He May Sift You As Wheat

Robert C. Veil, Jr.

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” -Luke 22:31

  Just prior to his betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus saw the need to reveal this amazing fact to Peter. He used a figure of speech, which created a vivid mental image not easily forgotten. He likened Peter to wheat about to be sifted.

“Sifting” is an intentional, deliberate process. In Jesus’ day, the grain crops were sifted by hand in order to remove the “chaff” or waste. Today, a similar process is used in the mechanical combining process to “blow off’ the chaff, leaving only the pure grain. However, when sifting by hand, the process can be prolonged and focused according to the amount of chaff involved. Unfortunately, some of the good grain is usually lost in the course of a good sifting. Sometimes the grain is damaged or broken, and some of it may even be “blown off’ with the waste.

The sifter has complete power and control over the wheat. The wheat has no power to resist. This is what Satan desired and requested so he could prolong Peter’s trials and difficulties. “Satan has desired to have you.” By exerting an unusual dominion and control over Peter, Satan would have him under his own power to destroy him and eliminate his influence for good.

Satan does not need to totally crush us to eliminate our usefulness in the kingdom. It is sufficient to break and damage us to the point that much of our good use and effectiveness is “blown off’ and eliminated. This can be done many ways:

Fear of failure has prevented many good works in the church. Nobody wants to be considered a failure. If we continue to hesitate and contemplate the risks long enough, almost any endeavor for the Lord will seem unwise or impossible. Satan uses the fear of failure to keep good works from ever getting off the ground.

Fear of criticism can also stop us from effectively pursuing a work if it does get off the ground. “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision,” (Gal. 2:11, 12). Satan used Peter’s fear of being criticized by his peers to keep him from supporting and encouraging his brothers in Christ.

Distraction by cares and pleasures of this life has thwarted many servants of God who managed to overcome their fears of failure and criticism. A lapse in judgment, a moral failure, yielding to some temptation of Satan, committing some public sin, and, suddenly, a person’s influence is badly compromised or destroyed. It may take only one. Once it is known that a person is guilty of some high profile misstep, it may be next to impossible for most people to see beyond it.

Peter experienced failure, criticism, and distraction but was not permanently crippled. Ultimately, he rose above these things in his effective service for the Lord. This is no doubt because the Lord did much more than inform him of Satan’s desire to “sift him as wheat.” He went on to say, “But I have prayed for you, that thy faith fail not.” What an amazing, encouraging thought! Jesus himself had personally prayed for Peter.

In like manner, Jesus has prayed for us. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, John 17:20. That includes all believers. Whatever “sifting” the devil was permitted to do was evidently tempered and restrained by the Savior. The same temperance and restraint is promised for us. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

 Jesus exhorted Peter, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” When you turn again to an orientation of faithful allegiance to me, let your experience help you to encourage your brethren. It is no secret that the most encouraging examples are those who themselves have passed through the fires of affliction. Jesus knew that the sifting experience not only makes us more pure and faithful, but also better equipped to strengthen and encourage our brethren. –21536 Leitersburg-Smithsburg Rd., Hagerstown, MD 21742. rveil@washco-md.net

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