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Is Satan running the show down here on earth or does he have limits to his power? Can he do as he pleases, or is God in control? Yes, he has limits and yes, God is in absolute control. In fact, he has Satan on a leash. Even so, at times he allows Satan to sift us.
We cannot understand all the whys and hows, but we can catch a glimpse into this cosmic conundrum by observing both Peter’s and Job’s experience. (We will look at Job next week) In both cases, Satan must ask permission to attack these men. There is comfort in this Satan-on-a-leash concept, but it still leaves us uneasy as to the why, so let’s dig deeper.
Peter is a favorite character in the Bible. The difference between the Peter we see before he was sifted and the Peter after he was sifted is startling. Before he is sifted, we see an impetuous, braggadocios, prideful, can-do man. He’s smart-mouthed, quick-mouthed, loud-mouthed, and foot-in-mouthed.
He reminds me of … (hopefully the old) me.
“I’ll walk on water, but I forgot my life-preserver. I’ll stand by you, Jesus, till death, but I cannot seem to stay awake tonight. I will fight the world with my sword for you Jesus, but oops, I only got an ear.”
What a guy!
The Peter we see after sifting is a kind, gentle, reflective, and patient man of God:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.1
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand …2
Simon Peter, a servant … of Jesus Christ.3
What happened to bring about such a radical change? Where did all his baggage go? What softened big, tough, braggadocios Peter?
He got sifted.
On the final night Jesus spent with his closest friends, he warns Peter (Simon) of an impending trial:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”4
Now if I’m Peter, I’m hoping, and even expecting, the next words out of Jesus’ mouth to be, “But no need to worry, Peter. I have denied Satan and I will protect you from any distress.”
And I’d be disappointed. Instead,
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”4
“You have prayed …for what? For my faith not to fail? Jesus, please forget praying and start protecting!”
But Jesus knew then what we all learn sooner or later: We are all carrying a lot of baggage, as well as clinging to idols, many of which we are not even aware. Jesus knows we need his help getting rid of this baggage, as well as the idols. We simply cannot free ourselves from either on our own.
They cling to us, and we cling to them. So I need sifting and so do you. I have been following Jesus for twenty-seven years, and I still need sifting. I want all that negative stuff gone, and I cannot seem to do it myself. Yes, I can self-sift, and I seek to. But for the really sticky stuff, I need Jesus’ help.
And so do you.
Next Week: Shaken, Not Stirred
11 Peter 4:8
21 Peter 5:5-6 b
32 Peter 1:1