I attended Bible College in the San Bernardino Mountains from 1991 –1993. My college was in a small town named Twin Peaks. It was a quaint little town surrounded by massive the pine forests of the San Bernardino Mountains. It was quiet. It was peaceful. It was the perfect place to meet with Jesus. I was shielded from the busyness of life down in the San Bernardino Valley. On the weekends we would want to get away from the quiet mountain town and we would cram into my friend Dan’s Toyota Corolla and would venture down the mountain to enjoy the coastal cities located on the Pacific Ocean.
When I finished college in 1993, I asked a friend to drive me to the airport so I could fly back home. This was pre-9/11 so there was no need to arrive early. You simply showed up, checked in and got on the plane. We started down the mountains about 3 hours before the plane was scheduled to takeoff. I figured this was plenty of time since the airport was only an hour and a half drive. I forgot to factor in the traffic. We were cruising along at a comfortable 70mph and as we were nearing the airport the 10-lane expressway came to a screeching halt. Suddenly it was bumper to bumper traffic. At first, I wasn’t too concern because the airport was within a few miles, and this was, so I thought, a minor hindrance. As clock moved forward our car did not. For nearly an hour we barely moved a half mile. I began to sweat a bit. It was getting really close to my departure time. Fortunately, at the nick of time, the traffic broke, and we began moving along just fast enough for us to exit. I made it to John Wayne International with only a few minutes to spare.
Hindrances can be so frustrating! The story I just told was an example of a minor instance of how a hindrance can be so frustrating and stressful. It is safe to assume that none of us like it when our plans are thwarted, and we can’t do what we want to do.
The Apostle Paul understood roadblocks. He understood hindrance. He knew about frustration. However, he did not allow these hindrances to stop him from doing what God called him to do.
1 Thessalonians 2:17 - 3:5
Hindered by Satan
Vs 17- 20: The Apostle Paul wrote about the persecution he and his companions faced in Thessalonica when they brought the Gospel to this Gentile city. He mentions that they were “separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you)” Paul was in the city of Thessalonica for three weeks and eventually the Jews became angry with him and started stirring up the people against him. A riot ensued forcing Paul and his companions to flee for their lives. He had to physically remove himself from the city leaving his beloved Thessalonians behind; but he kept them close in his heart. Paul resumed his missionary journeys, and he continually thought about the Thessalonians. He was only with them for three weeks, but he became very attached to this group of people and he missed them dearly. The separation that was forced upon them had created a deep longing in Paul’s heart to go back and be with the Thessalonians.
Vs 18: “We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.” Apparently, Paul tried multiple times to go back to Thessalonica, but Satan put up some roadblocks that did not allow him to go back. I imagine this was discouraging for him. His heart was set on going back and encouraging the Thessalonians because they were the fruits of his labor and the working of the Holy Spirit. They were young Christians. Most of them were Gentiles and they had little instruction in what it meant to walk with Jesus. The Thessalonians were like his children that he had not seen in a long time, and he desired to go and be with them; BUT Satan would have none of that. Paul doesn’t give details as to how or why he was hindered. We can only assume that whatever it was it was not good.
“One possibility is that in view of the trouble there had been with the city rulers Paul himself was forbidden to return to the town, and nothing had happened to change that position. It seems that some unjustifiable criticism of Paul was abroad, and so he emphasizes the strength of his longing to revisit them and encourage them.”
He wanted to encourage the young believers and Satan did whatever he could to stop Paul from doing this. Paul knew all too well, as we should also, that Satan hates when believers unite or join together… Why is this? Because he knows there is power in unity in Christ. Beth Moore writes, “Satan throws his head back and howls when he can use small things to keep believers from uniting in great things for the (glory) of Jesus.” This is true. the Devil wants to keep believers isolated and alone because when we are alone, we are weaker and can be more susceptible to temptation. Therefore, Christian fellowship is important. I have spoken with people who say that they don’t need to go to church because it’s not church that saves them. I agree. Some have said they don’t need other Christians because their faith is a private matter. Others just don’t like being around other believers. When we gather as a body of Christ to worship our Lord, Creator and Savior we are given great power especially in the Spiritual realm. This unity gives us power to overcome the oppression of Satan in our lives. It gives us power to be the people God created us to be. There is power in the body of Christ and Satan hates it when gather together and he will do whatever it takes to hinder God’s saints from gathering together in the name of Jesus.
Vs 3:1 – 5: “and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ.” Paul was not going to allow Satan to destroy the works God did through him. He was not going to let Satan discourage these new believers. Paul may have been hindered but Timothy was not; so instead of complaining that Satan had put up roadblocks he sought another way to get to the Thessalonians. Paul would visit them via Timothy. He entrusted this journey to the young pastor. Paul calls him a brother and a co-worker in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was Timothy’s mentor. He was his Pastor. He was his co-laborer in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Paul couldn’t come to encourage then he would send the person he trusted most.
I can imagine Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians when he left them in haste in the company of wolves. If these people were willing to go to the extremes with Paul, then there is no reason they wouldn’t with the new believers in Thessalonica. This worried him because he was mature in his faith. He had determined and believed that there was nothing that could separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. He wasn’t so sure the Thessalonians would be able to hold up under the extreme pressure and persecution they were facing. Paul told them that they would face persecution. He knew what they were up against, and he could no longer bear not knowing how they were doing. His concern was since Satan hindered him then he was certainly at work in trying to destroy the work of God in Thessalonica. For this reason alone, he sent Timothy to them in hopes to encourage and exhort. Ultimately God wins in this battle. Satan may have hindered but God got his way.
In this passage we see the heart of a man who loves people with a supernatural love. Having spent only a few weeks with the Thessalonians he bonded with them and had great love and concern for them. In this love he faces the discouragement of being hindered from encouraging the believers. For us today many of us face obstacles in life that hinder us from moving forward in our walk with him. I have come to find that there are three kinds of hindrances we face.
You may be thinking, “How can I tell if a hindrance (roadblock, shut door, the answer “No”) is from Satan, God or yourself?” I wish there was a nice an easy answer to this question or a simple four step process that is a fool-proof way of knowing. But there isn’t. But there are some tools and resources God has given us to help us decipher what is going on. I would begin with prayer and reading God’s Word. When we pray we are in direct communication with God. He is the one who knows what is best for you. Sometimes the answer is glaringly obvious that Satan is involved, other times it is apparent God is, and even more so evident when it is us, but it is important to approach all things in life with prayer and communication with God.
So, I wonder what things in my life are hindering me from following God wholeheartedly. What are yours? I think a good question to ask yourself is “What things in your life are hindering what God is calling you to do, or a risk God is directing you to take?” The answer to this question could be the things Satan is using in your life to hinder you from true intimacy with God.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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