Nobody likes to be shaken from his or her comfort zone. But even after we pray, sometimes we find ourselves shaken from those comfort zones. Is God not powerful enough to fix our problems? Luke 22:31–38 shows us that when we are sifted, we are strengthened by Jesus to return to Him and strengthen others. Our sifting correlates with Jesus’ suffering and Passion (=suffering) as we journey through the cross to the power of the resurrection. This is Passionate, Passion-shaped Discipleship.
First, we are sifted. Satan requests permission to sift Simon (Luke 22:31), a violent process removing the coarse parts of wheat through a sieve. Notice that Satan requests permission, just like he did with Job (Job 1:9–12; 2:4–6). Why must Peter be sifted? He is full of self-confidence (Luke 22:33), unaware of his true weakness (Luke 22:34). This self-confidence must be sifted so that he might be confident in the power of Christ alone. Similarly God often allows Satan to sift us to remove self that we might shine more of Christ.
Yet Jesus does not stand idly by as we are sifted; consequently, we are strengthened in prayer and preparation. He says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). He does not pray to remove the trial, but he prays for faith not to fail. While Satan wants to sift Peter and destroy him like chaff, Jesus prays that he might be purified like wheat. The sifting process is critical to remove impurities. Jesus strengthens them in prayer and preparation (Luke 22:35–38). He makes them aware of the challenges to come as he is “numbered with the transgressors” (22:37). Difficult times were coming, and they should expect it.
As our failings are revealed, we must also return. Jesus says, “And when you have turned again” (Luke 22:32), speaking of Peter’s repentance. He does not prevent his failure, but he does invite his repentance. It does not matter how many times that we fall, but it matters that we get up again. Similarly we must repent each time that we fall. Jesus’ strengthening power and presence comes even as we fall.
And we are strengthened so that we can strengthen others. Jesus says, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter is both the chief denier of Jesus but also the chief proclaimer of Jesus. Throughout the book of Acts, he proclaims the greatness of what Jesus has done. He who experiences much of God’s grace and forgiveness can proclaim much of that grace and forgiveness. Similarly Jesus allows the sifting process so that we might encounter more of his strength and strengthen others with that strength. Indeed, we comfort others “with the comforted with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:4).
We are strengthened to strengthen others. We are comforted to comfort others. We are sifted so that we might bless others. So let us not be afraid of the sifting processes that we encounter, but let us rise up with confidence and strength.