So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of thedistrict of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. – Acts 16:11-15
We – as are many people in our community – are in the midst of discovering and settling into the new normal. This comes after the unprecedented flooding and destruction in the greater Houston area due to Hurricane turned Tropical Storm Harvey. Harvey is a name we will not easily forget for many years to come. Many homes were flooded. Many people lost all of their worldly possessions. Many people have no place to live, no car to get to work, no way of carrying on apart from the kindness of neighbors, friends, churches and others who help – along with governmental and other non-profit agencies.
I am glad to say that there was almost a competition among churches to outdo one another in bringing relief to flood victims and clean-up volunteers (cf. Romans 10:12). This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the community. And church after church lined up to help in Jesus’ name. May his name be praised!
There comes, after all is said and done, a new normal. For Paul and his team it was heading off from Troas toward Philippi. There, God had planned an encounter with a person of peace who would provide a foothold on European soil for the spread of the Gospel. Lydia becomes the first European convert and with her resources a foundation for continuing the Good News imperative to make disciples of all nations. The old plans that Paul had for heading into Asia Minor have now become new plans of God’s choosing and direction to bring the Gospel to Rome, Spain, and beyond.
The truth is that there really isn’t an old normal; any parking on the practices of the past is doomed to thwart the mission of God, and God will fulfill his mission. He will see to it that his lost children are found. He will see that his rule and reign is spread throughout the world. Those whose plans are changed, and who embrace that change in grace, faith, and faithfulness will see great things happen in their lives and the lives of others.
In fact, Lydia’s story is the first of many that will spring from this area of the world. There will be the jailer who is converted in the middle of the night. There will be the example of the Macedonian Christians held up by Paul in responding to the needs of the church in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 for the full story there). But for now, Paul will encounter this woman who prevails upon him and offers her home as a place of rest and refreshment.
What is the new normal in your life these days? Might it be an opportunity to be part of something very special in the lives of your friends, neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ? Might you prevail upon someone to allow you to serve them in their time of need? That’s exactly what Jesus did for you and me 2000 years ago. His example and service itself must have touched Lydia’s heart deeply. What a great first move of a new convert to faith in Jesus!