I love the apostle Peter. He is just so real. Brash, full of life, always putting his foot in his mouth, but then saying just the right thing to show Jesus how much he loves him. And he did love him, as much as his human heart could.
So when Jesus made this statement to him in the upper room, on the night he would be arrested, I'm sure Peter was taken aback. First to be told that he was in the crosshairs of the Evil One, and then to be told that he would make the wrong choice. Just a tad overwhelming to Peter . . . and to me.
But when I take a closer look at what Jesus told him, I am wonderously reassured of some amazing truths.
- Satan's demand was to have Peter. Why did he have to demand? Because he is not in control. God is, and everything that happens to us happens only with His permission. Yes, everything.
- Simon's sifting was harsh. Sifting wheat is not a pleasant process of running already milled flour through a wire mesh in the kitchen. It is a process of beating the wheat stalks, breaking them up to release the good wheat kernels. Not pleasant for the wheat. Sifting is never pleasant for us, either. Satan's intention is to thrash us around and destroy us, and his ways are not gentle.
- Jesus' prayer was not to keep Peter from being sifted. How many of my prayers are for protection from the harshness of life? God, keep my family safe, keep us financially sound, keep us healthy. Those are not bad prayers, but Jesus didn't pray for that. Instead, he prayed that Simon's faith would not fail. Our faith is of infinitely higher value to God than our physical or even emotional comfort.
- Simon's faith faltered, but it did not fail. He came back, and he was restored. Faltering does not equal failure.
- Jesus' command was for Simon, once he had turned back, to strengthen his brothers. Those moments that test our faith, when we falter and feel like we are going to fail, those are the moments that enable us to strengthen others someday. They are the moments that equip us for future ministry, beyond anything we can imagine.
Are you going through a time of sifting right now, when it feels like Satan has you around the neck? Take comfort in knowing that God is still sovereign, and that Jesus is interceding for you, that your faith will not fail. You may falter, but in His grip you will not fail, and when you turn back, use what He has done in your life to strengthen others.
How has your time of sifting enabled you to help someone else?