Have you ever climbed a mountain? You finally reach the top and experience the grandeur of the scenery, but then you descend into the valley. Our lives are the same way; we have mountaintop moments followed by trials. Such was the case with the disciple Peter. He had a series of good experiences, but in Luke 22:24, he and the disciples began arguing who would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. In this sermon we made six observations from this scene and three applications.
- God sometimes hands us over to Satan for “sifting.” In Luke 22:31, Jesus responds to Peter and the disciples by telling them that Satan has demanded the opportunity to sift them like wheat. The wheat sifting process would separate, crush, shake, and beat the wheat until just the kernels were left. Satan wanted to tear apart the fabric of the disciples’ faith, and God was going to allow this to happen. This reminds us that Satan does have great power in this world, BUT...
- Satan’s power is limited by God’s permission. God has put Satan on a leash, and one day He will throw him into a pit for 1,000 years and defeat him for eternity (Rev. 20). Why doesn’t God conquer Satan now? For our good and His glory. Perhaps He lets the battle wage on so we can grow, and once He crushes Satan, we will see Him all the more as the true, omniscient, omnipotent Ruler of the universe.
- Satan’s goal is to root out the frauds of the faith. The sifting process separates the chaff from the wheat or the unusable/fake from the real thing. A fraud of the faith is someone who goes through a difficult time and gives up on God. Satan found one of these frauds (Judas); however, the other eleven disciples remained true. They still made mistakes, but ultimately, they held fast and went on to spread the word that Jesus is the Messiah.
- God’s goal is to refine and strengthen the faith of true believers. There might be a time when God hands us over to Satan for testing. This testing will look different for each of us, but it will be anything that gets our eyes off Jesus (poor health, a sudden influx of money, relationship problems, etc.), but we can be certain that Jesus is praying us through the challenges like He did with Peter (Luke 22:32). God will always be there, and we often feel Him more in a storm than any other time.
- God uses one person’s sifting to serve as strength for another person’s faith. Jesus encourages Peter and tells him explicitly to strengthen his fellow disciples (vs. 32). Peter later became a pillar of the faith and essentially started the Christian church. Remember that God will use Satan’s sifting of you to strengthen others as well.
- God allows this sifting to fortify faith that is forged from mountaintop experiences. When Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him, Peter disagreed and confidently announced that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and death (vs. 33). But Jesus knew Peter’s faith was still shaky; he had ulterior motives because of his desire to rule over the twelve tribes as Jesus said he would (vs. 28). Later Peter’s faith became strong and his bravery true. How? By denying Jesus and then later seeing Him resurrected, his faith increased and his testimony was strengthened.
So how can we apply this passage to our lives?
- Satan will sift you… be ready! What does it look like to be ready? If you are a leader, meaning you are trying to honor God, you are a bigger target. If you have had a mountaintop experience in your faith, the valley is coming. Know these truths, but don’t be paranoid and look for Satan everywhere. Don’t blame him every time you get sick, your car breaks down, or you stub your toe (and especially don’t blame him for your sin.) Ultimately, the source of your trial doesn’t matter. Jesus is the one with power anyway. Keep looking at Him.
- God will refine your faith… be strong! If God knows you are a genuine believer, He allows Satan to sift you so you will refine your faith and lock your gaze on Jesus. We are so easily distracted from Christ, but trials train us. Jesus is praying for us, and Lord willing, we will come out on the other side more focused and more in love with Him.
- You will be used to strengthen others… be available! When you are in the middle of a trial, do not turn your focus inward. Look around and see where you can be used to encourage others. Be visible, and don’t hide your trials from people. Give yourself the opportunity to proclaim to the world that our God is great, powerful, and true.
What’s the bottom line? Satan is real. Sifting is painful. Faith might falter. But genuine faith is strengthened by sifting and preserved from defection. Genuine faith will not defect like Judas did. It will come out the other side more refined.
Listen to the sermon here: