December 15th

Times of Sifting

31Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan has asked excessively that [all of] you be given up to him [out of the power and keeping of God], that he might sift [all of] you like grain,
32But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.
33And [Simon Peter] said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death.
34But Jesus said, I tell you, Peter, before a [single] cock shall crow this day, you will three times [utterly] deny that you know Me.
  Luke 22:31-34 AMP 

When we set out to live for God, there will inevitably be “times of sifting” that will come our way.  Though sifting may be carried out by Satan, God allows it to measure and test the sincerity of our faith.  When we pass the times of sifting successfully, we may well be ready for a special kingdom task that God desires us to do.   

I can so identify with Peter in the above passage.  He seemed so confident that he’d never deny the Lord.  He probably felt it wouldn’t be that hard to remain faithful to the Master.  Perhaps he didn’t realize that he had an enemy who truly hated him and would stop at nothing to destroy him.  When God set me free from sexual addiction, I thought I was ready to go into full time ministry.  Two years later God called me to leave my secure position as a company executive and develop porn-free.org.  I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to do, as I was thinking it would be about six months before I’d be doing some public speaking and being “raised up” in ministry. As months turned into years, I began to realize that God’s timing isn’t always our timing.   I don’t think I fully understood the Lord when he told me that his mission for my wife and I was going to be too hard for us to accomplish.  He said that the only way we could do it would be by relying on him every step of the way.  So true those words have been!   

During these past years, it seems like Marion and I have been sifted many times, and there’s probably more to come.  The sifting hasn’t been pleasant, but the fruit of it has included patience and endurance.  I’ve found James 1:2-4 tremendously helpful to remember during these sifting times:  2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  (NKJV)  I take comfort in knowing that the Master is preparing us for his purposes and that we’re being perfected and completed along the way.   

Jesus prayed that Peter would strengthen and establish the brethren once he had turned back to the Lord.  Likewise, when we’ve gone through some sifting, hopefully we will encourage others in their faith when they are being challenged.  Banding together in the body of Christ, we can also pray for and encourage one another as we go through our respective times of sifting.  Jesus’ prayer for Peter was answered, and so will our prayers be answered for our fellow Christians!    

When we’re in the thick of the battle, ready to give up the faith, a little encouragement from our brothers and sisters in Christ can make all the difference.  A few edifying words can reinvigorate us to keep pressing in and stand against the onslaught.  I can think of many times during the past few years when I’ve been ready to give up.  In his great love and mercy, God has used people such as my wife, family members, pastors and friends in Christ to encourage me and pray for me such that my faith didn’t collapse.    

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God in heaven, Thank you for protecting me from the evil one.  Thank you for sustaining me by your word during the times of sifting I may have gone through.  Lord, please strengthen my faith so that I will not fall during the times of sifting that may lie ahead.  I pray that the testing of my faith will produce patience and that patience will have its perfect work in me.  Please help me to fully connect with the body of Christ so that I may help strengthen others in their walk and receive the ministry that I need.  Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of serving you as a son and an heir to your kingdom.  I praise you now and forever, Amen.”