Are you someone who thrives in community but shrivels up when you are deprived of it? God created women to be social in community. He gave us the skills for building relationships and plenty of words to use in doing so. And He uses community to satisfy our heart needs. In this post, we will look at how Jesus satisfies your heart with community. Our New Testament examples are Tabitha (Acts 9) and Lydia (Acts 16). This is post #11 in our New Testament Women series.
Listen to this post as a similar podcast from our Bible Study of New Testament women: Live Out His Love.
God created women to be social in community.
God created women to be social. He chose to use this gift of social skills as an avenue to provide for His people, all of them—men, women, boys and girls. And women are pretty good at building relationships with other women. After all, we have to share those 20,000 words per day with someone! Women enjoy community. Life should not be lived alone.
One of the most interesting examples of this is God’s commission to women found in Exodus 3. God used the social skills of women to accomplish His purposes in supplying what the Israelites would need in resources and clothing for their journey.
What the Israelite women did reminds me of the group of women who took care of Jesus’ needs, such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna (Luke 8:1-3). Those women socialized together, traveling with Jesus, pooling their resources to meet Jesus’ needs and those of His disciples as well.
Today, whenever a woman is seriously ill, has a baby, or is shocked by the death of a loved one, other women quickly gather around her taking care of whatever the needs of the moment are. Meals. Childcare. Lodging. Loving on them with God’s love. Sharing community is a way to reach others with His message of love. It starts where you live.
Two women found in the book of Acts, Tabitha and Lydia, were part of a community of believers. They both contributed to that community with their resources.
Perhaps one of the most startling cultural changes as a result of Christ’s ministry was the change in the status of women. Prior to Christ’s coming, women were seen as little more than chattel, with no legal rights to speak of except by virtue of marriage. The dominant culture still held a less than liberated view of women. But in the early church, women were disciples and fellow saints who were held in high esteem by Christians.
After the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), a great persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem. This caused them to scatter. As they went out, they shared the good news about Jesus with whomever would listen. In this way, God made something that looked “bad” work towards good from His perspective. Tabitha was one of the recipients of God’s work.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:36-42)
Joppa was a coastal town built on a rock that rises about 125 feet above sea level and juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Because of its excellent natural harbor, it was the main seaport of Judah, receiving cedar logs floated down from Lebanon to build the temples of both Solomon (~970 B.C.) and Zerubbabel (~500 B.C.). Under Roman rule, Joppa became part of Herod the Great’s territory. Because the people of Joppa hated Herod the Great, he built Caesarea some 40 miles to the north, and Joppa declined in importance. The city of Joppa today is Jaffa, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
Tabitha is specifically called a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is an active follower or learner. Tabitha imitated her Lord by “always doing good and helping the poor.” Then, she died, which brought terrible sadness to those whom she helped as well as the local church community. Hearing that Peter was within 12 miles of their town, the church leaders sent for Peter, urging him to come—for a woman.
Peter came, prayed for Tabitha’s healing, and imitated Jesus’ healing of the little girl in Mark 5 by simply calling for her to “get up.” Tabitha responded, Peter helped her up, and he gave her back to her friends and church community. Jesus satisfied her heart with a community that loved her.
Little is known of Tabitha’s background and how she became a Christian. The account of her restoration from death back to life in Acts is proof of Christ’s continuing ministry to women that we have seen in the previous posts about New Testament women. Tabitha’s life is also a lesson to us of the impact one ordinary person’s life can have on others.
Tabitha was an ordinary woman. She wasn’t rich or highly educated. She, like Mary of Bethany, did what she could to serve the Lord Jesus with the skills and resources she had. You don’t need to do something big or amazing to make a splash across the social media pages. It’s okay to be ordinary. Start with what you have, where you are, and your own sphere of influence. That reminds me of a saying I heard years ago when I was a young Christian woman, “Bloom where you are planted.” Even an ordinary woman living an ordinary life can be a beautiful bloom in God’s garden when she is faithfully following Christ and willing to let Him live His life through her.
Lydia was also a woman living in community. We meet Lydia and her community in Acts 16. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke had traveled to Philippi. After several days of being there …
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. 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. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13-15)
Philippi was a mostly Roman city with very few Jews, not enough to even establish a synagogue since doing so required at least 10 Jewish men. Without a synagogue present, the few Jews in any town and their Gentile converts met on the Sabbath outside the city walls, near water, to get away from idolatry. The women’s prayer group Paul found probably gathered on the banks of the Gangites River, a mile and a half west of town.
Lydia and her community of women gathered for Sabbath prayer just as Paul and his companions were. Gentiles who worshiped Israel’s God were called “God-fearers” or “worshipers of God.”
Lydia was from Thyatira, a town in modern Turkey famous for its unique purple dyes and the cloth made from it. In Acts, she is called a seller of purple. Purple was a favorite color of the Romans and, therefore, in great demand because it was used on official togas in Rome and in the colonies. In fact, we still use the term “royal purple.” It was very expensive to produce. Because of this, Lydia was wealthy and had her own household. We don’t know when or why Lydia relocated to Philippi, but it was a smart business move. Macedonian inscriptions show greater freedom for women in that area of the world than anywhere else at this time.
Thyatira was also famous for its worship of the sun god Apollo. Lydia had rejected the idolatry of her people and had become a worshipper of the Jewish God instead. There was a Jewish settlement in Thyatira which was especially interested in the dyeing industry. Lydia went against her culture by worshipping the Jewish God.
The Lord opened her heart to respond to the gospel message. Immediately, she and the members of her household—her community—were baptized. She begged the four men to come, implying “My resources are at your disposal.” Believers are told throughout the New Testament to practice hospitality. Hospitality is a great way to build community and share Christ.
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left. (Acts 16:40)
Lydia opened her home to meet Paul’s need for housing, but she got so much more. Her home became the center of operations for Paul and his companions for sharing the gospel in Philippi. And it became the gathering place for the new community of believers—the Church of Jesus Christ in Philippi.
When you read in Paul’s letters about the Philippians, you see repeatedly how they were a giving community who appreciated everything Paul did for them. They supported him over and over in his ministry to other communities. You can see a reflection of Lydia’s heart in this generosity. Jesus satisfied Lydia’s heart first with Himself and then with a community of like-minded believers.
Building community starts where you live.
I read a book several years ago that suggested we are to live question-stimulating lives in view of our neighbors. Neighbors are those people around us wherever we live or spend our time. A house or apartment. In the office or on the factory floor. That’s where we are to live question-stimulating lives.
What is a question-stimulating life? Jesus describes it in Matthew 5:16 as being like a light shining with your good deeds visible for people to notice. That’s what Tabitha and Lydia did. Our neighbors see something attractive and then ask why. That means we need to think of the places where we live and the people who live there as our own “personal community,” the geographical place God has planted us and the people He’s called us to love in Jesus’ name.
The neighbors who live (or work) near you are usually not people you’ve chosen. You may not like them at all. But they are those who have been given to you and those to whom you have been given. And you thought we were just shopping for your own living space—not your “personal community!” Start with those around you and build community with them.
Building community can be done at any age.
Women are never too old to have need for community or the ability to influence a community. I am so grateful for that. We don’t know how old Tabitha was, but she was a widow who had time on her hands to sew and care for others in her widow community. Community is not just for the young. We don’t know how old Lydia was, but she had been in business long enough to be identified by it. She gave up her independence to invest her life in a community of Christ-followers. Jesus satisfied both of their hearts with community.
I love being around women in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are still passionate about their relationship with the Lord. The culture says, “Retire, take it easy, pamper yourself, focus on being a grandparent—that’s enough. Let the young women do all the work of ministry.” But those gals say, “Not me! As a Jesus follower, I’m commissioned to serve Him actively for life as a disciple-maker.”
I met an 85-year-old woman who didn’t put her faith in Jesus until she was past retirement age. She was so excited about ministering to other women, old and young. She was leading a Bible study at her church and was eager to share with her peers what she had learned so they could experience joy and freedom in Christ, too. Enthusiasm spread across her face. Jesus satisfied her heart with community. Women who are Jesus followers are never too old to have an impact on their friends—whether younger or older.
My heart is grateful that God made me a woman. I am grateful for all the wonderful women whom God has chosen to place around me. It amazes and humbles me that God created women with social skills that are a valuable part of His purposes for His people.
Our God created us with a spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. A relationship with another human cannot satisfy that thirst. Only God can satisfy the thirsty heart. Jesus satisfies your heart with community. As the Bible promises,
He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
A satisfied heart will thank God for community and reach out to others to share Christ with them.
You can learn about how Jesus satisfies your heart through our study of New Testament women: Live Out His Love (11 lessons). You can also learn more about Tabitha and Lydia through our Radical Acts Bible study of the book of Acts.
- Live Out His Love Bible Study on Amazon
- Radical Acts Bible Study on Amazon
- New Testament Women: Trust Jesus to satisfy your heart needs
- John 4: Samaritan Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with TRUTH
- Luke 7: Immoral Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with FORGIVENESS
- John 8: Adulterous Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with VICTORY
- Mark 5: Desperate Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with HOPE
- Mark 7, Luke 13.Shunned Women-Jesus satisfies your heart with KINDNESS
- Luke 7: Grieving Woman-Jesus satisfies your heart with COMPASSION
- John 11-12: Mary and Martha-Jesus satisfies your heart with LOVE
- Luke 8: Mary Magdalene-Jesus satisfies your heart with FREEDOM
- Luke 1-2: Mary-Jesus satisfies your heart with GRACE
- Acts 18: Priscilla-Jesus satisfies your heart with PURPOSE
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