On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.(NRSV)
So much happens as a result of seemingly chance encounters with others. People marry as a result of such encounters, or they change careers, or they find new meaning and hope. We can never dismiss such meetings as if they are accidents. God brings people across our paths for a purpose.
In this text, Lydia was a worshipper of God but was ignorant of Jesus. She was not what we would call a Christian convert. But along came Paul and his companions who had heard some people might be praying near a river outside Philippi. Sure enough, some women were there and Lydia was amongst them. Neither Paul or Lydia had planned such an encounter. But God made sure it happened and that good resulted.
We dare not miss out on what God might be doing in our various encounters with people. Paul saw immediate results with Lydia. We may not. Yet we can be aware God may well have been at work prior to our meeting: we are coming in on a work he has already begun. This seemed to be true in Lydia’s case: some awareness of God leading to personal knowledge of him.
Whenever we meet others, it is good to silently ask God what he has been doing in that person’s life and what he might be doing as a result of our meeting. It might not be merely a chance encounter but rather a divine appointment.