Sufferings and Siftings
Sufferings and Siftings
Last spring a group of ladies and I went through Beth Moore’s When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. I found my notes to myself this afternoon and reviewed what all we learned and was refreshed all over again. I would encourage any Christian - seasoned or not - to read the book.
We all had a little bit of a break down and a breakthrough in the study. Early on, we focused on God’s permissive will and why He allows what He allows. We also concentrated on the sufferings of Job and the sifting of Peter.
We looked at the things that can set a Christian up for failure. (Pages 33-38)
· Ignorance (Paul talked about that more than I realized)
· Spiritual passion that exceeds Biblical knowledge
· And, conversely, Biblical knowledge with no spiritual passion
· An inability (based on ignorance) to discern (ignoring the armor of God)
We looked at what the devil desires to fill our lives with and what God’s counteroffer is. (Page 31)
· doubt (God desires for us to have wisdom – Proverbs 1:7)
· fear (we were not give a spirit of fear - 1 Timothy 1:7)
· shame (there is no shame in being a child of God - Isaiah 54:4-5)
· guilt (Jesus offers no condemnation to those who are in Him - Romans 8:1)
The devil, as Beth Moore said, “plays hardball”. She said, “(we ignorantly) hope that the devil would draw the line where the fight would be fair, but he has no such scruples. When we have a disaster, we can count on him being right there at our weakest and most vulnerable place to (kick us when we are down).”
What got my attention the most and what I could not get my mind off of was the sifting of Peter. Luke 22:31-34 - "Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." "Lord," he told Him, "I'm ready to go with You both to prison and to death!" "I tell you, Peter," He said, "the rooster will not crow today until you deny three times that you know Me!"
It's possible that afterward, when the fear, doubt, shame, and guilt consumed Peter - this was when the “sifting” really took place. I looked up the word "sifting". I wanted a clear definition of what Jesus was talking about. I knew the farming definition, but I wanted to know more. In this verse, it's the Greek word σινιάζω (siniazō) and both Strong's and Thayer's say it meant to shake in a sieve and figuratively meant "by inward agitation to try one's faith to the verge of overthrow." I thought and thought about this. That’s a scary thought that Satan requests permission from time to time to shake us up and try to shake the faith right out of us. I know that he can’t have our salvation, but he surely can make us miserable.
As we studied this passage on sifting and looked at God’s plan for Job, God began to show me things about my own mindset about Him and our relationship that needed purging.
· Job never knew that God had a conversation with the devil and that God brought up his name and that Job – the mere mortal man – was discussed in the heavenlies. All Job could eventually do was to say that God is Sovereign and I am not.
· Peter wasn’t given a choice in the matter of God allowing the devil to “sift” him or to thrash him about trying to shake the faith out of him.
· Later in the study, God brought to my mind Joseph, who sat in a prison pit for something he had not done and he was convinced that everyone had forgotten about him. God was quite busy – unbeknownst to Joseph giving Pharaoh nightmares, confounded the interpreters, preparing a famine for Egypt, and recalling Joseph’s name to the cupbearer.
· He brought to my mind, via an acquaintance, David, as a boy, who fought the lion and the bear. 1 Samuel 17:33-37. He actually pulled the sheep from the lion’s mouth, grabbing the lion by it furry face and killing it. And he killed the bear. I’m sure when David was going through this, he had no idea that this would prepare him to fight Goliath. But when he went to fight him, he remembered his battles with the wild animals that could have easily torn him to shreds.
My acquaintance said that God was “chiseling David through his adversity” and was “preparing him for a future fight that everyone else would run from." He was right and this is EXACTLY what Jesus was trying to tell Peter. He said, “And you (Peter), when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” He was going to be the leader. And a good leader knows that while “failure is not an option”, he also knows from experience that failure is indeed a grim reality and that life is many times troubling and frightening. That’s why Peter was able to say in his first letter, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Peter understood that personally and up close.
Job was the better man for his sufferings. So was David. So was Peter. So was Joseph. They were all sifted in accordance with God’s permissive will. And they came out refined because in the sifting – God removed the chaff from them.
All that was said to say this.
A part of my life has been fueled by fear, guilt, doubt, and shame. Confidence in my salvation and God's love for me was not the problem. The stumbling block was that I just never believed that He loved me as much as He loves everyone else. Through circumstances beyond my control and a few circumstance that I royally screwed up myself, I felt like the proverbial “bad girl” and for many years even the small things that happened to me I always took as God punishing me for my being a huge disappointment to Him. I was wrong.
I allowed myself to believe that I would just get involved in a lot of work for the Lord. I would do things for Him. Not to win His approval, because I knew works weren’t like that, but to pacify myself. I felt like God didn’t want to hear from me much, but He would be content with having me do things for Him. I was happy to do them, but resented them sometimes.
I wasn’t allowing God to love me. I pushed Him away so many times because I, for reasons I won’t get into, didn’t feel like I deserved his love. I knew He loved me, but I just couldn't allow myself to receive it most days. I was content to adore Him from a distance.
I also found this quote by Charles Spurgeon when doing a study on the word, “sifting”.
“I think I see you, poor believer, tossed about like that wheat, up and down, right and left, in the sieve, and in the air, never resting. Perhaps it is suggested to you, ‘God is very angry with me.’ No, the farmer is not angry with his wheat when he casts it up and down in the sieve, and neither is God angry with you; this you shall see one day when the light shall show that love ruled in all your griefs.” (Spurgeon)
I like that. Love - it "rules us even in all our griefs". And God, our Creator, - uses our sorrows to bring the chaff to our surface so that HE can deal with the impurities and take them away from us. And then, we are equipped for the works HE has for us - some of them very challenging indeed
Our sufferings – our legitimate sufferings – whether caused by ourselves or others can most definitely “sift” us and shake up our faith. Peter talked a good talk all day about how he was “going the whole distance with Jesus!” And he didn’t make it. He crashed and burned. And God knew it. And Jesus allowed it. Why? It was for his refining. So he could both teach and lead. Both Job and Joseph came forth from their trials refined also.
I’ve crashed and burned – spiritually speaking. It’s possible that it will happen again. But I view the sufferings and the siftings differently now. Sufferings and siftings aren't for faith shaking, but for faith building.