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Acts 16: 9-15  

An intriguing title. This story is about one woman who was in the right place, at the right time, with the right heart, and with the right attitude. God can do amazing things through men and women who are prepared to seek him, to follow him, and to be obedient to his vision. We are only limited by the smallness of our own vision - if we get a vision from God, then it's limitless because he's limitless.

What excites me about this story is that the Holy Spirit guides Paul to Philippi and guides him to one particular woman - the right woman. That's challenging - am I, are you, the right woman, in the right place, at the right time, with the right heart, with the right attitude - ready for God to use?

The church at Philippi was birthed through a vision from the Holy Spirit - a vision given to Paul. Have you got a vision? Paul's vision was very clear direction - I wonder if you have ever been given such clear direction.

A profile of Lydia

  • She was a dealer in purple cloth, and as such was probably wealthy - our passage says the members of her household were baptised along with her, so she must have had servants, maybe relatives living with her. Purple cloth was valuable and expensive - it was claimed to be worth its weight in silver. It was usually worn as a sign of nobility or royalty - gives a new significance to the passage in Mark 15:17 where it says the soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!"
  • It's possible that Lydia was not actually her real name - she was from Thyatira, which was formerly in the ancient kingdom of Lydia before it was incorporated into the Roman Province of Asia. As Thyatira was still considered to be Lydia, she was perhaps called Lydia, or the 'Lydian lady'. Some commentators have suggested that the name of this 'Lydian lady' was either Euodia or Syntyche mentioned in Philippians 4:3.
  • Whatever her name, the most important thing is that she responded to the gospel and through her the door was opened for ministry in that region. She was a key person in the establishment and development of the church in Philippi. Philippi was the key city in region of Macedonia (northern Greece).

Why was Lydia the right woman?

A few points from v13-15 in the passage show us:

  • she was a woman of prayer
  • she listened and was eager to learn
  • she was a worshipper
  • she opened her heart
  • she was obedient to baptism
  • she confessed that she was a believer
  • she wanted to serve
  • she opened her home
  • she was hospitable

Let's look at each of these in more detail.

  • she was a woman of prayer - v 13 - she went to the place of prayer

In Jewish law a synagogue could be formed wherever there were ten male heads of households who could be in regular attendance. Failing this, a place of prayer under the open sky and near a river or the sea was to be arranged. Apparently there was no synagogue in Philippi - Paul had already been there a few days - this explains why he and his companions went a little way out of the city to the river, where they expected to find a place of prayer. Open air prayer meetings - that's quite a thought - how often do we get to prayer meetings, the most neglected meetings in the church? How often do we get to our prayer room or prayer place?

  • she listened - v14 - she was eager to learn

It seems obvious that much of what happened at these prayer gatherings would have been head knowledge - it's significant that verse 14 of our passage says, "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message". I can imagine her sitting there drinking in all that Paul was saying. This was different to anything she'd heard before - this was about a real person, Jesus, who Paul was saying was the long-awaited Messiah, who'd been crucified to take away her sin, who'd risen from the dead on the third day, appeared to the disciples, then ascended into heaven. Paul maybe talked about his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. She really listened and her heart was touched by the message of the gospel. As well as being eager to learn, was quick to respond. How often do we listen to a message and know God is speaking to us and yet we still hold back - let's be quick to respond.

  • she was a worshipper - v14

Lydia is spoken of as a "God-fearer" and doubtless would have received instruction at a synagogue in her native Thyatira. In this prayer gathering, the women would have been reciting prayers and reading from the Law and the Prophets, they would discuss what they had read, and hope to hear from a travelling Jewish teacher who would bring an exposition or exhortation and receive a blessing. She'd been worshipping God in the only way she knew and she was faithful - yet she didn't understand who she was worshipping. After opening her heart to the Lord, she could now worship in spirit and in truth. We are so privileged today - we know who we worship - it's Jesus, the lover of our souls - and we have the Holy Spirit who helps us when we run out of words with which to worship him. God's looking for people who are worshippers.

  • she opened her heart - v14

A simple statement, yet so significant. Very often our hearts are closed, hard places - Jesus talked about that very often. I believe that as Lydia sat listening to Paul, the Holy Spirit was melting her heart, softening her heart to respond to the message - she would never be the same again. That's what happens when God melts your heart - he can break down those hard places - open up your heart to him today and see what he can do in your life. I remember a time when I not only had a hard heart but I'd built a wall around myself as well and I was in a meeting determined that nothing was going to get through - and nothing did - we can prevent God moving in our lives by being hard-hearted. I had a problem that God was highlighting and I didn't want to face it - that's usually it.

  • she was obedient to baptism - v15

along with her household - in bible times baptism followed very closely after conversion. Maybe you've never taken that step of obedience. It's a very symbolic way of burying the old life and rising up to take on the new life God has for you.

  • she confessed that she was a believer - v15

It was also important in bible times to confess faith in Jesus - sometimes at great cost - Stephen, the first martyr, spoke out to his accusers and it cost him his life. When he was sitting in the Sanhedrin, it was noted that his face was like the face of an angel. Isn't that lovely? I wonder if my face is like that of an angel when I go to work each day - I think not. So often I don't speak out when I could, when an opportunity comes my way. The bible says that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit - maybe that's the key?

  • she wanted to serve - v15

Following her conversion and baptism, Lydia then wanted to serve her fellow Christians. She'd received something very special and wanted to give something back. Very often this happens when people become Christians - it's what marks them out - it can often be a dramatic change that people notice. A changed life is one of the most powerful testimonies we can have. Knowing Jesus, learning about him, following him, becoming more and more like him, means a desire grows within us to serve as he did.

  • she opened her home - v15

One way of serving was to open her home - she wanted to enjoy fellowship with fellow believers. The church met in her home - in verse 40 of chapter 16, when Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. So Lydia's house became a centre of Christian outreach and worship in Philippi. You only have to read the book of Philippians to see how the church had grown and what a special place it held in Paul's heart.

  • she was hospitable - v15

It seems from verse 40 of chapter 16 that Lydia's home was open to people turning up, even fresh from prison! She practised hospitality, not just when she felt like it, but when it was needed.

The result of Lydia's conversion - the first church began in Philippi

The church met in Lydia's home - the first church in Philippi - what was it like? Well it's first members were a slave girl who'd been demon-possessed and jailer - he couldn't have been too popular - together with all his household. The gospel was reaching all levels of society, as it does today. People aren't so very different today to bible times.

Paul's evangelism was followed by signs and wonders - think about it - the slave-girl who was demon-possessed who'd been following them around for many days - wonderfully delivered - set free. When Paul and Silas were in prison, praying and singing to God, there was an earthquake so violent the foundations of the prison were shaken. The prison doors flew open and everybody's chains came loose. There must have been quite a commotion - people shouting, screaming - no-one ran out - they must all have been so frightened, they stayed where they were.

The jailer was going to kill himself - Paul shouted to him, Don't harm yourself! We are all here! It must have been dark because the jailer called for lights. He brought Paul and Silas out and asked them what he must do to be saved. Paul preached the gospel to him and his household and they were all saved - he also took them into his house, fed them, washed their wounds - he was serving already. What I liked was where it says, he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God - he and his whole family.

These were the key people in this new church at Philippi.

It really is a remarkable story - and what a significant part Lydia played - this one woman, the right woman, in the right place, at the right time, with the right heart and the right attitude.

Lydia was a woman of influence in her day. God is looking for women of influence in this day and generation.

What can God do with you? I titled this message "The Lydia Factor" - Go and Do It - are you ready?

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