This past experience returned snuck to the forefront of my memory as I recalled Jesus' conversation with Peter predicting Peter's denial of Himself in Luke 22:31. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat." Strikingly, Satan sometimes asks God for permission to test us (recall Job's testing) and sometimes we need the sifting. This concept was first introduced to me by Beth Moore in her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, over four years ago. So should we ask for sifting? What a dangerous prayer! Many would say it like this, "Oh Lord, refine me." The refining is so difficult. But it comes with a promise.
I love Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians in his first letter, chapter 5:23-24
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.This is the prayer I need to pray. Notice that it begins with the proclamation that God is peace. He provides me peace and He is at peace with me because I believe Jesus' sacrifice for my sin makes me right with God (Romans 5:1). It is this God, at peace with me, that will make all of me holy, pure and blameless. He will use daily challenges and life's obstacles to make me holy. Do I truly embrace this? When my compassionate one is having an "emotional moment," crying and yelling at her sisters and I feel helpless, myself ready to scream, do I see this as God making me holy? When I'm impatient with friends spinning their wheels in their own poor choices and I want to yell, "Just stop it," but am called to love, encourage and pray. Do I welcome this sifting? Every obstacle in life, no matter big or small, is an opportunity to be transformed into the image of Christ. Unless I am sifted, like the wheat my friend and I cleaned, I am not ready to be used by the Lord.
Last, don't overlook the promise at the end of the verse; God is faithful and He will do it. He will do the refining as I look toward Him.
This reflecting makes me realize, it's always so easy to see other people's sin. I can see God using circumstances to refine others, somehow, I think I'm missing the refining He wants to do in me. Why is it always so easy to see other people's sin? Peter didn't recognize his sin until the rooster crowed the third time. I'm not much different. How do I prevent this? When we look at others we have a different perspective. Imagine looking at a VanGogh from two inches away. Now step back two feet. You see a different picture. Do I step back from my own life often enough to see a different picture? Driptime is a great time for this. Use this time to examine your life. Use Psalm 139:1-2, 23-24 and 1 Corinthians 11:28 to evaluate your circumstances and listen to God. I've been woken up in the middle of the night lately with revelations I believe are from God. Most recently, He revealed to me us use my circumstance to practice being gentle in spirit.
Also, do I have people in my life who love me enough to speak the truth in love? Someone who loves me enough to step up to the plate when I need a 2x4 over the head to realize I'm being stupid and need to stop and repent? These people are grounded in God's Word and tell me the truth from His Word, not what I want to hear.
Jesus went on to tell Peter, "But I have prayer for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Jesus prays for us and cheers us on through our times of sifting. We need to trust, persevere and when necessary, repent. Turn 180 degrees to the Lord and after we've been strengthened, encourage the church.
I am so thankful that Peter was sifted! When you read the first 12 chapters of Acts, you see how mightily God used Peter to build the church through Peter's leadership, witness, preaching and even miracles.
Take two steps back from your life's circumstance and examine it. Ask God to speak to you (1 Samuel 3:9) and listen. How is God using this circumstance to sift you? Pray for strength to persevere and claim a verse to repeat out loud every time the battle gets too hard.