July 25 I Wednesday
“One of those listening was a woman…named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
One of the first joys Paul expresses in Philippians comes from reflecting on their “...partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:5). In Acts 16, we read about the initial spread of the Gospel in Philippi, the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. The record of these journeys is so valuable because they teach us how the church of Jesus Christ was established and how it rapidly expanded throughout a pagan world.
Paul’s normal practice when arriving in a new city was to first go to the synagogue. When a passage was read, Paul would show the Jews in attendance how those Scriptures were fulfilled in Christ. This was not an option in Philippi as evidently the city did not have the quorum of 10 Jewish men needed to found a synagogue. Instead, Paul and Silas went to a river where they expected to find a place of prayer. Here, they encountered some women—perhaps Jews, perhaps not—who had gathered to worship. Paul and Silas joined them and began speaking of Jesus Christ and the gift of eternal life found in Him.
We can only speculate what this meant in Lydia’s case. Perhaps she was someone who believed in God but had never really come to know Him. Maybe she simply had an awareness of someone out there far greater and in control. Whatever Lydia’s situation, we know that because she was seeking for God, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
Effective evangelism has nothing to do with mastering techniques or developing persuasive arguments. Paul explained the truth, but it was God who opened Lydia’s heart. We must make our presentations of the Gospel logical, correct and relevant to the people to whom we are speaking, but the Holy Spirit is the one who brings understanding, enlightenment, conviction and spiritual life into the hearts of those He is preparing. We may be able to persuade others into a Christian position, but salvation is always a work of God.
Paul thought through his presentation of the Gospel and was sensitive to reaching people where they were at in their lives. He knew it was not the measure of his cleverness or his experience that would win people over to Christ. His most important strategy was letting the Spirit guide his preaching and open the hearts of his hearers. God knows the hearts of those we speak to, and He will give us the words of life that bring them into relationship with Him. Our task is simply to point people to Christ, leaving the work of conviction and conversion to Christ up to Him.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder that I am to work with You in evangelism, not for You. Give me the words to say as I share Your truth with others. In Jesus’s name.