Luke 22:31 records that Jesus Christ told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

This brief passage provides rich insight and encouragement to the thinking Bible reader. We can gain wisdom in our own spiritual journeys through “knowing how the story went” with Peter.

Despite his resolve to be faithful to Jesus—no matter what—Peter would be sifted like wheat and Christ told him how it would play out: Peter’s denial that he even knew the Lord. And within a few hours, that is what happened; not once, but three times (Luke 22:33-34, 54-60).

No sooner were Peter’s last words of denial uttered and the rooster crowed that we read Jesus (who had been scorned, abused and beaten), turned and looked at His imperfect follower. The apostle immediately remembered Jesus’ prophetic words and went out, weeping bitterly (Luke 22:61-62).

Yet Peter was not without hope. Jesus had told him beforehand what would happen and that He Himself was praying for Peter’s faith to remain.

I believe when Christ locked his gaze on Peter in that riveting moment of Luke 22:61, the disciple saw love and compassion in His eyes. Why? Because after going out and weeping bitterly, we next find Peter realigned with the remaining disciples after Christ’s crucifixion and death (see Luke 24:1-9). He knew Jesus loved him unconditionally. We see him running to the empty tomb after the testimony of the women that Jesus had risen from the dead (Luke 24:11-12). We’re told Christ appeared to him between the events of Luke 24:12 and 34. And, of course, we are later shown Peter’s intimate calling by Jesus to nurture and care for believers—Christ’s “sheep” (John 21:15-25).

What encouraging realities!

Yet have you ever stopped to think about what exactly it was Satan did to “sift Peter like wheat?” And how knowing this might help you and me as we live out the Christian faith?

It appears the enemy chose an area of testing guaranteed to shake Peter to the core of his being. While the devil isn’t all knowing in the same manner as God, he does know man’s heart and possesses good recall of our proven vulnerabilities. Remember, there was a previous incident in which Peter—overwhelmed by his sinfulness in the presence of God the Son—begged Christ to leave him:

And He [Jesus] got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s [Peter’s], and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’

Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them.  And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken… (Luke 5:3-9)

Right there, Satan likely took note. Peter, a mortal infected by sin like all of us, became unraveled at the realization he was in proximity to Almighty God. His was, perhaps, a more “modern” version of the prophet Isaiah’s cry when brought into the throne room of God:

Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:5).

Satan knew from the fishing boat incident that shame and feelings of unworthiness could be the ticket to make Simon Peter feel so guilt-ridden and worthless that he would abandon the faith. And he used another of Peter’s weaknesses—concern over what others thought of him—as the means by which to carry out the sifting.

How about you and me?

Can you identify any areas of vulnerability which previously caused your faith in God and His Word to waver or grind to a halt? To quench your desire to walk with Him? If so, we can bring those weaknesses to the Lord in prayer for a fresh washing in truth. And then begin the daily process of arming ourselves ahead of any trials or testing relating to them.

Consider asking yourself: If I were a spiritual enemy seeking to destroy the faith in Christ of someone just like me, what areas of attack would I consider?

Below is a link which goes deeper into the issue of Satan’s desire to sift Peter and the other apostles like wheat, and why God allowed it to occur. It contains helpful insights for us that I hope you’ll place in your spiritual tool box. In addition, I do implore you to:

  • Prayerfully consider root causes which may have tripped you up in your faith walk with God, either now or in the past (Psalm 139:23-24);
  • Lay those things before the Lord in humility, even if you’ve already dealt with them properly and been forgiven (Psalm 51:10);
  • Lean into God’s Word for continuing strength and insight (Ephesians 6:10-11);
  • Bring a trusted prayer partner into your areas of vulnerability (Matthew 18:19-20); and
  • Thank God for His glorious power to wrest our defeats from the hands of the enemy and lead us into triumph (I Corinthians 15:57).

Do you realize that Christ sees you right now through eyes of love and compassion, as I believe He did with Peter? He meets each person who places his or her trust in Him for right standing before God—no matter how ugly the failures or situations they find themselves in—ready and able to restore. And not only to restore believers when their faith is violently shaken, but gently lead any who are willing into a greater beauty and intimacy with Him than they’d previously known.

I’m going to be vulnerable, here. The above paragraph underscores my own story. I can relate to Peter and his failures, and have joined the chorus of those in awe of the ways in which God’s unfathomable love and restorative power is available to anyone through Jesus Christ. And the longer I live, the more I thrillingly cling to grace and marvel at His mercy. It’s the reason Encouragement That Lasts and today’s blog even exist.

Please note how implementing the above bullet points can help bring home the exhortation and joy Peter was hand-picked to strengthen us with:

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.]

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be].  (I Peter 5:8-10, Amplified)

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Please think and pray over these things and be encouraged to know that:

The degree of pressure we experience is never the issue, but whether we allow it to push us away from intimacy with God or have it serve as the means for pressing us more deeply into relationship with Him.

Going forward, which will you choose?

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We are loved (and I’m grateful for that)!


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People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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