1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 (NLT)
17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. 19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy. 1 Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. 4 Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come-and they did, as you well know. 5 That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.
The documentary is unflinching. “The Caribou will graze for hundreds of miles, and the wolf will starve if he doesn’t find them.” The Caribou are almost reindeer like, at any moment expecting them to be called up to work for Santa. They eat grass and walk, and there are hundreds of them. The video speeds up and slows down and one can’t help but taken in by the majesty of it all. But the wolf is not forgotten. “The Wolf is finally found some fresh tracks.” The Caribou take off in fear of being dinner. From tranquility to terror in only a moment; the giant herd scatters as the narrator explains, “The weak and the young are left behind.” In seconds the camera shots goes from many caribou, to one young animal and one wolf. I wonder what it feels like to be hunted. It was everything I could do to not scream at my TV, “RUN!!!!”. The wolf did not go hungry.
In somewhat of an odd passage above, we have great depth and insight into the human condition and the spiritual elements that we all face. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were forced to leave the Thessalonians in the middle of night due to an increasingly violent Jewish population against Paul and the message of Christ.(Acts 17:1-10) The letter almost reads like a lover separated from a love he only knew for a short time. Paul wants his “children” to understand how God moved in power in their personal lives, and the whole region knows of this young church and its spiritual example.
But they are young…. and maybe weak. Attacks have begun, and persecution is real. Twice in the passage Paul mentions attacks from spiritual forces. Satan, the Tempter, is causing panic and trouble, and in the middle of trouble, it is easy to forget how God is in control.
We feel like tiny little Caribou with the wolf closing in.
Paul is passionately concerned for his young group of believers and wants them to mature. Timothy was sent to “strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through.” They are trying to strengthen up the defenses, and keep the herd together. There are times when we feel hunted. The danger is real. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. There are forces out there trying to pull us away, to tempt us away from following Christ. Our best defense: Growing up in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Ask yourself the question: Am I mature enough to handle this alone? We need others, and helps that are mature in their faith to help us along. Paul sent Timothy. The Thessalonians saw this as someone further along in his faith, someone they trusted, and someone that cared for them deeply. We should look for the same.
As much as feel like we are alone, on the run, and being hunted down it helps for us to remember- we are not alone. Following Christ means that Satan is not all powerful. We serve the creator of the universe. He has not left us all alone. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15) It is good to know that for us, Christ will lay down his life for his “caribou”. Just before we get stolen, killed, and destroyed, God says no. While people may let us down, God will never fail us. It is also important to remember in the midst of your struggle, that God is in control. He loves us and cares for us just as is his own.
While Satan is not all powerful, God is. He can help us in times of struggle. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
It is nice to know that we aren’t that different from anyone else. We all have struggles, we all feel abandoned or left alone, well before we should, and Satan is tempting us to stray away from God’s call on our lives. But God rules and He will never let us down. Hebrews 13:5b-8 (NLT) 5b For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” 6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” 7 Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
He will never leave you. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will never abandon you. His love endures forever. Let us… trust Him, with all that we are.
written by: Jay Watson 4/28/2008