Sifted like Wheat

Luke 22:31Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you men like wheat;”

Have you ever heard the term, “failing forward”? The idea of what it means to turn failures into stepping stones for success is one that many relate to. Listen to anyone who has had success and the common theme is how they failed prior to their success.

One of the greatest difficulties with failure is judging whether a particular incident truly is a failure. What I mean is we have to determine what failure really looks like before we can determine what failure consists of.

Take for instance the people who failed in history:

  • The Wright brothers crashed multiple planes before they succeeded.
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade and was defeated in every public office role he ran for.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
  • Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC “Colonel,” couldn’t sell his chicken and more than 1,000 restaurants rejected him.
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life, to a friend.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was dismissed from a position as a court musician in Salzburg and died with little to his name.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven was incredibly awkward on the violin, and his teachers felt he was hopeless at composition and would never succeed with the violin or in composing.

Do you think each of these men would consider the path it took to success as irrelevant or could the moments of seeming failure really been lessons that lead to their success?

Spiritual Failure

Simon Peter seemed to fail miserably. When the time to take a stand came, Peter flopped. There were small moments leading up to the fateful day of Jesus’ crucifixion, whether it was a lack of understanding when Jesus was ministering to the masses, to children, or lacking faith in a storm, Peter showed he lacked the wisdom and understanding necessary for what God was doing.

All the while, Satan had his eye on Peter and had plans for his demise.

Separating the wheat was a process that separated the chaff from the kernel, in order to cleanse the wheat of all that was refuse required sifting, throwing it into the air and watching the chaff blow away.

When we are sifted, the process of removing anything that doesn’t have value can be a difficult one to endure. If we don’t want to give up the things we try to hold onto, we could be leaving ourselves incomplete in the work God wants to do in us.

Amos 9:9-10 “For surely I will command,
And will sift the house of Israel among all nations,
As grain is sifted in a sieve;
Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword,
Who say, ‘The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.’

I know a woman who lives in China. I have asked her about her faith which she has exclaimed doesn’t need to be a concern. Apparently her greatest concern has been to live every day to it’s fullest, hoping that good people will be rewarded one day, and evil vanquished. She told me she would pray for me but when I asked her who she prays to, she just decided she didn’t want to talk about it.

Apathy has got to be one of the most dangerous positions to be in. It leaves the person who has a closed mind with nothing of value. Since spiritual consideration isn’t worth the time, they leave themselves with only what they have and nothing more to be gained. If all the apathetic person has is removed, if their life is lost, they perish without a hope to the future.

Those of Israel in Amos’ day who defied God’s sifting, were counted as sinners and forfeited their lives.

When God sifts, the breaking down leads to Him building up.

Amos 9:11-12 “On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Edom,
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,”
Says the Lord who does this thing.”

The Lord is moving toward a future with those who have been sifted. Purified from sin, cleansed from defilement, and made holy before the Lord is God’s purpose for His people. The way God sifts His people is through trial and trial at the moment can be very difficult.

We must remember, when we go through trial, we are not left alone as orphans.

Failing Forward

When Jesus approached Simon Peter, He was warning him of coming trial. I wonder how many times we’ve gone through trials and God tried to warn us, but we just weren’t listening. The importance of walking closely with Jesus is helpful in so many ways, but being prepared for trial seems to be one of the benefits.

After Jesus warned Peter, He gave him a clue as to what God’s will was for him.

Luke 22:32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

The concern about any trial is how we respond in the midst of it.

Do we face the trial with a knowledge of God’s faithfulness and keep our eyes on Jesus?

Or

Do we look at the mountain of difficulty and wonder why God has abandoned us and led us through this difficulty, thereby abandoning our faith?

Jesus knew Peter would fall away and then return. He didn’t chastise him for his weakness or convince him to leave before it grew difficult, His advice was to strengthen his brethren when he returned.

Strengthening Others

The benefit of going through the trial is growth in character and strength. We grow in character by growing in wisdom, knowing God was faithful then, gives us courage when the next trial comes our way.

Giving strength to others is how we take what God has administered and apply it in service in His Kingdom. The body of Christ is built up through those who don’t hold onto God’s favor as their own, but share it with others.

Yes, going through trials is reflective of God’s favor toward you.

James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The perfection that Jesus encouraged His disciples to attain is gained through trials. I find it interesting in Luke how God uses Satan to do His sifting. Now we see evidence in scripture that God also does this sifting Himself, it’s just that we can see an aspect of the spiritual world around us through text like this.

  • Satan couldn’t act on Peter without God’s permission.
  • Satan didn’t ask to destroy Peter, only to challenge his faith.
  • God allows certain parameters of the enemy to influence us, when it is for our good.
  • We need not fear the enemy, but remember we are in God’s hands.

The resounding message that God has for us is to persevere under trial, knowing what lies ahead.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

If you are being sifted now, remember the love Jesus has for you, that He will be there on the other side of the trial. Like a parent teaching their child to walk, hovering close by and picking them up if they fall, Jesus is waiting there with us, ready to strengthen us and keep us secure in Him.

Remember to share your strength with others when it’s over, they will need it when their trial begins.

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