I finished college in 1993 and I was set to fly back to my hometown Jamestown, NY. I asked a friend to drive me to the airport and we set off in the morning to get to the airport. 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 70 mph and as I was nearing the airport the 10 lane expressway came to an abrupt halt on both sides. It was bumper to bumper traffic. I wasn’t too concern because the airport was within a few miles and this was just a minor setback. As time 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 the traffic began moving along fast enough so we could exit and I made it to John Wayne International with only a few minutes to spare.
I am sure most if not all of us know the feeling of being stuck in traffic. If you are anything like me you get frustrated when progress is hindered. There are times some traffic is so bad that the setback actually ruins the plans you made and you just give up and go back home. It’s never fun to have your plans thwarted because of an unforeseen occurrence or situation.
This was a minor instance of how a hindrance had affected me at this time in my life, I am sure the Apostle Paul was all the more familiar with this kind of frustration. On a couple of occasions he writes about certain hindrances that kept him for going to the place where he desired. In fact today’s passage (1 Thessalonians 2:17 – 3:5) is exactly one of those times. Paul understood roadblocks. He understood hindrance. He knew frustration. However he did not allow any hindrances to stop him from doing what God called him to do.
Hindered by Satan
Vs 17- 20: 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 “torn away from you, brothers for a short time, in person not in heart.” Paul was in the city for three weeks and the Jews became angry with him and they began stirring up the people. 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 continued on 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 18b: “I, again and again, wanted to come to you- but Satan hindered us.” Paul apparently tried on various occasions to go back to Thessalonica but Satan put up some road blocks that did not allow him to go back. I am certain this was discouraging to 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 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 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 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 join or unite together… Why is that? 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. He wants to keep believers isolated and alone because when we are alone we can be weak and susceptible to his temptations. This is why 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 join together as a body of Christ to worship our Lord, Creator and Savior this gives us 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: “…we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the Gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith.” 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 road blocks he sought another way to get to the Thessalonians. Paul would visit them via Timothy. He entrusted this journey to Timothy. 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 one 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.
I truly see the heart of a man who loves people with a supernatural love. Having spent only three 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.
- Hindrance from Satan – Paul spoke of this kind of hindrance in this passage. There was another way he tried to hinder the work of God as well. It was at the Cross of Calvary. There is no doubt that Satan and his minions were howling with laughter as he saw the supposed savior of the world hanging lifelessly on the cross. I wouldn’t be surprised if he raised his hands in victory because he defeated God; but you and I know this… Satan cannot win. He can do all he wants to hinder but he will not emerge victoriously. I believe there are situations in modern days where Satan is alive and at work. He tries to discourage, he tries to frustrate and he tries to cause us to take our eyes off of the Lord. Sometimes he wins small battles in our lives but the war was won by God on the cross of Calvary.
- Hindrance from God – Hindrance is not always something from the devil. Sometimes God allows hindrances in our lives to get us back on path or even to get us on the track in the first place. When I think of God’s hindrance I think of the story of Balaam found in Numbers 22:20 (read it). Balaam had no clue what was going on in the Spiritual realm. Obviously the LORD opened the eyes of the donkey and hindered him from moving forward. Balaam got angry and took his frustration out on the donkey; but when the LORD opened his eyes he was able to see that the hindrance spared his life.
- Hindrance from Self – Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes we listen to ourselves a bit too much. We/I allow the situations around us to dictate what we will or will not do and we often are hindered from doing God’s work because of ourselves. Remember the prophet Elijah? He just had an enormous victory over the prophets of Baal and at the end of the battle he flees out of fear and hides in the cave. As he dwelt in the cave he began to listen to himself. He convinced himself that he was alone and that there was no one else that cared about God. He even pleaded to God to let him die at one point. Elijah could have easily allowed himself to be hindered by himself… but he didn’t. Sometimes we allow discouragement, frustration, worry or maybe something or someone be the hindrances we allow to stop us from forward progress with God. The question is will you allow yourself to stop you from serving the Almighty God?
You may be thinking, “How can I tell if a hindrance (road block, shut door, “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 sure fire way of knowing. But there isn’t. 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 ourselves 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 one, two, three etc. things are causing me to be hindered in my growth in faith?” The answer to this question could be the things Satan is using in your life to hinder you from true intimacy with God.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (1280). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Children of the Day: 1 & 2 Thessalonians. 2014 (Beth Moore) Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press p. 66