“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
I have read this verse numerous times over the years and always thought that Satan sifting Simon like wheat was the worst thing he could possibly do to him. I have been fearful of Satan doing the same thing to me because I do not want to deny the Lord. However, the Lord is sovereign even in this attack by Satan. The Lord can bring good out of Satan’s attacks.
Sifting wheat was a common task during the time of Christ. After wheat was harvested, a giant wheel rolled over it to break away the outer shell known as chaff. The farmer would then use a giant pitchfork like tool to throw the wheat into the air. The wind would blow away the chaff, the inedible part of the wheat, and the kernel would fall to the ground.
When Satan asked to sift Simon and the other disciples like wheat, his plan was to cause them to fall away, which they did. His plan was for them to deny that they knew Christ, which Simon did. His plan was for Christ to not have any followers, which for a time He didn’t. But God used this time of testing to show the disciples how weak, unfaithful, and in need of a savior they really were. Peter, during the three years Jesus was on the earth, was the most boastful and vocal of the disciples. He often boasted in his own strength and of how great a man of faith he was. The Lord wanted to show him “Peter you are not great, Jesus is great. You are not faithful, Jesus is faithful. You are weak, Jesus is strong.” God allowed Satan to sift the disciples so their chaff could be blown away and the good parts would remain; God wanted to show them how ugly their flesh was, so they would rely on the Spirit. God was going to use this to bring good in the disciple’s lives.
What I love most about this passage is Jesus’ prayer for Simon. In summary he says, “Simon I know you are going to deny me. You are going to fail more than the others. But after you realize that you sinned and come back to the Father, I want you to help your brothers to do the same. You will need to point them back to me, and I am praying that that is exactly what you will do.” Jesus didn’t pray that Satan wouldn’t be able to sift the disciples; he prayed that afterwards they would turn back to God and walk closer with Him. How encouraging to know that God knows we will fail in our walk with Him. Yet he prays that we will always come back to Him with a stronger understanding of His greatness and our weaknesses, and that we would be able to help others who fall into the same temptation. What an awesome God we serve.
I’ve been challenged to look differently at the different trials in my life, to not see them as frustrations, but as opportunities for the Lord to remove the chaff in my life and reveal more of the Spirit. I’ve also been encouraged to pray differently--to pray that the trials in our lives would only strengthen our faith in Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.