She lived in Philippi in Macedonia between 50 and 60 AD. She was an intelligent businesswoman, a seller of purple. She would have had many wealthy clients from all regions of the Mediterranean as purple was considered the color of royalty, and no dye was more sought after than the dye uniquely produced in Philippi.
Her clients would have been the wealthy and influential throughout the Mediterranean. Imagine her in the streets and markets of Philippi, bold and confident and probably wearing purple herself!
Single women today still push against the glass ceiling. Imagine in 50 AD Macedonia in a society that saw women as insignificant; their only true value in their ability to bear children and manage the household. She had to have been intelligent and resourceful to become so successful, especially as a single woman.
More importantly, she was a woman of faith. She may have been born a Jew, or she may have been a Gentile. While the Gentiles around her worshipped other gods, she believed in the God of the Jews. She gathered with other women at the river to pray and encourage one another, as we do today when we get together for Bible study and fellowship.
It was at this spot on the river that God prepared the fortuitous meeting of Lydia and Paul.
My husband traveled to Macedonia and Greece in 2021 and took this picture of the river where Lydia and Paul met.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy had been traveling throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, now known as Turkey. God had been directing and redirecting their steps. Paul had no intention of going to Macedonia until God spoke to him in a dream.
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.Acts 16:6-10
Paul came to Macedonia in search of new believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He heard about a group of women meeting by the river to pray and went to find them. Imagine if Paul had shrugged them off because they were women and gone on in search of a possible gathering of men.) Thankfully, he went to the river and found Lydia.
13 On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.Acts 16:13-15
God had orchestrated this encounter. Long before Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he had been preparing Lydia for this meeting.
She listened to Paul, opened her heart, and was baptized. Not only Lydia but others in her sphere of influence were also baptized. She was not only a successful businesswoman but a woman of influence, which speaks to the character of a woman who has earned the trust of those around her. They may have been family members, friends, household staff, or possibly business associates.
Moreover, she opened her home and gave these weary travelers food and lodging as they began missionary work in Macedonia. Lydia provided the first meeting place for seekers and believers and a respite for Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Anyone who has done ministry on the move will tell you what a blessing it is to have a place to land! In this foreign place, where they knew no one and had minimal resources of their own, Lydia provided meals, comfortable lodging, and a place to meet with other new believers.
So this message is for all the single ladies:
Yes, you can! You can have a career you love. You can be single, widowed, divorced, or never married. Your value is not merely in your ability to work with women and children. Although churches circle around the nucleus family, not all of God’s faithful fit that mold.
You can be successful in the workplace and be used by God, because your circumstances may be the very means God intended for you and the furtherance of the gospel.
Lydia was a woman free to use all her influence, all her resources, and all her intelligence and insight to further the cause of the gospel. God had trained her up and placed her exactly where he needed her, like Esther, for such a time as this.
She is famously known as the first European convert, an honor she would today covet far above her success in her business. She may have been a savvy businesswoman, but she was, first and foremost, a sincere seeker, a true believer, and a generous supporter of the work of the gospel.
The gospel mattered more to her than even her reputation.
Paul and Silas ran into serious trouble with the local officials when Paul delivered a demon-possessed slave girl who was making money for her owners by telling fortunes.
See my post What about that Slave Girl. https://kathchats.com/2022/01/15/what-about-that-slave-girl/
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.Acts 16:19,22-23
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully
How God delivered Paul and Silas that night is a story for another time, but when they were released, they were welcomed back into the home of Lydia. She was not afraid to be associated with them or what repercussions might follow because of her willingness to support them. She was loyal to her new friends and her new faith. She clearly had her priorities in the proper order.
In Phil 1 :3-5 Paul wrote to the church in Philippi
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.Phil 1:3-5
Surely Paul wrote these words remembering the day by the river, the first time they met, and Lydia’s impact on their lives. This letter was for Lydia and her fellow believers, and the first church started because one woman was exactly where God wanted her to be, living exactly the life he intended her to live.
Apparently, the church in Macedonia thrived, with many new believers, rich and poor as attested in 2 Corinthian 8: 1-3
Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters,[a] what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.[b] 5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Why Doesn’t God Just Heal Me
If you like what you’ve seen here, please consider picking up a copy of my book
Why Doesn’t God Just Heal Me – available on Amazon.com
ebook, paperback, and Audible
Having endured an undiagnosed illness for thirty years, I prayed daily for healing and diligently searched the Bible to answer the questions we all ask when faith does not seem to be enough.
With a comprehensive and balanced application of scripture, I address the topic of healing and answer the questions that test our faith.