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Lydia: Willing Service


Acts 16:11-15, 40; Philippians 1:3-11
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, May 21


During the first days of college I would enjoy my breakfast in the huge dining hall. With the large stained glass windows to my back, I would face the crest of the college which was positioned upon the opposite wall. Upon the crest were these words, “Not to be served but to serve.” Those words come from Matthew 20:28. The context of that verse finds its fuller meaning in verses 17-28 where Jesus addresses rank in the kingdom. Jesus basically says that greatness in the kingdom comes from a willingness to serve in the kingdom.

That ought to be the motto of the church and every believer. Those who would be first must come last. Those who would be greatest must be servant of all. It has been suggested that the 80/20 rule dominates most churches. Although the exact percentages might vary from church to church, most church leaders would have to agree that 80% of the work in the church is done by 20% of the committed. What of the others? It seems that many lag behind in service. It is possible that many feel unqualified. Some even may feel uninspired to serve. Yet, the evidence in many churches is that many are simply uninterested in serving.

However, devotion to God presupposes and even assumes service to Him, the church, and even to the world. Scripture offers no encouragement or proof text for believers to satisfy themselves with only hearing or receiving from God. The Scriptures teach that believers are to invest themselves in serving the Lord and one another.

A life question is then proposed: How can I do my part in serving God in my church?

The testimony of Lydia, found in Acts 16:11-40 and Philippians 1:1-11, will help believers understand that godly devotion reveals itself in willing service to God and His church. Our willing devotion to God can be reflected in three ways. We must get started now. We can partner with other believers in service. We can commit to the things that really matter in the kingdom.


Get started now (Acts 16:11-15)

The wise saying is true, “There’s no better time to start than right now.” Paul entered Philippi, the leading city of the district of Macedonia. On the Sabbath day, Paul and his companions went outside the city gates for a place and time of prayer. Upon arriving at a place there were several women assembled. Paul and the others began sharing with them. Verse 14 states that a certain woman by the name of Lydia was listening.

Lydia is considered the first European convert to Christ under the preaching of Paul. Lydia was from Thyatira which was in the province of Lydia. Some Bible students have suggested that her name originally might have been the designation of her home, “a woman of Lydia.”

The text says she was a worshipper of God. This might mean that she had interest in or even converted to Judaism, although the text has not clarified this assumption. It may also suggest that she was a religious person interested in the theological discussion of her day. Regardless, the “Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (16:14 NASB).

Lydia became a follower of Christ. Verse 15 tells us that she immediately began to support and encourage Paul and the missionary team. Not only did she urge Paul and the others, but the latter part of verse 15 says she prevailed or insisted upon this ministry of support and encouragement.

After her conversion, she began immediately to serve. She simply got started with her abilities, resources, and surroundings. She used what was available to contribute to the Lord’s work. The application is that all believers can serve God through various ways. In doing so, believers can support others involved in God’s kingdom work.


Partner with other believers (Acts 16:40; Philippians 1:3-8)

In Acts 16:40 the text states that the church in Philippi was meeting in Lydia’s house. The greater focus in the verse is not upon Lydia but upon the brethren and their encouragement.

The implication is that service is best done in partnership with other believers. However, it is reasonable to think that the church still gathered at Lydia’s house by the time Paul wrote to the Philippians.

Lydia would have been among those believers who had partnered with Paul from the beginning of his ministry in Philippi. It is possible that Paul had Lydia in mind when he first wrote Philippians. Certainly, he had to have been thinking of her and the other converts in his thanksgiving prayer in Philippians 1:3-8.

The real lesson is that Paul acknowledged and rejoiced in the role of partners in the gospel. When believers partner with each other, our devotion and service to God are enhanced and improved.


Do what really matters (Philippians 1:9-11)

In verse 10 Paul encouraged the Philippians, who were still gathering at Lydia’s house, to “determine what really matters” (HCSB). Other translations read, “approve the things that are excellent.” Paul in essence asked that the believers increase in love, knowledge, and discernment. By growing in these graces, the Philippians would do what really mattered in order to be “pure and blameless in the day of Christ.

There is a tendency, if not guarded, to become so involved in our busy lives that we fail to notice or simply do not do what really matters. There is the potential to allow our devotion and service to God and His church to fall by the wayside.

Paul prayed for the Philippian believers to grow in knowledge and discernment that they might be pure and blameless. He prayed that they might determine and do what really matters even with excellence. Believers should exercise love, knowledge, and discernment so they will not allow trivial or superficial matters to interfere with devotion and willing service to God and His church.