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!
Neuroscientists have long known that people’s changes in attitudes, lifestyles, and habits coincide with the rewiring of their brains. But they haven’t always known the catalyst for the rewiring and change. Recent research has revealed that an important part of how people change is through the process of telling their stories to an empathetic listener.
When a person tells his story and is truly heard and understood, both he and the listener undergo actual changes in their brain circuitry. The one telling his story feels a greater sense of emotional and relational connection with a decreased sense of anxiety about the future and a relief of guilt from the past.
Even the listener’s brain is changed and the result is a greater awareness of and compassion for the suffering of others. As human listeners we can connect with the idea that we have a sense of empathy when we hear someone tell us their story. Empathy is the intellectual and emotional identification or the vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.
If as humans, we can experience empathy for another and have greater compassion toward them as a result, imagine how inviting the empathy, care and compassion that the God-man, Jesus Christ has for you when you tell Him what’s on your heart. Being God and having suffered as a man, Jesus has the highest capacity for compassion for your suffering, stress and temptation. In Jesus rests a visceral mirror of your emotions, frustrations, and anxieties. He feels what you feel when you feel it. He Gets Us! So why not approach Him with what is on your heart today? This is crucial if we want transformation in our lives.