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.
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?