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The Lydia Legacy

Quiet contemplation of the beautiful surroundings  that God has created.
Photo Credit: Leah Newhouse

(By Angela Watson)

Do you know the beginnings of the first New Testament church in Europe and its first convert?

During Paul’s second missionary journey, as he attempted to share the gospel in Asia but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit, he had a vision of a man of Macedonia calling him to come and help. Paul, concluding that God had called him to preach the gospel in Macedonia, set sail with his companions Silas, Timothy, and Luke to Troas and, from there, travelled to the city of Philippi.

When you think of the city of Philippi, your thoughts may take you to the Philippian jail where Paul and Silas were imprisoned. While they were singing and praising God at midnight, God shook the prison with an earthquake until all the doors were opened and everyone’s bonds were loosened. I love the story of the Philippian jailer because those beautiful words that Paul and Silas spoke, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), are a part of my salvation story. 

We tend to love when God shows up in significant and unexpected ways, so we can see God display His power and might. But I’ve been encouraged to see how God moves in life’s small and perhaps mundane routines and uses them to accomplish His purposes.

The first convert in Philippi was a woman, Lydia, who was part of a group of women who gathered to pray at the river on the Sabbath. Lydia is described as a worshiper of God, a term used for Gentiles who were not proselytes to Judaism but worshiped Yahweh, although they were not part of the New Testament church, the body of Christ.

In Acts 16, we read how Paul and his companions went outside the gate to the riverside on the Sabbath day, where they expected there would be a place of prayer. Philippi did not have a synagogue, likely because of the requirement for at least 10 Jewish men, and the city was populated mostly by Greeks and Romans.

It was at the riverside, where Lydia and other women had gathered to pray, that Paul spoke, and God opened Lydia’s heart to the message. “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).

Here, in the simple routine of Lydia’s life, God shows up and changes everything.

After being baptized along with her household, she urged Paul and his companions to come to her house and stay, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay” (Acts 16:15).

Lydia, along with the women who gathered by the river, demonstrated the power of prayer and faith. They were instrumental in building the first church in their city and the first church in Europe! This is a testament to what can happen when a few women come together to pray, read the Scriptures, and seek God. The book of Philippians is the fruit born of their collective faith.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The impact of our prayers and our legacy is not temporary, but eternal. It will continue until Jesus comes again, reminding us of the lasting significance of our actions. 


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