David Pawson - Philippians Pt1
Thoughtful Thoughts 15.6.18 Philippians Part 1
Philippians is only a few short chapters, but it is full of encouragement. As you can read it in 10 minutes over a cup of tea, I’m going to focus on Lydia to show what a changed heart looks like.
The believers in Philippi were so grateful to Paul for the spiritual work he had done in Philippi, that they sent him a gift of money and a helper to serve him. No other church did that (Phil. 4:15). Paul was so overwhelmed that someone thought to show him kindness, that he wrote this thank you letter just for them. Writing letters was such a huge expense back then, that only Roman officials or the wealthy did it. After all, it was alright for Roman officials who had soldiers to command who could be used as couriers, but anyone else had to pay someone to be their courier. What’s more, papyrus wasn’t cheap. In spite of all that, Paul used his scant resources to write letters, and most followed on after he was given this gift of money arrived from Philippi, so Paul even used the money given to help him personally, to write more letters which the church needed, which we now have in the New Testament.
Paul is writing from house arrest in Rome. We are told in 4:14 that he was “in distress”. As the Philippians had provided financial help before, (4:16), they saw the situation Paul found himself living in. Paul’s living conditions were so poor that having taken money to him once before, and having seen his need, they chose to send someone to look after him this time round, in addition to sending the money. In fact even the courier bringing this gift who stayed on as a helper to Paul became so sick he almost died whilst with Paul, so having made him fit to travel, Paul sent him back home. That concern for Paul’s health shows how really serious these supporters were about supporting him. This agape love being shown by the believers at Philippi, is why Paul was moved to write this letter. After the money arrived from Philippi, Paul wrote many more letters. I think that this love offering would mean they were also praying for Paul as he became their adopted missionary and that brings me onto Lydia and why I think she may have been behind all this support.
We learn from Acts 16:14 that Lydia sold the colour purple. Now purple was made from a sea creature that was so rare that a law was passed in Rome forbidding anyone other than royalty wearing their special toga coloured entirely in purple. (So purple became the colour chosen by royalty to distinguish themselves.) In other words, the scarcity of purple meant Lydia became a wealthy business woman.
Lydia already had a heart seeking after God as she met with Jews to pray by the riverside every Sabbath, (Acts 16:13-14). Paul discovered this group and immediately chose to attend their worship service on the Sabbath and used that opportunity to preach and teach, (Acts 16:14). As Lydia’s heart was open to God, “the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul”, (Acts 16:14). So when Paul preached his message of salvation, she responded. As a result of that, she was baptised, (v.15), presumably in that same river. Lydia promptly provided Paul and his travelling companions with accommodation, (Acts 16:15 - Luke says “us”, meaning his travelling companions, which was made up of Silas, Timothy, Luke himself, and Paul.)
One thing led to another. By Lydia seeking God, she found Him, and she responded with a heart full of gratitude. All her household responded to the gospel who were also baptised.
Paul’s jailor converted...
The success of Paul’s mission to Philippi meant he had spiritual opposition, (Acts 16), resulting in his imprisonment. However, God used that situation to recruit Paul’s jailor and his ‘household’, (ie everyone living under his roof, like his staff.) That Philippian jailer would have been introduced by Paul and his companions to Lydia’s prayer group, because they went directly from the prison to Lydia’s house, after their release. The mayor had to apologise publicly for beating Paul who was a Roman citizen, and had to escort him out of town personally! That action protected the new believers from persecution. What a spectacle it would have been. You couldn’t make this up!
Hearts and minds….
We are told that no other church sent any help to Paul. As Paul led Lydia to Jesus Christ at a Sabbath Day service by the river, and her cell group sent Paul all this money, you can see why it’s quite easy to imagine Lydia was behind this gift to Paul, as it was so big it took Paul by surprise, and Lydia was well off. Women often have bigger hearts than men. Praise God for the support of this believing Jewish woman and her “prayer group”, who recognised the dire straits Paul was in, and responded with all her heart, because God had changed heart first. These are the believers who should be our examples.
Next week we have Part 2.
I’m John Dunning and that’s “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.
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