The Positive Side of Sifting

Luke 22:31 “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:”

When we arrive this point in the earthly life of Christ, it will be but a matter of days until He goes to the cross and gives His life a ransom for sinners. At this time He is not only preparing Himself for the cross, but He is preparing His disciples for the cross. He will endeavor to prepare them with words about: a Comforter, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16), a Construction, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), a Coming, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3), and a Conflict, “behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:” (Luke 22:31).

While it appears that Jesus is speaking only to Simon, in reality He is speaking to all of His disciples. Some writers say that the pronoun in the verse is plural; therefore speaking to all. Jesus’ words are twofold; for Peter it reveals a personal conflict and for the disciples it reveals a perpetual conflict. Peter would later write, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (I Peter 5:8-9). Jesus is telling Peter as well as all His children that Satan desires to sift us. The word, “sift” means, to pass through a sieve or to riddle figuratively. Satan wants to take the life of the believer and turn it upside down while at the same time blow through it with the winds of adversity proving that we are really nothing more than worthless chaff and contain little or no wheat.

At first glance, it appears that sifting is totally negative and the believer should attempt to avoid the experience at all cost. While that is the way it may appear, in reality, there is a positive side to sifting. Sifting is: The Punishment of Satan, The Pleasure of the Sovereign, and The Perfecting of the Saint. In order to grasp the positive aspects of the sifting process, it is necessary to consider the various areas of Simon’s life that were exposed to the sifting process. I want to mention four and for the purpose of time, magnify only one! While there are numerous areas that could be listed, there are four that seem to be seen more clearly; strength or stability, speech, scriptures, and spirit.

For our study, I want to magnify Peter’s strength or stability. In order to understand the process and to see its worth, it is necessary to see the product that the process helped produce. We are given some insight into Peter’s strength and stability when we examine Acts 4:13, 29-31, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”

When they set Peter and John before the council in Jerusalem (see Acts 4:6) and began to question them in a threatening manner, the demeanor to the council quickly changed, “they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them.” The council’s indignation was extinguished by a spirit of admiration as they acknowledged the evidence of Christ-likeness in the lives of Peter and John. By what means was the spiritual character of Peter and John manifested; “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John.” The apparent evidence of “boldness” moved the council! The word “boldness” means, all out-spokeness, frankness, assurance or confidence. Peter will not be backed down or shamed because of his relationship with Christ!

But, that was not the case previous to sifting! This is what he said, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (Matthew 26:35). This is what he did, “Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew” (Matthew 26:69-74). Peter’s courage dissipated like the dew on a hot summer day. His courage was not put to flight by the council, but by a young damsel!

Had it not been for the satanic punishment that was permissible by the Sovereign that perfected the saint, Peter would have never been the man that he ultimately became; and neither will you! While it may not be pleasant, there is a positive side to sifting!