11 We sailed from Troas straight for Samothrace and came to Neapolis the following day. 12 From there we went to Philippi, a city of Macedonia’s first district and a Roman colony. We stayed in that city several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the riverbank, where we thought there might be a place for prayer. We sat down and began to talk with the women who had gathered. 14 One of those women was Lydia, a Gentile God-worshipper from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. As she listened, the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message. 15 Once she and her household were baptized, she urged, “Now that you have decided that I am a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.
What I love about Lydia’s story is how quickly and decisively she took action. This is not just impressive because Lydia hears Paul’s message and reacts immediately, but also because this is at a time when women were not typically in charge of their own households. We don’t know her dependency status, whether there was a man or not, but we do know that she was a dealer in purple cloth, which was a symbol of established wealth. Yet, even though Lydia was likely a woman of means, who could have chosen otherwise, she was also known as a “Gentile God-worshiper.” Still Lydia hears Paul’s message in a new way and decides for herself and others that now they will be baptized and follow Jesus.
Perhaps we can hear someone within Lydia’s group saying, “Wait, we’re doing what now?” Perhaps we can see the eye-rolls from family members. We can certainly sense the shock or imagine that those of Lydia’s household were more than a little concerned that she had also invited strangers into their house. But that fear was not Lydia’s. She knew what she knew because “the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul’s message.” The Lord enabled her to listen in faith and not to let the fear of any recrimination get the better of her.
Sometimes, the book of Acts is like this. Acts provides us with events that boldly challenge us to believe, to worship, and to plan for how the body of Christ supports itself and others in need. The book of Acts gives us a glimpse of people: listening to the Word, feeling the Spirit move their hearts, and being God’s love in action.
I want to act boldly like Lydia. To have that kind of faith is to rest on Christ’s blessed assurances that we are alive through His actions. To have faith like Lydia is to live responding to the Spirit that calls our hearts and minds into action.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
How does the story of Lydia’s faith in action inspire you? What bold steps might you take on behalf of our community or because of the Spirit moving you?
Prayer: God, help us to hear your voice within us, and give us the boldness to rely on your word, presence, and wisdom. Amen. (from The Upper Room Disciplines for 2023, pg. 139)