Success is difficult to define. It means many things to many people. To the career woman it means advancement in her chosen profession. For the housewife it includes providing a happy home for a healthy, contented family. For many women today who are both housewife and job holder, it means achieving the optimum in both fields.
If you were a successful businesswoman, one who found time to entertain frequent house guests, were active in church work, and maintained such a consistent Christian experience that your whole household was with you "in the truth," you might rightly feel you were approaching the point one would call a success in life, would you not?
The Word of God speaks of just such a woman. You have read about her, I am sure. Dr. Luke tells her story in the book of Acts. This successful church worker, career woman, hostess, and practicing Christian was Lydia of Thyatira. Her whole story as recorded by inspiration is found in two or three verses of Scripture and is told in about one hundred words. But it is well worth considering this unusual woman.
You have read Lydia's story in the King james Version of the New Testament; now read it in Taylor, The Living Bible. It brings it right up to 1997:
"On the Sabbath, we went a little way outside the city to a river bank where we understood some people met for prayer; and we taught the Scriptures to some women who came. One of them was Lydia, a saleswoman from Thyatira, a merchant of purple cloth. She was already a worshiper of God and, as she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart and she accepted all that Paul was saying. She was baptized along with all her household and asked us to be her guests. 'If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my home.' And she urged us until we did" (Ads 16:13-15).*
Dr. Luke and Paul met Lydia for the first time while they were preaching in Philippi. Sabbath afternoon the two men decided to leave the busy city and seek a place of prayer by the side of a nearby river. Evidently this riverside was a place where others were accustomed to come for prayer, and on this particular day the two men of God found Lydia and several of her friends. Perhaps they, too, were seeking the blessing of communing with God in this quiet place in nature.
Paul and Luke never allowed a single opportunity to pass without opening the Scriptures to any who would listen. Lydia and her friends listened. Lydia not only listened, "she accepted all that Paul was saying." For Lydia to hear the truth was to accept it. There was no parleying with God, no excusing herself, no delay. Lydia was a person of action, and when God spoke she acted. Lydia might have hesitated. How will this affect my business? she might well have thought. If I become a Christian some of my best customers, who are heathen, may turn against me. I may lose money─perhaps my business, then what?
Don't forget Lydia was a successful career woman. She was a "seller of purple." This costly dye came from a certain species of shellfish. Wool colored by this rich purple dye sold for a handsome amount. Evidently Lydia was a good businesswoman, one who could hold her own with others in the trade. She might have put her business before God, but she didn't. Nothing was more important than seeking "first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33).
Even before she met Paul and Luke, Lydia was one who sought to make God first in her life. Before her encounter with Christ through the apostles' teaching she worshiped God to the best of her knowledge. Now God had honored her with more light. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:78).
God fulfilled His promise to Lydia. She made Him first in her life and in her business. He gave her "all. . . things," which Jesus referred to in Matthew 6:33.
It is possible to be a successful businesswoman and still make God first in the life. When a woman is faithful to all that God requires of His people, she is blessed. God prospers those who obey quietly and fully.
Lydia was a devout woman. She "worshiped God." The Lord had opened her heart and prepared the soil for the good seed Paul sowed during his visit to Philippi. She not only heard the apostles' preaching, she "accepted all that Paul was saying" (Acts 16:14, Taylor). We would say today she "accepted the truth." She found joy in following her Lord into the water in baptism. She took all her household with her. What a blessed scene that must have been─this prosperous businesswoman, evidently of high repute in the community, leading the members of her household down into the water of baptism.
Like the patriarch Abraham centuries before, Lydia commanded her family and her household after her. (See Gen. 18:19.)
It is a glorious thing for an individual to do right, to respond to the call of God and walk in the way of obedience, to be baptized and thus to bear a personal witness of Christ. It is even more glorious to live and labor in such a Christlike spirit that the members of one's own family catch the atmosphere on the Master and decide for Christ.
The real test of one's relationship with Christ is not found on the Sabbath in the worship service. It is found in the family circle during the days of the week, when test, trial, and temptation are the Christian's likely lot. During these days the sons, daughters, father, mother, brothers, and sisters have an opportunity to learn whether the Christian profession is the real thing.
Perhaps you have been called a seven-days Adventist. You may not have appreciated it at the time, but actually this is the only kind of Adventist worth being. Then you, like Lydia, will experience the joy of seeing your household following the Master too!
Lydia was a good hostess. "Come into my house, and abide there," she insisted. Lydia was busy. Her dye business must have made considerable demands upon her time, but she was not too busy to be hospitable to God's workers.
Paul wrote a number of times about hospitality. Writing to the believers in Rome, he exhorted them to be mindful of "the necessity of saints; given to hospitality" (Rom. 12:13).
Checking on women who desired to become church workers Paul wrote, "Has she been kind to strangers as well as to other Christians?" (1 Tim. 5:10, TLB).
The old man of God also holds out the prospect of great blessing to the woman who is given to hospitality. "Don't forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" (Heb. 13:2, TLB).
Lydia was indeed a remarkable woman her life is a challenge to each Seventh-day Adventist woman today. She compassed a business, church work, Christian witness in her home, and Christian hospitality. Surely she must have received much help from her heavenly Father in such an undertaking. You and I have access to this same source of help today!
* Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, 111. Used by permission.
Robert H. Pierson, pastor, administrator and writer was the president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when he wrote this article.