Summary: How often are we discouraged when things do not go the way we planned? Is it our lack of faith, or a plot from the enemy to stop us from serving God?
Have you ever had something go completely south on you? Especially in ministry this can be very troubling. I had an experience like that once - when I had pledged my life to a cause and jumped in with both feet - then it seemed like Satan attacked others and removed me from that I could no longer minister there.
I felt adrift for a number of years - wondering if all my work was for naught. I guess thats a little how the Apostle Paul felt as he sat in Corinth after being ejected from Thessalonica - worrying that this young church was being picked off by the forces of darkness.
Maybe thats how you feel sometimes in your own life - maybe its about loved ones whom you shared the gospel but they live somewhere else.
1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.
" Acts 17 tells us that the Jews chased Paul out of Thessalonica. With the missionaries gone - what would happen to these young believers? They didnt have email or even pony express - so Paul didnt know what was going on.
" As we saw last week the enemy was keeping Paul away - and as well see here, the Apostle worried that while Satan kept him away he was working to weaken the believers there.
2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and Gods fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
" Timothy was able to "break through" the enemys lines to reach the church.
" Obviously the folks in Thessalonica worried about what had happened to Paul too.
" Notice that Paul says they were "destined" for trials. The word means literally "to be outstretched." Its like someone who lies out on the beach next to the shore - eventually a big wave is going to come and hit you - youve exposed yourself.
So as youve declared yourself belonging to God - you are stretched out and eventually some wave of persecution is going to hit you.
1. Does God purposefully cause hurt and hard times in your life? No - but it is the natural result of going against the enemy.
2. Is it your fault - did you do something to "deserve" the trial? Probably not. At least not in cases like this. We do make choices and will suffer the consequences. I think as Christians we need to be honest when evaluating the results of our situation - but a lot of times it is a plot of the enemy - it is NOT a lack of faith on your part.
3. What is the purpose of the enemy? To discourage you, and stop you from serving the Lord and doing His work. We hit resistance and think: "well, God must not be in this because the door is closed or people are unhappy with me." If you are seeking God, your life is yielded to Him, you are praying for direction - you are trying to imitate the character of the Lord - then keep going - dont stop!
Paul tells them to expect hard times - but not to worry.
4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
" The text suggests a specific temptation - a real event by which the enemy wanted to undo what Paul had accomplished. It tells us a lot about Satan.
" 1. He hates the gospel and will try to stop its spread at all costs.
" 2. He plots against us - and is pretty sophisticated about it - so dont think that seemingly random events are not part of a bigger plan. Dont get all paranoid either - looking for demons under every rock - but recognize the enemy and fight against him.
" 2 Corinthians 2:11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.
" The above reference in 2 Corinthians involves interpersonal relationships. Its often the ploy of the enemy to drive wedges between Christians - by means of unforgiveness and stubborn pride. That seems to be what Paul worried about - that Satan would plant doubts in their minds and so might conclude that Paul must be a bad guy and thats why he had to leave.