6They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home." And she prevailed upon us.
This passage reads like a slideshow presentation from someone's summer mission trip: we went to such-and-such place, and then we went to so-and-so place, and then we met so-and-so....
Place and time. People and events. Spirit and visions. Friendship and homes.
These are the stuff of Paul's missionary activity; these are the stuff of every mission or move of God in a region.
God does not bypass the mundane to bring about the heavenly. God uses everyday people and everyday connections and travels to bring about eternal change.
We will discover later, as Paul's missionary travels unfold and as churches get planted, that Lydia will become a key church leader. In fact, the Philippi church of Paul's Letter to the Philippians will meet in the very home of Lydia. Lydia's home will become in time an important early "house church," generously giving toward Paul's missionary outreach and praying for him. Paul, in turn, will have a special place in his heart for the church in Philippi, in no small measure because of the hospitality and devotion of Lydia.
Women like Lydia are the great unsung heroines of the church. Generosity of spirit, devotion to God, and commitment to the Gospel will mark many others who, in the "spirit" of Lydia, will become the backbone of the church, worldwide. Without any sense of exaggeration, I would say that without the Lydia's of the church, the church would have not become what it has become. Without the Lydia's of the church, the mission outreach of church would have been spiritually anemic.
We often think of men as the heroes of the faith, perhaps for the simple reason that it is mostly men that we read about in the Bible, men like the Apostle Paul. But trace back to any vital movement of the Holy Spirit, you'll find more often than not prayerful, spiritual women who "fueled" the movement.
I'm not at all comparing/contrasting Men v. Women. Both men and women are important. The Kingdom-of-God movement encompasses all: Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, or whatever binary categories you want to use.
I'm merely highlighting the "unsung." People who are easily overlooked because of cultural bias. Let's give thanks to God for these unsung heroines of the faith.
Let's pray: Lord, we thank you for the Lydia's of the church, from the days of Lydia herself to our present day. We honor the unsung intercessors and devoted lovers of God throughout the world. And in our own context, we thank you for the Lydia's. In Jesus' name, Amen.