Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
What a deeply meaningful incident! It tells us a great deal about life in the world as it is and how we are to respond to it, including to our own failures. In the first place, it touches on why the devil is allowed to do some of the things he does. Sifting isn’t a bad thing, but it might feel bad to the wheat. The purpose of sifting is to remove impurities, not only chaff but also little rocks and the like that can get into the mix. We really don’t want impurities in our lives, but the problem is, too often we can’t distinguish accurately what needs to go. Sifting takes care of that. The second thing is that Jesus knew full well that Peter was going to fall flat in the process. He didn’t pray that Peter wouldn’t fall, He prayed that he wouldn’t lose his faith. There’s a huge difference. Precisely because Peter so publicly denied knowing Jesus, he was thereafter forever insulated from pride, from thinking he could get it right on his own. That’s valuable indeed! We don’t want to fall, and we don’t want those we care about to fall, but if faith remains, God can indeed use our failures for good, for us and for those around us. (Romans 8:28) When Jesus first gave Simon the name, Peter, he was far from being a rock of stability, but this incident went a long way in making him the rock that he indeed was in the early Church. As Jesus told him to do, he strengthened his brothers and he fed Jesus’ sheep. (John 21:15-19)
This is an important lesson for me to take to heart. I can see how God has used some of my failures to shape and purify me, so as a pastor I am to pray that He would do the same for those under my care. I agonize sometimes over what my “sheep” get into. I am to pray that they not be led into temptation, (Matthew 6:13) but even more I am to pray that their faith not fail. I may even find I have a Peter or two in the flock! I am to trust God that He will not allow anyone to go through more than they can bear if they will turn to Him, and so pray that everyone, myself included, would keep our hearts turned to Him even when we fail, not letting go of our faith. When that happens, we will indeed be built up as living stones into a House suitable for our Lord. (1 Peter 2:5)
Father, You know who is on my mind as I write. I indeed pray that their faith would not fail, but rather that they would be purified and strengthened to in turn strengthen their brothers and sisters, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!