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May 06, 2018

Lydia: Called of God

Lydia: Called of God

Passage: Acts 16:11-15

Speaker: Pastor Chris Riedel

Series: Sacred Characters

Category: Power, life

Keywords: lydia, purple cloth

Lydia was a dealer of purple cloth. She was a god -fearing woman of wealth and power.


On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house. And she persuaded us.
-Acts 16:11-15

I think most women are quite intrigued when we read the actual name of a woman in the Bible. Let's be honest, it doesn't happen often. Women are most often mentioned in relational terms . . . so and so's wife or mother or daughter. Although I knew there was a woman named Lydia in the Bible, the first and really only thing that comes to mind when I hear her name is the color purple. That Lydia sold purple cloth is, in fact, important because this indicates that she, unlike the vast majority of women at the time, was a wealthy business woman remarkably holding some esteem in her community.  

And while this portrayal of a woman as independent, savvy, and wealthy certainly peaks my interest, this was not what the Spirit led me to learn in this passage. Instead, my focus in the entire passage is on the two phrases: "(Lydia) was listening" and "The Lord opened her heart". It is in these two seemingly simple phrases that I see the power and significance of the relationship that the Lord seeks to have with us and how that relationship requires active participation by both parties. 

Lydia already is "God-fearing". Though a Gentile, she knows the teachings of the Hebrews. She has some knowledge of the law and in many translations she's described as a "worshipper". Yet she lacked an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His ultimate desire to have a relationship with her. 

This reminds me so much of women (and men) I know, including yours truly. We are accomplished. We are knowledgeable. We want to do right and follow the rules. We live in an age when we can seek endless information. We can pull up Bible verses on apps in an instant. We can search key words on various sites and find commentaries on what God's Word says about those topics. It's wonderful and valuable, but I don't think it's the ultimate goal that the Lord has for us. In all this reading, and curating information, and spouting off memorized scripture we have the potential to miss the most important thing. 

Jesus wants a relationship with us. He wants our eyes and our brains, but also our ears and our hearts and honestly, that can be hard for us. To effectively listen requires paying attention in a way that forces us to surrender our own thoughts, our own agendas and our knee-jerk need to respond to everything we hear. 

Lydia, for all of her accomplishments, her reputation and her knowledge did not know Jesus. But she was willing to listen. I imagine her sitting by the river with Paul and clearing her mind of her task list, of her ledger of deposits and withdrawals, and even of the rules and regulations she felt were right and pleasing to the Lord. It was only then that God could "open her heart" so that she might be led to be baptized and become the first convert to Christianity in Europe. 

Let us take time to listen as Lydia does. Let us remember that while there is importance in the vocations to which we are called and in our knowledge of Scripture, the most imperative thing is to foster our relationship with Jesus. Obedience and the blessing it provides us lie not only in listening so that our minds understand, but also in making our hearts available to be opened to be changed by Him just as Lydia's was. 


Patient, gracious Lord, we thank You that You wait for us. Whether by the river, or in a quiet space in our home or even in the bumper to bumper traffic of Northern Virginia, You are waiting and ready to open our hearts if we will only be available to truly listen. Help us to follow Your lead with the obedience of Lydia today, so that we might watch Your blessings abound in our lives and the lives of future generations of believers.

Written by Jennifer Skinner, member of Arcola Church and a Texan (Texas Longhorn to be specific!) living in beautiful Virginia with her very patient, funny husband, and three very impatient, funny boys/ball players. She is also a blogger, The View From Behind Home Plate, who writes about finding extraordinary grace and blessings among the cleats and dirt and testosterone that fill her ordinary days.