1Thess. 2:18 – “We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again,
but Satan prevented us.”
1Thess. 3:5 – “I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.”
Yesterday was a beautiful day! The spring-like conditions brought people out of their hibernation and led them outside to take advantage of the beautiful weather. To the naked eye, all was well. But lurking in the background was a warning of an impending freezing rainstorm. Here in Canada all seemed well, till people were tired of being locked down and sheltered from the potential threat of a deadly virus – then after the rallying masses protested for their freedom, all hell broke loose in our nation’s capital. In Ukraine, all hell has broken loose, as a satanic madman has unleashed his fury against an innocent population, for what seems simply because the nation has chosen democracy over communism. Like a swarm of hornets at a family picnic, in a moment a beautiful tranquil setting is turned into a chaotic scene of people running for their lives. Peace is a fragile thing. We can live our lives in an utopian mindset that all is well and running smoothly, unaware of the threats all around us. Or, we can be realists, knowing that there is always the potential for an unexpected event or foe to raise its ugly head. I believe the latter is a better position to take. Why? Because our glorious Savior exhorted us to be ready, be alert, stand firm, pray at all times, etc. He equipped us with spiritual armor so that we could be prepared and able to defend against an impending enemy attack.
I wonder if you have seen in our reading of 1st Thessalonians, the clear concern of the author, Apostle Paul, for his new converts. He knows that Christians face “strong opposition” (2:2); “toil and hardship” (2:9); “suffering” and “hostility” from Jewish rulers (2:14-16); and more than anything…demonic attack. Notice the two verses above, how Paul was “hindered/prevented” from visiting the Thessalonian church because Satan blocked him from doing so (2:18). Paul was also concerned that Satan (the tempter) had dismantled the church or undone the work Paul had accomplished. In chapter three, we see words like “distress and persecution” (3:7), and “trials” (3:3). In 2Thessalonians, we are made aware that there is an agenda to destroy the church of Jesus Christ, led by a figure called Antichrist. Let’s be real here for a moment! Satan hates Christians and will use any means to take them down, ruin their effectiveness, and thwart the plan of God. It has been my experience that most Christians give little thought to an enemy lurking in the shadows, ready to seize an opportunity to inflict a death blow to one who is unaware. Need I remind you that, “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. Hence the command to be “alert and sober-minded” (1Peter 5:8). Even the Son of God had a visitation from the enemy of our souls, tempted by Satan to pledge allegiance to the demonic cause (see Matthew 4).
Friends, I sense a need to inform you strongly of a very clear and present danger – a foe who is ramping up his attack on Christians and the church. He has been doing a great job taking down popular church leaders through scandal, sexual immorality, and financial misconduct. We are just as vulnerable as they are. If the great Apostle Paul was victim to Satan’s attacks, surely we are also. You say how does Satan do it? From scripture, we learn that he tempts Christians with all kinds of vices – sex, money, fame, idolatry, to name a few. From scripture, we learn that Satan always seems to be right there ready to seize an opportunity to take God’s representative down. Look what he did with Job, causing illness, and destroying the man’s family and wealth. Satan roams through the earth looking for the “blameless and upright…who fear God and shun evil” (Job 1:1-7). See what Satan did with Paul, in sending a “messenger” to inflict physical pain (2Corinthians 12: 7). In our text today, Satan clearly prevents Paul from doing the ministry he wants to do. And this is not the first time Satan does this (see Romans 1:13; Romans 15:22). Satan is always accusing the saints of God before God, enticing them to sin, as in the case of Joshua the High Priest (see Zechariah 3:1-4). Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2Corinthians 11:14). That means he looks like a good guy, one of us Christians. That is why we find him operating in the church. He comes in through false prophets and false preachers, subtly distorting truth and preaching lies contrary to God’s word (See Revelation 2 and 3 to see how he infiltrates the church). Do you remember how Satan entered Judas in the middle of celebrating communion with the Lord Himself (John 13:27)? Or, how Satan used Peter to try to talk Jesus out of going to the cross (Mark 8:31-33). Satan wants to prevent the plan of God and take down Christians by ruining their faith. Remember this: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira: “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3). Satan rides in on unforgiveness (2Corinthians 2:10-11) and lack of self-control (1Corinthians 7:5). In all these cases, is it not interesting that not one person, including Apostle Paul, and Jesus “binds Satan”? Satan is a powerful angelic being! He is the “god of this world” (2Corinthians 4:4), and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Saints, he is not to be messed with!
Here is how we overcome the devil – we resist him! We do this by submitting to and obeying God in all things, so the devil does not have a foothold in our life (See James 4:6-8; 1Peter 5:6-9). We put on the full armor of God, stand firm in the Lord, pray in the Spirit, and stand on the truth of God’s word, aware of the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18). We live holy lives, not giving in to sin and its temptations. In this way the work of Satan is destroyed in our lives (1John 3:7-9). And we continue to hold on to the reality and truth that we can overcome the devil and his schemes “because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1John 4:4). I have encountered, even recently that discouragement is a foothold for Satan. Loss of hope, or unrealized expectations, which leads to a hardened heart is a way Satan can bring a Christian down, even allow a spirit of slumber to overwhelm a believer (see Romans 11:7-8). Friends, we need to be aware of how the enemy operates and take every precaution so that he is not allowed access to our lives. And even if he does find a way in, we need to be able to resist and stand firm. The Word of God indicates that his global assault on the people of God will increase – indeed it has! It will culminate in the arrival of Antichrist, who may even be on planet Earth right now, ready to set up his final assault on Christ followers. It is time to be real, and acknowledge that every picnic has the potential for a swarm of killer bees; every time of peace is shattered by an evil dictator. But! We are overcomers only in and through the One who has overcome – even JESUS!
From 1529, Martin Luther’s Hymn should encourage you!
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing:Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still,His kingdom is forever.