A Heart is Opened
A daily devotion for July 8th
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Paul and Silas in Prison
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:13-14
After the proclaiming of the Word of God, these disciples expected God to do something! That, by the way, is the missing note among Christians in many places today. Many have given up expecting God to do anything, while they expect to do everything. They expect to organize a program and carry it through. Many churches today are operating in such a way that, if the Holy Spirit were suddenly removed from their program, nobody would notice that anything had happened.
They do not expect God to do anything, but these people did. They just preached the Word and then they expected God to act. They could not tell what he would do — he is always unpredictable. He has several ways by which he gains access to a city, breaks open a community, and begins to spread the gospel and to plant a church. But right here you find one of the ways the Lord frequently uses: He has prepared men and women there, people whose hearts are ready to respond to the gospel. Such a woman was Lydia who was already a worshiper of God. She was a business woman who sold purple goods, who handled the purple dye for cloth which was so valuable in those days. She made a good living. She had her own home and it was large enough to accommodate Paul and his party. Her heart was ready, having been prepared by God, and she was led of God to be there and to hear.
That is one of the first principles of any Christian evangelical activity. When I have spoken to groups of non-Christians, who have looked at me coldly, and whose reactions I couldn't anticipate, it has been a great encouragement to realize that there, unquestionably, are people in the group whom God has prepared. I never doubt it, for I have always found it to be true. There are always one or two whom God has prepared. I try to talk to them and to ignore the hostile reaction of others.
This is what happened here. Lydia was there and she did not get upset by the message. She did not view it as a challenge to her Jewish faith, but immediately recognized that it was the fulfillment of all her Jewish hopes. So she opened her heart and received the Lord. Thus the gospel first entered Europe through a Business and Professional Women's Association meeting.
Lord, I thank you that as I share your word with others, you have gone before me to prepare hearts.
Life Application: Are we mere activists, trying to do God's work our way under our own impetus? Are we learning to expect God will lead us to persons whose hearts he has prepared to receive and respond to the gospel?
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