1. Lydia listens to the Spirit of God. She was the first convert to Christianity in Europe ~ astounding. Paul is on a journey to spread the message of Jesus when he has a vision of a man in Macedonia… (show Map). Paul listens and obeys. Macedonia is the threshold of Europe… Acts 16:10 is a great mission verse READ… listening, decisive, obedient, powerful. For men and women of faith desiring to hear and respond to God, life is simple. READ Acts 16:11…. Troas is in Asia… Samothrace an island… Neaopolis is port city serving Philippi about ten miles away…Why these places? My best guess is that he hopped aboard the next ship he could find and the reason he chose Philippi is because it was the principle city in the region he was headed…
Paul’s arrives in Philippi and seeks out a Jewish gathering ~ his standard pattern… apparently not enough Jews in Philippi to have a synagogue (which needed ten Jewish men)… Paul found women that met to pray on the Sabbath – including at least one “god-fearer” named Lydia (a non Jew that adopted the Jewish religion). READ Acts 16:13.
Lydia is among the women. Lydia is unconventional, breaking a lot of norms… READ Acts 16:14. Lydia is a business woman selling quality cloth to the rich. purple is an expensive color ~ created from shellfish… Lydia owns a home in the area READ Acts 16:15.
Lydia listens for the voice of God. The beginning of 14 shows her ready to learn… that is the definition of a disciple of Christ… to be ready to listen and put into practice new truths/ old truths spoken in new ways/ revelations (aha insights). The end of v. 14 describes an act of God: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Two ways to apply these words:
a) something unique happened. Lydia supernaturally heard from God because this is an incredibly significant moment in the spread of the gospel. Frankly, that’s the easy way out because we can say, WOW, isn’t that amazing. Lydia was in the right place and the right time and God used Lydia in a powerful way. It is powerful and amazing, but I think the way God used Lydia is a model for what can happen to you and me.
b) Lydia is prepared to hear from God before Paul arrives… she is a God fearer, a non Jewish woman who believes in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… she wants to hear from God. Are you listening for the voice of God, ready to hear and obey? When the text says the Lord opened her heart, that can happen to us… I’ve always loved the story of Samuel in the O.T. when he is a boy and the Lord speaks to him in the night and he goes to the prophet Eli asking what he wants. This happens several times. Finally Eli realizes it is the Lord speaking to the boy so he instructs Samuel that the next time it happens for Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:8-10). The young Samuel learned to actively listen for God…Lydia knew that lesson.
Lots of interesting facts about Lydia as a business woman, homeowner, but the greater lesson is that she listened, wanting to hear from God. What happened to her can happen to us. We don’t need to look at others with jealousy thinking they were in the right place at the right time and God used them in a great way. When you listen for the voice of God as a way of life, there is no such thing as the wrong place…. If we discipline our ears to hear from God he will speak. True listening includes obedience. We have a choice: we can tune our ears ready to learn and obey, or we can resist learning/practicing anything new… Lydia practices the art of listening. May we as a church put into practice the same attitude, each of you…
2. Another simple Lydia lesson: JOY floods her soul. Put on Joy… This is mother’s day, so a gift…I ran across a picture this week of a woman that in my mind is a great image of Lydia (show picture by Loretta M.)… hand out… Where do I find JOY in the life of Lydia?
At a later time Paul writes a letter to the church at Philippi. Lydia shows hospitality and invites Paul and his friends to her home? READ Acts 16:15. Somehow, more believers are added, and they meet in Lydia’s home. It appears the first Church in Europe is in Lydia’s house. READ Acts 16:40. A Church is established in Philippi; at a later time Paul writes a letter: Philippians. In this letter Lydia’s name is not mentioned, but there is an allusion to her. “To all the saints in Jesus Christ at Philippi” it says in Phil. 1:1. That must include Lydia… Paul continues READ Phil. 1:4-6. Philippians is nicknamed the letter of JOY, refers to JOY over and over… after this first use of the word JOY, he talks about the beginning of the church. Lydia stood out at the beginning Lydia set the tone. Lydia must have been a woman of JOY. She is the one that invited Paul and the others to her home. That’s why I think the picture in your hand is a great image of Lydia… “Put on Joy and wear it like it was made just for you!” There is much to admire about Lydia ~ putting on Joy is one of the top lessons. She was the first convert, she stood out when Paul went to the river, she listened. somehow the Church that grew in Philippi became a place of JOY ~ surely the spirit of JOY was modeled by Lydia…
Insight from an old preacher: 30 years ago when I started preaching I was nervous. It took me a few months to realize as I preach most people listening with a serious look. I had to learn that is normal; the look on your face doesn’t mean you are bored. I noticed something else: in any group there are always a few people that listen with a smile. Those are the people I learned to see. I don’t think the smilers had more appreciation, it is just normal to wear a smile. I like to imagine Lydia listened with a smile.
Put on Joy! And wear it like it was made just for you. Philippians is Bible’s letter of Joy. Paul talks about his own joy in this letter. Who did he learn it? I think Lydia. “I always pray with JOY.” I hope I’m a person that when others think about me they smile. That’s what came to Paul’s mind when he thought about Lydia and the church at Philippi. JOY is contagious/ healing/ reconciling… Paul says he prays with joy “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day…” Who was there the first day: Lydia. “He who began a good work in you will carry it out…” Paul declares. Who is there at the very beginning: Lydia. Close to a dozen times in this short letter Paul talks about JOY. Lydia must have set the tone of JOY in the church that started in her house. Put on Joy and wear it like it was made just for you.
3. Lydia listens/attentive, ready to learn and obey. She is a a woman of JOY. One more thought… Lydia lives her life as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s a centuries long debate in the Christian world about the role of women in ministry and leadership. Lydia is a bold woman. The first convert in Europe. A Church in her house. She sounds like a strong leader! But there is more to the story. Lydia shows us leadership the Jesus Christ way. She is first a servant. She listens to the message of Jesus Christ. She commits her life to Christ. She and her household are baptized. She invites people into her home. She is a follower first. Leadership is a response to her obedience. That’s the way it should always be…
Servant-leader is a different kind of leadership than what we learn from the world. The world teaches us that we are to desire status, getting ahead, being the first, the best, the richest, the most powerful, popular. Jesus says crazy things like the first will be last and the last will be first. What’s that mean? Lydia shows us. When a couple of the disciples came to Jesus to apply for the position of top generals in his kingdom Jesus said you really don’t know what you are asking because there will be heartache and suffering.
Lydia is honored to be used by God in highly significant ways, as he uses her gifts and talents. She brings to the table the fact that she is a businesswoman and trader, owns a house, but everyone brings something to the Lord… She is first and foremost a servant of God as she listens to Paul’s words about Christ then offers her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord” she humbly says in Acts 16:15, “come and stay at my house.” At the end of the verse is a wonderful detail: “And she persuaded us.” Did she persuade them she was a believer? To stay at her house? YES. I bet she was passionate, excited, she was probably wearing JOY like it was made just for her. She wants to be a servant. Out of her desire to serve is birthed leadership! That’s the way it should always be for those that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, not seeking power, but a simple desire to serve…
Everything we know about Lydia is in this chapter of Acts and whatever we want to read between the lines in the book of Philippians. The beginning of the gospel message begins with Paul finding a few women by a river in Philippi. The message is still spreading… God used Lydia.
To be a servant first and leader second is a new way of thinking. Another way to say the same thing: Lydia is a link in a chain. I got this idea from a book by Bill Hybels, speaking about evangelism. He said that most people come to the Lord through a series of events. Many people along the way are links in a chain. One person might be honored to pray with the person for salvation at the end of the process of becoming a Christian, but many people/events influenced the person along the way….
Lydia is a link: Paul had a supernatural vision of a man from Macedonia telling him to go to Europe with the gospel message. Paul obeyed. He sailed for two days and found Lydia. Lydia had no idea he was coming, but she was listening for God to speak to her. She was a link in a chain of events so that the gospel took root, a church was established. Paul went on to other places. The church that sprouted in her home continued. Lydia is a beautiful link. I say this with humility… I have heard from many people over the years whose life has been turned around. And I am surprised/ humbled when on occasion they seek me out and give me credit… what did I do? I ask… somewhere along their life’s journey I listened, encouraged, loved them… I am a link in a chain; I can think of no greater honor.
I don’t want to be a leader! If God so chooses to use me as a leader/influence for the good in any way, then so be it. Why should being a leader be anyone’s goal? I want to be a link in a chain as God brings people to himself. That’s the example of Lydia. She listened and God opened her heart to stretch her mind to receive Jesus Christ into her heart. That’s where it starts. Listen. She wanted to be part of the fledgling movement of life in Christ. She was baptized and persuaded Paul and the others to go to her home. A Church was born. And the gospel took root. I don’t think it hurt at all that Lydia wore the garment of JOY like it was meant for her. JOY is not one of the spiritual gifts reserved for some, it is a Fruit of the Spirit meant to be a garment for all to wear. Lydia is a link in a chain, a servant at heart, and through her Joy and her listening ears, she hears the message of salvation, believes and obeys. Make it your practice to listen for the voice of God, do it with a Spirit of JOY, with the goal of being a servant, a link in a chain, so that you can be a part of that great kingdom work of more people committing their life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.