Jesus was concerned about Satan’s efforts to destroy His own apostles. “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, NLT).
Satan asked for Peter. I wonder if Peter though of this event later on when he wrote about that “roaring lion seeking to devour God’s people. (cf. 1 Peter 5:8) Peter knew what it was like to be stalked by the lion.
This attack from Satan must be diligently considered. Satan desired to “sift you as wheat”. When wheat is sifted it is filtered through a sieve and the wheat was separated from the chaff (or worthless kernels of the wheat). This process makes the wheat purer than it was before the sifting. Of course, without sifting the real wheat could not be identified and used.
Now each of us would probably have responded to Jesus' warning the same way Peter did. Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” (v. 33) Our faith in God is unwavering, until it is tested. This was to be the ultimate test for Peter, and Jesus knew that his friend would fail by denying Him three times before men. (Luke 22:34)
Yet Jesus prayed for Peter. But notice what he prayed for. He prayed that his faith would not fail. A faith that fails is not one that never sins, but one that refuses to repent (return to Christ). Even though Peter would fail his test by denying Jesus, he fulfilled Jesus’ request – that he repent and strengthen his brethren. (cf. John 22:15-19; Acts 2)
Back to this business of “sifting.” Notice again that Jesus DID NOT pray that there would be NO sifting. God allows us to be sifted. Only in the sifting can that which is useless be separated from that which can be used. And one way for us to realize what we are made of is to be tested. You see, testing is not so much that God is trying to find out something, but that He is trying to show us something about us and Himself.
God teaches His children through problems just as school students are given problems as part of their learning experience. Yet, most Christians fail to count trials as joy (James 1:2). They see them as some strange thing that has happened to them (1 Peter 4:12). Rather than growing from the trial, Christians complain and seek relief rather than spiritual growth.
Peter allowed his sifting to become his greatest moment of recovery and faith building: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV)
What about you? Do you see trials as an opportunity to grow spiritually or as an unwelcome intrusion that you can do without? Think about it.