By J. Aaron White —
“…The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul”
Let’s face it – parenting can be tough. As the listless days of summer draw to a close, the task of joyfully and consistently serving our little ones with grace and gospel-centered intentionality can seem daunting. There are times in every parent’s (and grandparent’s) life when Paul’s admonition to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) falls hard upon ears that have only heard “She touched me!” shouted from the back seat of the family minivan all afternoon. Where can weary mothers, fathers, grandparents, and mentors go for encouragement? I invite you to join me in gleaning from one of Christianity’s proverbial sages:
“You may speak but a word to a child, and in that child may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian Church in years to come.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)
Paul had no idea who would respond to his preaching in the Roman territory of Philippi. Nevertheless, he and his road-weary cohorts “went outside the gate to the riverside” (Acts 16:13) where they happened upon a group of women who had gathered for prayer. Paul mustered his strength and began opening the Scriptures to proclaim Christ, the Messiah. As he did, something miraculous happened. There was neither earthquake nor windstorm, yet God intervened in a powerful way: “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Paul was simply being consistent and faithful in stewarding the message of the gospel, and God opened her heart. Is this not encouraging for weary parents? Pastor Spurgeon seizes upon this reality to remind us that as we (with heavy eyes and a mug of coffee) steward the gospel to the next generation, we may very well find that God is stirring a slumbering, noble heart. Could your little boy, with messy hair and Batman pj’s, be another Charles Spurgeon or R. C. Sproul? By God’s grace, may it be.
“I remember, on one occasion, [mother] praying thus: ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay hold not of Christ.’ That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience, and stirred my heart.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)
In the case of Lydia (as with every other redeemed soul), we see that God is the great initiator; his sovereign grace alone moved upon Lydia to give life where there was only death. Nevertheless, God used the means of Paul’s preaching to bring the miracle of the new birth to pass (Romans 10:14-17). In the case of young Spurgeon, it was his mother’s earnest bedside prayers that God sovereignly used to stir his slumbering, noble heart.
Eliza Spurgeon was likely tired by the time she got her eight little sinners to bed while their father, James, was away on another preaching engagement. Perhaps she had prayed this same prayer many nights before. Yet it was her patient and steadfast stewardship of the gospel in the ears of her children that God used to awaken the heart of boy who would go on to shake the world from his London pulpit, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Although we are not guaranteed that God will use our little ones to the degree that he used Spurgeon, we are certainly promised that his Word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). So, weary saint, keep pouring into the next generation. Perhaps God will be pleased to use one of your many drowsy but earnest bedside prayers to stir a noble heart that resides in the chest of a giggling, silly, seemingly uninterested little sinner.