Ever felt like Satan just launched a full scale onslaught on your life to get you to quit? To throw your hands up in the air and say “I’m done with this.” To give up. To question God’s goodness and promises over your life?
Well friend, you’re not alone. I’m here today to hopefully offer a bit of hope if or when that full on shakedown or better yet “sifting” from the enemy of our souls comes. If you are a child of God in Christ, be encouraged.
Nothing, I mean nothing, comes into our lives that God can’t use for His glory and our good. That’s a fact.
So what does a shakedown (aka a sifting) actually mean and why does God allow it? We’re in luck! God’s given us a beautiful example in the bible at our good ole’ boy Peter. If you know much about Jesus’ disciples, you know that Peter was the fiery one. He was full of passion and zeal and drive and quite honestly he was the most influential & leader oriented one of the group. But Peter also tended to be the one who could operate based on his flesh and his feelings (trust me, I am not here to judge. In fact, I can relate quite well to our friend here).
Luke 22:31-34 is where we see Jesus direct His attention towards Peter and speak of the “sifting”. Now, to give you a little context, here we are at the Last Supper where Jesus has just broken bread and drank wine with his closest men. Here Jesus is… He literally just washed their feet and spoke of what was to come in the moments ahead. Yet, these silly guys started arguing about which one of them was considered the greatest. Here’s what’s so incredible. Jesus knew they’d do this. He knew Judas would betray him and he also knew all of those disciples would soon desert him…AND he washed their feet anyway. He encouraged them anyway. He loved them anyway. In fact, Jesus even tells them that they will one day rule with Him in heaven.
In verse 28 Jesus even gives a very exciting and reassuring promise to these men, “You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (RSV).
What a promise! Talk about a spiritual high? Here’s the thing. Only hours after Peter was told he’d be a ruler in God’s kingdom he’s going to crash. From the heights of joyful anticipation and confidence to the pit of failure and bitter weeping in one night.
Friend, let it comes as no shock to you if after you receive a message of hope or a promise from God over your life that you experience a full on onslaught by the enemy. I would also venture to say that the greater the responsibility you’ve been given, it is quite a possibility the more intense the sifting will be. Because guess what…Satan wants nothing more than to stop God’s children in their tracks. Get them to quit. Prevent God from fulfilling His purposes for them on this earth.
Let’s look at Peter.
In Luke 22 vs 31, Jesus directs his attention towards Peter and says “’Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered ‘I tell you, Peter (see how he called him a different name…we’ll talk about this in just a second), Peter,’ he said, ‘before the rooster crows you will deny three times that you know me.’”
First, what’s so cool about this is that in verse 31, the word Jesus uses for “you” is plural. It basically means that Jesus is saying, “Satan has asked to sift all of you disciples as wheat. But in verse 32 the word “you” that Jesus uses is singular, meaning just Peter. I tend to think that maybe even though they’d all experience a bit of a sifting, this implies that Christ permitted Satan to attack Peter with greater force than the others. If so, we might want to ask ourselves why.
Here may be a few reasons.
1. Peter was the natural leader among the disciples.
Jesus seemed to be singling him out as a leader in Luke 22:31 when he directed the statement concerning all of the disciples (plural YOU) to Peter. Maybe Jesus thought that Peter as the leader could either take or needed a little extra heat. Let’s be encouraged of this though. These words from Jesus “Satan has asked” suggest that satan can’t just launch a full sale sifting season on a believer without asking permission from Christ. And be sure of this…Christ will not grant the devil permission to do anything that cant be used for God’s glory and our good – if we let it.
Also – what’s so cool about this is that literally in about 51 days Christ would transform Peter into a powerhouse among the disciples as we see in the later scriptures. But perhaps Peter needed a crash course that only a fierce sifting season could supply.
I recently read from a very respected bible teacher that…
“being sifted like wheat is not your regular brand of temptation. It’s an all out onslaught by the enemy to destroy you and cause you to quit. It surfaces what you detest most in yourself and reveals the ugliness of self.”
But by gosh, what satan determines for our destruction, God’s kingdom works in quite the opposite way.
You see, the method of sifting wheat is to put it through something called a sieve and shake it until the chaff, the little stones, and perhaps random junk surface. The purpose is that the actual grain can be separated and ground into meal for baking bread. You see, Satan’s goal in sifting is to make us a mockery by showing us to be all “trash” and no wheat. He wants to shake us so much that nothing is left but the bad stuff. Yet, God’s economy is the opposite. Christ permits us to be sifted to shake out the real from the unreal, the trash from the true, the good stuff. The wheat that proves usable, the stuff that is left is authentic grain from which He can make bread.
Satan’s plan backfired with Peter (if you want to see how, just go read 1 and 2 Peter) and it will with us when we go through a sifting season, if we let God work. You see, satan surfaced some pretty serious trash through shaking Peter to his core, but Christ let Peter have a good look at it. Then Christ blew it away, took those remaining grains, and demonstrated His baking skills!
There are a few more reasons why Christ allowed Peter to be sifted like wheat.
2. He knew that Peter would turn back.
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back….” Not “if” but “when”. Here’s what’s cool. We’re like books that Satan can only read from the outside. His book review is limited to assumptions that he makes about what’s inside…But he cannot read the inside of us like Christ can.
Satan saw Peter’s overconfidence and propensity toward pride. He concluded that when the sifting came, every page would come up trash. He was wrong. Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He knew what was underneath that puffed up exterior. A man with a genuine heart for God. Jesus knew that Peter could deny Christ to others, but he could not deny Christ to himself. He would be back. Revised and better than ever.
3. Christ knew that Peter’s return and revision would be used for others.
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Peter would learn how to stand in fact by falling. He would use everything Christ taught him to strengthen his brothers. You see, Christ didnt want to take the leader out of Simon, but he wanted to take the Simon out of the leader. His goal was to let Satan sift out all the Simon stuff so Christ could use what was left. The true. The pure. The strong. The good.
Here’s what is so cool about Peter’s name. Jesus actually gave him the name Peter, or Petra, which means Rock. Back in verse 31, Jesus refers to him as Simon. Some scholars say this translation means “shifting sand”…Yet, the last time Jesus says his name before Jesus’ death he calls him PETER (or Petra). Rock. Now you tell me that isn’t of major significance. I think Jesus is saying here, Simon, this sifting that I have allowed Satan to onslaught you with will produce a faith and dependence in Me that is strong, enduring, unmovable. You will become the Peter that I have called you to be.
Jesus knew that about Peter, and He knows that about us. There is nothing more uncomfortable than walking through a season of sifting. A season where we feel like we’re being hard pressed on all sides. Where we may even question the promise that we’ve received from God. Or question His goodness at all. Or wonder if we’ll ever make it out. But friends, if you find yourself in one of those seasons now or sometime in the future, be encouraged.
- God allowed it.
- Jesus prays for us (I don’t know about you, but of all the ones that I want praying on my behalf, Jesus is at the top!)
- God can and will use it so thoroughly that the enemy ends up being sorry he ever asked permission.
So how do we let him? I think it simply looks like a heart of surrender. Open hands. Practically, spending time with Him alone in prayer, in worship, reading His word, and in community with others. Also, GRACE.
Yall, Christ cannot be shaken. When the shakedown on our lives comes, may the fresh winds of God’s Spirit blow away the chaff and the trash until all that is left is the bread of life. That is beautiful. That makes it worth it. That gives me hope.
Today’s writer is Brookes Vaughan. Brookes is the founder of The Women’s Health Company, a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Jesus lover, healthy baker, and Georgia Bulldog through and through. Brookes and her husband Schuyler live in Watkinsville, GA (just right outside of Athens) with their golden retriever, Riggins. Brookes would love to connect with you via email at firstname.lastname@example.org on Instagram @brookesbvaughan_np.