Oct 29, 2017 – Experiencing Opposition
Preacher: Rev. Scott Strickman
Sermon Series: 1 Thessalonians
1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13 (ESV)
17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Spiritual struggles are part of a life of faith.
I) How they come
- 3:4 “we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction”
- 2:18 “but Satan hindered us”
- 2:19 “what is our hope/joy/crown?”
II) What they do
- 3:5 “for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you”
- 3:6 “…the good news of your faith and love”
- 3:8 “now we live, if you are standing fast”
III) Where we get help
- 3:10 “we pray most earnestly”
- 3:11 “now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct… increase… establish”
Questions for Reflection
- How often do you find that there is opposition when you try to do good? Always? Sometimes? Never?
- How do you understand the figure of Satan in the Bible? What power does he have? What tools does he use? How would one recognize his work?
- When bad things happen to you, or you find yourself in frustrating situations, how can you discern the spiritual dynamics? How can you be free of the form of paranoia that has you thinking everything in the universe is against you? How can you be free of the form of apathy that rationalizes everything without recognizing a time of spiritual testing?
- How do we remain steadfast when our faith is challenged and our love transforms into a negative force (anger, bitterness, resentment, violence, etc.)? What perspectives do we maintain when good things are taken from us or are distorted? How do we continue to trust and love in difficult times?
- How do you rest in God and let him lead you when you confront challenges you don’t feel powerful to face? How does God work in the midst of trials – what should we watch for? what should we do? what should our attitude be?
- How do we benefit from what Christ has done on our behalf and the hope that he is coming for us in the midst of trials? What power is there in the gospel message and how do we access it when we are experiencing accusation, discouragement, manipulation?
Prayer of Confession
Our Father in heaven, we recognize your goodness and your invitation to trust you and have life with you. We confess we often fall into temptation. Our faith wavers, and our love grows cold. When things go well we give into the temptations of pride, self sufficiency and apathy. When things don’t go well we give into the temptations of bitterness, fear, and hostility. When things go well was wrongly assume we don’t need your help. When things don’t go well we wrongly assume you won’t help. Lead us – but not into temptation. Deliver us from evil. Direct our ways and establish our hearts blameless in holiness, because of Jesus who gave himself for us. Amen.