Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Seller of Purple

             This morning, I woke up early to the name, “Lydia”, and you know me enough by now to know that I had to go and find out what the Lord wanted to say to me. A very dear lady, one whom I admire and look up to greatly has “dropped” this name around me a few times, but I did what I sometimes do and filed it away for later study. This morning at 5:30 the Lord brought the name out of my file cabinet and He and I went on a treasure hunt.
                Lydia is first mentioned in the book of Acts. She was a “seller of purple” from Thyatira. The bible does not tell us if she was married, single, a widow, or how old she was. What the bible does tell us is that she was a business woman of some wealth, to sell purple was a career that would have brought her great wealth and esteem within the community. But it is not her profession that intrigued me, what intrigued me this morning was where she was when Paul met her, as well as what happened the moment she met Paul.
                My treasure hunt took me to Acts 13:13-15, and that is where we will camp out today. Paul and his team were travelling and they stopped in Philippi, it was the Sabbath, so they were most likely looking for a synagogue or a place of Jewish worship so that they could fellowship and preach the gospel. In Philippi, however, there was only one meeting place for those that worshiped God, and that is where we begin.
                “And on the Sabbath day we 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 that were spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us.” (Acts 13:13-15)
                Lydia was a woman of business, I see in her an independent spirit, someone who was able to manage a business and a home, and she was probably a little intimidating as well to other women. As I was thinking and pondering on Lydia, I saw myself in her. I too sometimes can be intimidating, and have a very strong personality. I have managed truck stops, retirement homes, hotels as well as a home of my own. But even though her personality was suited for business, the Lord had other plans for her. Lydia was the first person to receive Christ in Europe. She was the first one to open her heart to hear the words that Paul was teaching, and she was the first one in her household to receive Christ into her heart.
                The bible tells us that she was by the riverside praying and worshipping God when Paul and the others came to join them. Even though she owned her own business, was independent and strong in personality, she had a heart for God. God knew Lydia’s heart, He saw her devotion and passion, and wanted it all to Himself. I get the sense that there was a deep desire in her to know Him personally, intimately.  And the Lord was eager to open her heart, for it is not by mere coincidence that Paul met Lydia there on the river bank that day. God had predestined Lydia to be a model for us, and a great witness for Him.
                “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (vs. 14) We must take note that the Lord did a work in the heart of Lydia. “To open is the part of God, and to pay attention that of the woman.” (Chrysostom quote) The faith that was born in Lydia was born because she had a desire and a hunger within her to know more. God was able to open her heart because she was willing to let Him in. So many times we fail to let God into our lives because we think we can do it ourselves. We are brought up in society today to be independent and strong women- not to depend on anyone else, but to do what we know needs to be done, without letting anyone else close enough to help us.
                Lydia, even though she was independent and a strong woman (my interpretation) she was also willing and eager to learn. There is nothing wrong with being independent in business or in life, but when we fail to let others in, and when we fail to listen to others, we go from being open and gentle to being stubborn and strong willed. Lydia, even though she was independent, she was also gentle in her spirit. How do I know this? Because scripture tells us that the “Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” If we are not open to learning and hearing from others, then we will not allow the Lord to do a work in our hearts either.
                After Lydia accepted Jesus into her life, she went and proclaimed Him to all her household. She led her whole house to the Lord, and they were all baptized. Because of her willingness and her desire to learn and to grow, a church family was born, a family that took in Paul and the other disciples who were out in the mission fields proclaiming the gospel of Christ. It was in her simple willingness to seek and to understand that the Lord was able to plant a church in Philippi. Imagine what our simple willingness to seek and to understand the Lord could accomplish if we would open our hearts to Him! After she gave her life to Christ and was baptized, she begged Paul and his companions to stay with her. The bible says she “persuaded” them.
                Lydia’s passion was born, her desire to know and to understand Christ was burning on the inside of her, and she was not about to let Paul out of her sight. There was a deep desire in Lydia to surround and submerse herself in God, and to apply everything that she was learning to her new found life in Christ. Matthew Henry states, “She constrained them- she had an eagerness to learn more, to hear more, to seek and to know Christ Jesus.” When we give our lives to Christ, there is a passion and a desire that is born within us to know Him, to see Him, to live every moment with Him. Lydia was no different. She was not satisfied, she wanted more.
                Today, we can learn three things from Lydia. First, in our simple willingness to learn and to grow God can do mighty works through us and in us, but we have to have willing hearts- He will open them, but we have to be willing to let Him do so. Secondly, that who I am is who I am. Lydia did not stop selling purple and being an independent business woman, she was still all of those things. Being independent and strong in business doesn’t have to stop once you become a Christian. God wants us just as we are. Lastly, Lydia had a passion and a deep desire to know Christ intimately, and she never stopped, she never lost that passion. She not only opened her home to Paul and the other brethren in Philippi, but she opened her heat to Jesus Christ and never closed it again. We too can have that same passion, that same eagerness and that same desire to know Christ Jesus so intimately, just like Lydia. It is our choice, being independent doesn’t stop God from wanting you, and it should not stop you from wanting God.
                “To open is the part of God, and to pay attention- that of the woman.” May we all be like Lydia and rekindle the fire and that passion for our Lord and Savior once again. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your Word. Amen and Amen.