(An Article written when Lydia was very young spending time with family in Michigan)
When I initially contemplated the birth of my beautiful daughter, my first thought was what would be her place in relationship to the Lord. I knew that she had a Godly mother and a well-meaning father, but what would Lydia choose? Recently I had the honor of baptizing her into the Body of Christ, that being one of the greatest joys of my life! She has “done her name sake proud.”
My Lydia is named after the seller of purple we read about in the book of Acts. Lora and I thought she would be a fitting example to follow in life. Lydia was a lady of intellect, business acumen, and strength. We get all of that and more from the writings of Luke. As a side note, it is thought that the first person account in Acts by Luke changes because Luke stays behind in Lydia’s community for some reason. Some romantics suppose Luke might have been smitten with Lydia. We’ll find out about that post resurrection.
One of the most profound statements made about a Christian in reference to their conversion is made in Acts 16 while describing Lydia’s demeanor. It is stated that God “opened her heart.” (vs. 14) Calvinists create a doctrine of the Holy Spirit intervening in Lydia’s will by inserting some special influence. They also assume the interaction in every act of spiritual obedience. They accept, in this assumption, that God can select whom He wants and reject who He wants. The problem of this doctrine is that it conflicts with other scripture in regard to God’s not being a respecter of persons. (Romans 2:11)
If God did not specifically act on Lydia’s heart what does this passage truly mean? It is common for Biblical writers to use another agent in action while ascribing action to God. For example in Luke 24:45 we find that the hearts of the disciples were opened up by the truth of the teaching of Christ, so the Gospel teaching of Paul and Barnabas was what opened the heart of Lydia. It is true that God does the same for all sinners seeking the truth. He allows the sinner to find the truth of salvation as they seek it. The Gospel has a power of its own. The presenter is just the messenger. He has no special power. The listener provides an open heart.
The Gospel provides the power of salvation, the answer to the lost, and the salve to the brokenhearted.
We over rate preachers and under rate the power of the Word! We think we know what will grow a Church. We plot and plan. We provide avenues, opportunities, and resources. But only God can give the increase! I am not against well planned programs, but we should never lose sight of the fact that we are not the ones who grow the church. We are merely tools in the hands of the Master. Lydia’s heart was rewarded with the truth while she was seeking. She was a hospitable woman in a rough world. Paul would soon find himself in prison, and this would be his last rest for a while. Neither Paul nor Lydia knew this would be the case but, be sure, God knew it all.
In sharing all of this with you I simply pray my daughter will grow to be the woman she sees in her mother, and in her name sake – Lydia of the book of Acts. I pray daily that she will show kindness, determination, and grace in a world that will encourage little of this behavior. I pray that she will always stand for the Savior who gave all for her. I pray for her to have the strength to bear the weight of those who need, who hurt, and who need to see a real person in a world of penetrating deception. The world often rewards the overbearing, the superficial, the hypocritical and the deceiver. It rarely can even recognize the Godly, the righteous, or the pure in heart. I am not as cynical as that might sound, but my description is not far from accurate. We live a dark place, usually void of God’s wisdom except when Christians carry it as the light from the written Word to the world. Not many will find salvation. (Matthew 7:14) I pray that she will always be among those who are genuine in their faith, perseverant in their pursuit of God, and submissive to His will when they find it. They will find grace and forgiveness on that great day when we see Him face to face.