1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Whoever came up with this saying was not thinking clearly. While physical attack is very harmful, vicious words can also produce much pain and devastation. In fact, words are often a tool of the devil.
When you enter into a successful spiritual ministry of any sort, be alert. It is very likely that you will experience some type of verbal opposition. Over and over this is seen throughout the Bible, and yet we are often so surprised when similar things happen to us. When we are hit with opposition it is easy to become discouraged and feel like our hard work is a failure. In these times it is important to remember that the work is not really ours. It is our job to be faithful and God’s job to bring the results.
Paul and Silas entered the city of Thessalonica with a very recent history of suffering and mistreatment in the nearby town of Philippi. Most would have been tempted to return to the safety of home and hearth feeling as if they had done their time of service for God. But Paul and Silas were different. God gave them a boldness to continue preaching the gospel message to all who would listen despite the difficulties.
As they came to Thessalonica, Satan’s most successful tool to hinder their ministry was the flurry of accusations that these messengers were out for their own benefit, greedily seeking glory and fortune from men.
After Paul and Silas had spent only a very short time in Thessalonica, the malicious words stirred up the religious leaders, creating painful persecution. Paul and Silas were again forced to run for their safety. It may have seemed that the missionaries’ ministry was coming to a quick end, but things were not what they seemed. God was still at work.
Paul assured the Thessalonian believers in a letter that his visit to them was not in vain. God had chosen them and opened their hearts to receive the message of salvation for what it was – the word of God – through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Paul went on to remind these new believers of the truth regarding the accusations against him. None of them were true and he only had their best interests at heart. By recalling the round the clock labor and the hardship they endured so as not to be a burden, the believers could be witnesses of the upright and blameless behavior the missionary team exhibited. Paul expressed his deep longing to come back to them, but lamented that again the enemy, Satan, hindered a visit.
I have noticed that one of Satan’s greatest hindrances to gospel ministry is harmful words. So often those who should be working together for the cause of Christ develop difficulties because of disagreements or misunderstandings that occur within their circles. The words can come from the outside but often they come from the inside. Opinions are spoken in haste or taken out of context, feelings are hurt, disagreements occur, and unity is threatened. This is why it is so important to be careful about reacting prematurely to things we hear. Do not believe everything and go straight to the source if you have any concerns or questions. Don’t go around talking to others and spreading the poison. Be kind and considerate when you don’t agree on menial points, and be willing to work together despite differences.
Above all, don’t be discouraged when it seems a ministry has hit a wall because of false words and accusations. Remember that this is a regular tool of the devil, but God is bigger than this hindrance. Pray even more about the circumstances and trust God for the results. It is his responsibility to bring the fruit.
Sticks and stones break your bones and words can also hurt you, but don’t be discouraged. God knows the truth, He examines hearts, and He will be your witness. So don’t turn back. Grasp the courage that only God can give and continue on. For those who are truly seeking to please and serve Him selflessly will someday see that, like Paul, their labor was not in vain despite the opposition.