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Life Lessons from Lydia

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Life Lessons from Lydia

Acts 16:13-15

Did you know that nearly half of women fear life as a bag lady?  46 percent of women suffer from what is now called “Bag Lady Syndrome.”  46 percent of women believe they will end up a homeless woman who carries all of her possessions with her in shopping bags.  They might have good salaries, money in their purses, decent savings and investments — but still they are afraid that they will wake up one day, broke, forgotten and destitute.  Bag ladies.

What’s going on here?

Why does such an anxiety exist in one of the most affluent nations in the world?

According to financial advisor, Judith Briles, when it comes to money, women are motivated more by fear than faith.  When it comes to money, women fear failure or making a mistake.  Because of this, women are twice as likely as men to set aside a secret stash of money. Men might crave the power or status that comes with money. But women like the security.

Not so in our text.  In our text today there are two principal players – the apostle Paul and Lydia whose paths are about to cross in Macedonia.  In Acts 16 the Holy Spirit orchestrates and arranges events and circumstances which will culminate with Paul meeting Lydia in Macedonia.  In Acts 16 we find the Holy Spirit opening and closing doors.  In Acts 16 we find the Holy Spirit empowering and furthering the ministry of the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ.  Paul, Silas, Timothy, and at times Luke had been visiting the Christian communities in what is now Turkey, but upon reaching the westernmost areas the Holy Spirit blocks their efforts.  Churches were being strengthened in the faith.  Souls were being won.  The kingdom was being advanced.  But for some reason, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.  So, they went through Mysia and tried to go into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit did not permit them to go there either. 

I know it is Mother’s Day and I must hurry to Lydia.  But I cannot gloss over one of the most important truths in the text.  The church cannot experience true success without the power of the Holy Ghost.  After Jesus arose, his disciples were eager to get out the good news.  But Jesus commanded them to tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.  Without the Holy Spirit there is no power.  No power to sing right.  No power to pray right.  No power to preach right.  No power to win the lost.  No power to further the gospel.  No power to live right.  No power to love right.  Is it any wonder that the songwriter wrote, “Send Him on down Lord!  Send Him on down.  We need your Spirit.  Send Him on down.”  Lord, let your Holy Ghost come on down! 

Friday night, we were all watching Ghost Whisperers.  The Ghost Whisperer was encountering all sorts of ghosts.  Montell jokingly said, “I wonder why the Ghost Whisperer never encounters the Holy Ghost.”  We laughed about it, but the truth of the matter is that there is only one name through which you can have an encounter with the Holy Ghost.  As Jesus told Nicodemus, you must be born again.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.  And revivals aren’t brought in through the preacher, they are prayed down by the congregation.       

The Holy Spirit closes some doors and He opens others.  Once they reach the port city of Troas the same Holy Spirit who closed the door on Asia and Bithynia opens the door to Macedonia.  While in Troas, Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man seeking his help.  “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After he has the vision, immediately Paul and his companions set sail for Macedonia, concluding the Lord has called us to Macedonia.  In doing the Lord’s work, from time to time, there must be a sense of divine “oughtness”.  Yes we are going to make some mistakes.  Yes, we are going to stumble along the way.  Yes, God won’t always give us direct revelation.  But, every now and then, we need divine assurance of where we ought to be and what we ought to be doing. 

The other key player in our text today is Lydia, an apparently successful woman.  Lydia is a financially secure resident of the city of Philippi. She owns her own business and her own home. She is a “seller of purple”; a “dealer in purple cloth”; a “merchant of expensive purple cloth” from the well-known textile city of Thyatira. Thyatira is renowned for its purple dye.  Purple clothing is the mark of wealth and royalty in the Roman world.  To be dressed in purple is to say to the world I am rich, powerful, and influential.  To be dressed in purple is to say to the world I am somebody.  To be dressed in purple is to say to the world — I am a mover and a shaker.  No doubt Lydia relocated to Philippi to ply her trade and establish a branch of operations in Philippi.  Philippi is a Roman colony located in Macedonia.  It is a “Rome away from Rome”!  As such, Philippi is an important commercial location on both land and sea routes – an influential city in the region of Macedonia.  That’s why Lydia sets up shop in Philippi.  So, it is Lydia’s trade that brings her to Macedonia and Paul’s missionary travels that brings him to Macedonia.  But it is the Holy Spirit who brings them together.

Having arrived at Philippi, Paul and his companions decide to remain there for a few days.  For whatever reason, Philippi doesn’t have a large population of Jews.  So, there isn’t a Jewish synagogue in Philippi.  There has to be at least 10 Jewish men who are heads of households and regularly attend services to establish a synagogue.  If there were no synagogue, a place of prayer was to be established “under the open sky and near a river or the sea.”  The water was to be used for the purification rites. 

So, on the Sabbath, Paul and his companions head out to the riverside to find a Jewish place of prayer.  It’s here, by the riverside, that Paul crosses paths with Lydia.  The text says there was a group of women who met there.  Now wait a minute, back in verse 9 it was a man who appeared to Paul in His vision, but here in verse 13 we find the apostle Paul ministering to a group of women!  An anonymous Jewish Rabbi is quoted as saying, “It is better that the words of the law be burned than be delivered to a woman!”  Could it be that God intends the gospel for all!  Could it be that God is no respecter of persons!  Could it be that God intends the gospel for all stations and vocations; all colors and creeds!  Could it be that God intends the gospel for male and female; young and old; black and white!

I would say yes.  For the text says that Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.  The first life lesson we learn from Lydia is we must have a heart open to the gospel.  The text says Lydia was a worshipper of God.  Now, what is the difference between a worshipper of God and a believer in Jesus Christ?  Aren’t the two synonymous?  As comedian John Pinnette would say, “I say nay nay”.  A worshipper of God is someone who is not a full Jewish proselyte.  A worshipper of God is someone who has not fully converted to Judaism.  A worshipper of God is someone who goes to the Jewish synagogues and worships with the rest of the congregation but has not formally converted to Judaism. 

But attending worship services alone is not enough to save us.  There is only one way to the Father.  Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man comes to the Father but by me!  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been coming to the building, if the Holy Spirit has never opened your heart to receive the gospel.  If the Holy Spirit has not opened your heart to confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus.  If the Holy Spirit has not opened your heat to believe that God raised Him from the dead, you are still dead in your sins and trespasses. 

But thanks be to the God we serve, because He not only opens doors no man can close; he opens the hearts of men to hear and receive the gospel.  I don’t often agree with Creflo Dollar, but I do agree with him on this.  The Bible is not a book a rules; it is a bag of seeds.  If your heart is closed to what’s written in the book, there will be no seed sown.  And a seed not sown is a seed that will bring no harvest. 

But the same God who opened the way for Paul to make it to Macedonia, opened the heart of Lydia to receive the engrafted Word that was sown.   The first life lesson from Lydia is that we must have a heart open to gospel.  Only after your heart is opened to the gospel can your house be set in order. 

The text says, Lydia and her household were baptized.  Now some have used this text to support the notion that Lydia’s household was saved by proxy.  In other words, the faith of Lydia automatically saved each family member.  But scripture doesn’t support this belief.  Each sinner must trust Christ personally.  Each sinner must repent for themselves.  Each sinner must decide for themselves.  But the head of the household’s decision opens the way for each family member to decide for himself. 

The second life lesson we learn from Lydia is that a heart open to the gospel usually leads to a home open to hospitality.  After being baptized, Lydia begs Paul and his companions to come to her house and stay.  She says, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.”  The word translated “judge” means to form or give an opinion after separating and considering the particulars of a case.  Lydia is literally saying, examine me now and see if there’s any evidence that I’ve truly been born again.  Look at the particulars of my case and answer for yourself if I’ve been born again.  My brothers and my sisters, there ought to be some evidence of a changed life and it starts in the home.  Your doors ought to be closed to those activities you used to partake of before you came to Christ and open to the promotion of the kingdom of God. 

Once your heart has been opened to the gospel and your home open to hospitality then you can live a life motivated by faith and not fear.  Lydia is a woman motivated by faith, not by fear.  Fear would have caused Lydia not to trust these strange men carrying a strange message about a strange man named Jesus.  Fear would have caused Lydia to refuse to open her heart and her home.   Fear would have caused Lydia to consider the repercussions her decision might have on her business and her consorts.  Fear would have caused Lydia to keep to herself and horde what she had.  But thank God, Lydia is a woman motivated by faith not fear.

And thank God for some women here at Jeffries Cross who are motivated by faith, not by fear.  If you are a woman motivated by faith, stand up for Jesus.  If you are woman motivated by faith, show some signs.  If you are a woman motivated by faith, shout Hallelujah.  Tell somebody, I have a Lydia-like Spirit.  I refuse to live in fear but choose to walk by faith.  I saw a woman on Oprah who refused to live in fear.  She had 5 boys to raise on a teacher’s salary and had just lost her husband to a massive heart attack.  And she lived in a drug infested neighborhood.  But by faith, she kept her kids in three places, School, Home, and Church.  And now 4 of the 5 are lawyers and all are successful.  She had a Lydia-like Spirit.  She lived a life motivated by faith and not by fear.  Isn’t it amazing the more we get the more we fear losing what we have.  Oprah asked her, “What is your secret?”  She said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”.  Tell somebody Jesus.

            I must not conclude without mentioning the fact that the faithfulness of Susie Vincent has touched my soul.  If you want to know where she is, She is right by her husband’s side.  Still holding on to the faith, that has made her a matriarch in her family and community. 

When you’re motivated by faith, God has something to build on.  Lydia didn’t know it then, but her faith would lead to the establishment of a church at Philippi.  Women don’t you dare walk in fear.  Open your heart to the gospel, open your home to hospitality, and live a life motivated by faith; not fear. 

Later, when he writes his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses his gratitude in this way, “You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone” (Philippians 4:15).

No church shared with him and supported him … except the Philippians.

They were the generous ones.  The hospitable ones.  The faithful ones.

And it all started with Lydia, a woman who chose faith over fear.

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