Friday, July 4, 2014

Permission Granted

"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." 
Luke 22:31-32

Simon (Peter) had a bullseye on his back. Known as one of the disciples in Jesus' inner circle, he was a devout follower of Christ. Loyal. Trustworthy. Committed to the grave, or so he thought.

As much as Peter believed he was sold-out for Jesus and claimed in verse 33 he was ready to go with Him to prison and even death, he still had inner fears and doubts lurking about. Both Jesus and Satan recognized his lack of belief. Jesus knew that when tested, Peter would deny he ever knew Him. Not once. Not twice. Three times in a row.

What Jesus also knew, and Satan may not have, was that as a result of these trials Peter would repent and return to Him even more committed and determined than before. His faith would be redefined. We know this to be true from verse 32 where Jesus instructs Peter "when" you turn back, "strengthen your brothers". Not if you turn back, but when. He knew Peter was a man of faith and eventually, his faith would quench Satan's fiery darts. He would return strengthened in his faith, more solid in his beliefs, prepared for a higher calling and even greater ministry.

Merriam-Webster's defines sifting as this:

sift -- verb
1a: to put through a sieve  b: to separate
2: to go through especially to sort out what is useful or valuable

Satan has to ask God's permission to press on our lives. His purpose is to come against us with fiery trials and temptations to get us to turn our backs on God. But God has a greater purpose in the sifting. He uses it to sort out and remove unhealthy attitudes, fears, desires and agendas that are of no value or use to Him. To build unwavering faith into our character so that we completely trust in Him. To shape our hearts and lives in such a way as to make us willing and useful for His kingdom work. Such trials accelerate our spiritual growth when we turn to Him. They cause our trust in God's faithfulness and sovereignty to increase. They allow us to see aspects of God's character we might have never if things had always gone our way. And they bring about a process of pruning to make room for new spiritual fruit and growth. Sifting shifts our focus, our thinking, our loyalties, and makes us useful for God's greater purpose. 

Father God, I thank You for the nine years of sifting You have just allowed in my own life. I thank You for the spiritual growth, the testing and refining of my faith, the continued working out of ugly inner thoughts and selfish attitudes, the healing of my heart from things unthinkable, and the resolve to follow You and walk in obedience to Your call. I also thank You for Your abundant provision in the midst of terrible trials. You gave me a solid place to stand and eyes to see the blessing between the rocks and hard places. You placed me in a position to have immediate prayer support and encouragement when bad news came and tough situations came to a head. A place where I forged beautiful friendships, ministry opportunities abounded, and I managed to find my voice. Lord, You brought such increase to so many areas of my life. And where I was weak, You made me stronger. Though all of this was brought about as a result of some of the toughest trials in my life, I am forever grateful for the silver linings. I look forward to the new ministry opportunities that lie ahead and wait with great anticipation for the new season to begin! In Jesus' name I pray with much gratitude, amen.

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