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I first wrote this and blogged it July 13, 2005. And this is the revised version.

Being sifted like wheat

Since October 17th 2008 I have been thinking and reflecting about the difficulties we have in life and that we face as Christians. It seems that there are times we are constantly under spiritual attack and no matter what we do; our courage fails us right at the time it is crucial that it does not. How often does it seem that we hear the voice of God in what ever way it is that he is talking to us, and yet we don’t do as he has told us; instead we do exactly the opposite?

  • Peter the Apostle knew all about this, Luke records the warning, exhortation and encouragement of the exchange between both Jesus and Peter.

Luk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[1] as wheat.
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Luk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Here we read that Satan has asked God permission to sift Peter and that he has been given permission to do so. There is another story in the OT about a man called Job who also was sifted by Satan with Gods permission.

Have you ever watched wheat being sifted? With todays society and the readily availability of instant food, I would say probably not. A normal sieve was round about 30 – 40 cm across with sides about 100 mm – 150mm high, and a fine mesh type bottom, some sieves were bigger made of a mesh type material, about the size of a blanket and took two people to operate.

What happens is that you put the harvested wheat with the stalk etc into it and throw it up and down, shaking it, tossing it, so that the wheat is separated from the rest of the plant, and ready for use, either for storage, sowing or grinding into flour. The sifting process is a much-needed process for the grain to be any use.

So we see here that Jesus is telling Peter and though he is talking specifically to Peter, I believe he is also talking talking to the rest of the disciples; that he and they are going to be sifted, to be thrown about, that they will be going through some tough times, but not to worry, he has prayed for Peter / them that they will not fail. John 21:15-17.

Jesus tells us that he has prayed their faith will not fail them, that they will turn back, and in doing so strengthen many. Peter now argues with Jesus, protesting that it would not be so. Jesus declares, it will be so, and this is how it will pan out! And as the story progresses we know that indeed all the disciples bar John deserted Jesus and after the resurrection Jesus also reinstates them all, especially Peter.

How often have we been in the shoes of Peter and the other disciples, our boldness and confidence fleeing from us? Our faith becomes shaken, we get tossed and turned. Perhaps we don’t quite reach the stage Peter and the others did in denying our Lord. Yet for what ever reason we find we are going through a dark night or season of the soul, where we know our walk with the Lord is perhaps not OK. We find the going tough. We lack the wisdom, boldness and even passion to witness to others. Our prayer life lacks the dynamic it once had and we wonder in the deeper recesses of our inner being if we will ever recover that dynamic again? We intend to pray and instead get easily distracted. Or we go through the motions of being a Christian, not enjoying our reading of the word – that is if we do read it. We go through the motions of praying, while deep within we can’t wait for the prayer time to be over. Legalism creeps in, duty replaces joy and intimacy.

Perhaps you don’t know what it is I’m talking about? Praise God for it. Perhaps the time will come for you to experience it, perhaps not. Perhaps you have gone through that and come out the other side wiser for the experience. Or perhaps you are in the middle of such an experience right at this very moment.

If this is you then we have joined company, and we need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote.

1Co 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Just as Peter was sifted by satan, we to are liable to being sifted by satan in all his subtle and not so subtle ways. Just as Peter was told by Jesus that he would fail, he was also told that his faith would not totally fail him, that he would bounce back and strengthen others.

What ever it is we are facing right now at this very moment, God will not allow us to face more than what we bear and he will also provide a way out, under the shadow of his wings.

Father God, I lift us all up to you, individuals families and friends. Lord I ask that we who are going through the trials of being sifted that you will strengthen us, help us to both know and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that you are providing a way out. That you will deliver us from the shaking of the evil one.

For those who have come out of such an experience I ask that you will continue to help them to walk with you in joy, in peace, in strength, in the fullness of your spirit, and for those who have not yet been through the sifting process that indeed you will prepare them for such an event if it is to be your will for them to do so. I ask that none of us will ever fall away, to deny you Lord, that we will all grow from strength to strength, faith to faith, in the power of your spirit I ask that you will do this Jesus, shielding us from the power of the evil one.

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