It seems abundantly clear from the Scriptures that God intended for our sister Lydia to hear the Gospel!

Paul and Silas had planned to go and preach in Asia. However, they were warned by the Holy Spirit not to go there and told to go to Macedonia, where Lydia lived instead.

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”...Acts 16: 6-10

“Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us.”…Acts 16:11-15

Do you think it was coincidental that Lydia and a group of women had met by the seashore and Paul “just happened” to find them on a Sabbath? I believe God’s Providence may have been at work. Obviously, Lydia did not worship the pantheon of gods in Thyatira. Instead she had learned about the one true God and feared Him. She must have heard the Jewish claims of one God and had learned about Jesus.

Lydia had apparently established her own business selling expensive purple dye or purple cloth in Philippi. That would have taken some leadership on its own, and she had probably become very wealthy.

After Paul spoke to the women there, and as far as Scripture tells us, Lydia was the first convert to Christianity in Greece. It is a fact that many times women are still the first converts to Christianity in a community. The influence of a strong Christian woman can be felt in her family, in the Lord’s Body, and in the world. We learn that Lydia’s entire household was baptized. What a strong influence she must have had on her household!

We are never told whether Lydia is married or not. Was she single? Widowed? Husband out of town? Children are never mentioned. The example for us as Christian women is that God used Lydia, her position and influence to further the Gospel and we can serve Him and be used by Him in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

Lydia’s conversion marks the start of a new frontier in the Bible. Up to that point, the gospel had not gone further west than Asia Minor. In fact, on this journey, Paul’s original intention was to stay in Asia, but God changed his plans. Lydia, although a native of Asia Minor, is the first person recorded to have been converted in Europe.

After Paul and Silas were released from prison, they went to Lydia’s home for comfort and refreshment and to encourage the new converts.

There is no doubt that Lydia’s influence and leadership was a blessing to the Body of Christ at Philippi. Paul mentions the church in Philippi when he opens his letter written to them:

“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you with all joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”…Philippians 1: 1-5

Apparently, Lydia and the congregation at Philippi were a constant source of encouragement and support to Paul throughout his ministry. Every one of us has the same opportunity to lead like Lydia!

Sheila Butt
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Sheila Butt was born in Rockford, IL, and attended East Tennessee State University. She graduated with a B.S. Degree in English with a minor in History. She has also studied Greek and Hermeneutics at David Lipscomb University. She is married to Stan Butt Sr., a minister, and the Executive Director for the Tennessee Dairy Association. She and Stan have three sons and nine grandchildren. Her two oldest granddaughters, Emma and Grace Anne are students at Freed-Hardeman University.

Sheila graduated from the women’s program at Bear Valley Bible Institute and has taught Ladies’ Days and in Lectureships for the past 25 years. She has been on numerous mission trips to many of the Caribbean islands, Honduras, Panama, and Alaska. She taught in the Horizons Program for many years and received the Kay Battles Service Award from that program. Sheila has written two books for ladies and teen girls and co-authored another with several women entitled “We Bow Down.” Sheila was the recipient of the “Golden Pen Award” from Publishing Designs for her work on those publications. She has written articles for Christian Woman and been featured in Christian Woman for her service as a Tennessee State Legislator.

Sheila Butt was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2010 serving the 64th District and served in four General Assemblies.   She served as a Co-Chairman for the Congressional Prayer Caucus of Tennessee.

Sheila was the 2016 recipient of the Agriculture Legislator of the year by the TN Cattlemen’s Association. She is the recipient of the “Iron Lady Award” by the 9.12 Nashville Project in 2015.  She is the recipient of the 2013 Legislator of the Year Award by the South-Central Tennessee Development District. In November of 2013, Sheila received the “Elected Women of Excellence” award by the National Foundation for Women Legislators for her “dedicated service, leadership and passion for Tennessee and her country.”

She is known nationwide for her integrity and an articulate message of standing for “faith, family and freedom.”

Since deciding not to run for a 5th term in 2018, Sheila began a Women’s Ministry called “Sisters, Servants, Soldiers” and much good is being done in the Kingdom of God as this ministry enables women to teach, mobilize, motivate, and provides opportunities for women to serve The Lord with their talents to His glory!

Currently, Sheila also serves as the Mayor of one of the fastest growing counties in the State of Tennessee.