I used to love baking with my mother as a little girl! I remember getting excited when a recipe called for sifted flour because my mother entrusted me to use our metal flour sifter. I always thought it was fun to turn the crank on the sifter which caused the flour to fall through the tiny holes. Once I sifted the flour, my mother and I used it in whatever we were baking!

Back in the day…even before I was a little girl…sifting flour served several purposes. When flour was milled using stone wheels, sifting removed bits of millstone and other impurities that might be found in the flour.

Today, the need to sift to remove impurities is greatly reduced with modern milling equipment… tighter food regulations…and higher quality control.

So why then did we still sift the flour before baking?

These recipes called for sifted flour because sifting broke up clumps and added air to the flour which made measurements more uniform and produced lighter cakes and pastries.

This memory of sifting flour came to me recently when I read the Bible passage in Luke 22:31-32 where Satan asks to sift Simon Peter as…not flour…but wheat. Jesus said…

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brother.” Luke 22:31-32 NIV

Before we dive deeper…an understanding of this process of sifting wheat is important.

There are a number of verses in the Bible that reflect this process of sifting wheat…which was actually a two-step process.

The first step involved tossing the wheat in the air to allow the chaff to blow away in the wind. Chaff is the outer shell (or husk) that must be removed to get to the valuable kernels or grain inside. Chaff was very light and carried away by even the slightest wind…while the good grain fell back to the earth.

The second step involved a sieve that would be used to separate what was valuable and useful from what was not.

In this way…the farmer cleaned the wheat and prepared it for the market. He was preparing it for a purpose.

And therefore, just like sifted flour has value and purpose in the baking process…so does sifted wheat.

When Jesus said to Simon Peter that Satan has asked to “sift you as wheat” …He was using a metaphor of faith.

Now there are some very interesting points to note from these verses. Check this out!

1.Jesus used Satan to do the sifting.

This is so significant! Satan asked Jesus to sift Peter…and Jesus agreed! Wow!

So by Satan having to ask Jesus….Jesus’s authority and power over all of heaven and earth…and Satan…are displayed. And the real kicker…

Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter…Jesus gave Satan permission to sift Peter…even though He loved Peter!

And this is so with us as well! Jesus loves us very much but He will use Satan to sift us…He will give Satan permission to put us through trials just as He did with Peter.

But don’t lose hope! Because even though Satan’s goal is to use trials to destroy our faith…Jesus’ goal is to use the same trial to build our faith!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV 

2.Jesus prayed for Peter’s faith to increase…not for the sifting to stop.

Jesus encouraged Peter by telling him… “I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail.” Why? Because Jesus believed that Peter would grow stronger having gone through this sifting…this trial.

How many times have you prayed for your trials to end…for your challenges to cease…for the sifting to stop? We all have! Right?

Jesus wants our faith to increase…our faith to stretch…our faith to grow! When we demonstrate our faith in the midst of our trials, our faith and trust will grow stronger.

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? James 2:14-17 MSG

3. Jesus saw what Peter could become.

Jesus said… “And when you turn back.” Notice it said “when” not “if” Peter turns back. Jesus saw what Peter could become…not just what Peter was.

Jesus sees what we can become also. He sees what is valuable after all the chaff is destroyed.

Jesus knows our past…our present…and our future. He knows who we are right now and who we could become.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NASB 

4. Jesus knew this sifting would equip Peter.

Jesus said that when Peter turns back to “strengthen [his] brother.”

This sifting would equip Peter to strengthen others. God allows us to face trials not only to grow our faith but to encourage others as well! There is always a purpose and it is good!

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

What better way to strengthen and encourage another Christian through a trial, than a fellow Christian who has experienced the very same trial?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing….And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14 NIV

How about you? Are you being sifted today? Are you facing some trials and can’t understand why?     

God allows us to go through the sifting process just like Peter.

He allows people…circumstances…and events in our lives to take place in order to sift us.

Why? For what reason was flour and/or wheat sifted?

Because once the impurities have been removed…once the chaff is blown away…there is value…there is purpose. And it can be used!

The sifting process allows God to use us. He knows the value and purpose we each have…even though we may not see it. He knows exactly what we are now…and what we will become!

 Reflection Points:

  1. What did Jesus mean by the metaphor “sifted you as wheat”?
  2. What is the process of sifting wheat?
  3. Are you being sifted today? Are you facing some trials and can’t understand why?
  4. Why are we sifted?

Action Points:

Review the 4 points that were discussed from Luke 22:31-32.

I’m Not Perfect

Reflecting back on my childhood, I can vividly remember being a perfectionist. As a young girl…everything needed to be neat and in its place….everything needed to be just right…everything had to be “perfect”!

The hangers in my closet hung exactly the same distance apart (I know…so Type A personality!)…I always stayed within the lines when coloring pictures (God forbid there be a stray mark outside the lines!)…my handwriting had to be perfect and neat when I turned in book reports for school (I could have endorsed White Out!)

As I grew up…I came to see this perfectionism progress into my adult life…as a wife…as a mother…and as a Christian.

Are you a perfectionist?

Are you always trying to be the perfect wife…the perfect mother…the perfect employee…the perfect friend…the perfect neighbor…the perfect student…the perfect family…or even the perfect Christian?

Ok so maybe you aren’t a perfectionist at all…but don’t check out on me just yet…as I believe you will gain some greater insight if you keep sticking with me here!

If you asked me why I was such a perfectionist throughout my life…I would answer… “I really don’t know why.”

My parents…family…friends…teachers…never put the expectation or the pressure on me to be perfect. There was just something in me that drove me toward perfectionism. I put that expectation on myself!

Maybe there was a deep rooted insecurity or inner fear of rejection…not measuring up…failure…even some sort of punishment…for not being perfect.

Maybe it was my need to be in control…my pursuit to gain acceptance from others…or my concern with what others thought of me.

I strove to be “perfect” in the very way we would all probably define the word “perfect.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “perfect” as …having no mistakes or flaws; completely correct or accurate; satisfying all requirements; having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.

Sounds about right…I means sounds perfect! Right?

Even beginning a relationship with Jesus didn’t take away or remove this perfectionism…as I then quickly found myself striving to be the “perfect” Christian.

After all why would I change my perfectionistic mentality when now even the Bible…Jesus specifically…says I must be perfect!

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 ESV

As I began to grow in my relationship with Jesus…I began to grow in grace…not just grace for others…but grace for myself.

And as I continued to study God’s Word… I gained a better Biblical perspective and understanding of what Jesus meant when He used this word “perfect.”

The word “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 comes from the Greek word “telios” which means whole… complete…mature…finished…having reached its end. It implies being fully grown or mature.

Wow! That says nothing about not making mistakes…not having flaws…or not coloring outside the lines! Certainly takes some pressure off…doesn’t it?!

This concept to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect… means we are to be “whole…complete…mature” just as Jesus is “perfect.”

Jesus was actually made “perfect” through suffering.

For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God–all things exist for Him and through Him–should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10 HCSB

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:8-9 NASB

Jesus completed or fulfilled God’s plan for Him as our Savior by suffering for us.

Jesus is teaching us wholeness…completeness…maturity.

So how can we be this “perfect” Christian? How can we be “whole…complete…mature” as Jesus was made “perfect”?

In Character

Character is a description of a person’s attributes…traits…or abilities; moral or ethical strength; reputation; integrity. Some would say…“Character is who you are when no one is looking.”

In this life…we cannot achieve Christ-like character in one instance or at one moment in our relationship with Jesus. We need to keep growing toward maturity in our character and aspire to be as much like Christ as possible.   

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect [complete] it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB

We are all in process… and building character is a life-long process! 

In Holiness

Holiness is the state of being consecrated or set apart for sacred use; living a life dedicated and devoted to the service of God.

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1Peter 1:15-16 NASB

We need to separate ourselves from the world’s sinful values. We should to be devoted to God’s desires rather than our own…and carry His love and mercy into the world.

Our tendency to sin should not deter us from striving to be more like Christ.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1 NLT

In Love

Love is a purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another.

When Jesus said…You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect…He was saying…”Let your love be complete as God’s love.”

God acts with concern and love for all people. If we must be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect…we will act with positive good will toward both good…and evil people. If we only love those who love us…but do not love our enemies…we are really no better than evil people…for even evil people are capable of loving those who love them!

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. Matthew 5:46 NLT

God loves all people…even people who are evil. We can be as “perfect” as our God when we love this way.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45a NLT             

Our love for people needs to grow and mature…which includes loving our enemies. If we do not love our enemies…we are not acting as true children of our Father in heaven.

Today…I am not the perfect wife…I am not the perfect mother…I am not the perfect Christian…And that’s ok!

Neither should you be! In whatever or  wherever you strive to be perfect!

Strive for progress…not perfection.

In the Biblical sense…we should be progressing toward wholeness…completeness…maturity.

We should be aspiring to be more like Christ…

Progressing to maturity in character…holiness…and love…

Striving for excellence…not the expectation of “perfection” that we place upon ourselves.

Strive for excellence, not perfection, because we don’t live in a perfect world. Joyce Meyer

Be encouraged today that we don’t need to place the expectation of perfection upon ourselves…that we will make mistakes…we will fail…we will color outside the lines…because only Jesus was perfect…and is perfect.

He was the “perfect” sacrifice!

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:9 NASB

Reflection Points: 

  1. Are you a perfectionist? Are you always trying to be the perfect wife…the perfect mother…the perfect employee…the perfect friend…the perfect neighbor…the perfect student…the perfect family?
  2. What drives you to perfection?
  3. Do you strive to be a “perfect” Christian?
  4. What does the Jesus say about being “perfect”?
  5. What is the biblical meaning of the word “perfect” and even more specifically in Matthew 5:48?
  6. Are you striving to be “perfect” in Christ-like character…holiness…and love? If so, how?

Action Points: 

  1. If you are a perfectionist…pray and ask the Lord why you are driven to be perfect. There could be an underlying fear or insecurity that drives you to be perfect. Pray and ask Him to help you overcome this underlying reason…to increase your faith…and to strengthen you. (2Timothy 1:7)
  2. God does not call us to perfection…as our general understanding of this word. He expects us to make mistakes…and to fail. (Romans 3:23) He calls us to be “perfect” biblically. He calls us to wholeness…completeness…and maturity…which is a life long process!
  3. We can be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect…by aspiring to be more like Christ and progressing toward maturity in character…holiness…and love.
  4. You can’t become more like Christ if you don’t get to know Him! We can get to know Him better by spending time in prayer and studying His Word. It’s also important to evaluate the people we surround ourselves with. Are they drawing you closer to God…or pulling you away?