervened by pleading for hours at a time that God would extend mercy to her son.
“She spoke to him, of course, and counseled him, but also became convinced that the best thing she could do for her son was to commit him to prayer.” 2
3. On balancing truth and tenderness
J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, felt the pull of liberalism during his college years. As his doubts grew, so did his mother’s concern that her son not abandon the truth.
“But because she was rooted in Scripture, she knew better than to panic… Relying instead of the grace of God, she chose to provide him with comfort and steadfast love.” 3
4. On gratitude
Christopher Yuan, professor and international speaker, formerly lived a life of atheism, homosexuality, and dealing drugs. His mother asked God to do whatever it would take to save her son. When he was imprisoned (for six years—during which he encountered Christ!), his mother saw this painful situation as God’s answer to her prayer.
“She decided to begin counting her blessings, to deliberately, prayerfully record reasons to be thankful.” 4
5. On God’s will
William Borden, known for his spiritual zeal, leadership, and plans to become a missionary, died tragically at age 25. His tombstone declares: “Apart from Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.”
“He and his mother had prayed that God’s will would be done. And somehow it was, though not in the way either one had anticipated.” 5
6. On God’s faithfulness
Charles Hodge, a leader in Reformed theology and Presbyterianism, had a strained relationship with his mother, Mary. Though she became overbearing and meddlesome, her efforts still laid the foundation for the spiritual leader her son would later become.
“Learn from Mary that [God] uses every bit of your faithful effort, even if that effort is mingled with sin… God is devoted to your good in Jesus Christ.” 6
7. On being ordinary
John Piper, founder and teacher of desiringGod.org, gained from his mother-mentor a love of hard work and the value of finishing a task.
“Though she did not give him the content of his theology, she shaped the way he approached life. Through her willingness to bear any burden, through her simple but tenacious faith, through her tender empathy, through her ordinary life, she made an immeasurable impact.” 7
8. On encouragement
Charles Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers, was privileged to be mothered by a woman who was not only his teacher but also his evangelist. Spurgeon praised her this way:
“You, my Mother, have been the great means in God’s hand of rendering me what I hope I am… If I have any courage, if I feel prepared to follow my Saviour, not only into the water, but should he call me, even into the fire, I love you as the preacher to my heart of such courage.” 8
9. On patience
Augustine, preacher and writer of early Christian theology, lived a life of hedonism until God used transformed his heart. After decades of patient prayer, his mother was delighted when he, at age 33, asked her to help him understand Psalms. Augustine said:
“She was walking steadily in the path in which I was as yet feeling my way.” 9
10. On trusting the Lord
Dwight L. Moody, world-changing evangelist, grew up in extreme poverty. His widowed mother worked in every possible way to provide for her nine children.
“Through it all, she maintained a trust in God’s provision, and her simple faith was rewarded. ‘Trust in God’ was her creed, and she trusted him even when called upon to sacrifice the little she had for those who had even less.” 10
1. Tim Challies, Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms (Minneapolis: Cruciform Press, 2018), 14.
2. Ibid., 23.
3. Ibid., 34.
4. Ibid., 46.
5. Ibid., 60.
6. Ibid., 72.
7. Ibid., 82.
8. Ibid., 93.
9. Ibid., 101.
10. Ibid., 108.
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