by Rev Jason Phua
Bible Readings: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:13; Psalm 80:1-19
READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 Thessalonians 2:17-18: “But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you- I, Paul, again and again- but Satan hindered us.”
When Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 that “Satan hindered” him from meeting up personally with the Christians in Thessalonica; what did he mean? Why was Satan allowed to interfere with the holy desire of a child of the living God?
Based on the Epistle, we are not entirely sure what Paul was referring to with regards to Satan’s hindrances; or how these hindrances occur. These hindrances could be related to episodes in Acts 17, where Paul, Silas and Timothy were persecuted by the Jews for preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles in Thessalonica and then in Berea.
These hindrances could also refer to other persecutions that Paul encountered through his missionary journeys. Whichever the case, it is clear that Satan was allowed by the Almighty to mess with the plans of his saints. Nevertheless, Paul’s response to such hindrances was not one of despair or anger towards God. Instead, he made an assessment of the situation and sent one of his most abled team player (Timothy) to discover what was going on in the faith of the Christians in Thessalonica. The result was that Paul himself was highly encouraged by Timothy’s reports of their growing faith and love for one another. In the midst of great persecutions, this was something which Paul and team would be most comforted to hear (ref: 1 Thessalonians 3: 6-7).
So despite Satan’s hindrances, God is still winning victories along the path of His will.
How can we respond when we suffer under the hindrances of Satan? Will we lose faith; thinking that such hindrances shouldn’t happen in the first place? Or will we persevere to please God? These are no easy questions to answer; especially for persons who suffer great distress in the hands of the evil one. Besides the Apostle Paul, Job is a case in point. To me, the most admirable thing about Job is the faith he carried with him even in the most dire of circumstances. A faith which allowed him to be immersed in a deep and humbling conversation with the Almighty in the midst of his pains, disappointments and troubles. I suspect Job cherished such an intimate conversation with the Lord more than what he was restored in his fortunes, family and status.
A lot to learn about the mysterious ways of God. A lot to learn from the saints of past. No less, we can be encouraged this day as 1 Thessalonians offered the great certainty that even as God’s ways are not our ways; those who are steadfast in Him will not be disappointed (ref: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Let us therefore continue to persevere, rejoice and encourage one another!
God of mysterious ways, we do not want to pretend that walking in You is something easy. Neither do we want to sink into such despair that we detach ourselves from You. Help us, in the midst of hindrances and turbulences, may Your will be done and that we be found faithful to carry on that intimate relationship with You. Amen.