When Jesus walked the earth, he knew all too well the fierceness of Satan’s power, that he comes with every weapon in hell to sift the Lord’s people. I don’t think any of us can comprehend the great conflict raging right now in the spiritual realm. Nor do we realize how determined Satan is to destroy all believers who have fixed their hungering hearts firmly on going all the way with Christ. But it is true that in our Christian walk, we cross a line—the obedience line—that sets off every alarm in hell. And the moment we cross that line into a life of obedience to God’s Word and dependence on Jesus alone, we become a threat to the kingdom of darkness and a prime target of demonic principalities and powers. The testimony of every believer who turns to the Lord with all his heart includes the sudden onslaught of strange and intense troubles and trials.
If you’ve crossed the obedience line, then you are making waves in the unseen world. In Luke 22:28–34 Jesus introduces this subject of the sifting of saints. “Simon, Simon!… Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (v. 31). In Christ’s day, grain workers used a sieve just before they sacked grain. They shoveled wheat into a square box covered with netting, then turned the box upside down and shook it violently. The grit and dirt fell through the netting until only the grain kernels remained. In this verse sift means “to be shaken and separated”—to be shocked through the agitation of sudden trials. Jesus used this analogy to say to Peter: “Satan believes you’re nothing but grit and dirt, and that when he puts you in the sieve and shakes you, you will fall through to the ground!”
There are tests and trials, and then there is sifting. I see sifting as one major, all-out satanic onslaught. It is usually compressed into a short but very intense period of time. For Peter, the sifting would only last a few days, but those days would become the most faith-shaking, shocking and remorseful days of his life. That sifting time shook out the pride that had brought Peter down. The shaking rid his soul of hindrances that could have destroyed his witness once and for all.
Thank God, Peter’s faith did not fail and as surely as Jesus prayed that his “faith fail not,” so he prays for us in the same manner.