Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Season of Sifting

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows how I love Beth Moore. In the current study, we have a 5-point reminder to help us align our thoughts with Scripture when life gets tough:

1. God is who He says He is
2. God can do what He says He can do
3. I am who God says I am
4. I can do all things through Christ
5. God’s Word is alive and active in me

Today’s recorded session was wonderful, as she elaborated on point #3, using Ephesians 1:3-8 to show just who God says we are as Christians—loved above all, and blessed, called, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven. The rest of the message centered around the need to hold on to believing that we are all these things, and several results of doing so, but one Scripture she shared near the end really grabbed me.

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32, NKJV)

Beth explained that the “you” in vs. 31 is a plural you—Satan had asked for all the disciples. By implication, perhaps Satan asks to sift all believers. I was reminded of the beginning of the book of Job, where Satan approaches God’s throne and charges that Job only trusts God because he receives so many blessings—and God gives Satan permission to afflict the man and thus prove the matter one way or another. We know by the wording of the verse in Luke that God likewise gave Satan permission to “sift” Peter—which then resulted in Peter denying Christ not once, but three times. How beautiful the next verse, then: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.” This seems to imply that Peter’s essential faith did not fail even though he denied knowing Jesus!

Beth went on to say that God will never give the enemy permission to sift us unless we have something that needs sifting out. She shared a very difficult time in her own life when God allowed her to be sifted and seemed to say to her, “Beth, we have someplace to go—but there are some things in you that can’t go with us.” She named three things that she had to learn to let go of—pride, a victim mentality, and embedded impurities. (If we are honest with ourselves—do we not all wrestle with those things?)

While she was sharing all this, I thought not only of my own struggles (and the last two weeks have been particularly hard, again), but of those around me … nearly everyone I know is going through some difficult personal trial in some form or another—or more often, a combination of hard things. Could this be a “season of sifting” in general for believers? One very dear writing friend is trying to deal with the recent discovery of a teen involved in drug use, and a husband who is disapproving of her writing … another is battling intense discouragement as she sees so many around her getting agents and contracts, but she’s still waiting … another, who just got a contract but whose husband just took a pastorate in a church, is struggling with the demands of day-to-day life and being a new pastor’s wife … several writing friends who have been published for many years are facing the fickleness of sales, personal health problems, and deadlines that seem impossible to meet … a local pastor’s wife is facing the difficulties of living in an RV with four children while waiting for the closing date on a new house … I could go on and on.

Beth also noted that her “sifting time” immediately followed a year when she had drawn particularly close to the Lord and was in constant prayer, worship, and study of the Word. She emphasized that these times are not, despite a popular belief, God “getting back at us” or the result of disobedience—that yes, God disciplines us, but seasons of sifting are not punishment. They are for purification, for refining.

This, of course, goes right along with what God has been teaching me about the refinement process, and how He’s using my own difficulties and struggles to prepare me for whatever it is He has down the road. In Beth’s case, it was preparation for her present ministry. In mine, only He knows, and I’m at a point where I hesitate to speculate at all any more on what’s going to happen—but it’s been a repeating theme in my spiritual life for a while now to not lose heart, to embrace God and His calling with all of my heart and might, and to believe that He’ll see this journey though.

“… When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Times of sifting make us purer, but they also make us stronger—and allow us to further encourage and strengthen each other. I’ve prayed often over the past few months for others I know who are going through some particularly hard trial, whether related to their writing or not—especially those in my immediate circle of friends, and you know who you are. May God make us all strong enough for the weight of glory that He has us for us.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, great post, Shannon. :-D I love that idea of sifting. OFten in the last few months I've determined in my heart to see this whole period as a proving ground. It's encouraging to read what you're studying in this Bible Study.

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  2. Beautiful thoughts, Shannon. Very encouraging. Thank you for sharing. *smile*

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