Sifted Like Wheat?

Last week, we noticed how Jesus brings Peace when our bodies react with a fight-or-flight response (Our God of Peace). But what happens when we face a spiritual battle against forces we cannot see? Is Peace even possible?

sunrise, wheat fieldI’m in a personal peace process that looks something like this:

pray for peace . . .

notice physical symptoms that say I’m not at peace . . .

choose responses that give peace– like breathing deeply . . .

then cling to the promise that Peace is a Person, not a place or season of my life.

As I worked my process recently, a line of scripture trailed through my brain. Usually that’s a good thing, but this time it troubled me a bit.

“Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”

Not very calming for someone who already feels a “fight-or-flight” reaction coming on.  So, I looked it up to see what Jesus was really saying the first time, as recorded in Luke 22:31.

These words were spoken during the Passover meal with the disciples. Jesus has just observed the first communion. Then the guys started arguing over who would be the greatest in His kingdom and Jesus explains that His kingdom will be different from any they’ve known on earth. In His kingdom, the greatest is he who serves. He tells his disciples they will have a place in His kingdom, and then gives them a glimpse of what lies ahead:

“Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan has asked excessively that [all of] you be given up to him [out of the power and keeping of God], that he might sift [all of] you like grain.” AMP

I wonder if an arrangement like that was made about my life too. It’s impossible to know, but I clearly remember a time a little more than 2 years ago when I was compelled to take a stand on God’s side, praying, “God, don’t just keep us safe; make us strong.”

I know a line was drawn in my own heart against a sickening sin.

I remember feeling as spiritually focused and alive as I have ever felt;

determined,

faithful

but clueless about what lay ahead.

So, I looked up sift to understand why Jesus used that example.

Sifting is part of the harvest process. When the head of wheat is ripe, it’s still not ready to use or eat. The husk needs to be loosened  . . .  that’s called threshing. After the threshing, you have a mixture of grains and loose husks which are still not usable until sifting takes place. In the 1st century, they sifted wheat by tossing the grains and chaff into the air. The wind would blow the chaff to the side, away from the gathering bowl, and the heavier grain – the fruit of the field–would fall into the bowl and be collected. This process– gathering, threshing, sifting–was an everyday occurrence in Jesus’ time.

So when Jesus told his friends (He tells us too) that a sifting was coming, I can only assume that the threshing had already happened – by life or circumstances both painful and meaningful.

Now was the time to remove the worthless husk and allow the grain to be used.

I wonder if my head-of-grain life looked ripe.  I know life had rubbed me hard, perhaps in a threshing–rubbing hard to loosen the outer husk and release each golden kernel.

Who would sift me, tossing it all into the air?

“Let me toss her around. Let me sift,” some enemy may have hissed. It probably was not THE Enemy (I imagine he’s busy with bigger grains) but maybe one of his friends.

And I have felt the rise and fall.

Being thrown off course,

not feeling like I could touch the bottom.

I don’t like that feeling very much  . . .  it’s not peaceful.

Jesus knew that the sifting would be hard for Peter. He knows it for us as well. So He gave this promise in Luke 22:32

“But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.” AMP

Jesus prays for me?

He prays for me and you! Not that the sifting won’t happen – it needs to happen–but that when it does, our own faith may not fail.

In the sifting, by God’s grace, the wind I felt was not the hot, dry wind of the enemy but the cool, fresh breeze of the Spirit.

AND, what has finally landed is the true grain, the fruitful grain of faith.

My faith did NOT fail!

Peace is not about living free of the spiritual battle. It is not about hiding out until the enemy has passed.

Peace is knowing that Jesus prays for you before . . . during . . . and after the battle. He prays that we will be faithful, and if that’s what He wants for me, that’s what I want for my life.

How about you? Where do you see yourself among the wheat story today? Head of grain? Ripe grain?  Being threshed? Being sifted? Or maybe a little of all of those? Be encouraged. Your Lord is praying for you.

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