Paul and Lydia were two significant believers in the life of the early church. Paul, an apostle, and Lydia a businesswoman. Both had the desire to do something more with their life. Both wanted to find their place in God’s bigger plan for them and God’s work on earth. Paul was reaching and teaching people for Jesus but wanted to do more. Lydia had not yet heard of Jesus, but believed in the God of Israel and wanted more out of her life. Although the answer to the “more” question manifested itself differently for each of them, the exciting, powerful, and beautiful thing about their story is that the answer was found in God. That doesn’t sound like much, three verses, Acts 16:13-15 contain one of history’s greatest faith conversion stories ever!
In those three verses God does more than either Lydia or Paul, or us for that matter, could imagine. In those three verses, the good news of Jesus crossed into Europe, into one of the most strategic Roman colonies in history, by way of and through the heart of a woman! She also owned her own home, which became the base of operation for Paul and the apostles for the work of the church. In three verses, Christianity crosses into Europe and the first church is established. Both because Lydia sought more from her faith and her God.
Lydia was not originally from Philippi. She was from the region Thyrtira (thigh-ya-tie-rah), in the province called Lydia, in the country of Asia Minor. The area of Lydia had five large cities: Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Thyatira, all located on or near the chief rivers and connected with coastal cities by well traveled roads. (All the Women of the Bible 222). She would have had connections all along those major routes, why? Because remember she was a dealer in fine purple cloth. She was a business woman who made and sold fine purple cloth and textiles, a skill only certain women from a certain area knew how to do. This meant that the good news of Jesus that Paul and the other apostles were teaching and preaching could go anywhere.
When God does more, it’s way more!
The Lydian market, as it was called, had enjoyed for generations a wide and valuable trade throughout the Graeco-Roman world. This woman evidently was so closely allied with her old province of Lydia, that her personal name reflected her connection to the place and the people (All the Women of the Bible 222).
Could it be that because Lydia was looking for God looking for her that she found her place in God’s mission? We are told she believed, became baptized, her and all her household. Then think about how far reaching the possibilities were from there because of the location of Philippi and Lydia’s business contacts / connections; roads and trade routes went in every direction from that starting point.
She found her place because she was praying, seeking, and opening herself to the possibility that God was seeking her (N.T. Wright 63) and indeed came to know that God would use her to impact the spread of the good news across the known world.
Finding your place in God’s mission is about listening, watching, and waiting for more. It is about seeking more out of your faith and yourself. It is about knowing that God’s “more” is far greater than ours if we but seek and trust it. It is about looking for God looking for you and then trusting God to use who you are and what you have.
I wonder how God is using you to reveal God’s self - God’s love, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness to those around you, to those who need it most. I wonder, are you looking for God looking for you? May we all find our place in God’s mission and continue to share the good news of Jesus.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine