Have you ever really thought about the process of sifting wheat? You might have a general idea, but let me try and give you a clearer picture.
You see, wheat is actually a grass. The part of the wheat we eat is called the kernel which is inside the head. In manual sifting, the very first step is to cut the wheat down separating it from its roots. Next, the stalks are laid out on the ground to be threshed. In threshing, the wheat is beaten with a flail (a nun chuck like tool) to separate the head from the stem. Finally, the head is tossed up in the air allowing the last inedible part, called the chaff, to blow away. The left over edible part, called the kernel, is the only part left.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really thought about how laborious and exhausting the threshing and winnowing of wheat really is. I guess I just imaged it being similar to mining for gold by throwing rock and dirt into a sifter, shaking it gently back and forth, and allowing the little parts fall through.
Knowing that this process of sifting wheat is what Jesus is talking about in Luke 22 is almost scary. Just after promising the disciples that they will be eating and drinking with Him in heaven, Jesus tells them that Satan has begged to sift them as wheat. Remarkably, Jesus seems to have agreed! While it is unclear if this direct attack from Satan was allowed on all the disciples, it IS clear that Jesus allowed the attack against Peter. Astonishingly and humblingly, however, Jesus also prayed for Peter. He did not pray for Peter’s protection or safety, or comfort or happiness. Instead, He prayed for Peter’s faith, that it would not fail though He knew Peter would deny Him at one of His loneliest times. And, though He knew Peter would fail him, He also spoke a compassionate word of hope… when. Not if. Not maybe. When. When you have turned back, strengthen your brethren.
It seems as though there was something that needed to be refined in Peter. Maybe it was his pride? Maybe it was his faith (1 Pt 1:6-7). Maybe he needed to learn endurance that leads to perfection (James 1:2-4). Maybe Jesus wanted to rid him of his self-righteousness. Maybe… we don’t really know. We are not told WHY Jesus allowed this time in Peter’s life. We just know He allowed it. BUT, we also know that Jesus prayed for Peter. JESUS prayed for Peter. How amazing is that?
Sifting is no fun and honestly a little brutal. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether I’m going through the thrashing or the winnowing….and I sure don’t know when it’s going to stop.
I often want to identify with Paul. I want to identify with his fervor for the Lord, his missionary zeal, and the eloquence in sharing the gospel and challenging the church. But really, it is Peter with whom I identify. Boldly declaring devotion to Christ one minute no matter the cost, yet, cowardly denying His sovereignty and love when things aren’t going my way or when the mental/emotional part of life is so tumultuous that I feel my soul is going to rip in two.
But maybe. Could it be, that Christ, that Jesus Himself, sees something in me that needs sifting? Something in me that needs to be refined? Maybe God wants to rid me of my own pride. My own self-righteousness. My own self-reliance. Maybe He desires for my faith to be refined. To create in me endurance, which refines my character, and produces hope in the only Love that does not disappoint (Rom 5:1-5). Could it be that Jesus has seen in me something worth putting me through the sifting process for? And could it be, that maybe, just maybe Jesus prayed for me too? That out of my trials and pain I may be able to comfort others with the comfort Christ offers me (2 Cor 1:3-7). That I may be able to turn back and strengthen those whose faith is wavering??? Maybe….
Part of what is amazing about all of this is that after Peter’s denial, an angel sends him a special message about Christ’s resurrection. Jesus gave him an opportunity to verbally reaffirm his love for Him. AND, Peter was used mightily on the day of Pentecost to preach the good news. If Jesus is willing to do that for Peter who so vehemently denied Him, then maybe… just maybe He still loves me and can use me too.
Reprinted by permission from Stacy Hill.
Stacy is an attender and group leader at Journey.
Thanks for the post, Stacy. Great insight.