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A Listening Heart
And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller
of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened
her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and
her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged
me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed
In these two verses, Dr. Luke, the author of Acts, summarizes a life
changing event in three sentences. In Acts 16:14, Lydia, a business woman
from Thyatira, responded to the Gospel, in verse 15, she and her family
were baptized and she initiated Christian fellowship with Paul and his
companions. All cut and dry, right? Not so fast. There are a couple of
questions I have as I read the text.
First, is it possible to worship God without knowing Him? Lydia, was
known for two things, what she did at work (she sold expensive purple fabric)
and what she did on the Sabbath day (she worshiped God). Yet, it is clear
from the text that she hadn't responded to the gospel yet. How can that
be? Why would she want to worship if she didn't know Him?
A good friend of mine recently told me about an incident that happened
to him that explains why a person can worship, and yet still not know God.
It all began before the plane took off. Roger Williams III was sitting
in the window seat and was looking forward to thumbing through a magazine
on a short flight from Sacramento to attend a National Youth Ministry Conference
in San Diego, California. He'd fastened his seat belt, made sure his chair
was in the full upright position, his tray table was locked and that his
luggage was properly stowed when two well-dressed Ally McBeal look-a-likes
sat down next to him.
Their conversation competed for attention with his magazine. They talked
about the club scene-what they enjoyed drinking, who they were "dating,"
their intimate relationships with men, both single and married. Then it
turned into a gripe session.
"Why do guys have such a hard time committing?" One asked. "And why
don't they ever leave their wives like they promise to?" Another complained.
They talked about work for a while, and about the time Williams was
tuning out, one of them said, "But you know, if it wasn't for church, my
life would really be hell." By now, Williams was only pretending to read
his magazine, they had his full attention. "Wow, you go to church too.
I know exactly how you feel. If it wasn't for church, I don't know where
I'd be." "Yeah, I know what you mean," the other lady said, "if I miss
more than two weeks of church everything in my life goes nuts."
The plane started its descent into San Diego and everything got quiet,
and Williams sat still--stunned by what he'd just heard. He concluded that
worship, to these ladies, was just a "religious fix."
It is possible you know, to build up an immunity to the gospel. Like
a vaccine or inoculation, some people get just enough religion to insure
that they go to hell.
But it is also true that we learn to have faith in the company of believers.
Lydia was where she needed to be, in the company of those who worshiped
God. In that environment, she listened to Paul, and God spoke to her.
The second question I want to explore, is this: is it possible to worship
God without really listening? Verse 14, states she "was listening."
Listening-I fear it is a lost art. The April 2000 Reader's Digest, included
an article entitled "Lend an ear" by Roberta Israeloff. This article hit
me right between the eyes and convicted me about some of my poor listening
habits. I've read the article a half a dozen times by now-I just can't
stop thinking about it, specifically I can't stop processing the introduction.
Roberta begins the article by sharing a recent phone conversation she
had with her mother-in-law. Her in-laws were returning to New York after
wintering in Florida when they ran into one car problem after another.
Three times the car broke down, once on a bridge in the middle of rush
Right as Roberta was going to tell her own worst "break down" story,
her mother-in-law had to hang up because someone was at her door, but before
she said goodbye she said this to her daughter-in-law. "Thank you for listening,
but thank you most of all for not telling me your worst car story." (p.
How many times has that happened to you? You really need to talk to
someone and you really need for them to listen. Maybe it is about a problem
with your parents, or with a teacher, and before you finish your story,
your friend interrupts and says, "Yeah, my parents did the same thing to
me," and then they start their story. Inside you want to scream and say,
wait a minute, I need to talk, I don't want your advise, I just want your
ear. But instead, you patiently wait as they talk about ancient history
while you are thinking about current events.
Or maybe you've just discovered a lump, or you've noticed your jeans
are getting tighter, or you feel a wall building between you and your husband.
And you really need to talk to someone, so you give a friend a call. But
they interrupt your story with their story.
How many times have you done the same thing? Instead of really listening,
you interrupt the speaker to talk about what is on your mind or tell a
Is it possible to be listening to someone talk without really hearing
what they are saying? Not only is it possible, it happens all the time.
We miss the chance to "bear one another's burdens" or rub souls with each
other because we aren't really listening.
Are you listening? No really, are you listening? Or are you thinking
about what you will do after church? I'll not ask for a show of hands because
I don't want to embarrass you, or me for that matter.
Are you listening right now, or are you evaluating? Are you trying to
hear a word from the Lord right now, or are you grading the preacher?
Is it possible to worship without listening? Yes, I fear it is. It is
also possible to listen to the preacher and soak up every word he says
without listening to the Lord.
Lydia was listening, and when she was, God spoke to her. Here's how
Luke put it, "and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken
by Paul." Paul spoke to her through her ears, but the Lord spoke to her
through her heart.
Why was Lydia's life changed? If you say because she listened with her
ears until God spoke to her in her heart, you'd be right, but you'd be
only partially right. There was another element. Look at verse 9-10:
"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia
was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia
and help us."  And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought
to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel
to them." (Acts 16:9-10 NASB)
Paul was listening too. In a dream, God spoke to Paul and told him to
go to Macedonia to preach. Though Paul had other plans, he dropped what
he was doing and went on a witnessing detour and he went to a place beside
the river hoping to find some people praying and when he did, he shared
the gospel. And Lydia was saved, and her household.
Today you've worshiped God, but I have a question for you, do you know
Him? If not, why not come to know Him today?
Today, I've spoken and you've listened to me, but I have another question
for you, did you hear God speak? With your heart, I mean, did you listen
to Him. If not, why not commit yourself to come back next week with an
open ear, an open mind, and an open heart.
Finally, are you, like Paul, willing to speak to others about Christ?
Are you ready to respond to God's call? If so, why not begin praying right
now for someone who you can share your faith with?