11 Then, setting sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for a number of days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we thought there was a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. 14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul.
I remember hearing a story from some of my teammates on a mission journey to India in November 2011. They were working in a village where some of the Indian believers had identified a family that might be open to hearing the gospel. The problem was they were having trouble locating the house where that family lived.
For close to 30 minutes they had walked up and down a particular street, searching for this house where they thought they were supposed to go. They finally noticed a lady standing in her doorway watching them. One of the interpreters walked over, planning to ask if she knew where this family lived.
As he approached, she said something like, “Why have you passed our house so many times? Don’t you want to come in?” Feeling somewhat chagrined, the team entered the lady’s home, where her entire family had gathered in anticipation of what these foreigners had to say. The gospel was eagerly received and a household was saved.
What we all pondered that night was the fact that if the team had found the “right” house, they would have completely missed the encounter that God had ready and waiting on them.
Something similar happened to Paul in today’s reading. A quick glance back to verses 6-10 tells us that Paul and his companions had planned to preach in the Asian province of Bithynia, but had been prevented by the Spirit from doing so. We don’t know how that happened, only that it was effective. Paul left the region and traveled to the city of Troas on the west coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), located directly across the Aegean Sea from modern-day Greece. During the night, he had a vision of a man standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (vs. 9) Paul and his companions immediately made arrangements to go, concluding that God had issued a call to preach there.
After traveling for a few days, they ended up in the city of Philippi. Paul’s traditional approach to a new city was to enter the synagogue and preach first to the Jews. If they rejected his message, he would then go to the gentiles. However, in Philippi there was no synagogue. Instead, the small group of Jews gathered on the Sabbath to pray by the Gangites River. Paul found his way to this place and began speaking to the women who were gathered there.
One of those women was named Lydia. She was not a Jew, but was a worshiper of God. Perhaps she was considering conversion when Paul came along. Whether she was or not, the Bible says, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” (vs. 14) This message was obviously received by her family as well, because in the very next verse we see her entire household baptized.
What an amazing story! God proved once again that He is sovereign. Even when we have great plans to do things for the Lord, and if we are not careful, we can miss what he really wants to use us for.
When is the last time that you became frustrated because you thought you knew what you were supposed to do for the kingdom and it just wouldn’t come to fruition? Have you ever wondered if it might be that your energy was being used on the wrong person, place or thing?
This story is a great reminder for us to slow down, press into the word and pray that God would direct our steps. There are people out there ready to hear God’s message and believe. They are waiting on us to tell them the good news. Let’s not be so consumed with our own spiritual agenda that we pass them by and never even realize they were there.
- Does this part of Paul’s story convict you? Are there things you are trying to do for the Kingdom now that aren’t bearing any fruit?
- Have you stopped to pray and ask God if your energies are being consumed on the wrong thing? If not, would you be willing to?
- This story teaches us that it is God who opens hearts to receive his message. Knowing that, does it make a difference in how you share the good news? Who do you know right now that needs to hear the truth? Will you tell them?