It turned out to be a woman.
The vision at Troas had featured a man of Macedonia. Had it been a woman, Paul may have had second thoughts. But he came to Philippi in good faith. And he wasn’t disappointed when his first contact turned out to be Lydia, not Linus.
Paul’s first stop in a new place was almost always the synagogue. There he would find not only Jews, but also God-fearing Gentiles who usually proved most responsive to the Gospel. But apparently there was no synagogue in Philippi. Roman law required at least 10 male Jews in a city to form a synagogue. Falling short of this, they sometimes held services outside the city limits. That’s where Paul met Lydia – at a place of prayer outside the city gate, complete with a river for baptism.
Meet Lydia. She’s a business woman. She worships God, not money. Her name is as Greek as Linus. She is typical of the many God-fearing Gentiles in Acts who respond to the Gospel. Paul spoke the Word. Lydia paid attention. And the Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly (Acts 16:14 NRSV).
Only God can open hearts to hear the Gospel.
Only God can open hearts to hear the Gospel. Our part is to open our mouths and share God’s love with the lost. Until we do that, we’ll never know who’s willing to listen and whose hearts the Lord has opened. Some will refuse to listen. Others will listen only with their ears. But there will always be some like Lydia who listen eagerly with open hearts (Acts 16:14).
Where the Gospel is preached and disciples are made, the Church of God emerges without fail. Paul opens his mouth to preach the Word. Lydia opens her ears to hear the Word. The Lord opens her heart to listen. Lydia and her entire household believe and are baptised. Lydia opens her home as a base for the missionaries. God opens the heavens. And before long, the proud Roman colony of Philippi becomes the first city in Europe to host a church.
And not only that, the church in Philippi also became the first ever on record to support Paul or any other missionary. As soon as Paul makes his next stop in Thessalonica, the Philippians are already sending him money (Philippians 4:15-16; 2 Corinthians 11:9). Thanks to Lydia.
Fast and pray
- Never underestimate the Father heart of God. His will is that none should perish. He works on both ends of the conversion process. He simultaneously prepares the witness and the pre-believer. Then He brings them together. And there is a harvest. It happens five times in the Book of Acts: Phillip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8). Ananias and Saul (Acts 9). Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). Paul and Lydia (Acts 16). Paul and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16). This is amazing grace. In Singapore, many are shunning religion (The Straits Times, May 2016). But don’t despair. Look up. God has the last word. Ask in faith, hope and love. He is already preparing the Church and Singapore for a bumper harvest. Towards Celebration of Hope 2019, pray for open heavens, open hearts, open homes, open harvest. Ask the Spirit to lead you – not just your pastor or cell leader, but YOU – to hearts that He has opened in answer to your prayers (Acts 16:9-10). Make the most of every opportunity.
- Never underestimate the drawing power of Jesus. There are Lydias in First World Singapore: Women who realise that life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15). Women who want more than fashion and fortune. Women who have had enough with vanity fair and realise their deep need for God. Look for the Lydia-links in your sphere of influence. Perhaps it’s a relative or a former classmate who has become a successful entrepreneur. Maybe it’s someone you admire from a distance. Perhaps a VIP, a high official, a newsmaker or a social media influencer. Talk to God about each one. Contend for their salvation daily. Pray for divine appointments. Ask God to cause every Lydia to pay attention to the Message and the messengers He sends their way.
- Never underestimate the power of the Gospel on your lips. The promise of Pentecost is that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21). But – how then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14). Ask God to free us from indifference and inertia. Pray for greater urgency and confidence to speak up. Through the foolishness of preaching, God saves the lost (1 Corinthians 1:21).
- Never underestimate the power of God through women disciples. Women such as Lydia were not at the margins in the first decades of the Jesus movement. They were not silent in the churches or ineffective in evangelism. They cared for local congregations and were vital and strategic players at the forefront of the expanding Christian mission. A church was established in Philippi because of Lydia’s open heart and her open home, and it grew because of her patronage, her initiative, her courage, her ministry (Margaret Mowczko). From generation to generation, ask God to raise up marketplace leaders like Lydia to open homes, communities and cities to the Gospel.
Read the devotional from Day 15: Gospel Positioning System here.