Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

Luke 22: 31, 32

Most of us are probably aware of this moment in the life of Peter, the Rock upon which Jesus was to build His church, when he was anything but solid, stable, and granite-like. This is the night of great turmoil when all of the world would be shaken, and the faith of those who had been closest to Jesus was to be tested in ways that are hard to imagine. Jesus turns to this strong willed and greatly gifted leader among the group of His disciples and He warns Peter about what is to come. I think that the Lord wanted to get Peter’s full attention and also that He desired to convey the fact that at that very moment Peter was standing on the balance point wherein his decision to follow Jesus was going to be put to its ultimate and definitive test. I can almost hear the tone of voice that Jesus used when he says with quiet intensity, “Simon” and then, after a dramatic pause when the Lord looks with piercing intensity into Peter’s eyes, He repeats the given name but with a slow tempo and far greater volume and intensity, “Simon!” Then Jesus turns His eyes to the rest of the disciples near by and declares Satan’s desire regarding all of them, for the you here is plural.

This testing of Peter and of the other disciples at the moment of Jesus’ arrest is not unique to their time and place. Satan has done this sort of thing throughout humanity’s history on earth. He attempts to shake our faith in God, and as he grabs ahold of us and does exactly what he asked to do with Peter and the others there in Jerusalem on that fateful night, our faith is put to the test. The methods and the circumstances of the sifting vary greatly, but the violent nature of the action, at least as it is felt by our hearts, minds, and spirits is unchanged. He grabs ahold of us and starts to shake and toss us about in the hopes that we will abandon the torturous journey and recant our decision to follow Christ. Then, when this fails, Satan often continues to grasp the sifting basket that is life and aggressively rock it back and forth so that doubt and fear might overtake our grasp on the Lord. What Satan did not count on with Peter and fails to consider still is the utterly tenacious and unstoppable way that Christ holds onto us. He never tires or ceases in His loving embrace of His people, and His victory over Satan is already accomplished, sealed, and delivered.

These hard and challenging times, these days, weeks, and sometimes years of sifting, have a purpose in God’s view of our lives, and they are important for us to endure, too. Peter was never the same after his experiences on that night and the days to follow. He had not been so low in spirit as he was when that rooster let forth his crow, and he had never been so high as he would be on the morning of the discovery of the empty tomb. Although Peter’s journey of growth and his final commissioning to service to Christ were still to come, his new understanding of the fact that his only true strength was to come by and through Christ had transformed him into a person who could serve others and lead this new church effectively. We will all endure times of sifting. Some of them are severe and others are rather mild, but they are all real and valuable tests of our endurance and our faith in Christ. Regardless of the nature, duration, or severity of these tests, we can be assured that Christ is with us in them and through them all of the way to their conclusion. We can also take comfort in the fact that the Lord does have a plan for us and that each of these times of sifting has a purpose that He will reveal to us in due time. Satan’s methods and approach have not changed at all since Peter’s day, and Jesus is still Lord over him, engaged with each of us intimately, and will take us through it all to the glorious victory that Christ has already secured for us.       

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