Many years ago, I heard an allegory about a challenge issued by the wind to the sun. The wind being full of itself spotted a woman walking along the street wearing a loose-fitting overcoat. Since causing chaos was in its nature, the wind boasted to the sun, “I bet I can make that woman’s coat come off quicker than you can!” The sun, confident in its abilities, accepted the challenge and agreed to go last.
Mustering all the power the wind possessed, it blew and howled ferociously. The woman’s hair got caught in her lipstick. The tail of her dress fluttered this way and that. However, the harder the wind blew, the tighter the woman held onto her coat. She turned up her collar around her ears, buttoned every shiny button, leaned into the wind, and crossed her arms tightly. Finally, the wind fizzled out in the face of her determination.
It was the sun’s turn. Harnessing every unit of energy, it shined as brightly and warmly as it ever had. It aimed rays of scorching heat toward the woman in the overcoat. In only a few moments, her makeup began to mingle with drops of sweat. She opened her coat to catch a lingering breeze the wind had left behind, but it did no good. After raking her steaming hair out of her face, off came the coat. The sun had won!
In Luke 22, we find a similar challenge in the making. Jesus and His disciples had just finished the Passover meal when Jesus began preparing them for the suffering that loomed ahead. He looked at Simon Peter and warned, “Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32a, CSB)
Are you being sifted right now? Perhaps Satan issued you a challenge. That evil blowhard caused your confidence to take a hit; your health or that of a loved one has been blown to smithereens; your money flittered and fluttered through your fingers; fatigue, and fear have caused you enough chaos in the last few months to last a lifetime. But for the life of you, you can’t decide why God would let these things happen to you. After all, you’ve been good. You’ve read your Bible, prayed, and gone to church every Sunday. You haven’t cussed the cat or kicked the dog. What in the world is going on? Why would God allow Satan to sift you into dust?
I get it!
So did Peter … finally. When Satan choreographed the strong winds tempting Peter to deny Jesus, he did it to hurt Peter and ultimately destroy the spread of the gospel. But when God allowed scorching rays of regret to sear Peter’s conscience, He provided a time of testing for Peter’s own good, and to help spread of the gospel’s Good News. You see, Satan tempts. God tests. Big difference. Huge difference. (James 1:13)
Unlike your teacher in school, God doesn’t give you a test so He can see what’s inside of you; He already knows! God gives you the test so you can find out what’s inside of you! So many times, we can’t fathom the amount of crud lying beneath our “holy” exterior until we are pushed beyond our limits. And that, my friend, is right where God wants us – beyond our limits. Only by coming to the end of us will we find the beginning of Him.
Peter failed the exact same test three different times. (Kind of like my algebra days!) But what he learned was humility. (Kind of like my algebra days!) He realized he was a mere mortal who needed supernatural power to accomplish what God had planned for him. He got the message loud and clear that he could not weather Satan’s temptations successfully until He absorbed the energizing love, grace, and power of the Son.
Jesus didn’t pray for Peter to find strength or that Satan would leave him alone. No, He prayed for Peter’s faith. What I want you to hear is this: Jesus is praying right now for your faith not to fail. (Romans 8:34) Strong faith securely fastens every last button when the winds howl. Strong faith sees regret and failure and learns from them. Strong faith wraps itself in the arms of Jesus and rests securely. Strong faith leans further and further into Jesus’ control until Satan sees Jesus in your eyes and knows he can’t win.
When Satan is forced to regroup, and he will, remove your heavy overcoat of pride, bask in the Son’s rays, and enjoy your time on the beach. Shake your hair in the breeze, lift your face to the sky, and smile because you know you have been transformed by the storm. Your faith has not failed – it has only gotten stronger. The Son will win again – and so will you!