One day while at my aunt’s house I was watching her sift flour through one of those old timey sifters.
I asked her if it was really necessary. Didn’t our neat and clean modern day facilities produce critter-free, lint-free, pebble-free flour?
She remarked that I would be surprised at the things that were left in the sifter when she was finished.
I – picturing mouse fragments – was kind of grossed out.
But after that, whenever I baked, I used a sifter.
Isn’t that a neat story?
You need sifting too.
Your heart needs sifting, because it gets cluttered with junky things and won’t pass inspection on the big day.
During a heart-to-heart talk with Peter, Jesus said to him that he was going to be sifted like wheat, but that he prayed for him so that his faith would not fail.
I never liked that scripture.
Seriously, since I read it – I never liked it.
Why would you let something bad happen to Peter, Lord?
Couldn’t you just spare him the suffering?
Don’t be a meanie!
I loathe suffering.
Peter did end up denying Christ three times later, when the pressure was on.
The Bible said that he wept bitterly.
This man – who drew his sword to fight soldiers when they came to take Jesus into custody – this man who wasn’t afraid of anyone – who lived with the Lord for three entire years – He denied him three times even when he promised Jesus that he would never do so.
Maybe when the soldiers came to take Jesus away Peter thought, “Here is my moment. The moment to show Jesus that I won’t deny him.”
Maybe that is why he cut off the soldier’s ear,
The ear that Jesus healed.
But that wasn’t the hour of the trial.
The hour of the trial came later, when adrenaline wasn’t flooding his system.
The hour of the trial came when Peter was alone and afraid.
I want to talk about the sifting, and I want to talk about the heart.
Peter’s heart had something in it that had to go.
Yours does, too, though you cannot see it.
Mine does as well.
It is a process we go through as we mature and become better versions of ourselves from day to day.
Someone told me that something was God’s will –
I was talking to him about a situation, and I was questioning when he said this to me,
“It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t God’s will.”.
Well, that kind of bothered me but I don’t have God’s cell phone number so I couldn’t text him really quickly and ask.
I left the topic alone.
At that point our conversation would have become one of those “No, it isn’t.” – Yes, it is.” – No, it isn’t.” – “Yes, it is” kind of unmerry-go-round discussions for which we send kids to their room.
But later, approximately three weeks later, something was revealed in my own heart, like the mouse parts I imagined in my aunt’s sifter,
And I recalled the words of the man…
“It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t God’s will.”
It was God’s will for me to be sifted like wheat because it revealed the things he didn’t want inside of me anymore.
The things that were way down deep – down at the bottom where things had settled,
Where things were hidden.
Sin – it has to be exposed if we want to be holy.
It has to be exposed if we want our spiritual garment to be without spot or wrinkle,
And it is all part of the process of growing close to Christ.
That is why it is so damaging when we judge one another harshly in some kind of self-righteous “how could you” attitude when our brother or sister has fallen.
Do you not see?
Do you not recognize
Your fellow traveler on the road to redemption?
When they fall flat on their face, do you scoff at their foolishness and step over their prostrate form?
Are you the priest?
Are you the Levite?
Or are you the Good Samaritan who stops to help them up?
God is gracious to allow our hearts to be sifted.
He is the great physician, removing impurities that cause infection.
And when that happens – when our sin is revealed –
When we are Peter, alone and afraid and screwing things up,
Well, that is when we need one another more than ever.
It is very likely that when you started reading this post you predicted that I would be talking about your heart.
I did, a little.
But that is not the message that I want to communicate to you, today.
The message I am communicating to you today is this:
When you see your loved one blow it big time,
And you will,
Don’t you dare lift yourself up to cast an eye of judgment on them in their low estate.
You are not walking in their shoes.
You do not feel what they feel.
You have not suffered what they suffered.
They are simply being sifted, because God loves them so much he refuses to leave them in that wretched sinful condition.
He is sifting the wheat.
Do you know why?
So that he can use it to nourish others.
Wheat makes flour.
Flour makes bread.
Bread feeds the hungry.
We are all on the path to heaven together.
They walk alongside you.
Don’t abandon them when you see them fall.
Help them up.
You may need help up too, one day,
And you will want them to recognize your face.