If you have read any of my previous blogs, you may remember me using the term “sifted”. I realized tonight, in speaking to a friend, that I may have used that word more in the last year than all the times cumulative up to this season in my life. It wasn’t very long after a family crisis that I realized the word “sifted” would have a new and deeper meaning to me. That point was reinforced after reading a great book on the topic (you guessed it), titled “Sifted” by Rick Lawrence. That word only shows up twice in my ESV Bible. The first one is located in Isaiah 30:28 but I will be focusing on the second time in Luke 22:31 and how it applied to my life.
Jesus and the disciples are seated around the last supper table when Jesus leans over to Peter in Luke 22:31 and says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has 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.”
I know I have read this passage before because I had read through the Gospels numerous times but I honestly must have missed this. There are several things in this that caught me off guard as I unfolded the meaning of this passage. The first thing that stuck out was the statement Jesus made that Satan spoke to Him regarding issues like this. I knew Satan had conversations with Jesus after the fast in the desert and again in the garden of Gethsemane but I didn’t realize that he had a conversation with Jesus about one of His disciples. It kind of reminded me of God and Satan in the story of Job.
The second thing that I found curious was that Jesus didn’t tell Satan that Peter was already His so “back off.” I know that Jesus has dominion over all so couldn’t He have prayed for something like a “hedge of protection?” I have always wanted to see how that “hedge” could work but He chose a different prayer. Jesus knew the outcome of this situation because He prayed for Peter’s faith to be strengthened during this “sifting” and then gave Peter instructions once he had turned again.
The definition of sift is “to separate and retain the coarse parts of (flour, ashes, etc) with a sieve.” The picture given for sifting wheat is to thrash it violently to remove the grain from the stalk and chaff. This picture of a violent separation really fits this Scripture well. I love that God always uses the perfect words and analogies in Scripture that best give meaning to His Word. He wrote the Bible in a way that allows everyone who reads it to gain knowledge of His will and character. He wants us to know Him through these verses and uses language that speaks to us directly without the need of a doctorate in Theology to be able to understand. Not that we can’t gain understanding from good fundamental teachers, but your first resource to know our Lord and Savior should be directly through Scripture.
I’m guessing that if I did a survey on who wants to sign up and have something removed from you through violent thrashing, I probably wouldn’t get a lot of takers. And if you asked me if I am glad for what happened in my life a year ago, I can’t say I would ever wish for it. But, if you ask me if I am grateful for what God has taught me and the relationships that have been reconciled, I would have to answer yes, I am grateful. If this sifting is the only way I could get to where I am now, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I believe that God can use the situations in our life to achieve His will in our life even by allowing Satan to have what seems like a small victory. I believe the Scripture in Luke backs this up because Peter had just spent 3 years walking with our Lord. Peter was willing to die for Christ in the garden when the soldiers came to take Him. He also told Him emphatically at the table he would never deny Him. I don’t know what thing Peter had to have changed before Christ could use him to be the rock the church would be founded on but Christ did. He knew Peter would deny Him and He said Satan would have his way with Peter. Peter wasn’t ready to launch the modern day church the night Christ was crucified but something changed after that night.
One of the details of Mary finding the empty tomb has really stuck with me. When the angel appeared he told her in Mark 16:7 to go and tell the disciples and PETER that Christ has risen. I believe Scripture used Peter’s name intentionally as he would have no doubt thought that his actions were unforgivable. Christ knew Peter would deny Him, He knew Peter would turn again, and He knew that Peter would be able to strengthen his brothers. I have learned from this that it is more important how we get up than how we fall. I am not saying that Jesus is the author of sin. But just like Joseph said to his brothers…what you meant for evil, God meant for good.
I love the word “refine” in Scripture. To refine is to remove impurities. The technique used in refining gold is to heat the metal to a liquid state and skim the impurities off of the top. This can’t be done without the heat. Sometimes the impurities in our life only become evident after the heat is applied.
I have to rest in the knowledge that God disciplines those He loves. He loves me so much that He allowed me to go through a traumatic event and, in doing so, was able to guide, strengthen, and show His unconditional love for me in the process. My impurities became very clear a year ago.
I was sure that, like most things on this earth, God’s love must be conditional as well. Think about it, we go to work, perform a task and receive compensation as a result. We go to school, take tests, do homework and complete all the needed requirements, we get a diploma. I just thought that God worked in much the same way. I read my Bible, pray diligently, tithe well, and serve when I can and things will go well for me. I didn’t realize until this season that God doesn’t work like that.
I finally realized I had treated God like a contract. I do my part and He does His. What He showed me changed everything. I cannot do anything to earn His love. Do you know what that means? I cannot earn His love so that also means it is not conditional on the things I do. I finally began to see Him for who He truly is. When you are able to see God in all His splendor, the worship will come freely. You will want to praise His great name. You will want to learn as much as you can of the Creator. I kept reading Revelation Chapter 4 because I couldn’t get enough of the description John gave of God seated on the throne and the elders and the seraphim never ceasing to say “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” God removed the scales that had kept me from seeing Him clearly. I finally understood Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Do you believe that God is who He says He is? I think I had put God in a box and would take Him out when it benefited me. I didn’t worship Him with the reverence He deserves. I pray I never go back to that way of thinking because He is worthy of all praise and I am so thankful He drew me to Him.
That was the first thing He showed me. I can only worship Him out of reverence to the Creator of the universe. Not because of anything I will get or not get. The second thing He showed me was I had treated my wife in much the same way. I had never cherished her for who she is. I had created another contract in my mind that, if I lived up to my end of the agreement; she would live up to hers. God showed me that the marriage covenant is very close to our relationship to God. We do the things that Ephesians 5 tells us because they are His instructions. He showed me that, when I start treating my marriage with the heartfelt conviction that He instructs us, my marriage will start to become the model He designed in the beginning. God created a helpmate for Adam out of Adam’s own rib. She was made specifically as a partner to Adam by God Himself. Do you treat your wife like she was placed on this earth to walk alongside you and that the marriage is a bond that no man should be able to break. I didn’t. I gave only what I thought was necessary to fulfill my end of the agreement. I compared myself to other husbands and deemed myself doing a respectable job. God wants so much more out us.
You can’t have the marriage God intended if you continue to use worldly standards as your goal. If you do that, you will only just get by or end up one of the countless divorces our society sees every day. What I love about His Word is that you can have everything He intended in marriage but first you will need to die to yourself, then you can be lifted to a new, higher level that only comes from abiding in Him. I fought for years trying to hold onto “mine” and it wasn’t until God jerked everything out of my hands that He was able to hand me back more than I ever imagined. We can’t move forward if we keep one foot in our old ways. I hate that I needed to have such force exerted against my world before I could see it clearly; but I am so thankful that God knew what waited on the other side and helped me through this by providing everything I needed.
Sifting can be violent. It can leave quite a wake in its path. It can leave you wondering what just happened. But it can also leave you thinking with a perspective that you may have never considered. I am sorry for the role I had in this season. I am sorry that people outside of my family were hurt. But I am not sorry for the things God has done in my life. How can I be? How can I be sorry that God showed Himself in a way I never imagined and showed me a wife I will forever be grateful for? I want so desperately to help marriages learn through our mistakes and I pray that God allows me to point people to Him. He is our Redeemer. I am proof. We are proof.