One Happenstance Moment: Lydia’s Conversion Story from the Book of Acts

Have you heard the quote of Allen Saunders that John Lennon used in his exquisite love song “Beautiful Boy?”: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Isn’t that usually how it works? Most of the truly meaningful and forever memorable moments in our lives could never have been planned for. The best we can do is “create the space” in our busy lives for blessings to seep in. And even that is a real challenge for us – to find even just a little bit of space for some God-time. 

The truth is, it’s a good thing we don’t have to rely on ourselves to take the initiative to schedule time with God in our daily itinerary. Because God will find a way when there seems to be no way. And that way, for God to reach us even in the midst of our frantic and full lives, is often through the most routine and ordinary stuff on our daily agenda. 

And when God gets through to us, especially when we least expect it, then it usually results in some “glimpse of the Kingdom” or “divine revelation” moment in our hearts. We know that something happened of God, and the ground we now stand on is holy. Epiphany! 

It was just this kind of happenstance experience that our 1st century spiritual sister from the Book of Acts had when a man named Paul showed up in Philippi one forever memorable Sabbath day. 

Lydia was her name, and she broke the mold in the “most likely to be chosen for a lead role in a New Testament story” category — and in more ways than one. Not just a female, but Lydia was a wealthy female. And is there really any more direct threat to the powers that be than a member of an oppressed group with a lot of money? But there’s even more. Lydia was also a successful producer and merchant of the unique purple cloth and dye that comes from plants in her native Thyatira. She’s a CEO too!

This Lydia, she’s a real triple threat. Imagine her status and reputation; her position in society and her business and finance acumen. No doubt about it: Lydia is a prime candidate for “next member of our church!” Not to mention that, as the story tells us, Lydia is also a worshipper of God. Extra prime candidate! 

What more could there be in life for such a person as Lydia? Success, money, family, status, prestige … all that and God too??!! And she knew it. Lydia knew that she had the “good life” that so many dream about in her culture. She knew she was fortunate, and blessed. And she thanked God each morning and night for the blessings in her life. 

So, what more could there be for such a person as Lydia? With all her worldly possessions and comforts, Lydia also knew that there still was one thing missing in her life. She wasn’t quite sure exactly what it was, but she knew it was there. She could feel it … deep in her gut. It was an emptiness that weighed heavy on her heart. And she knew that whatever it was that she was missing, it was precisely the one thing that she needed more than anything. 

Life went on … as it does for all of us. Continued success brought Lydia to the big(ger) city of Philippi. There, her household flourished and business was good. Lydia was indeed, a very blessed woman. And yet, the one thing that she had come to desire more than anything, still was missing. What was it? And where was it? And, of course; How do I get it?

Have you ever heard the ancient saying, “God’s timing is always perfect”?  For those who worship the Lord and dedicate their life to Him, like Lydia, God’s timing always works for the best. The closer one is to God, the closer one is to God’s perfect harmony. 

God’s timing was indeed perfect for Lydia on that one special Sabbath Day in Philippi, down by the river, as the ladies of the village gathered for worship. Yes, they gathered every Sabbath Day in this very place. But it was on this particular day, this forever memorable Sabbath, just by happenstance, that the man of Jesus named Paul, preached his words of truth to the assembled congregation of women that included Lydia. 

And so it was, in the very hearing of the words from Paul’s mouth, that God opened the “too long closed” door to Lydia’s heart, and in so doing, God enabled Lydia to respond to Paul’s message. Finally, the greatest gift of all; the living presence of God in her heart! The one missing thing. Until that happenstance moment. And then life for Lydia would never be the same. 

Before the sun fell, Lydia and the members of her household were baptized, and she opened her house to the followers of Jesus, as she would continue to do for many years to come. She was vital to establishing the first church in Philippi, and she continued to dedicate her life and her wealth to the cause of the Jesus missionary movement. 

All this, from one most ordinary and routine happenstance moment, in the life of one who lived the “good life,” worshipped God and knew God’s blessings, but still yearned for the most precious of all the gifts from God. In God’s time. In God’s place. In worship. In the words. In her heart. By her response. Union with God.    

I hope you enjoyed my little version of Lydia’s conversion story from the Book of Acts. Don’t be surprised if you hear more about it this Sunday! 

By the way, have you started thinking yet about what God might have in store for you this Sunday in worship? Just one more happenstance moment on an otherwise ordinary and routine Sabbath Day …

That’s OK. Lydia hadn’t either.  

<>< Pastor Bob