And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Simon Peter could never have known that the devil was plotting against him and calling for him by name! Peter was just doing his best to follow Jesus unaware that he was at the heart of a great cosmic struggle. But Jesus understood all. He knew that behind the scenes Satan had asked God for permission to sift Peter like wheat. Of course, the way they would thresh grain in those days was to beat it with rods. The devil’s strategy was to incite Peter to deny Christ and afterwards bludgeon him with the rods of guilt, shame and discouragement.
It doesn’t come easy for us to realize that our real battle is not with others, nor even with ourselves, but with unseen forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12). These forces oppose the work of God as well as those who are created in His image, and the more effective we are in His Kingdom the more we are walking targets. The devil’s agenda is to use everything in his power to resist us, crush us, and ultimately destroy us.
“But I have prayed for you.”
Countering the devices of our Adversary are the prayers of our Advocate! Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Peter’s denial of Christ would be a blow against him that he would never forget. But thanks to Jesus’ prayer, it would not ultimately ruin him. Through this painful experience, Peter would turn from relying upon himself to trusting in God with all his heart. He would learn to depend upon His grace to help him to strengthen others. What the enemy intended for evil God would use for good!
So it is with every satanic strategy against us. We may see no good in our circumstances or even in our responses. But Jesus is behind the scenes “ever-living to make intercession for us.” God takes even our worse failures and transforms them into avenues of His grace and revelation in our lives. Then we can comfort and strengthen others with the grace we have received.
So what is our job? First, we must hold fast to our faith through it all. And when it comes to faith, that which does not destroy us will make us stronger. Let us remember that it is, above all, the shield of faith that will extinguish every flaming arrow of our Adversary (Eph. 6:16). Second, we must return to Jesus–especially after our biggest failure. Peter could have stayed away. Instead, on Sunday morning he ran with John to the empty tomb and was the first of the Twelve to go inside.
Are the fiery arrows incoming all around you? Then believe that Jesus is praying for you that your faith will not fail and that you will overcome. Soon your temptations, trials and troubles will result in triumph, and God will use you to comfort and strengthen others.
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