“You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, even though we were surrounded by many who opposed us” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NLT).
Paul makes some strong claims about his ministry in 1 Thessalonians.
- His gospel came with Holy Spirit power and deep conviction (1:5)
- His life was an open book (1:5, 2:10)
- His ministry was based on truth (2:3)
- His motives were pure (2:3)
- His ministry was God-approved (2:4)
- His work was God-focused (2:4-6)
- His authority was apostolic (2:6)
- His relationships with the church were loving (2:7-8)
- His message was a word from God (2:13)
- His passion was to encourage (3:1-5)
- His devoted prayers were offered for guidance and intercession (3:10-13)
- His practical life-instructions were God-authorized (4:1-2, 8)
And yet he suffered. He was insulted. He was surrounded by opposition (2:2). He was driven out of areas where he was ministering to Gentiles by hostile antagonists (2:15-16). His ministry plans were stopped again and again by Satan (2:17-18). This God-focused, God-centered, God-empowered apostle faced obstacles.
Some think any kind of interruption, opposition, or inconvenience is a sure sign of being out of God’s will. Many of us are quick to whine when things don’t just fall into place. Many will back down at the first hint of opposition, interpreting it as a sign from God. But Paul’s reality flies in the face of this notion embraced by some that if you are living in God’s will, everything will go smoothly.
So why do inconveniences occur? Why are barriers encountered? Why does opposition arise? If it’s not a sign of being outside God’s will, then why? Maybe God is steering us by opening doors and closing doors (Acts 16:6-10). Maybe God is testing our resolve by determining if we want it badly enough to overcome the opposition (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13). Maybe God is refining our faith (1 Peter 1:7), working perseverance (James 1:2-4), teaching us to be dependent of Him (2 Corinthians 1:9), or reminding us that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We may never fully understand the reasons why things happen the way they do, but we must never assume we have fallen outside God’s will whenever we face resistance.