Monday, February 9, 2009

WHEN SIFTING COMES

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon; behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31).

You must understand that Satan seeks to sift only those who threaten his work. He goes after the tree with the most potential to bear fruit. But why did the devil desire to sift Peter? Why was he so anxious to test him? Well, for three years Peter had been casting out devils and healing the sick. Satan had heard Jesus promise the disciples another baptism, one of Holy Ghost power and fire—and he trembled! Now, the devil heard God’s ultimate plan for Peter. He realized that the past three years would be nothing compared to the greater works Peter and the other disciples would perform. Having already pulled down Judas, he would have to look for a measure of corruption in Peter to build on, to make Peter’s faith fail.

Perhaps, like Peter, you are in the sieve right now, being shaken and sifted. But, you ask, why me? And why now? First of all, you ought to rejoice that you have such a reputation in hell! Satan never would have asked God’s permission to sift you unless you had crossed the line of obedience. Why else would he spend his efforts harassing and troubling you, scaring you and shaking all that you have? He is sifting you because you play an important part in God’s church in these last days. God is doing a new thing once again in this last generation, and you have been set apart by him to be a powerful witness to many. He has set you free, and is preparing you for his eternal purposes. And the greater your gifts, the greater your potential, the greater your surrender to the will of God—the more severe your sifting will be.

When someone is going through the fire of sifting, what should those around him do? What did Jesus do about Peter’s imminent fall? He said to him, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32).

I look at this wonderful example of Christ’s love and realize I know almost nothing about how to love those who fall. Surely Jesus is that “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He saw both the good and the bad in Peter and concluded, “This man is worth saving. Satan desires him, but I desire him all the more.” Peter truly loved the Lord, and Jesus told him, “I have prayed for you.” Jesus had seen this coming for a long time. He had probably spent many hours before his Father talking about Peter—how he loved him, how needed Peter was in God’s kingdom, how he valued him as a friend.

Lord, give all of us that kind of love! When we see brothers and sisters compromising or heading for trouble or disaster, let us love them enough to warn them as firmly as Jesus warned Peter. Then we’ll be able to say, “I am praying for you.”

Today we have yet another “It is written” with which we can do battle against Satan. It is this: “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.” You can tell the devil, “You may have gotten permission to sift me, to try to tear down my faith. But you need to know this: My Jesus is praying for me!”