Pay Attention

Today we return to last week’s passage from the book of Acts that took us on a fantastic voyage: one that began with a dream and ended with meeting a fascinating woman named Lydia. Come on board as we travel with Paul, Silas, Luke, and the other disciples on their first trip to Europe, where they covered impossible distances by ship and on foot:

Acts 16 (The Message)

9-10 That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.

11-12 Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days.

This second missionary journey took them to the major ports and cities of modern-day Greece. Along the way they converted many people from all kinds of backgrounds: Jews, pagans, soldiers, women, gentiles … the list was endless. The good news was brought to people who were hungry for the truth and Europe was forever changed.

One such person was Lydia. Lydia was a businesswoman originally from Thyatira. 

13-14 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!

Taking these points in order of their appearance, here is what we know about Lydia:

  1. She was at a prayer meeting
  2. She was from Thyatira, in modern-day Turkey, and had come to Philippi, presumably to ply her trade.
  3. She was a dealer in expensive textiles, known in other translations as a “seller of purple.” Thus, she was a successful businesswoman.
  4. She was a God-fearing woman, meaning a gentile who believed in the one God.
  5. She opened her heart to pay attention and God answered by giving her a trusting and believing heart.

Let us not miss that first point. She was at a prayer meeting. Everything good begins with prayer!

15 After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

And so, after her conversion, she used her influence to baptize everyone in her household and then serve Paul’s missionary team. Her household would have consisted of her family and all of the employees in her textile trade. That is a lot of influence, especially for a woman in a strongly patriarchal world.

Lydia reminds us that women have served in ministry for centuries. Indeed, the very first preachers of the gospel were women, as the “Marys” were the first to leave the empty tomb and share the good news of the resurrection. Women have prayed, taught, preached, baptized, served, led, and advanced the mission of Jesus Christ since the beginning.

The question this leaves us today is this: is God calling you to be like Lydia? Is it time to immerse yourself in prayer? Is he directing you to use your resources and influence to lead others to him? Are you willing to open up your home to provide hospitality to someone who needs it … perhaps a homeless person, a refugee, a jobless relative?

Lydia is a wonderful example of what happens when we “open our hearts to pay attention.”

Are you paying attention?

Purple Joy by Michelle Robertson