Lydia: A Consummate Plodder 8/22/99

Acts 16:13-15

Jesus Christ had resolute determination. In the hour of pending crisis it is said of Him: “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

Colorful speech depicts Him as having fixed His mind on going to Jerusalem where crucifixion awaited Him. That means He was a plodder. Plodders are people who know what they need to do and stay on course getting it done. The word “quit” isn’t in their mental dictionary.

Plodders rank among the greatest contributors to society.

Thomas Edison, considered by many the greatest inventor of all times, wasn’t always successful. As a youth he was inquisitive and tried juvenile experiments. He observed a hen sitting on eggs and hatching them. He tried unsuccessfully to sit on eggs and hatch them. He was told balloons fly because they have gas in them. He convinced one of his friends that if he took a triple dose of Seidlitz powders he could fly. This too failed.

Two dejected assistants to Thomas Edison commented regarding a project on which they had been working with no apparent progress: “We’ve just completed our 700th experiment and we still don’t know the answer. We have failed.”

“No, my friends, you haven’t failed,” replied Edison, “It is just that you know more about the subject than anyone alive. And we are closer to finding the answer, because now we know 700 things not to do. Don’t call it a failure, call it an education.”

Because Edison was a plodder he patented more than 1,100 inventions. He achieved this by working days at a time stopping only for short naps. Of this man who had only three years of school Henry Ford said the period of Edison’s life should be called the “Age of Edison.”

Edison, the plodder, defined success as “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

Failure never discouraged him. As a youth he was trying to catch a ride on a freight train. A well-meaning conductor trying to help caught him by the ear and pull him aboard. It caused him deafness later. He considered even this an advantage in that it made it easier to concentrate.

After over 10,000 experiments with a storage battery a friend spoke discouragingly to him. He said, “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” as he pursued his project. He was a plodder.

Plodders produce because they persist.

Charles Schultz had his hopes of becoming an artist dashed by a discouraging teacher. As an awkward kid with a bad complexion he barely graduated from high school. Schultz submitted cartoons to his high school annual all of which were rejected. His teacher told him he lacked the ability to draw children. This plodder continued until he and his best known character, Charley Brown, and his little friends became some of the best known people in the world.

Louis L’Amour wanted to be a writer. Publishers nearly bashed his dreams. He received approximately 350 rejections before his first sale. He plodded along until one of his books was published. Ultimately this plodder had over 200 books published which sold over 200 million copies.

William Tyndale aspired to translate the Bible into English. His idea was such an affront to the established church of his day they put a bounty on his head. He plodded along teaching himself Hebrew in order to translate the Old Testament. Feverishly he worked from dawn to dark, six days a week, for eleven years until he completed the translation of the Bible into English. He was a plodder.

Now venture with me into the life of the admirable Bible personality Lydia, a plodder.

The setting is Philippi a city of historical importance. Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great gave the city his name. Here, Caesar Augustus won the battle that gained for him the emperorship of the Roman Empire. However, it is none of these who strutted on the stage of history for a short season that demands our attention. It is a woman with a hospitable nature who captures our imagination.

This story is a graphic illustration of God guiding in our lives. If Lydia had not been brought by her profession to Philippi she would not have been where she could hear of God’s love. Paul was also drawn there at that moment. He was turned back from where he wanted to go. He was shut out of Bithyania and silenced in Mysia. Human nature would have caused him great disappointment. God had him on a divine appointment. It is essential that we pray for God’s timing in our lives.

In a small group one day in the city of Philippi she heard the Apostle Paul speak and for her life took on new meaning. She and Paul both were where God wanted them. The Scripture exhorts us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for worship. Neither did.

Jews living away from Jerusalem normally had no synagogue in which to worship. In those cities where there was a river they would gather at the river. That would have been the coolest place. Knowing this to be the place of gathering Paul went there to meet with them.

Lydia was a Jewish woman in the group. She was an enterprising business woman from Thyratira, a city known for its trade guilds. As a merchant seller of purple (Acts 16: 14) she was doubtless on a selling trip to Philippi.

Purple was a dye collected drop by drop from a certain shell-fish. It was discovered by accident. A dog that had been eating Conchilis or Purpura was seen to have purple lips. This led to its discovery as a costly dye. At one time it was more valuable than gold. Garments dyed in it were worn only by sovereign princes. However in the affluent Roman society the very wealthy noble class wore it. Its scarcity made it costly. The value of her product made Lydia a wealthy woman.

Evidently she was an astute and successful business woman. This is ascertained by the fact she had a spacious house large enough to entertain guests and servants to accommodate them.

When she came to faith in Christ she stayed in her profession and served Him therein using her resources for kingdom causes.

A business man from Louisiana who has been richly blessed by our Lord recently sent a significant sum of money to a church in Russia. Upon being told it came from a wealthy American Christian business man the people responded in disbelief. “A business man who is a Christian? Such is virtually unknown in Russia.”

Going to a distant land to serve our Lord is the admirable calling of some. The call to stay home and serve is just as commendable.

Bill Shipp was a young medical student in New Orleans. He shared that all of his life he wanted to be a foreign missionary. His desire was heightened when the Lord called his best friend to be a missionary. Bill’s desire was never supported by God’s call of him to mission service. He then dedicated his life to serve the Lord in a different way. Through study he sought one of the most lucrative professions he could find and pursued it. He believed his calling was to make as much money as possible and give as much of it as possible to support missionaries such as his friend who had been called. He has spent his life fulfilling his “calling.”

Lydia used her profession to the glory of the Lord. She not only redeemed the time but her profession also.

She decided to bloom right where she was planted.

Occasionally I am told by an admiring of someone who has sold everything and moved to a distant place to serve the Lord of the act as one of great devotion. It is. However, it is no more so than one who knows it to be God’s will to serve Him right where they are.

Lydia didn’t have a distant mission field nor a vast congregation but she had a ministry like each of us. Her mission field, her congregation was her household. Evidently she shared her faith with them because when she trusted Christ she was baptized and so were they (Vs. 15).

Lydia was a seeker. She was religious but not a Christian. Her home town was a city devoted to worship of Apollo, the sun- god, under the name Tyrinnus. There was also a strong Jewish element in the city that maintained faith in Jehovah.

She was among them in that she is depicted as one “who worshiped God.”

Various surveys indicate the vast majority of Americans believe in God. So does the devil. Lydia went beyond mere belief in certain facts she sought the full truth. Often we think we know all we need to know and fail to listen, to be open.

Lydia was converted in a home Bible study and became the first European converted to faith in Christ. She listened and comprehended.

President Franklin Roosevelt abhorred reception lines. Once he decided to try an experiment. To everyone who came through the line he softly said, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” People, assuming they knew what was coming responded with such comments as, “Wonderful,” “Keep up the good work,” “We are proud of you Mr. President.” Apparently not until the representative from Bolivia came through the line did anyone apparently actually hear what he was saying and he diplomatically responded politely, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

“Faith comes by hearing.” Are you listening?

When we like Lydia are seekers we find God is the revealer. “The Lord opened her heart to heed…” (Acts 16:14).

Jesus counseled us to “Seek first the kingdom of God…”

After His resurrection it is said “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend Scriptures” (Luke 24: 45). He still does for those who seek. Him.

Many fail to understand life because they don’t take time to know God’s way to live it.

A ski instructor met one of his students at the bottom of the course and said, “The good news is that you reached the bottom of the course faster than any competitor. In fact your time was the fastest ever on this course. You likely beat the world record.” The student beamed as the coach continued, “The bad news is that you missed nearly every flag.”

The young skier replied, “Flags? What flags?”

Experienced skiers know the route one takes to get to the finish line is as important as how fast you get there.

“Study to show yourself a workman approved unto God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

After Lydia learned of Christ’s love for her she responded to Him in love. The natural subsequent step of obedience was baptism. She and her household were baptized (Acts. 16: 15). She publicly professed and told her family and they were converted. Christ asked those who profess faith in Him to be identified with Him through the public, often humbling, but always joyous, act of baptism. We are not baptized to be saved but because we have been saved by Jesus Christ.

Our creative Lord, knowing our nature, realized we need visuals. We think visually. Therefore, he ordained baptism as a visual to picture the cleansing from sin. Throughout the Old Testament era persons participated in ritual cleansing, baptism. Christ elevated the act to depict the cleansing of sin.

In heaven the robes of this seller of purple were not purple but they had been “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.”

She aspired to be judged “faithful to the Lord” (Acts 16:15).

Two self evident facts stand out in the Biblical account of Lydia. She didn’t let her business interfere with her worship. She used her resources for the Lord.

Character like hers is depicted as “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

Like Lydia, once wrong is known it is no longer treated with courteous civility. Once that which is right is embraced casual Christianity is no longer an option. When Christ becomes Savior and Lord we become His follower and servant.

The text says “The Lord opened her heart…” (Vs. 14).

Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).

Jesus in speaking of the Holy Spirit said, “When the Spirit of truth is come He will guide you into all truth” (John 16: 13).

The Lord takes the initiative in persons being saved. The Father draws, the Spirit guides, the Son seeks but the individual has of his own free will respond. It is your option.

Lydia receptively responded and obediently was baptized. Baptism is initiatory and introductory. By it we are identified with Christ and introduced into the church.

Like Lydia once we have expressed confidence in Christ as Savior we should evidence our submission to Him as our Lord by obedience. It is proof of sincerity and gratitude.