Sunday, July 20, 2008

Satan Hinders God's Work

"For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again- but Satan stopped us." (First Thessalonians 2:18, NIV)

Since the Garden of Eden, in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has been an ongoing spiritual experience that Satan hinders us. As a Seminary President, I see it every semester as new students face testing beyond anything they have ever experienced. It seems that as they step out to start Seminary, Satan becomes determined to stop them. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the front line and in the rear, at daybreak and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders Christians. If we labor in the field, he seeks to break the tools with which we work; if we build the wall, he labors to cast down the stones; if we serve God in suffering or in conflict— everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ, and he hinders us every time we move to greater obedience to Christ. Satan is not overly concerned as long as we sit idle in our small boat, but when we raise the sails to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, Satan releases the demons of hell against us, to hinder us from growing more obedient and more faithful to Christ.

Paul and his companions desired to return to Thessalonica on several occasions because of the intense longing they felt for their brethren. The care and feeding of new Christians was not just an obligation those missionaries felt toward God; it was something they longed with all their hearts to be able to do, because of the love of Christ, in spite of the personal danger that faced them in Thessalonica.

Perhaps you are thing that God, or perhaps other people, were responsible for hindering Paul? To help us understand, we have to look at Paul's motive. His motivation for returning to Thessalonica was to provide further spiritual help for the young converts. Therefore, his motive is clearly the will of God and therefore any hindrance becomes opposition to the will of God. Regardless of who was involved on the human level, the ultimate leader of this kind of opposition is Satan. "Whenever the ungodly cause us trouble, they are fighting under the banner of Satan, and are his instruments for harassing us," (John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, p. 351). God permitted Satan to hinder Paul, but God is no more responsible for it than God is for any sin which His creatures commit and which He permits.

Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. Satan checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss God’s blessing. Satan is vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There is never a revival of our faith without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labor, Sanballat and Tobiah begin to hinder them. We should not be alarmed that Satan hinders us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord's side, and are doing the Lord's work, and in His strength, we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.

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