While our adversary the devil is a formidable foe who will use any allowable means necessary to opportunistically attack faith in the most vulnerable moments of life, take heart because Jesus prays for you! Jesus sought to prepare Simon Peter for the imminent moment of the Shepherd being snatched away, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan 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.” Take courage because Jesus’ intercession is the guarantee that your faith, though shaken will not fail. When Jesus says, “I’ll pray for you” this is not the meaningless human resignation uttered when we don’t know what else to say or do for a struggling friend as if to say, “I pity you, good luck with all that!” Unlike my prayers, when Jesus prays, All of His Prayers are Answered, YES! So Christ guarantees victory for Peter, the Disciples and all who believe. The prayers of Jesus give us assurance that God’s grace will be victorious. Paul reminds us in Romans 8,
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. …nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because you are among the elect, Jesus has been condemned for you and the Father has Justified you through the righteousness of His Son. This Son is risen and now sits at the right hand of the Father always praying for you as your great sympathetic high priest. Because He always has the Father’s ear and His prayers are always answered, YES, you will be a conqueror! Even more than that! Your faith will persevere to the end and you will always BE LOVED! And not only that but through the process of having your faith sifted coupled with Jesus prayers for your perseverance, when (not if) you turn back to Him you will become stronger so that you may help strengthen others.
Hell has a strategic plan led by your adversary the devil in which all of its resources are brought to bear and released on the church. The objective: to use any allowable and necessary means to sift your faith. The greatest strength of the enemy is that he is Opportunistic!
Simon Peter loved Christ deeply, he was certainly the most passionate, zealous and outwardly dedicated disciple. But in the midst of a “Perfect Storm” of circumstances when his Shepherd was taken away (seemingly) against his will, his heart was struck with paralyzing fear and his faith was shaken to violent extremes. This attack, crafted in hell’s workshop was predicted by Jesus with these words: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…” Jesus seeking to prepare Peter saying, In a little while, you’re going to see me taken away and Satan will use this opportunity to come at you and you will battle with the forces of Hell!
Satan, a wily opportunist, does seek convenient opportunities to destroy your faith. The picture Jesus gives us is that Satan, having access to God, has approached the Father to make demands to have Peter and the rest of the disciples (Cf. Job 1-2.)
The sifting of wheat was an agricultural process of agitating or shaking grain in a kind of fan or sieve. The grain remained in the fan and would not fall through the mesh while the chaff and dust were thrown off and no matter how much you agitated or shook the grain, true wheat would not fall through. Now if there was no wheat in the sieve, everything would fall through. In using this illustration, Jesus is saying that everything that is not of faith will be ground up and blown away and that the disciples must hold to their faith, trusting the power and goodness of God for their hope, then they will not fall through the mesh into Satan’s hands. Satan will take advantage of trials and craft well-designed temptations to agitate and sift out our faith with a view to obliterate it. The devil boastfully and arrogantly believes that no true faith exists in the church and that people only believe because of God’s blessing and selfish interests. So he will sift you with suffering, popularity, success, wealth, taking advantage of convenient opportunities of weakness and do whatever it takes to prove your faith false.
Much later from first-hand experience, Peter wrote, : “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith” (1Peter 5:8, 9). But the victory that overcomes Satan’s sieve and Satan’s throat is our faith. Similarly, John reminds us in his first epistle, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith” (1John 5:4).
We know that our struggles in this world are not against people but against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil from Hell. So we take up the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. So we should not be surprised by temptations and trials but instead prepare our minds for action, regarding these as formidable attacks as if your very faith is THE TARGET of a powerful enemy. Prepare for the fight, because all temptations are forged in the workshop of the enemy!
Tomorrow: The Guarantee of Jesus that true faith will persevere!