Pick up the Phone: God’s Calling on Your Life
—Part 5 of 5—
Paul and Silas have reached Macedonia. Now what? When you reach your mission field you don’t arrive with a list of instructions on how to do you ministry. You start to wonder if you were called at all. You think: “If I can’t figure out how to start maybe I’m not the one to do the work.”
Do what Paul and Silas did. Look for the open hearts. You don’t have to begin by converting the masses… just one heart at a time. Look for that first “one.”
13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Paul’s “one” was Lydia. She was a dealer in purple cloth. Now, on the whole I prefer modern translations of the Bible, but they let us down a bit here. The old Authorized Version, sticking closely to the Greek, says that she’s a seller of purple. Just that. A seller of purple.
These days we’re used to being able to get any color we want. You can take your purple couch cushion over to Home Depot and they’ll scan it into a machine, and mix up a paint exactly the same shade on the spot. If you want a shirt or a blouse in a department store they have all of the colors in various shades and in all sizes.
It didn’t used to be like that. Dyes were natural, not synthetic, and the dye for purple was made from a juice found in minute quantities in shellfish. It took thousands of crustaceans to make a yard or two of purple cloth. So it was very expensive, worth its weight in silver it was said. It was a statement of status and wealth, the Louis Vuitton handbag or the Rolex watch of Roman times.
That is what Lydia is selling. She’s selling purple; purple cloth, purple robes. She’s not local. She’s from Thyatira, a town well known for making purple cloth. She seems to be the head of her household. As a traveling trader she is most likely wealthy. She’s not Jewish, but she believes in God. She is what the Jews referred to as a ’Godfearer’ – someone who worships in the synagogue, but hasn’t converted completely to Judaism.
To have a synagogue you need ten men who will meet together to say prayers. Phillipi, it seems, doesn’t have a synagogue. If there’s no synagogue, then any Jews that happen to be in the town or passing through know to meet near the river on the Sabbath to pray. That’s where Lydia goes, and it’s where Paul and Silas go too.
So here is this rich, confident woman, meeting Paul for the first time. Paul who was never rich must have been anything but confident at this point in his ministry.
And then Lydia’s heart opened.
There is something about being in the right place at the right time in the will of God, pursuing your God given calling… that produces open hearts.
When I first started as pastor at First Baptist Cloverdale it was months before I saw anything happen at the altar. Then one Sunday Tina Trettin was listening to the message and asked her friend beside her, “Does anyone ever go down there?” That Sunday Tina Trettin came to the Lord. Soon her and her whole family were baptized. Not long afterwards her neighbors and their children were saved and baptized… and other neighborhood friends began to visit. Tina was my “one.” God opened her heart and then used her to open the hearts of those she loved. These open hearts confirmed to me that I was where I was supposed to be.
Have an outreach event planned soon? Feeling a little frightened at the prospect of meeting people you don’t know? There may be some rejection… sure. But you aren’t looking for everyone to respond… you are looking for the “one.” The one with the open heart… and the key to the hearts of others.
To finish up my series let’s talk calling. You may be discouraged right now. But keep seeking. You might not be hearing from God. Keep listening. You might not know what to do with this call God has given you. Set your sails! You might not see large amount of fruit from your ministry right now. But do you see any open hearts? Look around for those that are opening to your ministry. Be encouraged… don’t give up.
Tony Campolo tells the story of a friend who discovered his true calling in life. He had been a college English teacher, but suddenly quit his position—to become a mailman. After hearing the man’s reasons for resigning from teaching to become a mailman, Campolo tried to encourage him with the old Protestant work ethic: “Charlie, if you’re going to be a mailman, then be the best mailman in the world!” To which his friend replied, “I’m a lousy mailman, Tony. I’m the last one to get back to the post office every day, and besides, I can’t sleep at night.” When he asked for an explanation, here is what Campolo heard: “There are so many lonely people on my route who never had anyone visit them until I became their mailman. Have you ever tried to sleep after drinking fifteen cups of coffee in one day?” Tony Campolo reached an important conclusion about his friend Charlie: “He was alive with the excitement that come to a person doing something meaningful with his life.” (Max Anders. Holman New Testament Commentary: Romans, pp. 18-19.)
Go out and do that meaningful something. Pick up the phone… God has a calling on YOUR life.