Beginning in May, many Southern Baptist churches will begin a seven-week emphasis on various groups of people such as youth, senior adults, etc. This time of emphasis is not nearly as prominent as it once was which is why these weeks are not celebrated in as many churches as they once were. But regardless of whether churches emphasize these weeks or not, the focus of these weeks are bookended by actual holidays – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
It is well known that Mother’s Day is the date with the third highest attendance at churches in most years behind Christmas and Easter. It is also traditionally the day when the most phone calls are made because travelling without extra time off for work is less practical, but people want to talk to their mother.
Several weeks later, fathers are honored with their own day. This day is quite different for most fathers. For instance, on Mothers Day, many mothers do not cook; on Fathers Day, many fathers do (grill). Far fewer phone calls have been made over the years and Fathers Day is typically a day when church attendance is very low.
But mothers and fathers, and many other family members play a tremendous role in helping their kids through life. But more importantly than helping our family members get through life, is preparing them to live their lives by faith.
Today, we are going to talk about a few people who helped their family become key players for the kingdom of God. Many relatives could be chosen in general. Bible relatives include Abraham and Lot, Moses, Aaron and Miriam, Ruth and Naomi, James and John, Jesus and James, etc. But we are not looking at well-known people. For this series, we are reviewing the lives of different people that are largely unknown.
Lois & Eunice
When I first considered this topic for this series the first two names that came to mind were Lois and Eunice. These two women were mothers. Lois was the mother of Eunice who was the mother of Timothy, who was the protégé of Paul. (As Scripture says it, Lois was Timothy’s grandmother.) All that is said about these women is that the faith that is in Timothy was “first in your grandmother…and your mother.” That’s it.
But we do know a bit more about Timothy. He travelled with Paul. He travelled for Paul (when Paul was imprisoned). He was the pastor at Ephesus. He may have dealt with feelings of insecurity (1 Timothy 4.12). And Paul trusted him to prepare the church for the future (through leaders – 1 Timothy 3.1-13, and disciples in general – 2 Timothy 2.2). Of course, Paul’s confidence in Timothy was proven by Timothy’s service over time, but it began with his grandmother and mother teaching Him about matters of faith. So, Lois and Eunice are Unsung Heroes, not because of what we they did (except for their teaching of one person), but in how they helped form that one person to be prepared for serving God greatly.
This name will be one that is commonly known to many, but what do we really know about Jesse? We know he was the father of David. We know he had eight sons, three of which were with Saul prepared for battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 17.12-13). Jesse’s name is also used in Isaiah 11.1 where the prophet says that one of Jesse’s descendants will become great and powerful. That statement is actually kind of odd. Why not just say David’s descendant? We know David. We don’t know much of anything about Jesse. So, why Jesse?
Frankly, the Bible does not say. But the name is used 44 times in the Bible, and each time it is referring to the man who is David’s father. Interestingly, David’s mother is never mentioned, although Jewish tradition does share the name of Nitzevet as his mother. Because the Bible does not make it plain, we must be careful not to speculate. But with eight sons, the youngest of whom is considered by the Jews to still be their greatest king, Jesse did have a role. David told King Saul that he had killed lions and bears (1 Samuel 17.34-36). Who taught him to do that? Perhaps one of his seven brothers or perhaps his father. We don’t know. And to make any kind of definitive statement is not wise. But the people of Israel recognized Jesse (a couple of references about David only mention him as the son of Jesse). So, although we may not know much, the people then did. And a part of that was likely due to how he raised his sons – and especially David, who we know from Acts was a man after God’s own heart.
The last family today is the parents of James and John. The parents were Zebedee and Salome. All four gospels call James and John the sons of Zebedee. Only Mark uses the name Salome for the mother. We know that Zebedee was a fisherman and had some degree of wealth (he had hired servants working the boats with him and his sons – Mark 1.20).
But what we can know about this set of parents is that they prepped their boys to be ready. When Jesus called for James and John to follow, they did. They were ready to respond. They were ready to give up their family business (and any measure of wealth that included) to follow a man who was wandering along the side of sea making claims about fishing for men.
Now, you might think that these two boys were simply obedient to their parents. Again, they were prepped to be ready. But remember, Jesus gave this combo the nickname sons of thunder (Mark 3.17). That moniker did not likely start when they began travelling with Jesus; it was likely a part of their growing up together. So, Zebedee and Salome may have had their hands full, but they kept control enough, and prepped their boys well enough, to have them ready to take their place alongside Jesus when He came calling.
We could certainly look at others, and include some that are more well-known like Jacob or less known like the man who brought his boy to be healed by Jesus (Mark 9). But as we consider the role of family, I want us to consider the role of the church family. Remember, in Mark 3, when Jesus’ mother Mary, and his brothers and sisters showed up to rescue Him, He told those with Him that those who do the will of God are His mothers and brothers and sisters.
Of course, this must have crushed Mary emotionally, but the greater point is that we are to be family. We are God’s children, holy and dearly loved. And even the idea of parenthood is evident as Paul wrote that both Timothy (1 Timothy 1.2) and Titus (Titus 1.4) were his children in the faith. Thus, Paul was their spiritual father, just as Peter was to Mark.
And we know family is important in the Bible as we consider the ancestry passages in Genesis and elsewhere. Or when we read through 1 and 2 Kings and see the crown passed down from generation to generation.
Of course, many family members were not helpful, and not everyone follows the path that is set before them (such as Eli’s sons). But the Bible contains many examples of parents, grandparents, uncles, siblings, etc., that made a difference in the lives of others. Those family members may not have been well-known then (and may be mostly forgotten now), but their impact is still being felt centuries later, even as we talk about our heroes of the faith. Because, as we have seen throughout this brief series, most of the heroes we know would not be known if it was not for the effort of those individuals who made their contributions behind the scenes. We may sing song about our heroes, but let us not forget all of those Unsung Heroes.
And as we remember those who were Unsung Heroes in the past, let us be encouraged, and even challenged, to do our part for God today. Whether or not we are known or remembered by anyone in this life, our contributions today may make an eternity of difference for someone living across the street, in the next town over, or around the world, even if that difference isn’t talked about until years later when it is otherwise seemingly forgotten.
NOTE: This week’s sermon was shorter to allow time for questions and answers at the conclusion of the sermon.