"Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen the brothers." Luke 22: 31-32
Why do believers endure suffering and oppression? When you pray and pray for a trial to end, and it does not, that may be the hardest thing to go through. Myself included, we can look back over our lives and see significant times of trial. Maybe that is you right now. I preferenced "believers" because I think spiritual warfare is an entirely different matter for those who have a relationship with Jesus and am writing words that come from Beth Moore's Jesus: 90 Days with the One and Only.
It's scary and confusing to understand from this verse that Satan must obtain permission from Christ before sifting a believer like wheat. Think about Job 1:8, "Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Please be encouraged that Satan can't just presume to sift a believer like wheat. Christ will not grant the devil permission to do anything that can't be used for God's glory and our good- if we let it.
In Peter's case, he was a natural leader among the disciples. Maybe there was some chaff in his life that needed to go in order for prepare him for Acts 2. When wheat is sifted, it's so chaff- little stones and maybe tares rise to the surface. What is left is authentic wheat that is used to make bread. Being sifted like wheat is not your regular brand of temptation. It's an all-out onslaught by the enemy to destroy you and cause you to quit. It surfaces what you detest most in yourself and reveals the ugliness of self. Christ didn't want to take the leader out of Simon Peter. He just wanted to take Simon Peter out of the leader.
Notice that Jesus knew that Peter would turn back. Satan didn't know this, because he can only read us from the outside. But Jesus knew that Peter may be able to deny Christ to others, but he could not deny Christ to himself. This would result in a revision in Peter's life that forever changed him. Peter got a good look at his "chaff", but through this sifting, what was left was a humble jar of clay with no confidence in his flesh. I wonder if Peter had this trial in mind when he wrote, "So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen." (1 Peter 5:10b-11)
Christ told him, "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Peter would indeed fall, but his faith would not fail. He would use everything Christ taught him to strengthen his brothers. How powerful it is to realize that Christ is praying for us during sifting, that our faith would not fail. When the shakedown comes, and if you have any potential for God's kingdom- it will, may the fresh winds of God's Spirit blow away the chaff until all that is left is the bread of life. Satan will be sorry he ever asked permission.
Beth Moore's words were so powerful and encouraging to me. I am in a season of rest right now, but have seen several intense siftings of my own that did indeed, reveal chaff. Many times pride was revealed. When I worked at Miller and had the worst year of my life, I had to learn to trust in God's goodness. And when I didn't get a job, the question that was posed to me was, "Do I want God's presence more than his provision?" (Of course, He ended up providing too) And to realize how strong God is and how deep His love is are lessons I will never stop learning. Dear friends, if you are being sifted right now, try to find the strength to thank God for it- He knows what he is doing.