By Dr. Harold Sala

For we wanted to come to you–certainly I, Paul, did, again and again–but Satan stopped us.  1 Thessalonians 2:18

Have you ever faced a situation when you wanted to do something, and as you prayed about what you had in mind the feelings intensified?  “Yes,” you thought, “this is what God wants me to do as well,” so you poured yourself into it. You planned, and worked hard but it seemed as if you were up against a brick wall. Nothing came together. It was uncanny how good things looked and how bad things went. About then you began to ask yourself, “How could I have felt so positive about this situation and yet things just haven’t come together?”  Then you began questioning that God was prompting you at all. Honestly, you were just plain confused.

When that happens you need to ask yourself four questions:

1. Was I pushing for this because of ego (EGO: edging God out)—something I wanted which had nothing to do with what God wanted?

2.  Did God close the door to protect me from something which I just couldn’t see?

3. Are the problems confronting me, keeping me from turning my dream into reality, simply circumstantial?

4. Or (are you ready for this?) have I encountered resistance from Satan, the enemy of my soul?

Should it make you feel any better, Paul encountered a situation where he was checkmated by Satan. It happened following his visit to Thessalonica, the capital city of Macedonia—Greece as we know it today—after he had visited there and planted a church.  Paul wanted to again visit the brothers and sisters in the new fellowship, but Satan stopped him. Here’s what Paul wrote:  “For we wanted to come to you–certainly I, Paul, did, again and again–but Satan stopped us” (Thessalonians 2:18).

Perhaps Satan has stopped you, as well, from doing what you wanted to do, something you felt was pleasing to your Heavenly Father. That very thought is a bit scary, almost as if Satan is stronger than God’s enabling strength. It conveys the idea that God is so distant and remote and the enemy is so near and strong that you are at his mercy.

How do you unravel the dilemma? As you ponder and evaluate the situation, first examine your own motives.  Sometimes things don’t come together because God has, indeed, closed the door. That happened to Paul and Silas on their second missionary journey. You can read about it in Acts 16 of your New Testament. Sometimes we push ahead, convincing ourselves that we are indeed doing God’s will, when, in reality, the whole thing was our idea—not His.

Then, sometimes things don’t come together; neither God nor Satan has blocked you. That is when you need to tunnel through or go around the problem. Sometimes we quit too soon. If you have bald tires with no tread on your car and you have a flat, don’t blame the devil for your problem, but if you have good tires and are on your way to church or to visit someone who needs comfort and you have a blowout, it’s well possible that Satan put a road block in front of you, just as he did Paul long ago.

If your dream has been thwarted because God is saving you from something you ought not to do, stop pushing. If you are stymied because of circumstances, keep trying.

But when you sense that your plan has been thwarted by Satan, who is the perpetual enemy of God’s people, you need to do spiritual warfare.  You need to know your enemy, how he operates, and how he does guerilla warfare. He’s had lots of experience, but he’s not invincible at all.  How Paul confronted the situation is the subject of another Guidelines commentary.

Resource reading:  1 Thessalonians 2:13-20