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!
- What did Jesus mean by the metaphor “sifted you as wheat”?
- What is the process of sifting wheat?
- Are you being sifted today? Are you facing some trials and can’t understand why?
- Why are we sifted?
Review the 4 points that were discussed from Luke 22:31-32.