Text: Acts 16:14-15, 40
There is much debate among various Christian denominations about whether there should or should not be women preachers. However, women can have a powerful impact on the world around them whether they teach from the pulpit or not. Such is the case with Lydia. There are only three verses in the Bible that talk about Lydia, but these three verses speak volumes about what we can learn from her.
While we may often admire powerful women, women with esteemed positions and titles, women with exceptional intellect, talents, and skills, you don’t have to possess a distinguished degree, a superwoman ability, or loads of money to make a powerful impact in your little corner of the world. The story of Lydia can teach us this.
Located in what is now modern-day Greece, the city of Philippi was a bustling, miniature-size Rome in the days of Lydia. Acts 16:12 describes Philippi as “the chief city” or “foremost city” of the Macedonian region. Philippi during this time was considered the gateway to Europe. Against this background, the small, first Christian church of Philippi was established by the apostle Paul and a few believers.
In his letter to the Phillipian church, the apostle Paul calls them his “joy and crown.” (Philippians 4:1) He also commends their generosity and benevolence by saying, “Now you Phillipians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.” (Philppians 4:15-16)
How do you suppose this church of Christian believers grew to be Paul’s “joy and crown?” It began with its first convert, Lydia, who evidently impacted those around her to become believers. As far as we know, she had no important title. She was not of royalty. She was an ordinary woman who made a difference in the world around her.
By examining the three scriptures that discuss Lydia, we can conclude the following ways to make a difference in our little corner of the world.
1. Lydia opened her heart to God.
Acts 16:13-14 says that when Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi, they went “out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made, and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
In order to bring others to Christ in Philippi, Paul had to begin with those whose hearts were opened to God, so he began where there were already people believing in the power and existence of an Almighty God. Maybe he asked around and learned about these women who were known for regularly meeting at the riverside to pray. It was no doubt God’s plan to use these women to impact others in Philippi, and it is God’s plan for women today to impact those around us. Lydia shows us how we can do this.
2. Lydia responded to God’s call.
Acts 16:14 says she “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” This means she didn’t just merely listen, but she also responded to what she heard. She did something about it. What did she do? From the following verse, we can infer what Lydia did.
“And when she and her household were baptized…” (Acts 16:15)
Evidently, Paul told the women about Jesus Christ and how to become a Christian: by being believing in Him and being baptized into Him as a symbol of His death, burial, and resurrection. Notice, Lydia did not hesitate after she heard this from Paul. She didn’t say “Well, I will think about it and maybe one day I will become a Christian.” She did it right away. She wasted no time in obeying the call of Christ. It is said that Lydia became Europe’s first Christian convert.
She also wasted no time in teaching her household. “Household” in the Bible doesn’t just mean family but can also include any servants that worked in the household. We don’t know how many people were in Lydia’s household or who they were, but she apparently taught them what Paul taught her about Christ, and they became believers as well.
So, now we have the first believers who began to form the first Christian church not only in Philippi but in Europe. And, it all began with one woman who opened her heart to God, believed in Christ, and responded to His call.
3. Lydia was humble and hospitable.
Notice what Lydia says to Paul and his companions in Acts 16:15, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” It was customary in Bible days to invite travelers to stay in your home. In essence, Lydia is saying, “If you judge me to be worthy, come stay at my house.” She was not pretentious. She didn’t put on airs. She didn’t try to be something she was not. She was humble. If you want to influence those around you, the best way to do it is with a humble heart. People are usually more receptive to those who portray a sincere and humble disposition.
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘ God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” (I Peter 5:5-6)
Lydia was also hospitable. She invited Paul and his traveling companions to come stay at her house, in which verse 40 shows us that they did indeed stay at her house while visiting in the area. The Bible teaches that Christians are to be hospitable. When you invite others into your home and show kindness and service to others, it gives you the opportunity not just to teach them about Christ, but to show Christ. You can preach about Jesus all day, but people are more likely to believe you when they see Christ living in you. This is why hospitality is important. Hospitality is not just inviting people into your home, but into your life.
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)
4. Lydia was a worker.
Acts 16:14 says Lydia was a “seller of purple.” This most likely means she made it her job to sell purple clothing and linens in the busy marketplace of Philippi. Purple clothing was expensive and most often worn by the ruling class and socially elite. Remember, Philippi was a thriving city with many different kinds of goods being traded from all over the world. There were traders coming from all parts of the world. This gave Lydia the opportunity not just to sell her wares, but to tell others about Christ and what a difference He had made in her life. This gave her the opportunity to talk to all classes of people from the high society to the lower class.
The Bible commands that we are to be busy and to work. (II Thessalonians 3:2) We are supposed to provide for our families and to help others in need. Our jobs are just another way we can impact those around us. In our modern day society, it is not always easy to talk about Christ or religion in the workplace. Sometimes, it can be even considered grounds for termination. However, you can still teach Christ by letting your fellow co-workers “see” Christ living in you. When they see you following the boss’s orders without complaining, when they see you practicing honesty and kindness and not participating in gossip, when they see you offering a helping hand or an encouraging word, and when they see you being strong and peaceful in the face of adversity, your co-workers can then see a good example of what it means to be a true Christian.
The world today is filled with people who call themselves Christians, but the Lord desires people like Lydia, who are Christians not just in name only, but in truth and deed, Christians who do the walk and not just the talk. It is these Christians that can make a difference in the world around us.