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Times of Lifting

Times of Lifting

Words of Faith 1-24-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 22:31-38

    "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. [32] But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

    [33] But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."

    [34] Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

    [35] Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?"

    "Nothing," they answered.

    [36] He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. [37] It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

    [38] The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."

    "That is enough," he replied.

 

         Yesterday we talked about times of sifting.  Jesus predicted times ahead that would be extremely difficult for the disciples, especially Peter. But Jesus was praying for Peter.  Jesus was praying that Peter's faith would not fail in the time of testing. 

        Jesus was Peter's advocate before God.   Jesus knew that Peter would, in fact, deny Him three times.  That was not the biggest issue.  The huge problem was whether Peter could recover.  Could Peter recover so that his faith would not utterly fail and be absolutely ruined? Could Peter avoid eternal separation from God, the Body of Christ and His best-redeemed self?

        When times of shaking and sifting come, Jesus is praying for us.  He is lifting us before the Father. Satan attempts to separate us from God, and from other Christian believers.  His minions strive to create divisions in the Body of Christ-- separate us from who we are supposed to be and designed to be in the Body of Christ. 

        The Enemy seeks to separate you from your best self, your calling, and your mission.  But Jesus is praying for you.  He is lifting you!  You have the very best prayer partner in the entire universe.  Is there anything more comforting than knowing that you are on Jesus' prayer list?  Scripture attests to the truth:

        1 John 2:1-2  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--  Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

        Romans 8:34   Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life--  is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

        Hebrews 7:25   Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

         When we go through a time of sifting, we have a responsibility to turn back.  We must make a decision when the time of sifting comes.  Even if we stumble, or even deny Him, there is the critical decision to return to Him.  Scripture promises that no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13).

        As we follow the story of Holy Week, we see that this is the principle difference between Peter and Judas.  Both went through similar times of sifting.  Judas was tempted by Satan directly to betray Jesus.  He went to the religious leaders and cut a deal, but he was not permanently estranged at that point.  At any time Judas could have turned back.  Even after the death of Jesus, the critical difference was that Peter turned back to God, while Judas despaired and took his own life-- seizing the prerogative of God.  Peter refused to be separated from God while Judas chose to be separated from God.

        When we go through times of shaking, we may very well sin.  We may stumble.  We may deny.  It is a grievous thing.  We may find ourselves saying: "The Lord could never forgive me. I have fallen too far.  I can never get back to God."  Don't believe it!  This is the lie of Satan the Accuser whispering in your ear.  Jesus is praying for you!  Turn back! 

        Once Peter had returned to Jesus, He strengthened others.  Peter dedicated his life to strengthening others through the mission of the church.  We often think that when we have gone through a time of sifting that we should be quiet about it.  We may be embarrassed about what we have gone through, so we just shut up about it.  Wrong.  This is another ploy of the Enemy.  Satan wants to make people believe that they are the only ones to ever go through sifting.  Our pride enters in here, and Satan knows it.

        One of the biggest complaints I hear about "church culture" is that it appears to be a gathering of people who have no problems or trying to appear to have no problems.  We often try hard to look like people who have never had a struggle in our faith, in our marriages, or with our children.  Satan loves that image because it sets him free to work behind the scenes. 

          This is another way of separating us from one another.  As believers, we are to strengthen one another once we have returned to God. The believer is to take what he has learned from falling and teach others how to find the mercy of God.  We are to help others who have fallen to return.  We are to strengthen the faith of others to keep them from falling. 

          Do you remember the words of David as he was being restored?  "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you" (Psalm 51:12-13).  Even David recognized that the pattern of God is to help others.  The critical key in recovery from any shaking in your life-- any sin or addiction-- is to help others to be strengthened by sharing the grace of God and how the power of God is saving you.  When we help strengthen others, we are strengthened.   

        I have seen people shake free terrible addictions with the grace and power of God, and then choose to keep it a secret.  "I never had any problems..." they say in so many ways.  Often it is not long before the sifting is back for them.  It may be that another addiction takes the place of the old one.  One bad habit replaces another.  The way we really get free is to share the power of God in our lives with others.

       Peter responded to all this saying:  "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death."  Peter's response was in "the flesh" or in his own strength.  He denied his vulnerability and proclaimed his personal strength.  We often make a "flesh" response in the time of sifting.  In our own strength, we commit all that we are... and that is never enough.  If we battle the sifting in our own power, we will be terribly disappointed.   

       Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."  Then Jesus called them to remember.  "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" 

    "Nothing," they answered.  Jesus called them back to the place where they depended wholly on God.  He will provide even in the times of shaking. 

      Jesus told them to have a sword not to fight but to fulfill prophecy.  He would be "numbered with the transgressors."  Perhaps it was also important for the disciples to have swords so that when Jesus was arrested, they could choose not to use them.  Eleven guys with two swords are not much against a Roman regiment, only enough to get themselves killed.

         Where are you today?  Has your world been shaken?  Is your family being shaken?  Is your marriage being shaken?  Is your relationship with God being shaken?  Are your relationships within the Body of Christ being shaken?  Is your relationship with your self being shaken?

         Satan wants to separate you from God, other people and yourself.  Our natural tendency in a time of shaking is to withdraw from God and other people.  We tend to stop praying.  We hide away from others.  We get our feelings hurt even more.  This is exactly what Satan wants. 

        Satan succeeded with Judas.  Satan got Judas away from God, apart from his friends in Christ, and away from himself such that he eventually murdered himself in despair. Satan won. But Satan failed with Peter.  Peter denied Christ, but he was restored and then strengthened others.

          How will it go for you?  God has a purpose for allowing this in your life.  But most important Jesus is praying for you. He is lifting you.  Don't ever forget that you can turn back to Him.  And when you turn back to Him, remember to strengthen others.

 

        O Lord, walk with me through the times of sifting.  Help me to turn back to You when I stumble or fall.  Give me the grace to strengthen others.  Teach me to trust wholly in You.  In Jesus' name.