Paul wrote to both the Romans and the saints at Thessolonica that he had been hindered from coming to them, once nailing it down with these words: "Satan hindered us". For truly the devil will always make an attempt to keep us from the purposes and plans of God, just as he did to our Lord.
But knowing it happens does not always make us conscious enough to see and uncover what just what Satan's hindrances are, and how they can disguise themselves in seemingly innocent ways. Paul wrote that "we are not ignorant of his devices", for he will surely devise a strategy in an attempt to deter us...whether it is through events or through people.
Jesus recognized it instantly when he declared to his disciples how he must go to Jerusalem and be killed. Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee". But Jesus turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men". What a jolt to Peter, to hear such words! Yet Jesus was not calling Peter Satan, but exposing another of Satan's attempts to thwart the plan of God. Yes, even people can come to us with good-sounding advice that is totally the enemy talking! Even prophecies that sound so good and so "like God speaking" could turn out to be deceptive tools of the devil! We can be tempted into disobedience of the Lord's will. (Read 1 Kings 13) When God has spoken to our hearts certain things, prophecy can confirm it ...but anything that plays upon our vanity and presents us with news that tickles our ears and says what we want to hear is suspect. Did we hear that from God first? Didn't Satan put the idea of "being wise, like gods, knowing good and evil" into Eve's mind? Wouldn't that be a good thing? Not if God had already forbidden it.
I know of many people who miss out on God, who bypass opportunities God lays in their pathway simply because they listen to the messages of fear Satan sends into their ears. The Bible describes fear as a bondage and a snare and "he that feareth is not made perfect in God" (1 John 4:18). Anything that has a remote resemblance to fear is not God talking...it is Satan putting up a hindrance and attempting to use our weakest points to his advantage.
Satan can also cause events to happen that put boulders in our pathway. I marvel at the early disciples who left their nets and their livelihoods so readily...just got up and followed Jesus. They had families...wives and children, businesses. Once, a man said to me: "I believe God is calling me into the ministry". "Wonderful!" I replied. But he was a career military man nearing retirement. "But I will wait until I finish the required years so I will have some income" he said. "My, I wonder then why God did not wait to call you until that time?" I replied. The look on his face was something I will never forget. He left the Air Force and became a successful pastor of a church. He stepped over the hindering thought that would have kept him from doing God's will.
We are tested and tempted.....God allows it, to uncover our resolve and trust in Him.
I think of this when I re-read the story of the man who came to Jesus and said, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest...but first suffer me to go and bury my father". The reply was something most of us just cannot accept. "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God". Or another who would first go tell everyone goodbye: "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God". Often, we convince ourselves of what we want to hear instead of what God is saying to us. The heart is so deceitful and full of self. If we love the things of this world more than the things of God, Satan is aware and will tempt us with whatever he can to help us justify our excuses.
He also knows a good, tender heart can be easily swayed...down dead-end roads. Yet no one ever was more good and tender-hearted than our Lord himself. Remember how He wept when Lazarus died? He loved him. And every call from Lazarus' sisters urged him to leave immediately for Bethany. But Jesus knew the plan of God was to raise Lazarus from the dead...not within a few hours of his demise, but miraculously after three days, "for the glory of God". Days went by and then Jesus announced his intention to go. But listen to what words came to Jesus' ears during those days, "You should not go..the Jews want to stone you...if you go, you will die". Wasn't it useless then? Why risk death for a man that is already dead for so many days. Roadblocks to recognize.... Jesus did, and walked right over them.
Dear friend, you and I must always be aware that God's purposes and plans will always be accomplished, but not without difficulties, temptations and hindrances in our pathway. I think of this when I see myself often tempted to sit down in the middle of the road and give in....how can I get to the top of that mountain when so many boulders sit in the way? "You're getting old...you're not in the best of health. No one wants to go with you"....Then I recall that Paul knew he was facing death by going to Jerusalem. All sorts of prophecies warned him. But Paul knew he was running a race...and he must finish his course. I know of a great man of God, an evangelist, who backslid into sin. The devil whispered, "you're finished!" He repented...several times, as he struggled with his flesh. But how many times does the Lord promise to forgive? 70x70! Without an limit at all! Then he became ill, very ill. In fact, his doctors told him that if he went overseas again he would die...his heart was that bad. But he went anyway...ready to die preaching, and now, three years later, is back home pastoring a large church IN ADDITION TO HIS EVANGELISM!! The gifts and callings of God are without repentance, and none of us will leave this earth until God says it is our time...
How discouraging it can get! And it will stay a discouragement until we "resist the devil" and his attempts to hinder and let the truth of the Word of God put light on all that darkness! It is when we spend time with God that we can see every lying entrapment more clearly. But we must be willing to let Him expose them... to see if we might have yielded to a convenient excuse or an enticement that is easier and more appealing, Will we admit that something we have accepted for ourselves could be a hindrance to God's purposes? Will we agree with what sounds so persuasive, instead of what God calls us to do? This is how we must sort it all out....
So don't give up so easily, dear one. Recognize that all of us have an enemy as well as a friend. And encourage yourself in the Lord! We can truly "do all things through Christ who strengthens us", and you have the assurance that He will never leave you nor forsake you...through it all!
I still struggle walking over the rocks and climbing over the obstacles....they can hurt your feet and sometimes make you fall with subsequent bruises...yet to do the will of God... to know you're on the right road, tho it might be difficult, is worth it all.
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some
strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's
sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy".
(1 Peter 4:12-13)
It is indeed hard to walk on stones for very long...however, stony river beds lead to streams, then to lakes and oceans...and finally....to still waters!
And that's where we can finally lie down in green pastures and enjoy the warm sun in our faces!...
MARY E. ADAMS