What if I told you that in Acts (the book I am preaching for our church’s new sermon series) 39 of the 40 miracles that the Holy Spirit performs occur outside of the church? Now, you don’t have to take my word for it. Read the 28 chapters of Acts for yourself, and take note where you see the raw power of God at work.
What you find will surprise you… The power of God is not going to be found primarily in the pulpit (and, listen, I’m all for the pulpit). The power of God will not be found in the actions of super-Apostles, or in high powered leaders. The real power of the Gospel is released as ordinary, Spirit-filled men and women amplify God’s good news wherever they go, into every part of their communities. Please read Acts 16 and you will understand.
One of the 39 miracles of Acts occurs in the life of a businesswoman named Lydia, on the banks of a river, not in a church. Not much is told about Lydia’s life other than her providential encounter with the Apostle Paul.
Paul was on his second missionary journey when he had a vision of a man who pleaded with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The Apostle responded to the vision by gathering his team and quickly setting off across the Aegean Sea for Macedonia, the northern region of modern-day Greece. When they arrived, Paul and his fellow missionaries passed through the port of Neapolis and headed straight for Philippi, “a city of Macedonia’s first district and a Roman colony” (Acts 16:14 ESV).
Luke, the author of Acts, records that while Paul saw a vision of a man, ironically, his first ministry in Philippi was with a group of women, a group which included Lydia. Paul and his friends sat down and began sharing the Word of God with them.
And then we see the miracle happening, in Acts 16:14, where the Lord opened this Lydia’s heart to listen eagerly to Paul’s message. The obstacle many face in not believing the Gospel is the hardness or the closure of their heart. But God “opens the heart” of Lydia. In other words, the Lord takes out the cold heart of stone and puts in the yearning heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
This miracle is the gift that keeps on giving: Filled with new vision and vitality, Lydia presumably tells members of her household, who follow her lead and are baptized with her. We can assume she also tells business contacts, clients, and neighbors. Her “social media” are hard at work spreading the Word, going viral, all over town. In Luke’s account, she then opened her home to Paul and his friends and over time a church was planted in Philippi, in the home of this businesswoman, Lydia.
And here we are today…
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I celebrate all mothers everywhere. But I also celebrate all women who live with open-hearted lives under the power of the Holy Spirit. I celebrate the many ordinary “Lydia’s” who open their homes, their resources, and their hearts in service to their extraordinary God.