What a scary thing to hear, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” Despite what we see on TV, Satan is not a strange little man that wears red spandex and carries a pitch fork. He is one of the most powerful beings that God created. In fact, he was so powerful that he actually believed that he could take God’s place.
One thing the Bible makes abundantly clear is that Satan hates God and hates God’s people. His goal is to divide, destroy and damn. Peter is case in point. Satan demanded the opportunity to sift, or divide, Peter.
The interesting thing about the Devil’s demand is that it points to who is really in charge. The devil didn't have a right to Peter; he had to ask God permission to sift Peter. This is just like we see in the story in Job. Satan had to ask God’s permission to cause tribulation in Job’s life.
In both stories, God granted the request, and allowed His chosen people to suffer. Why? I think the answer partially lies in Luke 22:32, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
It is amazing to think that the chain of events that were already set in place for Peter. He was going to be sifted, Jesus had already interceded on his behalf, Peter would stumble, and then Peter would repent (i.e. turn). The chain of events seems to end with “strengthen your brothers.”
What strikes me about this chain of events is that Satan intends the sifting of Peter for evil, but God uses it for good. It is Satan’s hope that this tribulation undermines the faith of Peter and causes him to fall away. However, Jesus intercedes and preserves Peter by asking God to give Peter strength to stand the attacks of Satan (i.e. faith). Jesus then flips the sifting of Satan on its head and uses it as a weapon against Satan to provide strength to the other disciples. It is like Jesus takes the arm of Satan and uses it to hit Satan in the face, and says, “Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”
How does this translate to helping you today? Great question. The bottom line is that if you are a follower of Jesus, Satan has declared war against you. He hates you, like he hates Peter, and like he hates God. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is not a maybe, it is reality.
With that said, we should pray to God, through Jesus Christ for grace to withstand the attacks of Satan, so that our faith does not fail. When the tribulation passes, we should repent of any missteps we may have taken during the trial, praise God that our faith did not fail, and then use the experience against Satan by using the testimony of God’s preserving Grace for strengthening our brothers and sisters.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. “ – James 1:2-3