Are You Being Sifted?

sifted

Luke 22:31-34 (NLT) “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

My grandmother baked the finest Tollhouse cookies ever created. They literally melted in your mouth. She made them completely from scratch. I tried to replicate her recipe once but mine just weren’t the same. My children prefer those that come in the bright yellow package, marked Tollhouse, yet you break and bake. Of course, they do. They are ready in minutes. You can back them on a whim. There is no recipe to follow or ingredients to gather. One of the secrets to the success of my grandmother’s recipe was the sifting process. She would take the flour and pour it through her old sifter. It was made of tin, weathered by age. It had a little handle on the side with a tiny wooden knob just right for little helpers. I would run the flour through and show grandma. She would say, “Do it again.” I continued to sift the flour, baking soda and salt together over and over again until it finally met her approval. I was not a patient child. I am barely achieving patience in my fifty years of life. Each time she would send me back to sift again, I would head off with a heavy sigh. Mumbling under my breath, not sure what the point was, the flour looked just fine to me. She would take the fruits of my labor and mix it with the carefully creamed butter, sugar and egg dumping in some chocolate chips and pecans. After a good ten minutes or so, she would give me a slightly cooled yet still ooey gooey cookie with some cold milk. Heaven in my mouth, I assure you.

Jesus had already prophesied over Peter that he would be the rock on which the church would be built. His potential was clearly labeled from the start. Yet throughout Peter’s time with the Messiah, it is clear that his faith was struggling a bit and his ability to believe beyond what he could see challenged by all the distractions of life. The night before Jesus would be hoisted up on the Cross, he gathered his disciples together. At the last supper, he told Peter, “Simon, Simon, satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.” Is the enemy sifting you today? Are you feeling the pressure? Is life more specifically your “faith” life a struggle? Do you feel like giving up? Are you confused in your calling? Jesus told Peter, “I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith would not fail.” Sifting is part of the process that the Lord uses to refine our faith while the enemy intends to steal, kill and destroy our potential and purpose in Jesus Christ. It is up to us whether or not we give in to the struggle or learn to strive.

To sift means to separate, examine or question closely. Faith is compared to the size of a mustard seed. No wonder it requires such a rigorous process to be defined and determined. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Therefore, it is imperative in the life of every Christ that sifting occurs. However, our response to such an intrusive is clearly evidence of progress in our life that allows us to see what needs to be disciplined to finish the race and claim our prize. The word “sift” comes from the Old English word “siftan” which means to pass through a sieve. I wonder if this can be compared to the difficult of reaching the Kingdom when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) Our family has always traveled with four girls including myself. Luggage space was at a premium as the girls wanted to dump their entire closet in the back of the SUV. Many times, they had to rethink, reorganize and repack their clothes, shoes, straighteners and makeup into one bag. They would have to empty the contents considering what they really needed and wanted to take. Sifting in life causes us to empty the contents of our heart and life, examining it closely for one thing – faith. Nothing else is worth taking because nothing else will gain us access into forever. All the other “things” in life are left this side of Heaven.

Job 1:1 (NLT) There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.

The very thing that you are going through is the opportunity to sift through the contents of your life and reprioritize. Good people still must go through some things in life because our goal is godliness. Job was a good man. He was blameless in the sight of the Lord living in complete integrity. He feared the Lord and obeyed the Word staying far from evil. Yet, still he lost everything. What makes it even more difficult to understand or comprehend is that it was actually God who recommended his servant to satan that day…

Job 1:6-12 (NLT)  One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan. Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.” Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.

Have you counted the cost for the faith you desire? How you considered your contribution to a new life in Christ? It requires our all. We must be willing to give up this life to save our soul, it sounds good and even looks pretty good on paper until it is required of us in the natural. This is the turning point for many Christians called to the Lord. They cannot leave this world behind so they turn back to this life. God had a plan. He knew exactly what He was doing in Job, through Job and for Job in the process of testing. The only thing Job had to do was to trust the Lord.

I used to talk a good faith talk. I desired to have a faith walk. Continually crying out to the Lord to grow, develop and mature my faith, but never really understanding what might be required of me to do so. When our son was diagnosed with cancer, the Lord asked simply if I trusted Him and I quickly agreed having no idea that a three month treatment plan would turn into a three year battle that would leave me with little left but a mustard seed of faith. It took me a good solid year to decide if I had it in me to continue to seek more faith and trust God more. I was wore torn and battle weary. There was no more of me to give to the good fight of faith. I was empty, depleted and needed Jesus more than ever just to make it through each day. What will it take for your life to come down to faith? How many layers of security must be removed? How many trials and tests to find the relevancy and validity of this tiny seed called faith that we must live by? It really is up to each one of us. Our purpose and calling are never withdrawn. God does not change His Mind about the Plan that He has made for us. We decide if it is the life that we want, need and desire above all things.

Job 41:31-34 (NLT) “Leviathan makes the water boil with its commotion. It stirs the depths like a pot of ointment. The water glistens in its wake, making the sea look white. Nothing on earth is its equal, no other creature so fearless. Of all the creatures, it is the proudest. It is the king of beasts.”

Leviathan is the enemy’s partner. He lurks under our skin and in the recesses of our mind. He is the one who questions every decision or notion to follow Christ. He challenges us with lies and half-truths designed to distract, detour and delay with his prime goal being destruction. Commotion and chaos are not of God. When our life doesn’t make sense according to the Word of God or we begin questioning His Call or even considering giving up the good fight of faith, Leviathan is lurking beneath the surface stirring things up. We are not fighting flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6) We are fighting against evil around us and pride within us. The world produces a craving and desire for physical pleasure, wanting everything we see and pride that is in our achievements and possessions. (I John 2:16) Peter thought that he was ready to die for Jesus but the truth was that he had not yet died to self. The moment one decides to give their all to Jesus – our flesh immediately fights back. The real struggle begins because to give everything to Him requires total crucifixion of our flesh. My old self must be crucified with Christ and only that birthed of His Spirit, our new life, must be allowed to live. (Galatians 2:20) To live for Jesus is to trust in the Son of God who loves me more than myself. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith must be refined and tested until all of the impurity marked by self is removed and Christ is allowed to rule and reign in me so that every day and every choice is subject to the Cross, His Divine Plan and Perfect Will. Satan is the author of confusion and the father of all lies. He will make quitting seem like the right thing to do, giving up like surrender when it is not, and the enemy hates what God is doing in us and through us and will stop at nothing to sideline us to steal our victory.

Job 42:10-12 (NLT) When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.

The Lord had a plan including a future and hope for Job. I read recently that the Book of Job is really an account of one man and his fight against pride. Pride is the exaltation of self above God put quite simply. Pride is in control when we stop trusting God and decide to do it. The times when God’s Way seems too hard or challenging so instead partial obedience seems to be a better route. We are conflicted. In such a state, we cannot serve both masters. Partial obedience is actually disobedience. The enemy stirs the water of our life with commotion fills us with confusion and suddenly the vortex of stress and pressure quickly overtakes us. Ready to give up or give in – suddenly the price to follow Christ becomes more than anyone is willing to pay. We have exactly what we need to give our all to Jesus because we are all that He desires. The question is really “Am I willing to?” Am I willing to give up my way completely? Am I willing to give up this life for forever? Am I really willing to trust the Lord? Friend, the enemy is out to sift you like wheat today. He knows every doubt and insecurity in you. He is well aware of your weakness and hears every complaint you have against God. He is absolutely hell bent on using it all against you. You are in the Hand of God and he cannot come near you unless God allows it. God promises to take every detail of our life and make something good out of it for His Glory. Our part in that is simple – trust. Do we trust Him enough to stop struggling and begin striving for the prize again? Or maybe for the first time ever? There is a hidden blessing far greater than worldly wealth waiting for those who do. It is called faith and confident hope.

Zechariah 13:7-8 (NLT) “Two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and die,” says the Lord. “But one-third will be left in the land. I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Why sift flour? Sifted flour is lighter. It blends with other ingredients to form a consistent batter without all the lumps and bumps. It rises better when baking as well. Removing all impurity, it refines the flour to do its job and fulfill its purpose. The enemy uses sifting as a means to destroy God’s People. But the Lord uses it to rid our life of everything hindering us from fulfillment and full satisfaction in life. The struggle is real. We must contend with difficulty. There is a real adversary to our new life in Christ. It will take violence to advance into the Kingdom. When we decide to surrender to the sifting process, and allow God to fully examine our heart and life removing every impurity, casting down every thought contrary to His Word, Will and Way so that we can run without the extra weight of sin or even ignorance – it is then that our struggle becomes striving. Striving is to exert our self vigorously in that which is desired. If that is faith, then giving up on the good fight is not an option. It means rather than fighting for compromise, we try harder to be disciplined and committed to Jesus Christ. It is to make strenuous efforts toward the goal and not focusing on our weakness, problems or feelings anymore. It is to define our purpose in God as valuable and worth the price of self. In Zechariah 8 – God talks about a “remnant”. I believe that this verse in Zechariah 13 sums up the process by which His Remnant is revealed. They are tested. They are tried and most of them give up or fall away in the effort. Those that choose to submit to this process called sifting or refinement and pass the test by faith and trust will be the remnant of God. I do not want my faith to fail me. I desire nothing more than to live in confident hope. I want God’s Will, His Word and His Way to be my every moment. I want to be that person. I want Him to be MY God!

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

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