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by Raquel Rodriguez

“That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank; where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.”
-Acts 16:9-15 (NLT)

Paul was given a vision, and a location was spoken. Though Philippi was a major city inside Macedonia, the Jewish community was too small to have a synagogue, which required ten males. Therefore, the river bank was an appropriate meeting place for three reasons; it was private, quiet and provided water for Jewish purification rites. The stage was set, and the spotlight now faced a group of women who gathered at a riverbank to pray. We read of a successful business woman from Thyatira. She was in all likelihood widowed or single. She worshiped God, meaning that she was a non-Jew who believed in the Jewish God.

I wish we had a video clip of this encounter. We don’t know for how long Lydia sat, or what Paul spoke. But we do know that she listened. She took in every word that was spoken by Paul. And the very God that set the stage for this meeting was the very same God who opened Lydia’s heart to receive the truth spoken by Paul. That day her life changed, making her the first European convert. Almost immediately, Lydia was baptized. She was quick to obey this command, symbolically burying her old life and rising to her new life.

We finally hear Lydia speak. Her act of service as a true believer was opening her home to the visiting missionaries. This first action was the beginning of many good works. As the Word tells us throughout the books of Acts and PhilippiansLydia’s home was the beginning of the church in Philippi. She was a woman of influence in her time; and continues to influence many today.

Three lessons I was drawn to:

1. Prayer, much like the blood in our veins or the air that we breathe, is vital for our survival. The Word tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. Let’s not get lazy with prayer. If you tell someone that you will pray for them, pray right there with them. If there is a prayer meeting at church, attend it and take some friends with you. And pray continuously throughout your day. You can even set up reminders on your phone to pray for certain needs or a simple, “Thank you God for _____.” Time and eloquent words are not of much importance, but rather, it’s about the heart behind them. Imagine what God could do in your life if you prayed more. Now imagine what He could do in the lives of those around you and in your city if you prayed for them.

2. A person with a hardened heart can have a difficult time accepting God’s truth, love and acceptance. As we read with Lydia, God had to open her heart, and then she was responsive to the Gospel. I went through a season where my heart was broken; I gave in to bitterness, anger and self-pity. It wasn’t long before my heart became hardened. Through reading and hearing God’s word, He opened my heart to His truth, love and acceptance. If your heart is hardened today, sit before God, read his word and listen (as Lydia did). And like any surgery, opening your heart will be painful, but necessary and worth it.

 3. Take action. What can you do for others? As you pray and seek God’s word, you will receive direction and see opportunities for ministry. When you see one, act upon it. God has chosen you and I to change this world, one act of service at a time.

How have you been influenced by Lydia?

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