Today, my brothers and sisters, there is good news and bad news. As the eternal optimist let me offer the bad news first and then the good news. The bad news is the the devil has an assignment for your life. The enemy has a plan for your time here on earth with hopes that you will end up spending eternity in hell. John 10:10 states that “the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.” For the true follower of the faith, there are WANTED posters decorating hell with our faces on them. We are wanted by the devil- dead or alive. The good news, however, is that Jesus came that we may have life and life more abundantly. The plan of the enemy can not cancel out the plans of God. We should understand and fully embrace the fact that if we put our complete trust in God then and only then can we have the victory in this life and in the life to come.
In Luke 22, we find Jesus near the end of his earthly ministry. The Lord’s Supper is established as Jesus breaks bread with disciples for the final time. During this gathering the disciples have a dispute over the subject of which of them was to be regarded the greatest. The disciples often seemed to be jockeying for position and having debates about power and prestige. Jesus addresses them with a profound message when he states that the one who is willing to serve is the greatest.
And then, Jesus pivots and makes a shocking statement that undoubtedly would have taken the air out of the room. He addresses his best friend Simon (Peter) directly. He says “Simon, Simon the devil desires to sift you as wheat.” Let’s pay closer attention to these words. Jesus addresses Peter by his previous name. In Matthew 16, Peter makes a bold declaration by saying that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. In turn, Jesus gives him a new name signifying a new nature. Peter in the Greek is petros meaning stone or rock. Jesus calls him by his previous name twice. The repetition Simon, Simon speaks of the love and tenderness of the heart of Christ for His vacillating disciple. This is the first indication that Peter would at some future time return back to his old, worldly ways. This verse shouts to us that no matter how close we are to Jesus we are still very much susceptible to carnal thinking and worldly deeds. The “old” man has been buried in us but remains for an opportune time to show up and push us outside of God’s will for our lives. We must be careful and watchful because all of us (even the best of us) have moments of weakness and failure. In fact, Peter is bold enough to firmly believe that he can withstand any type of suffering but Jesus that by the time early morning arrives that Peter would have public ally denied Him three times (Luke 22:33-34).
Jesus warns us about satanic assaults. The devil wants to infiltrate our lives. Jesus says that Satan desires to have us so that he may sift you as wheat. Although Peter is will be singled out as one who will deny his Lord, the “you” in verse 31 (NIV) is plural2. Jesus is adamant in warning them all at the Last Supper and this text is also serving notice to every believer today that we will be faced with demonic trials and troubles.
The mental picture here is one of Satan banging on heaven’s gate in an effort to get God’s attention so that one or all of us could be offered up to him. The background for Satan’s demand is presumably Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6, where Satan tries to prosecute Job before the heavenly court (the Hebrew text has “the Satan,” literally “the adversary,”). Satan can infiltrate our lives in many different ways. He may use our family, our health or material possessions. He may use our careers or our finances. He may use our past mistakes and our present fears. The point is clearly again that Satan seeks to attract us, attack us and annihilate us. The blessing in the infiltration is that Satan can only go as far as God allows. At no point can God be overruled by Satan but the scriptures do suggest that God will at times move his providential hand of protection so that the believer can be tested by the enemy. In John 16:33, Jesus remarks to His disciples that “in this life you will have trouble.” It’s also similar to driving down the highway and seeing a warning sign up ahead. It tells you to be prepared for a lane change or construction, for example. The believer should expect some stress and turmoil in their lives. Our Christianity does not exempt us from trouble but instead it allows us to be able to face life trials with grace and peace. The ultimate measure of the believer is how he or she reacts in times of testing. Jesus warns us and prays for us and then he encourages us to continue to press on and be the Christians that he died for us to be.