Jesus tells Simon Peter that satan has demanded to sift the entire group of disciples but He has prayed for Simon to bring restoration after the sifting is over.
The process of sifting is actually positive in process and end result, but it is does involve some violent shaking to expose the distinctly different elements presently blended together. We use sifting because processing the individual grains of wheat one by one would be impractical. We separate good and bad, so bad is exposed, no longer able to hide in the blend of interrelated motives and conditions of the heart. The bad has to be dealt with: sifting separates it.
So, why would satan demand the right to sift the disciples? Wouldn’t the process of revealing the bad work at odds with his methods? Why would satan wish to bring attention to the bad?
The nature of satan as “the accuser,” his method of destruction, distraction, and discouragement, uses surfaced qualities of the heart or motives of the soul to make a case for the inadequacy of the disciples, a case satan hopes to use to drive them all away from Jesus at the time of His and their greatest vulnerability.
Just before great victory or expansion of kingdom purpose, the dark days of personal sacrifice and spiritual warfare increase as the stresses of “humanity representing heaven” provide both the greatest fulfillment of Father’s purpose and the greatest exposure of human weakness.
“Jesus, Stop This Process!”
We notice immediately that Jesus isn’t saying, “Simon, don’t worry about it because I’ll completely shield you from this sifting.”
No! Jesus is praying for restoration after the shaking separates the good and bad, knowing that a lot of ugly stuff will surface in His apostles, satan will attempt to build a case for them to quit, and the evidence that they are not worthy will be obvious.
No! Jesus knows that sifting is essential to kingdom advance because humanity is both the point of power and the point of weakness in kingdom: God wants humans to establish heaven on earth, but the human element is imperfect.
Note this kingdom leader: you will discover your greatest strengths and glaring weaknesses – both of them – in the seasons of kingdom advance, as heaven and hell will heighten their methods of help or hurt to accomplish purpose or diminish purpose.
We can find no Scriptural promise for “avoiding the sifting,” no declaration of protection from battles, no “not for you little one” gesture of escape from testing for any believer. At no point does God say, “Jesus did it all so you will never face a test.” Nope.
Instead, we are promised testing, trial, temptation, and terror! We are sent into the teeth of the conflict armed with Divine weaponry, to fight, take territory, stand and hold that territory, and push back the usurpation of hell, displacing the gates of hell as living stones built into a kingdom Ecclesia.
The sifting offers satan evidence to build his case against us. However, what he considers his best hope of distraction, substitution, or even rebellion (his highest hope), Jesus understands as the opportunity for deeper submission. The sifting reveals our tendencies, and the “bad” that is exposed will be the best opportunity hell can find to defeat us.
In other words, sifting surfaces our besetting sins. Pride, rejection, shame, rebellion, witchcraft, fear of men, worldliness, antichrist, and the political spirit – where works of flesh meet works of darkness – wheat glowing with golden life separated from chaff dead, harsh, dull, cutting, and abrasive to the very purpose of the living giving seed. Debris that gathers with the harvest must be separated at the time of expansion when harvest becomes the next season of planting and promise.
You will always experience an exposure at the point of your next personal expansion in purpose, and you will either embrace the pride of being called and chosen as a representative (therefore, falling upon your entitlement mentality to avoid dealing with your flawed motives) or you will humble yourself in submission in order to deal with the surfaced weakness that must be removed as you step forward in your purpose.
“Simon, you all have some big problems, and satan demands his moment in court to make a case against you with the evidence he will dredge up in sifting. He is making a case against Me, because you represent Me, to tell Father that I have failed to produce leaders that represent Father.”
And, satan is right! The disciples are full of selfish, prideful fear! They will all run because it is too hard. They will deny because it saves their own skins. They will betray in a different way from Judas, but their betrayal is just as deadly at the heart level.
And the sifting will expose this heart motive! “I’m really in this for me” will surface among the kingdom seed of purpose, the kingdom bread of life, the kingdom harvest of Jesus’ ministry. Chaff will be exposed. Debris will be separated. The adversary will accuse. The disciples will despair: how can this kingdom move forward if we are the ones chosen to represent it?
Sifting Seasons Surface Seeds
Yet, the enemy fails to discern that sifting also separates the pure, royal seed from what has been mixed with it! The celebrated seeds of purpose receive their greatest distinction, clarity, and usefulness in the same process of accusation. The end result is a restoration of the very purpose all that debris was supposed to destroy!
The purpose comes out even more pure! What might have been planted in the next season with the royal seed is removed! The prepared soil of the next planting is not defiled with the chaff and debris!
As is always the case when kingdom leaders submit with humbled hearts, stop defending their flaws and justifying their weaknesses, the end product of the testing is purity.
Let the sifting begin for this generation needs a good shaking! We approach a great turnaround of revival, Awakening, reformation, and transformation! Let the Remnant feel the demands of our accuser to defeat us! Let this great conflict begin! It is what we need more than we realize!
We cannot sow the chaff and debris of previous seasons in this newly prepared soil, plowed with groaning and labor pains, and we cannot represent Him in the next season with the pride, fear, stubbornness, wounding, and hesitation under which we labor at present.
Jesus prayed for one apostle, Simon, to restore. He prayed for a Remnant leader in the remaining eleven. His strategy for the sifting was a Remnant.
Does anything help us understand the present condition of the modern American church any more clearly?!
The Remnant needs the sifting, the purifying, the punch in the gut, the kick in the seat of the pants, the exposure of chaff and debris – and that is exactly what we are getting right now! Some are expressing their pride in response to the sifting, telling the story of their justification for assuming they have no flaws by the “thou protesteth too loudly” in defense of their perfections and qualifications. This is not time to tell everyone how long you’ve been with Jesus!
This is the time to humble yourself to the sifting so your flaws won’t disqualify you in the greater crisis coming.
Some are expressing their fear of man by diminishing others to make themselves look better as exposure reveals their need for submission. The work of criticism and the criticism of those that criticize is at a fevered pitch. Even the “we don’t criticize” crowd criticizes with perspiration at present, as mini-movement all attempt to see the superiority of their previous experiences.
Yet, the sifting is revealing the fatal flaws of every mini-movement.
Some are ready to hide when they are called to be seen. They are running. They make the accuser into a victor, fearing the Father because of their weaknesses when the Father has a judgment decision that will silence the enemy and set them free in ways they have never been free before!
At any rate, sifting is here because of what is coming, and we should humble ourselves before that exposure, submit to that process, and receive the strategy of Remnant leadership for our restoration.
Simon Peter was the restorative remnant leader. He took the lead in replacing Judas who could not pass the test of sifting. While all the disciples considered that they might be the ones who would betray Jesus, Judas was the one who resisted the restoration.
Part of the process of restoring the sifted Remnant is filling in empty places left by those who failed to pass the test of sifting. We should have no empty places, and the criteria for replacing those who fail the test should be no less that the one that was important to those in the Remnant. “Were they discipled to represent Jesus?”
The 600 lb Gorilla in the Room
The big gorilla in the room is that we have prepared few people to fill the empty places. When we prayed for change, and the change came first through sifting. The sifting was a method of satan, something he does on a regular basis to distract to the point of substitution; in this case, testing the Remnant for purity of motivation was part of reaching the greatest spiritual battle of all history.
In the kingdom reset we are experiencing now, while not as great as what Jesus created, in the top five of all history for its dramatic impact, we can expect a heightened spiritual battle that will test the souls of all who have kingdom leadership assignments.
The six hundred pound gorilla is that when we deal with the problem, we don’t have anyone to fill the empty places, and they remain empty.
As prophetic leaders, we accurately anticipate what is coming next and prepare the Lord for the new season. So, having prepared the Lord a people for the present moment, we sometimes get so focused upon that season, we stop anticipating the next season. Then, when the season we prepared for comes into its ultimate expression and maturity, we face the sifting that always comes before the next season, and we realized we did not prepare the leaders who could fill the empty places.
When I ask Brasilian leaders about the massive shift that is happening in this nation, I ask, “Who will step up in leadership not that this great sifting has come?” I seldom receive any good answers. The focus has been upon getting the corruption exposed, but the next answer that we as kingdom leaders should address is “Who will be ready to fill the empty places?”
Elijah was personally sifted after the victory on Mount Carmel. He ran to nowhere as fast as he could run because he was not prepared for a time of success. He had no plan for after the drought, when the rains came. God found him there and told him what to do with the rest of his life, including preparing Elisha.
To best understand why Elijah ran, we must understand why he hadn’t been pursuing Elisha before that moment. Remember, he comment, “I alone remain.”
Elijah had no plan for success. His plan for the first season of confrontation was excellent and he executed it very well because Elijah didn’t have to involve anyone but himself. He did it all. He had the “I have to do this myself” syndrome that leaves empty places.
Remember God answers to Elijah’s comment? Elijah says, “I am the only one.” God says, “Elijah, I have 7,000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal.”
God had a Remnant in place of which Elijah was unaware, and Elijah should have been aware of this strategy. Elijah had grown so accustomed to the strategy of one season that he had no prophetic anticipation for the next. Do you?
When we start spiritual warfare from any other position but “What is God’s purpose?” we end up thinking that the defeat of the enemy is the end point of our battle. It is not.
When David faced Goliath, most of the army, and certainly King Saul, were focused upon one thing: Kill the giant. David was certainly focused upon that as well, but when he killed the giant, David held up the severed head with anticipation of the next season. When he held up the head, the army ran to pursue the Philistines and came home with their weapons. David was focused upon more than killing the giant!
We need this new extended vision in Brasil now. We need to plan for success. What happens when we begin to experience God’s purpose for the nation? We planned for the defeat of the enemy, and new enemies will certainly arise, but we need to plan for success so that we can restore!
God sent Elijah to anoint kings and leaders and begin to train Elisha so he would be ready to inherit a double portion. Elijah couldn’t see the next step after his victory at Carmel, so God told him what to do with the rest of his life.