03 Jun Hungry for More of Jesus, by David Wilkerson
Hungry for More of Jesus, by David Wilkerson
Sifted Saints, Chapter 13
“You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” Luke 22:28-34
You may have heard of the late Kathryn Kuhlman, a healing minister from Pittsburg who was used mightily by God. The Lord graciously allowed me to minister with her in that city for more than five years, and during that time my wife, Gwen, and I got to know her well.
One thing I remember very clearly about Kathryn was the hushed tone of voice she used whenever we discussed Satan and the powers of darkness. On one occasion I began telling her about our work with drug addicts and alcoholics in New York City. She must have thought I was being too nonchalant about the subject as it related to demonic activity, because as I spoke she became very somber. Finally, in a quiet voice she told me, “David, don’t ever take lightly the subject of spiritual battles or satanic powers. It’s a sobering topic.”
To my knowledge, Kathryn never once feared Satan or demons. But the subject of principalities and powers of darkness was no light matter to her. God had given her spiritual eyes to see just a portion of the war being waged in the heavenlies for the souls of men and women.
When Jesus walked the earth, He knew all too well the fierceness of Satan’s power, that he comes with every weapon in hell to sift the Lord’s people. I don’t think any of us can comprehend the great conflict raging right now in the spirit realm. Nor do we realize how determined Satan is to destroy all believers who have fixed their hungering hearts firmly on going all the way with Christ. But it is true that in our Christian walk, we cross a line—the “obedience line” I talked about earlier in the story of Ruth—that sets off every alarm in hell. And the moment we cross that line into a life of obedience to God’s Word and dependence on Jesus alone, we become a threat to the kingdom of darkness and a prime target of demonic principalities and powers. The testimony of every believer who turns to the Lord with all his heart includes the sudden onslaught of strange and intense troubles and trials.
If you’ve crossed the obedience line, then you’re making waves in the unseen world. We’ve all experienced harassment from hell of some kind.
“Simon, Simon!…Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Here Jesus introduces this subject of the sifting of saints, In Christ’s day, grain workers used a sieve just before they sacked grain. They shoveled wheat into a square box covered with netting, then turned the box upside down and shook it violently. The grit and dirt fell through the netting until only the grain kernels remained.
Sift in this verse means to be shaken and separated—to be shocked through the agitation of sudden trials. Jesus used this analogy to say to Peter: “Satan believes you’re nothing but grit and dirt, and that when he puts you in the sieve and shakes you, you will fall through to the ground!”
There are tests and trials, and then there is sifting. I see sifting as one major, all-out satanic onslaught. It is usually compressed into a short but very intense period of time. For Jesus it was forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, as Satan came at Him with every deception from the kingdom of darkness. For Peter, the sifting would last only a few days. But those days would become the most faith-shaking, shocking and remorseful days of his life.
Note that Jesus did not pray Peter would be spared from Satan’s sifting. Rather, He prayed that his faith would not fail. That is Satan’s prime target: our faith. Let’s study this example as it relates to our faith, and the sifting of our lives by the devil.
When Sifting Comes
We learn first from this story that Peter’s sifting came immediately after a great revelation.
Peter and the other disciples had just received from Jesus a promise of fruitful ministry. “I bestow upon you a kingdom,” He had said, that they might eat and drink at his table and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The Greek word for bestow is taken from a root word meaning “to channel.” Jesus had made an incredible promise to his disciples. In essence He told them, “I am going to channel My Kingdom through you, just as the Father made Me a channel of His glory.” Not only would these men be channels of Christ’s majesty, but they also would be seated at the Lord’s table to enjoy eternal intimacy with Him. They would become princes, ruling and reigning with Him!
Yet little did Peter know that while Jesus spoke of these glorious promises, His heart was praying in agony over what He saw in the invisible spirit world. Satan was at the Father’s throne, accusing Peter and asking permission to get his hands on him, as he had done with Job. He must have said something like this: “The Son of God calls this man Peter ‘Rock,’ saying He will build a Church on his kind of faith. I say he is not a rock of faith—he is chaff and unworthy to be a channel of Your glory! Let me shake him, let me put him to the test. He has an evil streak, he won’t last. He’s going to fall!”
You must understand that Satan seeks to sift only those who threaten his work. He goes after the tree with the most potential to bear fruit. But why did the devil desire to sift Peter now? Why was he so anxious to test him? Well, for three years Peter had been casting out devils and healing the sick. And Satan had heard Jesus promise the disciples another baptism, one of Holy Ghost power and fire—and he trembled! Now, the devil heard God’s ultimate plan for Peter to rule in the new Kingdom. He realized that the past three years would be nothing compared to the greater works Peter and the other disciples would perform as a prelude to that day. Having already pulled down Judas, he would have to look for a measure of corruption in Peter to build on, to make Peter’s faith fail.
Perhaps, like Peter, you are in the sieve right now, being shaken and sifted. But, you ask, why me? And why now? First of all, you ought to rejoice that you have such a reputation in hell! Satan never would have asked God’s permission to sift you unless you had crossed the line of obedience. Why else would he spend his efforts harassing and troubling you, scaring you and shaking all that you have? He is sifting you because you play an important part in God’s Church in these last days. God is doing a new thing once again in this last, great revival, and you have been set apart by Him to be a powerful witness to many. He has set you free, and is preparing you for His eternal purposes. And the greater your gifts, the greater your potential, the greater your surrender to the will of God—the more severe your sifting will be.
Sifting Can Remove Pride
Peter was not aware of any glaring weaknesses in himself. Listen to his testimony: “Lord, I’m ready to go with you! I’ve had three wonderful years of the best training possible. I’ve been around. I have experience. I’ve seen demons run, and I’ve moved crowds toward God. I’ve grown so much! I’m not the man I was three years ago. Praise God, I’m ready, and I’m going all the way with You.”
Even the Lord’s warning could not shake Peter’s self-confidence. Jesus was trying to shake the disciple, to wake him up to the danger just ahead, but it seems Peter did not hear a word of it. It made no impression on him because he had no discernment. Peter was in grave danger, only hours away from committing an unbelievable sin. Yet he went confidently on his way, boasting, “I’m ready—I won’t fail. If anybody is going all the way, it is I!”
Perhaps you, too, have been in Peter’s shoes at times. God has his hand on you, you’ve grown in the Lord and you love Him with all your heart—but you don’t think you can fall. You’re not aware that Satan is about to sift you, that you’re going to be hit heavily by the enemy’s assault.
One example of this comes immediately to my mind—that of a powerful young evangelist who was greatly used of God to heal the sick. He had a special anointing and received revelation in the Word. God’s had was heavy upon him.
Then he and his wife began drifting apart and they separated. About that time, the evangelist’s eye fell on a young woman. He knew it was wrong to pursue her, so he decided to be “just a friend.” He began calling her two or three times a day and every night, “just talking about Jesus,” he said. Eventually he ended up divorcing his wife and marrying the other woman.
Yes, he still has his ministry, but it is only a fraction of what it was meant to be. We mustn’t be deceived: this man missed God. His example should serve as a sober warning to all of us. May God drive out all spiritual pride from our hearts, and may we heed His warnings.
As for Peter, within 24 hours of his boasting he became a moral cripple—cursing, carried away by cowardice and denying Christ three times. He did something so evil and wicked he never could have thought it possible. Yet Jesus could not—and would not—stop the sifting process for Peter. There was something inside this disciple that three years of pure teaching could not touch, that miracles, signs and wonders could not shake, that Christ’s warnings could not dig out. The only thing left for Jesus to do was to let Peter go into the fire, straight into the hands of Satan and overwhelming temptation.
Peter had to be broken and humbled. He had to see the pride lurking in his heart. Whenever such a lack of discernment and blindness toward self-confidence exist, the sifting had of Satan is the only alternative left to cleanse the vessel for Christ’s use.
The Role of Prayer
When someone is going through the fire of sifting, what should those around him do? What did Jesus do bout Peter’s imminent fall? Jesus said, “I have prayed for you, that your faith not fail.”
I look at this wonderful example of Christ’s love and realize I know almost nothing about how to love those who fall. Surely Jesus is that “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He saw both the good and the bad in Peter and concluded, “This man is worth saving. Satan desires him, but I desire him all the more.” Judas could not be saved; he had no heart for the Lord. He was sold out to greed and covetousness and that became an open door for Satan. But Peter truly loved the Lord, and Jesus told him, “I have prayed for you.” Jesus had seen this coming for a long time. He had probably spent many hours before His Father talking about Peter—how He loved him, how needed Peter Was in God’s Kingdom, how He valued him as a friend.
Lord, give all of us that kind of love! When we see brothers and sisters compromising or heading for trouble or disaster, let us love them enough to warn them as firmly as Jesus warned Peter. Then we’ll be able to say, “I am praying for you.”
And we need to say this in love, not in an accusing way. Too often we react with, “you are so bad, so compromised. You need all the prayer you can get!” Or, “I’m going to pray for you. You sure need it.” But Jesus did not lecture Peter. He did not say, “If only you’d listened. If only you’d stayed awake and prayed with Me in the Garden. If you only weren’t so proud.” Rather, Jesus said simply, “I have prayed for you.” We, too, must take these brothers and sisters to God’s throne and plead for them to come through these trials with their faith intact. And may they respond in kind when we find ourselves in the same situation.
In the original Greek, you is plural, meaning “all of you.” Jesus was speaking about praying not only for Peter but for all the disciples—and for us today: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours…Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me…I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” John 17: 9, 11, 15
When Jesus was confronted with the devil’s schemes in the wilderness, He overcame them with God’s Word: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7). “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10).
Today we have yet another “It is written” with which we can do battle against Satan. It is this: “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.” You can tell the devil: “You may have gotten permission to sift me, to try to tear down my faith. But you need to know this: My Jesus is praying for me!”
After the Sifting
When Peter was sifted he failed miserably—but not in his faith. You may be thinking, “How can that be? This man denied knowing Jesus three different times. He cursed and swore it!”
But you see, if Peter failed, them Jesus’ praying would have been to no avail. I know Peter’s faith did not fail because just as he swore and it looked as if the Lord had lost a friend and an anointed disciple, Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus—and melted. He remembered how the Lord had said, “You will deny Me three times,” and “Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62). Wept bitterly in the Greek actually means cried “a piercing, violent cry.” I picture Peter walking toward the Judean hills, falling on his face with hands outstretched, crying, “O, Father, He was so right! I did not listen. He warned me that Satan would attempt to destroy my faith. I’m not ready! Die for Jesus? Why, I couldn’t even stand up to a maid. Forgive me, O Lord—I love Him. To whom else shall I go?” Eventually Peter’s faith grabbed hold of something else Jesus had said: “when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32). How many times Peter must have played this over and over in his mind, pondering, “Didn’t Jesus say I would return to Him, be brought back? Didn’t He say I still had a ministry? After what I did, can I really help others?
Yes, God answered His Son’s prayer. And I can see Peter standing up with the Spirit of God flowing through him, his hands raised to the sky, shouting, “Satan, be gone! I failed Him, but I still love Him. He promised—in fact, He prophesied—that I would come back and be a strength to others, a rock. I’m going back to my brothers and sisters!” Indeed, Peter was the first disciple to reach the tomb when they were told Jesus had risen. He was with the other disciples when Jesus was translated to glory. And it was Peter who stood as God’s spokesman on the day of Pentecost—and what a sermon he preached!
A flood of new converts is coming back to the Lord today, Jews and Gentiles alike, and many backsliders as well. Where will they find strength in the troubled times ahead? From the returning, sifted saints, who can say with authority, “Don’t trust yourself. Take heed when you think you stand, lest you fall” (see 1 Corinthians 10:12)
Do you sense a seductive pull of temptation in your life? Does some kind of deep trouble brew now in your heart? Then hear the words of Jesus and realize that Satan may have been given permission to sift you. Don’t take it lightly. You don’t have to fail as Peter did; in fact, we are to read his story and be warned by it. But even if you have failed and grieved the Lord Jesus, you can look into His face as Peter did and remember He is praying for you. Repent, return and then share your experience with others who are being sifted.
I have asked the Lord to help me give the same word of hope to fallen believers as Jesus did. He did not say, “If you come back,” or, “If you are converted,” but, “When you return.” I want to be able to look at weeping, broken, failing sheep and say with hope and confidence, “When this sifting is over, when your faith is stronger, when you are restored—God will use you!”
So if you are one of God’s “sifted saints,” take heart. I know, and you must remember as well: Satan wouldn’t come against you unless he had seen a glimpse of holiness and obedience in your heart.