“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of 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.” Luke 22:31-32
I’ve had trouble regaining my writing voice. It has been a struggle over the past year to rekindle and restart my passion for this aspect of ministry in Jesus. Struggle perhaps is too light a word – more like a battle. One in which I often can’t tell if I’m winning or losing. Frustrating. Exhausting. Exasperating.
These same thoughts and feelings are shared by many. I know because I hear it all the time. Trouble finds people. Circumstances weigh people down. Worry, anxiety, anger – all these and more pour from their conversation. Feeling and thinking that same way makes it difficult to speak hope in the midst of the storms of life.
However, I rely on a two-fold safety net. First is the comfort provided by the hymns. I am thankful more times than I count for growing up in a congregation that sang the hymns. Notice I don’t use the term “old hymns” because some in the Hymnal we use were composed and written in the 1950’s. To use the term “old” would date me and I don’t feel old yet (most days). At any rate, there are words of wisdom found in the tune and lyrics that speak to me like no scripture does. Read ‘em, sing ‘em let them open your heart to God and his Peace.
The second is scripture itself. I work to practice what Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
“… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12
Trouble is of flesh and blood. Worry is what flows out of us as we are under the pressure of trouble. And the key is remembering that this is how Satan seeks to take us hostage; fear, anxiety and restlessness. Oh my!
We aren’t in Kansas anymore are we?
So back to our story, in this passage we read about the start of the last supper. Jesus lets his weary band of disciples know that one of them will betray him. With that the conversation is off and running. And just as quickly it turns from betrayer to benefactor. Knowing that Peter would betray him, Jesus informs Peter of just how his actions would play out.
Peter faced trouble. The trouble produced fear. Satan used the fear to take Peter captive.
But as Paul Harvey would say, “now for the rest of the story.” Peter was broken, repented and restored stronger in character. He emerged to be the rock that Jesus called him to be. Satan may have won the battle but God won the war with Peter’s increased surrender.
Trouble is of the physical world and often the product of external factors beyond our control. Worry is emotional and the product of the evil one working on our minds. Jesus asked God to protect the disciples from the evil one when the trouble came because the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realm. He could have asked God to take away the trouble but instead he asked God to protect them from the evil one’s attacks on their minds during the trouble.
Sifting is the process of facing troubles and enduring by allowing Jesus to take captive our thoughts rather than the evil one. Yielding to Jesus’ captivity strengthens our faith. Where we often seek to avoid or run from sifting, God intends it for good. To embrace it is to grow, mature and become more like Jesus.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have promised never to forsake or leave us. Teach us day by day the deep rewards of faithful ministry and most of all help us to know always the reward of being near to you. In the name of Christ. Amen.