Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked permission to sift him like wheat but that He was going to be praying for him, that his faith would not fail. (Luke 22:31-32) Then Jesus gave Peter a picture of what it would look like to follow Him. He said: You’ll be taken places you do not want to go. You’ll have zero control. When Peter asked if the others would have it that bad, Jesus answered: None of your business and not your problem! You must follow Me. (John 21:18-22) Whew. Those must have been some life altering moments for Peter. And like a few other life altering moments for Peter that I can call to mind from Scripture, I fit in his shoes quite well. Stepping out, sinking. Demanding, head lowering. Zealous, unfaithful.
What can we take from these encounters of Jesus with Peter when we ourselves have a crisis of faith, a mountain ahead we just don’t want to have to climb?
1) We can take from these conversations a realization that we ourselves may be in the process of being “sifted”, meaning when it’s over (this particular circumstance and this earthly life), some of who we are will be left and some of who we are will be gone, thrown out, dead. Satan intends the sifting for our pain, in hopes our faith will fail, but Jesus intends the sifting for our benefit, so that we are refined like gold. It hurts. There are cancers being cut out of us. He sees what we cannot, and if we are to be His vessels here to show His Kingdom to the world, there are things in us that simply cannot remain.
2) We can see this unbelievable truth right along with the first: Jesus Himself is interceding for us. And He is interceding to the Father on our behalf, praying that our faith would not fail. He is the leader of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! Is He praying we will get everything we’re wanting? Is He praying our answers would come quickly and easily? I don’t see that here. I see His concern is our perseverance and character. I see His concern is our encouragement and an ability to keep going even when our plans fail and our hearts break.
3) We can see while our relationship with the Lord is incredibly enriched by community, there is an element of this relationship that is naked, alone, face to face, “just you and me here now”. We can’t worry about the size of other people’s mountains, callings, or pain. We can’t worry about the magnitude of other people’s success, riches, or ease. If we have given our lives to the Lord, they are just that: His.
It’s a death, a real death, to realize these things. We’re dying to self, to immaturity, to trying to make things true just because we want them to be true, not because they’re scripturally sound. It’s not taking on bitterness or apathy, it’s taking on the yoke that we chose in accepting Christ, the yoke that is only easy and light once we lose our strong opinions and absolute need to be in charge.
By His Spirit, we have joy in the journey, yes, even this leg of the journey. By His Blood, we have peace and friendship with God. By His dwelling in us, we have resurrection life that is the very breath in our lungs. Friends, in whatever mountain you’re climbing, whether you chose that mountain and now see how impossible it is to climb, or whether you are going through a trial you did not choose at all, I want to tell you this:
Whatever you have lost and whatever you feel you lack, you do have what you need to make it through.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor demons, present nor the future, any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in ALL creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE OF GOD THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.” (Romans 8:35-39)