Storylines of a Gospel MovementJune 6-10
The Miracle of Lydia
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. – Acts 16:13-14 (ESV)
A small group was held weekly. It would be held in a different member’s home and the host would provide snacks and the opening prayer. One young lady always provided the best food and had the cleanest home. But she could never say the prayer; she was terrified at the thought of praying in front of people. Finally, after years of trying, she told the pastor one night, “Tonight’s the night, I’m going to pray.” Everyone stood, bowed their heads, and waited. She was visibly shaking with tears in her eyes. She quietly prayed: “Lord, Help! A-men.” (John Browning)
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas come across what amounts to a women’s small group Bible study. They meet a woman named Lydia who the Bible calls a “God-fearing woman.” Lydia believes in God but she is not yet saved. According to Pastor Matt Chandler “God-fearing” means she has rejected paganism. She’s worshiping the Father. Lydia has come to believe that there is one God. She listens to the teaching of the Jews, trying to grasp what it means to live a God-fearing life; she wants to live out her faith in the context of her family and her business. She has gathered with a group of women to hear the Scriptures explained. She likely has some concept of the need for salvation. But without the good news of Jesus, she’s confused. It is in this setting that Paul shows up and Lydia listens to his teaching. And Lydia will eventually become the first Christian convert in Europe.
Lydia’s faith in Jesus came the same way any of us come to faith in Jesus and that is by listening to God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” Are you allowing your faith to grow by regularly exposing yourself to God’s Word? Who do you know that may be ready to hear about Jesus?
Praise God for the promise of John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
An Open Heart
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. – Acts 16:14 (ESV)
Morris, the loudmouth mechanic, was removing the cylinder heads from the motor of a car when he spotted a famous heart surgeon who was standing off to the side. Morris shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc! Is dat you? Come on ova’ here a minute.” The famous surgeon, a bit surprised, walked over to where Morris the mechanic was working on the car. Morris straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag, and asked argumentatively, “So, Mr. Fancy Doctor, look at dis here work. I ALSO open hearts, take valves out, grind ’em, put in new parts, and when I finish dis baby will purr like a kitten. So how come you get da big bucks, when you an’ me is doing basically da same work?” The surgeon leaned over and whispered to Morris, “Try doing it with the engine running.” (Source Unknown).
In Acts 16:14 God performed open-heart surgery on Lydia as she listened to the preaching of Paul. When Lydia heard the gospel, the Spirit of God opened her heart and she believed. To open the heart indicates that the Lord caused her to understand or that He caused her to have an open mind. This is an example where divine election and human responsibility naturally work together. Salvation is a work God must do in all who believe, because as Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44) And when God draws us we must respond in faith the same way Lydia did.
How did God change your heart so that you were open to accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior? Who do you know that appears to have a hard heart toward God? Do you believe God can change their heart?
Praise God as the Great Physician. Thank Him for the surgery He continues to perform on your heart. Pray for those you know who need a changed heart.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. – Acts 16:25-26 (ESV)
Paul and Silas were severely beaten for obeying God and sharing Jesus. They are thrown in jail after a mock trial. And around midnight they are praying and singing. How could they sing after such a terrible sequence of events? Mark DeHaan writes: The midnight songs of those two men remind me of the nightingale. Observers of this remarkable bird have wondered why it continues to sing after sundown. While other birds are quiet, the lilting melodies of this creature can still be heard. The dark does not silence its song. The nightingale sings at night because that’s what God designed it to do.
Paul and Silas took comfort in knowing that they were doing what God wanted them to do. They did not stop praying and praising God because things got difficult. Jesus warned the disciples in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” Paul and Silas believed in Jesus and lived it out.
Jesus never promised life on this earth would be without struggle and suffering. In fact, Jesus promised that we would face suffering and persecution if we followed Him. Two of the most powerful weapons we have when facing adversity are prayer and praise. Do you have a favorite praise song when life gets tough?
Praise God for His master plan for your life. Ask God to teach you to praise instead of complaining!
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. – Acts 16:25-26 (ESV)
In 1989, a terrible earthquake almost flattened Armenia. It killed over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. One father rushed to his son’s school and found the building flat as a pancake. Standing there in tears, he remembered a promise he had made to his son, “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!” It looked absolutely hopeless, but the dad went to the back right corner and started digging in the pile of rubble. He dug for 8 hours, then 12, 24, and 36 hours without stopping. Finally, in the 38th hour, as he pulled back a boulder, he heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name, “ARMAND!” And a voice answered him, “Dad? It’s me, Dad!”
Then the boy added these priceless words, “I told the other kids not to worry. I told them that if you were alive, you’d save me and when you saved me, they’d be saved.” He remembered his Father’s promise: “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!” (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”)
In Acts 16, God used a physical earthquake to create a spiritual earthquake in the jailer’s heart. No one was physically hurt, chains came unlocked and the prison door was opened. Jack Arnold asks, why the earthquake? First, to confirm to Paul and Silas that God was with them. Second, to cause the prisoners to know that the True God answers prayer. Third, to shake up the Philippian jailer so as to make him face a Christless eternity so as to drive him to Jesus Christ.
God used this physical and spiritual earthquake to transform the jailer and his family forever. Can you recall God using a physical event to get your attention spiritually? How did it change your life?
Praise God for His supernatural ability to change the course of our lives. Ask God to show you anything that He wants to change in your life.
When I Trust Jesus, Everyone Around Me Benefits
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. – Acts 16: 31-33 (ESV)
There was a barber that thought that he should share his faith with his customers more than he had been doing lately. Soon after he opened his shop the first man came in and said, “I want a shave!” The barber said, “Sure, just sit in the seat and I’ll be with you in a moment.” The barber went in the back and prayed a quick desperate prayer saying, “God, the first customer came in and I’m going to witness to him. So give me the wisdom to know just the right thing to say to him. Amen.” Then quickly the barber came out with his razor knife in one hand and a Bible in the other while saying “Good morning sir. I have a question for you… Are you ready to die?”
God used the jailer in Acts 16 to share his faith with his entire household. Eventually, they all placed their faith in Jesus. The jailer’s changed life benefited everyone around him. His family was saved and he cared for the disciples. Jesus changes us so we can bring others to Him and He changes us so it changes how we treat others.
You may have heard people say, “Faith is a personal decision.” And it’s true everyone must decide for themselves if they will place their faith in Jesus. However, that personal decision affects everyone around you. List some ways your life would be different if you weren’t genuinely following Christ.
Thank God for changing your life. Ask God to show you how you can bless the people around you as a result of your walk with Christ.