When we sift flour, it is to separate the good flour from flour that is not so good or even bad. The same is true with sifting wheat; we sift out the good to keep, leaving the bad which would be thrown away.
Jesus said in Luke 22:31, speaking to Peter; “Satan has desired to have you, to sift you as wheat.” Satan’s hope in doing this was to separate Peter’s good, that it might fall away and leave Peter’s bad that Satan could show to Peter, so that he could have something to condemn Peter for.
Notice that Jesus prayer in verse 32 wasn’t to stop this process of sifting, but rather that Peter’s Faith would not fail. The process of separating the good from the bad is not necessarily a bad thing: what made it bad for Peter (and for us also) is that Satan wanted to make it clear in Peter’s mind that he was not good by revealing to him all of his bad, i.e., sin.
Even though Jesus did not pray that this process of sifting would not take place in Peter, He did pray that Peter’s faith would not fail. The faith that Jesus was talking about was Peter’s Faith in Jesus: Faith that Jesus would pay and did pay the price required to not only wash away Peter’s badness (sin), but the price to also Sanctify Peter and deliver him from sin problems that might be difficult or even impossible for Peter to remove by his own strength and willpower.
When sin problems arise in a Christians life today, many times our own strength of will is not sufficient to remove it: only Faith in Christ and His finished work allows the Holy Spirit the leeway to step in and remove the sin problem from our lives (and this is the victory that overcometh the World, even our Faith, 1 John 5:4). Actually, this is the express way that sin is to be dealt with, for by doing so we keep ourselves in the Righteousness which is of God, In Christ.
When we attempt to remove sin problems by our own strength and willpower we set ourselves on a road to self-righteousness and pride. But when Jesus removes them by His Grace and by the Power of the Holy Spirit then there is no door way for self-righteousness and pride to enter.
This is why Jesus prayed that Peter’s Faith fail not, i.e., if Peter had shifted his Faith in Christ to confidence in what he could do to make himself better in an effort to overcome the bad, then self-righteousness and pride could have taken him down a road that would be very much lacking in victory.
And so it is for Christians today: if we shift our confidence to self and what self can do to help our ‘self,’ then we are pulling our faith away from Jesus and His Perfect Victory. And if we are not in His Perfect Victory, then are we victorious at all?
This message is NOT being sent your way because of a perceived lack of Faith in you, but to encourage you in the Faith of Christ Jesus that you already have.
With you in God’s Grace
[reprinted with permission; copyright Dennis Lackie, Barryton, Mi.]