Sift You Like Wheat
By Grant Phillips
If you have ever looked for shark’s teeth at the beach you may have used a sifter. The idea is to sift out the sand and other items you don’t want and hopefully find a shark’s tooth. Sometimes it works. Often it doesn’t.
Crime investigators sometimes have to sift ashes in order to find the human bones of someone who was murdered.
Maybe you are one who has sifted for gold in Alaska. I understand folks still do that.
The main idea with sifting for something is to find that one thing you are looking for after everything else has gone through the sifter and been eliminated. Jesus had something to say about “sifting” to Simon Peter. Just before Jesus was arrested He said the following to Peter.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Notice first of all that Jesus twice called his name. In saying, “Simon, Simon,” Jesus was figuratively grabbing Peter by the arm and looking him straight in the eye and then He adds to that, “Behold.” He wanted Peter to pay close attention to what He was about to say to him.
Secondly, the name “Simon” means “to hear, to listen.” Perhaps this explains why Jesus called him by Simon instead of Peter. Peter means “a small stone.” Peter wasn’t even a pebble at this point, and he was never the rock that some claim from Matthew 16:18. Only Jesus is the rock or foundation stone of His Church.
So Jesus grabs Peter by the arm, looks him straight in the eye and says twice, “listen to me.” He tells him that Satan desires to sift him, and that He, Jesus, is praying for him.
Jesus could have used many names for Satan. There are many listed for him in the Bible, but He chose to use the name “Satan,” which means “adversary.” Obviously, He is telling Peter that his enemy, Satan, is out to sift him and by doing so; destroy him and his witness if possible. In other words, Peter has an enemy, a very powerful enemy, and he is right on Peter’s heels, so close you could smell his foul breath.
Looking ahead we see that Satan began some serious sifting at Jesus trial. What resulted was Peter’s denial, not once but three times, of even knowing Jesus.
If you are a Christian you are on Satan’s hit list. He desires to sift you and me. He looks for a way to defeat us, and that old rascal has had a lot of practice. He knows our weaknesses. He knows what will trip us up. He does not want us to grow spiritually and he does not want us to succeed in anything the Lord has called us to do.
I have also noticed that the more serious a child of God is about growing in Christ, Satan’s attacks intensify. If you are just a lackadaisical Christian, you are no threat to him. To the contrary, you help his cause. However, the more on fire you are for serving Jesus Christ, the more he attempts to sift you. He looks for that weak spot that will bring you down and make you ineffective.
Let me pause here for a minute. Some are probably thinking, “How does Satan sift me?” Maybe I can provide some examples.
– He may bring up your failures.
– He may cause your mind to roam from your appointed task.
– He may cause interruptions in your life.
– He may attack you or a loved one with sickness.
– He may entice you to sin (again, he knows your weaknesses).
– He may stoke your pride.
– He may instill fear.
These are just a few examples, but maybe they will help in our understanding that Satan is no choirboy. Putting it simply and plainly, he will hit us where it hurts.
In Peter’s case Satan worked on his pride, and then brought him to his knees with fear and cowardice, but Jesus prayed for Peter (“but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”). When we turn to Acts chapter three and hear him preach to the crowd or turn over to Acts chapter four and listen to him, as he and John stand before the Sanhedrin, we immediately recognize that he isn’t the same man we saw in Luke 22:54-62.
Many Christians today are fearful to stand up for Christ, allowing Satan to sift them and make them ineffective. Don’t think so? How many Christians today will bow their heads in public and ask God to bless the food they are about to eat? For that matter, how many will do so in their own home? Peter knew he could be crucified if he admitted he was one of Jesus’ followers. What do we fear, a little embarrassment? If something as inconsequential as publicly asking the blessing over our food embarrasses us, does that mean we are ashamed of Jesus? Let us pray that is not so, because Jesus had strong words to say about that.
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
If we are a child of God, as Peter certainly was, let us never forget that Jesus intercedes for us just as He did with Peter. He loves us very much and wants us to trust Him.
If you or I make any honest effort to stand up and be counted for Jesus you can rest assured that Satan will notice. Peter said it so well.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Don’t allow that evil creature to win. Remember that Jesus, our Savior and our Lord, is praying for us. Instead, we will proclaim along with Joshua:
“…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)