The last thing I ever wanted to do growing up is disappoint my Grandfather. We were close, and I loved and respected him. His approval was vital to me. There were a lot of people in my life that I could care less to disappoint; however, to disappoint those special people whose opinion I value greatly is devastating. For us Christians, that person often is God. When we fail God, it is so hard to recover. Of course, the enemy knows this about us and fans that flame of guilt with even more guilt.
Of all the struggles I witness in people, as a pastor, the one that is overwhelmingly present in the lives of believers is guilt. Guilt can chain us down. Guilt can cause us to lose the hope and joy we should have as God’s child. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that godly grief or guilt leads to repentance and then salvation, but worldly guilt leads to death. God is always ready to forgive and restore us when we fall, but Satan will continue to use that guilt against us for as long as we let him.
In my last post, I talked about Peter’s denial and restoration. All four of the Gospels record the failure of Peter, but Luke is the only one that adds a very interesting statement that Jesus makes during that upper room scene (Luke 22:31-34). He says that Satan has demanded to “sift you like wheat.” The sifting of wheat was a common occurrence in the time of Jesus. The heads of wheat were beat off the stocks on the threshing floor and then collected into containers. It was then necessary to sift out the chaff and other debris that would be inadvertently gathered up with the wheat kernels. The sifting that Satan wanted to do was weaken and destroy Peter’s (and all the rest of the Disciple’s) faith through his failure and the death of their Lord. Satan wanted to destroy his hope and joy through his failure.
There are two things to notice, however. First, Satan has to get permission to attack us. Jesus says, “Satan demanded to have you.” He demanded because he has no power against us except that which God allows. Our struggles are used by God to bring us to Christlikeness. Our failures are a part of that process. Which means our failures are know to God and are used by God to make us better. So, Satan’s attacks on us are only tools for God to use to mature us. The second thing to notice in this Luke passage is that Jesus tells Peter that he has prayed for him. The “hina” clause in the last half of the sentence (usually translated, “so that” or “that” in our English bibles) points to the expected result of that prayer. Jesus is not saying, “My prayer for you is that you do not lose faith.” He never tells us the content of his prayer, only the result. When you then read Jesus’ next statement, it all becomes clear, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus did not pray that Peter would not fail. He prayed that Peter’s failure would not cause him to lose faith but strengthen his faith.
Jesus knew Peter would deny him. He also knew that that failure would not destroy him since Jesus had prayed for him. So instead of the whole ordeal being a hope and joy stealer, it become a growth and encouragement bringer. And so, it is with our failures. Sin brings guilt; guilt leads to repentance; repentance brings growth. This is God’s way of building us up in Christ, overcoming our failures with love and forgiveness.