Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Sifting

God usually delivers messages and teaches lessons in thematic units. Like an effective teacher, He communicates deep insights packed into tangible illustrations and surrounded by reinforcing material. He recycles the concepts and presents them again and again until we begin to get them. Well, in my case, at this time, the lesson He has been teaching me for a long while now is tightly wrapped within the theme of learning to trust Him.

He is taking me by the hand; once again…I am a VERY slow learner when it comes to this topic…to show me the meaning of trials and hardship…the importance of storms…the need for brokenness.

A while back, I heard Dr. Charles Stanley in his radio show, In Touch, talk about Peter. I have always been thankful for Peter. The fact that there is a Peter in the Bible gives me huge hope. I especially love the passage Dr. Stanley was using as the basis for his message, which we find in Luke 22: 24-34. This is the passage during the Lord’s Last Supper when Peter gets told by Jesus two really shocking things that will happen in his near future. Jesus tells Peter:

1. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”


2. Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

I like to think of these events as the sifting and the breaking of Peter. Both processes are extremely painful. I don’t know anybody, really, who may purposely seek to go to any of these events voluntarily, but, yet, we all find ourselves, at some point in our lives, sometimes more than once, attending both of them. Today I want to focus on the first one, the sifting. Of course, I’m no expert, so to find out more about the sifting process I did what every 21st century person does when they want to find out information about anything…I Googled it. Here’s what I found:

Sifting involves a few steps. The first step in the process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain, which is called threshing. The old-fashioned way to do this is to spread the wheat onto a floor made from stone, concrete or tamped earth and to beat it with a flail. Yikes! The next step is called winnowing, where the loosened chaff is removed from the grain. The old-fashioned way of doing this is to throw the grain in the air, where the lighter chaff is blown off by even a decent breeze. The heavier grain falls back to the ground below.

Next came the actual sifting to further remove the smallest pieces of debris from the grain. Here, grain was passed through some kind of colander tray by, once again, tossing it up in the air several times, and shaking it on the tray until only usable grain remained…cleaned from all chaff…

Read more :

It is one thing to read about this process and to look at pictures of it while knowing we are talking about wheat. But it is another one entirely different when we think of it as being about us. Jesus is saying in this passage that WE are the grain. We are the wheat that in order to be usable, needs to be sifted. We are the grain that is encapsulated inside the golden wheat spikes. And for us to be usable, for God to be able to make bread out of us, we ought to come out of that wonderful shell. Then, furthermore, for our lives to be of any use in the work of the Kingdom of God, it has to be sifted so the chaff is removed and only the true grain remains. And unless you think being thrown against the stone to then be flailed, tossed up in the air, passed through a colander to finally fall on the floor again is fun, the process is painful. Don’t think the modern version of this process gets any easier for the grain. Going through a combine and a mill doesn’t sound any better to me.

The good news is that we do survive this! Jesus told Peter, “when you come back…” not “if” you come back. So we do make it out of it alive! More than alive, we make it out of it whole. Thanks to the sifting we come out cleaned and free from the useless garbage and chains that had us trapped before. Thanks to the sifting we become something God can use for the furthering of His Kingdom. Thanks to the sifting we can come back and serve our brothers and sisters along the way.

It is normal to want to resist such pain. Nobody would willingly put himself or herself through the grind, literally! But it is also good to know that the pain is not in vain. God has a purpose for it all. And some day, even if it is not on this side of the wheat field, we will discover what that purpose was. In the meantime, let us continue trusting Him and His plan…even if we don’t fully understand…

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