"Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." (v.7)
We now focus on yet another aspect of our theme – The Corn of Wheat Afraid to Die. Slowly we are coming to grips with one of the greatest truths of Scripture, namely that life comes through the giving of life, and fruitfulness through falling into the ground and dying. When we remain by ourselves, using only human resources, our lives will turn out to be shallow and fruitless. Refusing to pay the ultimate price of giving ourselves, we find ourselves paying the price of the deadness of life itself. Another area of life from which we often cry out to be exempted, but one which, if we are willing to give ourselves, yields great spiritual fruitfulness, is the area of unmerited suffering. Our text for today reminds us that "man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward", and there are few of us who have not had cause to lament the truth of those words. A more modern observer of the human condition puts it thus: My son, the world is dark with griefs and graves So dark that men cry out against the heavens. I suppose there is nothing that makes people "cry out against the heavens" so much as the anguish that comes through unmerited suffering. Horace Walpole said: "To those who think, life is comedy; to those who feel, life is tragedy." There are few of us who do not "feel" – so is life a tragedy to most? God did not deliver His Son from suffering – He did something better. And it is along this line of the "something better" that we will find the answer to unmerited suffering.
O God my Father, I must find the key to this issue of unmerited suffering. For the doors of life and fruitful service will be closed to me unless I know how to open them and walk through to victory. Help me to find that key. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God" (Acts 16:14).
There was a business woman whom Paul encountered in Philippi named Lydia. She was an early church entrepreneur dealing in purple cloth, the most expensive type in the 1st century Middle East. Most accounts believe this was Paul’s first known convert. I find it interesting that his first known convert was a woman and an entrepreneur.
"We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home" (Acts 16:13-15a).
This encounter with Lydia and her women associates ultimately opened the way for ministry in that region. God often worked in and through women in the early church. Lydia was an influential businesswoman, and the gospel was affecting all strata of society, just as it does today.
Lydia was a maker of beautiful cloth mainly used by members of the royal families and Roman senators who were required to have a purple band around the edge of their togas, or robes. Purple cloth was both valuable and expensive in the culture of the first century. It was often worn as a sign of nobility or royalty. Lydia’s ministry would be to the upper class business community.
Evidence of her conversion was immediate. She told the men if they considered her a believer in the Lord, she would like for them to come and stay at her house. Evidently she had plenty of room to accommodate the four of them; Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke was with them also. She continued to urge them and they accepted her invitation and stayed at her house.
Lydia’s heart was like the good soil in the parable of the sower. When she heard the word of God, she received it with joy and obeyed the words of the apostle.
Who are the "Lydias" God has placed in your circle of influence? Pray that you will be the instrument, like Paul, to bring the gospel to influential women entrepreneurs.