Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 5

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 5

Study Guide, February 11, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

Oftentimes after our services I hear people say something like, “You know Pastor, it was like you were talking right to me today.” Actually, I often feel like I’m talking right to me, too! But there was a little meme recently where a guy is talking to his Pastor and said, “You know, it was like you were talking right to me today…especially when you pointed at me and used my name three times!” Yeah, that would kind of make you think he was talking right to him.

But it is fascinating, because it’s like we talked about last time, whenever and wherever the Word of God is shared with people, God does speak to people and God’s Word does communicate deep within their soul, even to their spiritual joints and marrow. So, yes, God is speaking to us all through His Word. And just like in the first part of Revelation God says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” God speaks to us through His Word, but we have to make the choice to listen. That’s also a good practice in starting your daily Bible reading, like with Samuel say, “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.”

So let’s listen and hear what the Spirit of God has to say to us ‘Sojourners’ as we sojourn further in 1 Thess 2:17-20- “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while — in person, not in spirit — were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you — I, Paul, more than once — and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” NASU

Note that Paul said: ‘…and yet Satan hindered us.’ Here is a reality check, for sure. Another word for ‘hindrance’ is ‘opposition’. So here we have an example from the Apostle Paul that answers every question about – ‘Why is it so hard to proceed or to grow or to advance in the Christian life and in reaching my Discipleship goals?’ The reason is because Satan is not only a ‘Poser’…he is also an ‘Opposer’! Whatever spiritual advances Paul tried to make, whether it was in his personal growth or with the maturity of the churches he served or even on his travels or sojourning to get there, he faced ‘opposition’ from the devil.

The reason we face so much spiritual warfare in our daily lives is because we are in a spiritual war. And we will always be in a spiritual war until we leave this world that is in a spiritual war, or until Jesus returns to take over the rule of this world and impose His Kingdom over this world. It’s just like the Apostle Peter also told us in 1 Peter 4:12-13- “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.” NLT

But until then, like with Paul, spiritual warfare should never surprise us. If it does, then we have not been thinking realistically, nor training daily to fight the good fight of faith. Rather, God calls for us to both dress for battle every day in our spiritual armor and to train for battle every day. And if you think you can stand against the schemes of the devil without spiritual armor and without training and without spiritually wrestling against the world, the flesh, and the devil day by day, then as the Apostle also warned: 1 Cor 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” NKJV Don’t make yourself an easy opponent for the Poser and Opposer. Remember – the choices are always only two: Spiritual discipleship or self-destruction.

So, what are we to know about Satan’s opposition and how to overcome it? As Paul pointed out, for one thing, Satan ‘hinders’. The literal meaning of ‘hinder’ is ‘to break up the road and place obstacles in it.’ That explains why it is so hard to go forward in the Christian walk! Have you ever wondered why our life is not called ‘the Christian drive?” Oh, you can forget about that…the Christian life is not a Sunday drive on a smooth road in a soft breeze. No, the Christian life is a hard walk. It’s a hard walk on a rough road! Why? Because the road we walk is being harassed by the one who ‘hinders’ the walk of a Christian. It’s a road that’s being broken up by the devil and his demons and messed up with a bunch of obstacles that they are throwing onto or dragging onto the road to try to keep us from going forward for God.

Mark it down: The Christian life is not driving on a smooth highway…it’s walking on and walking over a rocky road. But God has already prepared for His people to be able to walk on rocks! God makes His people both able and proficient in walking on rocks. Ps 18:33-36- “He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped.” NASU

Therefore, although Satan is trying to hinder our personal progress and interfere with our service to God in our serving others…even though the devil persists in breaking up the ground to detour us and also throws rocks in our path to discourage us, nevertheless, just like with the mountain deer…for those who are following Christ on the narrow road of life, the rocks are simply what we climb on! In fact, we even use the rocks to get to and to walk on higher ground! And in warfare, whoever has the ‘high ground’ has the advantage!

So don’t ever be surprised when your road is hard. Don’t be surprised when your path is broken up where you are walking. Don’t be surprised that you face hindrances on the narrow road following Christ. That just shows you how much progress you are making in pleasing God and how threatened the devil is by the direction you are going…going forward in following Christ. And don’t ever be dismayed because your path is filled with obstacles, like someone’s throwing or dragging rocks onto your road to try to detour you or discourage you from going on in doing God’s will and obeying God’s words. Instead, realize that your good works are making the devil and his demons feel really bad, and even beaten. So of course they are throwing rocks on your road! But what you know and what they don’t seem to get is that they are simply helping you walk on higher ground…because walking on rocks is what God’s people do! We cannot walk on water, yet, but we can walk on rocks and we can take the high ground to defeat the devil and his demons!

For example: Here is a great lesson on how when the devil tries to defeat God’s faithful followers that it only turns out for a greater good for God’s people and reward for God’s servants. When the devil hindered the Apostle Paul from coming at that time to these Thessalonian believers, the devil thought he had won a victory. Oh no! Just the opposite! The devil simply lost another great defeat! For what the Apostle Paul did instead is that he wrote this message and these truths that we know as 1 and 2nd Thessalonians. And not only did these new believers in Thessalonica receive these truths, and get encouraged and even stronger in their faith, but so have millions of Christians through the centuries and millennia’s of time now! Be sure of this: The victory always belongs to God and to God’s people. Remember: The devil has already been defeated, disarmed, and even defanged! And in Christ, you have authority over the devil and his works!

Realize this: From every ‘bad’ there is going to rise a ‘greater good’! God will not let ‘bad things’ win in the lives of God’s people. Good will always win over bad in the lives of God’s people, one way or another, sooner or later, but with absolute certainty, so that we can say along with Paul – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Rom 8:18-19 NASU God is going to compensate you in manifold ways for any and every bad thing you have ever had to endure in this world…sometimes even compensating during these present times, but for sure in the times ahead in the new world.

So again, God’s people have the high ground in this world! We just have to daily train for battle, so that the Lord can strengthen us for battle. And then, we have to be willing and ready for God to use us in the battles we must face in this life, all the while knowing that God will greatly bless us through it all…and will bless us in many victories over the world, the flesh, and the devil! Praise God!

All right, we move on: 1 Thess 3:1-5- “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.” NASU

So now Timothy enters the picture. What do we know about Timothy? Acts 16 tells us that Timothy’s father was Greek and his mother was Jewish. We find out even more about Timothy’s heritage, especially his spiritual heritage in 2 Tim 1:5- “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” NASU We’re not told of the faith of Timothy’s father, but here it indicates his grandmother and mother were Messianic Jews, who faithfully taught him the Scriptures, as we find out in 2 Tim 3:15- “…that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” NASU How great is the reward for faithful Grandmothers and Mothers who have shared the sacred writings of the Scriptures with their grandchildren and children. Where would this world, and so many of us, be without their great works of planting the Words of God and the Seeds of the Gospel into the lives of countless children of God? Special rewards await them, of this you can sure. Later, Paul refers to Timothy as ‘my child of the faith’ and speaks of him as a son in the faith, probably relating to, as most think, Paul’s discipling of Timothy.

But there is one particular aspect of Timothy in ministry that Paul wrote to him about that is important to note, and that is this: 1 Tim 4:11-12- “Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” NASU This is amazing revelation for a couple of gigantic reasons…and one concerns ‘wisdom’ and ‘maturity’. Contrary to human philosophy, what results in wisdom is not the age of a person. Rather, what results in wisdom is this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Prov 9:10 NASU And Biblical wisdom is the application of Biblical knowledge. Therefore, wisdom is not necessarily connected to age, but it is directly connected to the knowledge of the Scriptures and obedience to the Lord of the Scriptures. One of the Reformers stated that there was more wisdom in a ploughboy who knew the Scriptures than in a priest who did not. But it was the Psalmist who said in Ps 119:98-101- “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.” NASU

And the second gigantic reason for Timothy’s honorable testimony was understanding that not only is wisdom related to the fear of the Lord instead of just age, but also understanding that maturity is related to character instead of just accomplishments. In fact, as Paul pointed out, there are five components that identify a faithful and mature Christian, be it either in young people or older people. Paul identified each: “…in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” These ‘Five Powers’ both influence and impact us and others for time and eternity. You cannot become a powerful man or woman apart from these five powers. Power means godly influence and impact upon others for both time and eternity. Without these five powers a person will always be a weak person, for ‘Power’ is measured by godly character, not human personality or physical possessions or individual accomplishments, that is, apart from godly character. Your power of character and your usefulness to God will always be measured by your practice of these five powers. Without practicing these five powers a person will be weak in character and not useful to God.

The greatest help a parent can do for their children, or a Christian teacher can do for their students, or that Church leadership can pass on to their young members is to equip them with these five Christian disciplines…with these five ‘godly powers’.

1. Learn the Power of the Tongue: the power of words and choosing words carefully.

2. Learn the Power of Conduct: the power of treating others well.

3. Learn the Power of Love…the impact of this central power of God.

4. Learn to Power of Faith…the freedom of knowing and walking in truth.

5. Learn the Power of Moral purity…the inner joys and the outer delights of practicing Biblical morality.

With these powers, a young person, any person, will be equipped to not only face any hindrance, any opposition from the world, the flesh, or the devil, but will also be empowered to enjoy their Christian life to the fullest, all the while influencing and impacting the lives of others around them for both time and eternity. Plus, they will then revel in their rewards in the Kingdom of God forever.

Of course, as you can see, this is a whole other series. So, we’ll have to unpack these Five Powers another time. But really, since we have eternal life, we’ll make time for that, too…unless the Lord Returns, and that will simply solve everything!

So, back to the sojourning next time.