“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
Satan himself desires to “sift” Peter like wheat.
Satan's goal is to derail, delay, and destroy God's plan through any means possible.
Many of those attacks came in and around the cross because that was the climactic moment when Satan was decisively defeated.
From this text we can learn an important truths that helps us understand our own temptations better.
Let us never forget that Satan wants something from us in the moment of temptation … and so does God!
One wants to destroy us and the other wants to deliver us.
In this case we see how Satan's temporary victory in Peter's life leads to a much greater victory for God in the end.
So it is for us as well. Our defeats, bitter as they are, can lead to great spiritual victories.
I. Satan's Purpose
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” The word translated “has asked” is a bit stronger than that in the Greek. It means something like a strong demand. Satan set his eyes on Peter and determined to bring him down by any means possible.
A. Satan's Desire
Satan's desire is to have you. I find it comforting that Satan must ask God's permission before touching any of his children. Sometimes Christians become frozen in fear because they have given Satan too much credit. Sometimes we talk as if Satan were a God. But that is quite different from the biblical picture. Satan is always revealed as a creature of great power and cunning who is nevertheless first and always a created being. He has no power independent of God. He can only do what God permits him to do.
B. Satan wants to “sift” God's people by putting them under such pressure that they will give way and their faith be proved to be weak and non productive. If that is the case, why would God permit his children to be put in such a bad position? I believe He does so that he can prove that even under severe pressure, we can survive if we depend upon his grace. In Peter's case that meant actually failing God and then be restored.
II. Christ's Prayer
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” These simple words contain amazing reservoirs of truth. First, they tell us that Christ knew in advance everything that Peter was about to do. He knew about the denials, the cursing, the repeated lies Peter was about to tell, and he knew about the bitter tears he would shed. Even more than that, he knew that one day Peter would become a mighty preacher of the gospel. He saw it all–the pride, the reckless boasting, the shameful denials, the broken heart, and the deep repentance, and the new resolve to serve the Lord. He saw it all before any of it had happened.
He saw it before Peter knew anything about it.
Second, Christ's response to Peter's fall is to pray for him. Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Jesus prays for us in heaven Not in general or by groups, but one by one he prays for us: What an awesome thought–that the Son of God prays for us. Without his prayers we would never make it.
Third, Christ does not pray for Peter to be removed from temptation. Instead, he prays that in the midst of his shame that he would not lose his faith. “Father, Satan wants to sift him to destroy him altogether. Please don't let that happen.”
This explains so much about why we go through hard times. Many times God intends that we should face the truth of our own personal failures so that our trust might be in the Lord alone.
III. Peter's Conversion
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” The King James says “when you are converted.” In other words Peter, when you have turned back after your failure, strengthen your brethren.
Note the little word “When.” What a word of grace that is. The Lord Jesus knew all about Peter's coming fall but more than that, he saw that Peter would return to the Lord and be stronger than ever.
I notice two encouraging facts about the way Jesus treated Peter: 1) He never criticized him and 2) He never gave up on him.
Jesus knew about Peter's denial long before it happened. He knew what Peter would do, he knew how he would react, and he knew the kind of man Peter would be afterward. That's why he said, “When you have turned back.” Not if … but when! He knew that Peter's heart was good, he knew after his fall he would return to the Lord. Isn't that wonderful? Jesus has more faith in Peter than Peter has in Jesus. He knew that Peter had important work to do–“Strengthen your brothers”–but it couldn't happen without his fall and his restoration to the Lord. It had to happen that way or else Peter would never be fully effective for Christ.
There is an important principle at work here. A bone that is broken often becomes stronger after it is healed. Something in the healing process actually makes the break point stronger than it was before. The same is true of a rope that breaks. In the hands of a master splicer, the rope once repaired becomes stronger than it was before.
The same thing is true of our failures. God can touch our broken places and make us stronger than we were before. Though we fall and fall and fall, and though our faces are covered with the muck and grime of bitter defeat, by God's grace we can rise from the field of defeat to march on to new victory.
That's what happened to Peter. His guilt was turned into grace; his shame into sympathy; his failure into faithfulness.
If God knows about our failures even before we fail, why doesn't he stop us? Why does he let us go headlong over the cliff?
Here are three possible answers.
A. To show us the depth of our sin. As long as we stand on top of the cliff, we can brag about our goodness, but when we are lying at the bottom, bruised and broken, we are forced to admit the truth about ourselves.
B. To purge us from pride. I don't think Peter ever forgot that sad night when he denied the Lord. Never again would he boastfully claim to be more courageous than the other apostles. So it is with all of us. Our failures are like Jacob's limp. They serve as a perpetual reminder and a guard against overwhelming pride.
C. To prepare us for greater work we must do. In some way we can't fully understand, Peter had to fall so that God could raise him back up again. The falling part was Peter's own doing, the raising up came by the gracious hand of the Lord.
Can I say that there is no getting up without falling down first. Even so our failures qualify us to minister to others we could never otherwise reach.(NO Mission) When we fail God, it will sometimes helps us be more compassionate and understanding toward others. God often uses broken people to accomplish great things. If you doubt this, let's do a roll call of broken saints!
Noah who got drunk
Abraham who lied about his wife
Jacob who was a deceiver
Moses who murdered an Egyptian
Rahab who was a harlot
David who was an adulterer
Paul who persecuted the church
Peter who denied Christ
Here is an amazing thought to ponder: Peter did much more for Jesus Christ after his fall than he did before. Before his fall, he was loud, boisterous and unreliable; afterward he became a flaming preacher of the gospel. Before, he was a big talker; afterward, he talked only of what Jesus Christ could do for others. He was the same man, but he was different. He was still Peter through and through, but he had been sifted by Satan, and in the sifting the chaff of his life had been blown away.
This is what Peter lost in his failure:
His rash impulsiveness
This is what Peter gained after his restoration:
New confidence in God
New determination to serve Jesus Christ
A willingness to use his experience to help others
The things he lost he didn't really need; the things he gained couldn't have come any other way. In the same way God redeems our mistakes by removing the things that brought us down and replacing them with the qualities we always wanted but couldn't seem to find.
There is much in this story to encourage us. It was not the real Peter who denied the Lord; it was the real Peter who followed him into the courtyard. It was not the real Peter who cursed and swore; it was the real Peter who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” When the Lord looks at you and me, he sees beyond our faults to the loyalty underneath. He sees our pain, our tears, and our earnest desire to please him. He sees us in our faltering attempts to follow him.
What should we learn from these words of Christ?
The value of humility. If Christ's hand-picked Number One man could deny him, then none of us can claim to be beyond temptation. Peter wasn't a bad man, but he was weak and he didn't realize how weak he was until it was too late. Humility is always in order. You're not as hot as you think you are … and neither am I.
The need for patience with each other. Sometimes we act surprised when our Christian friends disappoint us. Perhaps we should be surprised when they don't. Certainly we'd all be happier if we lowered our expectations to a level consistent with reality. Even on our best days, we will still sin and disappoint ourselves and others. It benefits us all to cut each other a little bit of slack.
The magnificence of God's grace. God's grace is so wonderful. The fact that God would take us back after we fail Him is amazing.
This means that the God who forgives our past and our present intends also to forgive our future as well. You may be heading for a fall and you don't know it yet. Take heart, the God who loves you enough to let you fall will himself pick you back up again.
Here is good news for all of us. God specializes in taking what is broken and putting it back together again. The church is a collection of broken people who have discovered God's grace telling other broken people where they can discover God's grace. The world takes broken things and throws them away. God puts them back together again. If you are broken, do not despair. Keep believing, and hang on to Jesus. In the end you will be like Peter–restored, renewed, and ready to serve the Lord again.