But Satan Hindered Us
December 15th, 1957 @ 10:50 AM
BUT SATAN HINDERED US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 2:17-18
12-15-57 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from a text in the second chapter of the first Thessalonian letter, the seventeenth and the eighteenth verses:
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence,
not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again;
but Satan hindered us.
[1 Thessalonians 2:17-18]
And the text is the title of the sermon But Satan Hindered Us.
The inability of Paul to visit his new Christians and the new church at Thessalonica was not because of a lack of desire. The church, even though it was new, and the converts, even though they had just been saved, were very dear to the heart of the apostle. He prayed to visit them. In the next chapter, he says: "For your sakes, before our God, night and day, praying exceedingly that we might see your face" [from 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10]. He wanted, he wished, he longed to visit them. It was not from any lack of desire that he could not go and did not go.
Nor was it because of any providential interdiction from heaven. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, it says: "And we were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia" [Acts 16:6]. And a little further along, it says: "And when we assayed to go into Bithynia, the Holy Ghost forbad us" [from Acts 16:7]. But it does not say that here. Any desire, any assaying to visit the dear people in Thessalonica was not interdicted by any providence, any special word, any special prohibition from God.
But Paul does say that the reason for his inability to visit the people, to see their face – though he prayed night and day that he might visit them – he does say that he was hindered by Satan: "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
I do not know what it was. Was it persecution there in Thessalonica, and the people who led it said to Paul, "We just dare you to return. We’ll feed you to the lions. We’ll crucify you. We’ll throw you into a boiling cauldron of oil. We will incarcerate you in a dungeon, in a dark prison"? I do not know. "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
Was it because of the problems in the church at Corinth where he was laboring and from which city he wrote this letter? The church was filled with divisions and racked with philosophical heresies [1 Corinthians 1:10-11, 11:18-19]. Was that the way Satan hindered him, and he couldn’t leave Corinth?
Was it because of other things that you could name, you could think of? Was he sick? Was he unable to attend? Had Satan struck him down? We do not know. But he does say: "Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
There, whatever it was, is the prince of all evil interdicting the prayers and the desires and the longing of the apostle of God. Here is the master of all evil watching intently the journeys and the preaching of three humble, outcast men and watching them more scrupulously and minutely than he was paying attention to Tiberius or to Nero! Isn’t that a strange thing the fear that Satan has for the least of His saints, and how bitterly opposing, and how fiercely interdicting? "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
That’s not the only time you’ll find such a thing mentioned by the apostle Paul. In the twelfth chapter of the second Corinthian letter he describes a "thorn in the flesh." Again, I do not know what it is. But he was afflicted, and he referred to the "thorn in the flesh" as "a messenger from Satan to buffet me" [2 Corinthians 12:7]. And thrice he besought the Lord to remove it [2 Corinthians 12:8]. It was a painful, grievous thing: "a messenger from Satan to buffet me."
He said in the Ephesian letter: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . . " [Ephesians 6:12]. If your enemies were those you could lay your hands on, you might take a gun, or double up your fist, or a knife, or in some way fight and oppose. But what do you do against an enemy that is not flesh and blood but principality and power – they that rule the darkness of this world? "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
In his preaching, in the fourth chapter of the same second Corinthian letter and the fourth verse, he says: "The god of this world hath blinded their hearts . . ." [from 2 Corinthians 4:4]. "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
Nor is Paul the only one who has found that formidable opponent and that fierce and assailing adversary. Every saint in heaven repeats that same refrain: "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18]. Every child of God that has written any line on the sacred page testifies to the same thing: "But Satan hindered us." Every man and woman who has ever written a consecrated name on the rock of immortality avows the same thing: "But Satan hindered us." All the life long, all the centuries through, that same and repeated text: "But Satan hindered us."
And the great dragon, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, was cast out: he was cast into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a great voice saying, " . . . the accuser of our brethren is cast down . . .
"But woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
[from Revelation 12:9-12]
And any child of God shall know the fierce assailing of that terrible adversary. Job was buffeted, and beat, and bruised, and hurt, and ruined by Satan. One messenger trod on the heels of the other with tales of woe [Job 1:13-19]. Nor did his sorrows cease until he was cast in the ash heap bereft of life, and health, and children, and home, and property [Job 2:7]. Satan did it [Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7].
When Moses stood up, the messenger and apostle of God, to lead God’s people, Jannes and Jambres stood up to oppose him – the messengers of Satan [Exodus 7:11; 2 Timothy 3:8]. When Nehemiah, God’s layman, took his hands to build up the wall of Jerusalem and laboring and toiling to restore the city of God, there was Sanballat and Tobiah to hinder and to buffet him: the messengers of Satan [Nehemiah 4:7-8].
And that fierce adversary opposed the Lord Jesus Himself – stood over His manger with a bloody sword – when He entered His ministry, there in the wilderness thrice tempted Him away from His high messianic commission from heaven [Luke 4:1-12]. Then it says: "And Satan left Him for a season" [Luke 4:13]. Throughout His ministry, by attack through Sadducee, and Pharisee, and Herodian, and zealot, finally encompassed His death – then into the fire through His disciples: "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat" [Luke 22:31].
Then the thing continued, the story of the infant church: Satan hindering it and fighting it and warring against it by fire and flame and fagot and persecution [Acts 8:1]. Then when that failed, by heresy and false doctrine and false teachers and divisions [1 Corinthians 1:10-12; Galatians 1:6-9]. And then finally overcame it and vanquished it – the church of Jesus Christ: overwhelmed it and drowned it when he persuaded the church to accept the temptation that Jesus refused. And the church and the world were identified, and the church and the Roman Empire were one and the same thing. The precious sons of Zion, pure gold, became earthen vessels made with a potter’s hand, raised and lowered by politicians. Those who had preached the glorious Gospel of the Son of God, lifting high the cross of Jesus, were now raising high a crucifix, painted and adorned. They who before had preached the sacrifice of Christ were now preaching the sacrifice of the mass. And they who once pointed to an infallible leader – the church’s Head, Jesus Christ – were now pointing to an infallible head of a hierarchy, the bishop and vicar of Rome. And you can’t believe. You can’t understand. As tinsel might counterfeit gold, as a piece of glass might simulate a jewel, as a candlelight might rival the sun, as a drop in a bucket might be comparable to an ocean, so finally the church became a counterfeit of God’s masterpiece, the Son of the heaven and the Gospel of the cross. Satan hindered us. Satan encompassed us. Satan hurt us. Satan compromised us. Satan cut us down.
"Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18]. Any time we think that our adversary is small and weak, and we have not battles to fight, and sorrows to wade through, and heartaches and burdens to bear, and awful and vicious times and trials and troubles and tribulations, you’re underestimating the power of the enemy. "Even Michael the archangel . . . dare not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, ‘God rebuke you’" [Jude 1:9]. Even Michael the archangel couldn’t stand in the presence of Satan, nor did he dare dispute him but said, "God – God rebuke you!"
What Satan can do and how he does it. I look down on this bed and there is a child, eleven years old. The child has wasted away. It’s a skeleton soon to die – polio, the dread disease; Satan has hindered us. Here’s a beautiful fellowship, a church of Jesus, and they’re divided and torn asunder; Satan has hindered us. Here’s a fine, strong and beautiful Christian working for the Lord, and now, cut down and in pain and in misery and in ill health; Satan has hindered us. Here’s a noble and wonderful family all torn apart; the thing doesn’t fit, and it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t go. Satan has hindered us. How many areas and in how many ways? There he stands. There he is: our adversary and the accuser of the brethren who accuses them day and night [Revelation 12:10]. But Satan hinders us.
If you are not a Christian and you’re listening to this preacher this morning, either on that radio or out here in this auditorium, if you’re not a Christian, Satan will hinder you if you turn your face in faith to the Lord. He’ll tell you a thousand reasons why you ought not to come down that aisle and give your heart to Christ; Satan hinders us. And if you become a Christian and come down this aisle and give your heart to Jesus and stand down here with the children of the Lord, there by your right hand stands Satan to hinder you. "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him" [Zechariah 3:1]. There’s the preacher, Joshua, standing in the sacred place of God, and at his right hand, Satan standing to resist him in the pulpit, in the church, before the very throne of God.
When you come to offer your sacrifice to the Lord, like Abraham did in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, there swooped down upon it all the vultures and the carrion crows of heaven; and Abraham has to stand by his sacrifice and fight off the dirty and unclean birds [Genesis 15:10-11]. But so it is with you. You give your life and your heart to Christ, Satan will be there to hinder you. All up and down the battle line, in the rear and in the vanguard, at dawn and at dusk, at midday and at midnight, there will you find that adversary like a roaring lion [1 Peter 5:7], devouring whom he may consume, opposing all good and all right and everything of Christ and of God. "But Satan hindered us" [1 Thessalonians 2:18].
In the face of an adversary so unusually potent and ingenious, what do you do? His ways are beyond us. For one thing, he never strokes the feathers of his birds the wrong way. His appeal is always what appeals to us. He woos us, and entices us, and wins us [Genesis 3:1-6]. He baits his cast for the fish he’s to catch. All of those things that pull you away from the Lord and from your church and from devotion to Christ – all of those things, that’s Satan hindering us.
And he opposes the work of God outright. There and there and yonder and yonder does he rise up, and, in opposition to God, he says words and he buys time and he advertises in the papers. And in how many ways does he build up the kingdom of darkness against the Kingdom of glory and light and poor saints of God down here in this earth: we with a little in our hands and he with the wealth of the world; we so frail and fragile, made out of dust, and he the prince of the power of the air [Ephesians 2:2]. [He can] cut down and destroy the health like he did Job; take away, and oppose, and entice, and compromise like he did Demas [2 Timothy 4:10] with the all of the tinsel and tinfoil of this world; sift as he did Simon Peter [Luke 22:31]; finally crucify as he did the Savior Himself [Luke 22:1-6]. What are we against so great an enemy?
My dear people, were it not for the power of the Lord that sustains His people, we all would utterly fail and fall [John 15:5]. All of us would be cut down; all of us would be damned; all of us would be lost; all of us would be destroyed. The power by which we oppose our adversary and our enemy is never in us. We’re so weak, but it lies in the hands, in the heart, in the ableness of almighty God.
That’s why two things. First, that’s why God’s children must pray [Ephesians 6:18]. Satan trembles when he sees the least saint down on his knees. God’s people must pray.
"Lord, the battle is not to the strong, nor the race to the swift [from Ecclesiastes 9:11], but God chooseth them who are victorious and the battle lies with Thee, Lord. May God give us sustaining grace and continuing strength. In Thy will, Lord, keep away, keep away the darkness of disease and death. Lord, may Thy hand bar, may Thy hand intervene. O Lord, in Thy goodness and in Thy mercy, O Lord, save these for whom we pray. Our words fall to the ground; our arguments are nothing; our reasoning and our sentences are but sound and fury, cymbal and clanging gong. But Lord, in Thy power and in Thy strength, convict the heart, lead to the blessed Savior Christ Jesus.
"And, our Lord, remember the church, remember the church. Don’t let Satan sow seeds of heresy and division and diversity among the people of the Lord. O God, keep out the tares; don’t let them be planted and rooted. Lord, Lord, keep our fellowship wonderful and precious and sweet."
On and on, the child of God praying for the mercy and the intervention of heaven: "Lord remember us; help us; be good to us. May our lives be precious in Thy sight. May our souls be kept in the hollow of Thy hands. Lord, Lord, don’t let Satan cut us down or destroy us. Don’t let Satan hinder us. With a free spirit, Lord, remember us, help us." That’s the first thing: in our pilgrimage here, we’re to cast ourselves in prayer, in supplication upon the mercies of God. "O Lord, remember us; remember me."
The other thing is this: the Book says that Satan is a defeated person. We don’t have to be afraid. Jesus said: "And I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven" [Luke 10:18]. And He said again: "And now shall the prince of this world be cast out" [John 12:31]. And in the great Revelation it said: "Woe to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof, for Satan is come down having great wrath" [from Revelation 12:12]. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" [Revelation 12:11]. Then you have this great and final revelation:
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold, –
Oh, what a day! What a day! –
And he laid hold, and he laid hold on that old dragon, the serpent, Satan, the Devil, and bound him a thousand years,
And cast him in the bottomless pit . . .
When the thousand years were expired and Satan was loosed for season to deceive the nations of the earth, then that same incomparable messenger from heaven seized him and, this time, cast him into the fire of the furnace. There is he imprisoned, tormented, and punished day and night forever and ever [Revelation 20:7-10]. And then it was that John saw the new heaven and the new earth, and the tabernacle of God among men [Revelation 21:1-3].
Brethren, it’s a temporary thing that he’s here. It’s a temporary thing that he makes us sick. It’s a temporary thing that he tears up our homes with death. It’s a temporary thing that he sows tares and discord among the brethren. It’s a temporary thing that he hinders and interdicts. It’s for the moment. Our victory is final and forever. Blessed be the name of the Lord who saves us, who sustains us, and who keeps us now and to the end of the way.
If you’ve been listening on this radio, you’ve never put your trust in Jesus, this morning, would you bow your head and say, "Lord, today, I own my unequalness, my inability, my feebleness, against the powers arrayed against me. I’m no match for Satan, but I’ll trust Jesus who is able to bring victory to the humblest heart and the weakest, youngest believer"? And in this great throng of God’s people in the Lord’s house this morning, is there somebody you who would say, "Preacher, today I take hands off of my own life. I’m not equal. But I put my life in the hands of Jesus. I’ll trust Him for the victory"?
What hinders? What keeps you away? Trust Jesus for it and come. I may not be able to answer all the questions, but He knows the answers. There may be inability and feebleness among us in our frame, but there’s great strength and power in our Lord. "Trusting Jesus, here I come, and here I am."
Somebody you, put his life in the church. A family you, would you come? It’s still early; nobody leave till our benediction. Standing here, praying, singing, making this appeal, calling out of darkness into light, calling out of perdition and damnation into heaven and the glory that is to come; calling out of the world into the fellowship of the children of God, would you come? Out of self, into Jesus; from weakness to strength; from darkness to light; from death to life – would you come? Would you come while we stand and while we sing?