Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sifted as Wheat

     “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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Urgency towards our task

     What makes someone work urgently or fervently on a task?  Almost always it is because the task has an immediate deadline.  It has to be done now.  The sooner the deadline is, the sooner it has to be completed.  What if we don’t know when the deadline is?  Well, we won’t know how urgent the task is then.  That is the situation the disciples find themselves in Mark 14:32-39.  Jesus is praying and awaiting His impending betrayal by Judas.  He tells the disciples to watch and pray and walks about a stone’s throw away to kneel and pray.  As He is fervently praying to God the Father about all that is to come that night and the following day His disciples are sleeping.  On Jesus’ last night on earth before His crucifixion those closest to Him were sleeping.  Jesus returns, finds them sleeping and says, “Are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
     The disciples didn’t know what was about to happen.  They weren’t concerned with praying that night.  It was late, they were tired, and it was going to be a busy Passover weekend.  Therefore they put little effort into their task to pray.  Jesus again walks a short distance away to pray returning once more to them sleeping.  The passage tells us that, “They did not know what to say to him.”  
     Believers have a task to do.  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Since we don’t know when Christ is returning, a good portion of the church has become apathetic.  They are sleeping just as the disciples did.  Jesus’ last night on earth His disciples spent sleeping; and if the church doesn’t regain a since of urgency then a good portion of the church will spend the hours, days, weeks, months before His return sleeping.  Can you image having Christ, your savior, say, “Could you not keep watch and pray for such a short amount of time?”  Just as the disciples didn’t have a response neither would we.  Just because something is not a sin doesn’t make it a wise use of time.  Do you think the disciples felt justified in their actions when they were face to face with Jesus caught in the act of sleeping?  Not even close!  Therefore, although we don’t know our deadline we do know the task.  Don’t get caught sleeping with no response to give.