Most all of us have turned to the last few pages in a book in order to get through a particularly difficult chapter earlier on in the story. Haven’t we?
Just as the bible teaches us of the truth of God’s existence and promise of life to the full, from the opening chapters we are also instructed about the presence of evil, the adversary, Satan, the Devil who has come to steal, kill and destroy.
Over the years as a Christian, I’ve heard many Christians say things like: “He will get his punishment when Christ returns…” Or “When Christ comes we will understand what we can’t fully understand right now.” “Don’t you worry about this, God is sovereign and he is Omnipotent, He is in complete control and all powerful, He will work it all out…..” And while those statements are true, and knowing the end of the story is awesome –when Christ returns and throws Satan and his followers into the lake of burning sulfur, what about the in-between? What about the conflict that the enemy has brought today while I anticipate His return?
Thankfully God hasn’t kept the ending a secret. He wants us to see the big picture. He wants us to know that he wins. But he also wants us to know that the evil we witness right now is not as mighty as we might think.
Many passages teach these truths, but my favorite is recorded by Luke in Luke Chapter 22, verse 31-32 as we move into this second teaching from this series “Anticipate” we look at the subject of evil.
Here in Luke Chapter 22, Jesus is in the upper room with his followers. It is the night before his death. Jesus turns to Simon Peter and makes this statement: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to test all of you as a farmer sifts his wheat. I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me.” (Luke 22:31-32)(NIV)
These three sentences give us a glimpse into the unseen world that is active around us right now and the evil that is at work. But more importantly, these same three sentences give us three powerful assurances that we can grasp hold of as we live in the present anticipating Christ’s return.
God is clearly in control and Satan is on a short leash even when I feel most overwhelmed by evil. “Satan has asked.” The Devil didn’t demand, resolve, or decide. He asked. Just as he requested permission to tempt Job, he requested permission to tempt Simon Peter. Satan is a skinny back ally punk who acts tough, but cowers in the presence of God. “Uh…I’d…uh…like to do a number on Peter – that is, if you don’t mind?”
“Peter, Satan is going to slap your faith like a farmer slaps wheat on the threshing floor.” You might expect Jesus next words to be “so get out of town”, or “duck”! But Jesus is surprisingly calm. “I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me.” (Luke 22:32)(NIV) “I have prayed for you…”
Jesus at this very moment is protecting me. I may feel overwhelmed, without an answer. I may even feel abandoned and alone, but at this very moment Jesus who died for me, who was raised to life for me, is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for me. Interceding for me that I will take hold of Him.
The question is, will you lean into Him? Will you trust Him?
Look back with me to the 2nd half of verse 32: “and when you have turned back to me, strengthen your brothers.” Those of you who know the next page of Peter’s story know that in less than 24 hours of Satan asking Jesus permission to sift Peter, Peter was sifted and in verse 57 of Luke 22, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Peter had walked away from the conflict. He had left the room, he was AWOL. And my friends, some of us in this room right now are right on the edge of doing the same. You’ve bought into the lies of Satan. You have been tempted and for a season that temptation has overcome you. But Jesus hasn’t given up on you. In fact, he is praying all the more and He reassures us through his words to Peter: “When you come back to me…” not “If you come back to me.”
This is the third assurance that Jesus give us in this text. Jesus Christ prevails, which means that I too prevail.
John Chapter 21, days after Jesus resurrection, Jesus came to Peter right where he was and said “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15)(NIV) Do you love me more than the thoughts, the temptations, the weaknesses that have taken you away from me and the pride that Satan would whisper in your ear that would keep you from me now?” Do you love me more than these? And Peter said “Yes Lord, you know that I will love you. And then Jesus said to him, “Then take care of my sheep, feed my sheep, Follow me!” What temporary victory Satan may have felt that he had, was defeated by Jesus, even used by Jesus for Good – the saving of the world, and to now Strengthen Peter who would live his life convinced of the reality of Jesus Christ so much so that he would die for Jesus.
Some of you reading this blog have been sifted. Satan has beat you like wheat on the threshing floor. These present days when evil seems to run rampant without a harness or leash. These days when evil has maybe had its way with you. Are you ready for the last day of evil to have power over you?
This weekends invitation is for you. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” Will you take heart and take hold of the One who has overcome?
I’ll help you do just that this Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30. Dave