Satan Has Asked to Sift You . . .

Posted by BWSmith on Saturday, 7 February 1998, at 11:44 p.m.

Weevil-infested flour isn't too appetizing or useful. Therefore, for centuries, sifting
flour has been standard operating procedure for bakers. Sifting flour never changes the nature of
the wheat: sifting refines coarse grain, removing impurities. So, when Christ told Peter, "Simon,
Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat," the Lord chose an analogy that even a fisherman
could understand.

Sifting is Scary, But Not Optional
The Lord continued: "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when
you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32) Peter misunderstood and
challenged Christ, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." The Lord answered
Peter's boasts: "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me." (Luke 22: 34 )

We understand what the Lord meant about sifting, because we know what happened to
Peter. Peter chose to sleep when Christ asked him to pray and he let fear get the better of him in
the courtyard. Yet, when we discover we are being sifted refined are we so different from
Peter?

Like Peter, we enjoy a high opinion of our selves, or our testimony, gifts and abilities.
Still, Christians need sifting to become the body of Christ on earth as surely as we must sift flour
to produce wholesome bread. Therefore, Christ graciously allows our sifting, as He allowed
Peter to be sifted, so that we are pure and useful for His purposes. Sifting can be simple
irritations, or bitter self-defeating disappointment.

Sifting Always Serves the Lord's Purposes, Not Our Priorities
Peter couldn't imagine denying Christ, can you?

* When did you last leap to a conclusion instead of falling to your knees?

*When did you rush head long into a sensitive circumstance, ignoring godly counsel?

*When did you last pursue your own benign diversions -- and flee from God's assignments?

*When did you fail to put to death a deep-rooted sin?
Can you see how even a devoted Christian's "flour" is weevil-infested and needs sifting?

Sifting Continues IF We Are to Grow Up
The Lord Jesus commands that we continue to sift ourselves. Where do find a sifter big enough?
"The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true
and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is
right." (2 Timothy 3:16 TLB)

In Matthew 5:24 and 18:15, the Lord reminds us that others' opinion of us can be a source of
sifting we must not lightly disregard. The word urges us: "Check up on yourselves. Are you
really Christians? Do you pass the test? Do you feel Christ's presence and power more and more
within you? Or, are you just pretending to be Christians when actually you aren't at all." (2
Corinthians 13:5 The Living Bible)

Sifting Hurts, But Not As Much As Crucifixion
When we fail, when we experience the pain of Satan's sifting, Christ understands. He remembers
pain! And He is praying for us that our faith may not fail. (See Hebrews 4:14-16) We will never
be out of Christ's watch care, though Satan asks to sift us. Satan intends to harm us, but Christ
uses even evil intentions to get rid of the impurities -- the propensity to willful or ignorant sin that wrecks Christian ministries. He will use Scripture, other Christians and self-examination to winnow pesky spiritual weevils. And when we have turned back, our mission is to strengthen our brothers.

Remembering the End of Sifting
The Lord's intently quiet fixed look separated Peter from what he may have thought would
protect him: position and power and prestige. When Peter's eyes met the Master's silent gaze,
Peter knew that although he had disowned Christ, Christ did not disown him. Christ's look
expressed grace to Peter's heart, enabling him to repent. "Power went along with this look, to
change the heart of Peter, and to bring him to himself, to his right mind." (Matthew Henry's
Commentaries)

When the Lord turned and looked at Peter, that look was for Peter, yet Christ's tender
gaze is ever upon us, to restore us to our right minds. Weeping, regretting our failures is the first evidence of being in our right minds!
Peter wept bitter tears, but he turned back and strengthened his brothers because Christ had
prayed for him; he turned because Christ triumphed over Satan. In his epistle to the young
church, he wrote:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has
given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and
into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you, who through
faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in
the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."
(1 Peter 1:3-6)

Deliver Us from Evil, and Lead Us Not into Temptation.

The Lord is praying for you and me that we will turn and strengthen our brothers. The Lord
changed Peter into the apostle whose words continue to comfort Christians. He intends to
change us. Therefore,

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your
enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him,
standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are
undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal
glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you
strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

ęBarbara Smith February 1998


Re: Satan Has Asked to Sift You . . .

Posted by Kevin Megill on Sunday, 8 February 1998, at 2:11 a.m., in response to Satan Has Asked to Sift You . . ., posted by BWSmith on Saturday, 7 February 1998, at 11:44 p.m.

The passage about sifting:

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." -- Luke 22:31-32

has long had a special meaning for me. The Lord used it to encourage me at a time when I just fallen AGAIN into a sinful habit I had been battling for years. I was pretty discouraged, feeling like there wasn't much point in going on.

First, because this passage reminded me that Jesus isn't shocked and surprised by my sinfulness. Jesus wasn't caught by surprise when Peter fell -- he even knew it would happen. Peter himself was shocked and dismayed. But Jesus spoke tenderly, trying to prepare him for the upheaval that was coming: "Simon, Simon ... I have prayed for you ...".

Secondly, I began asking, if Jesus prayed that Peter's faith would not fail, then why did he deny the Lord? That sounds like a failure of faith to me! (And Jesus even knew it would happen.) But I think Jesus was praying for the longer term. He wasn't so much praying that Peter wouldn't deny him, but that Peter would recover afterward. He was praying that Peter's faith would not fail -- not quit -- but continue, even after the disillusionment of having denied the Lord. That is why He said "when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers". Jesus prayed so that even after Peter compromised his faith, he would repent and turn back again to the Lord. He tells Peter here that his failure and recovery will eventually become a source of ministry. (How differently Judas responded after he betrayed the Lord.)

Our sin always grieves the Holy Spirit, but He is patient and working for the long haul. We sometimes need reassurance that losing a battle does not mean we have lost the war. We with our limited perspective only see spiritual growth in terms of how we feel today, this week -- but God is committed to long-term progress.

In His Name,
Kevin