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!
Have you ever had a friend or spouse approach you with the words, “I have some good news and some bad news, which would you like to hear first?” This is common phraseology in our culture which is sometimes simply employed to communicate an outlook that is mixed with positive and negative elements, but in my experience is most often used to cushion impact of Bad News. Why is there always SOME bad news? Well, our reaction to receiving Bad News says a lot about where our trust rests. Psalm 112:6-8 says: “For the righteous will never be moved…He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (ESV)
In Mark 5, while Jesus was still speaking to the woman with the chronic bleeding problem, the desperate dad/ruling church elder named Jairus, who has been waiting on Jesus to come to his home to heal his dying daughter, received some Bad News from the home: “Your daughter is dead.” This Message produces an even greater level of despair in the Dad. It saps his courage, his faith sinks like a punctured tire and a pit grows in his stomach the size of a basketball. This is perhaps the worst news a parent can ever receive, he has lost his pride and joy! His little girl, whom he loves is gone. Seemingly death places the concern outside of Jesus’ ability to help. But with instant access to the dad’s thoughts, feelings and blood pressure readings, Jesus hears the desperation, gives the deepest empathy and says to him, “Don’t fear, just believe.”
Can you imagine Jesus, with His steely eyes looking right into yours then with absolute knowledge of you and your life circumstances, can you hear Him speaking those strong yet tender words to you “Don’t fear, Just Believe”?
“Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing frighten you, Everything passes, God never changes, Patience Obtains all, Whoever has God Wants for nothing, God alone is enough” –Teresa of Avila
Tomorrow: “Fear Constricts the Flow of Grace while Faith Opens its Hydrant”