At Passover, Jesus turned aside to the bold disciple Peter and revealed, “Peter, Satan has demanded that I turn you over to him that he may shake your very life.”
“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.’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.’ Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me’” (Luke 22:31-34).
Peter boasted of having an unfailing faith in front of the other disciples, “Lord, I will never doubt you. I would die first.” Satan was about to orchestrate a supernatural attack on Peter’s faith. To sift means to “shake violently.” Simply put, the devil wanted to shake the foundations of Peter’s faith in the severest way possible.
Peter had declared his faith in Jesus’ divinity, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), so his faith was genuine — which was the very reason the devil went after him. When we are in the midst of a trial, it is hard to see that we are in the fire due to our walk with Jesus. But Peter was about to become a pillar of God’s church, launching the gospel into the world at Pentecost, and you can be sure Satan was not going to let that happen without a fight.
Jesus knew the satanic onslaught to come upon Peter was aimed at his faith, so he prepared his disciple by telling him, “I have prayed for you.” Imagine — Jesus praying for you! Many of us may have experienced times of sifting, but few can imagine Satan’s attacks being so severe that we would be tempted to deny Jesus. What a comfort to know that even if we experience a time of a lapse of faith, Jesus is praying for us, bringing us back to strength so that we, in turn, can witness to others.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me from the foundation of the world” (John 17:24, my emphasis). Jesus prayed for his disciples — and that includes us. He asked the Father that we may see his glory, meaning that we would know him.
At certain times in the Old Testament, Jesus revealed himself in human or angelic form, with varying results. For instance, Jacob’s hip was broken when he tried wrestling with the Lord. And when Moses said to God, “Please show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18), the Lord told him, “I have to cover your face and hide you behind a rock, and then you can see only the trailing afterglow of my presence.” In other words, he had to protect Moses from the full revelation of himself.
In the New Testament, when the apostle John heard the Lord’s voice and received the Revelation on the island of Patmos, he fell on his face. The normal response of men and women when they saw Jesus was awe and wonder. I wonder what would happen if we saw him in all his beauty and splendor as Moses or John did.
The truth is, Jesus is beautiful in a sense far deeper than our usual usage of the descriptive word. We remark that someone is lovely or handsome, but Jesus is far more. He is glorious, wonderful, separate, unique, special. He is also tender, kind, precious, full of majesty. He is wondrous, strong, mighty, powerful, wise, outstanding. And he never fails!
Even in his human nature, Jesus remained sovereign, one with God (see Colossians 2:10). Consider some of his beautiful attributes: full of justice (John 8:16); perfectly righteous (John 8:46). And he is love (John 13:34) — a love that is unfathomable.
We are totally undeserving of this love, but that is the beauty of our amazing, incomparable Savior. Give him praise today for his unspeakable sacrifice and gift of salvation.
Paul told the Ephesians to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). What an interesting phrase and word picture — pray in the Spirit. Pray in, through, and by the Holy Spirit, who is God himself!
In addition to this reference in Ephesians, there are more: “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Notice that Paul prays not only with his mind but also with his spirit, stirred and prompted by the Spirit of God.
Where else would the Spirit primarily work but in our human spirits? Also, to combat those who divide the Body of Christ, those who follow “mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit,” Jude told his leaders to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20, emphasis added).
These directives about prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit might seem like emotional fanaticism to some. They feel it’s for those “other folks” who always sing too loudly and lift their hands in church every six seconds. They say, “That’s not how I was raised in church.”
God gave us the Bible so we could prayerfully and humbly search its depths and experience what it promises. Did the Holy Spirit’s power to inspire prayer somehow evaporate during the centuries following the book of Acts? Will the Spirit help us today any less, especially when we need him most? This does not sound like what a merciful God would do.
How will we boldly pray in faith if the Holy Spirit is not helping us? Only as the Spirit leads and inspires will we rise to a new level of prevailing prayer. Then strongholds will come down, loved ones will be visited by God’s grace, and people around us will be reminded that Christ is a living Savior and not a mere theological concept.
Nothing is too hard for God. “Lord, teach us to pray, and let it be prayer in the Holy Spirit.”
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
In Jesus’ prayer to the Father, he says: “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). He was saying, “We agreed that I could bring into our covenant everyone who trusts in me. Now, Father, I ask you to bring these beloved ones under the same covenant promises you made to me.”
What does this covenant between Father and Son have to do with you and me? It is a picture of God’s love for his beloved creation. He cut this covenant because he was unwilling to lose a single child to Satan. It is all about his undying love for his people.
The Father gave his Son, the Son gave his life, and we receive all the benefits. By mutual consent, the Father and Son made this covenant to keep and preserve the seed of Christ. It ensures that we will endure to the end and we will be kept safe.
The promise to save and deliver us, then, and our confidence that God will keep it, has a precedent in the relationship between Father and Son.
Did the Father lead and guide Jesus, as he pledged he would? Did his Spirit empower the Son, giving him encouragement and consolation? Did he bring him through all his temptations and trials? Did he keep him from the powers of darkness? Did he usher him home to glory victorious? Was God true to his part of the covenant terms?
Yes, absolutely! And the Father who kept his covenant promises to his Son has pledged an eternal oath to do the same for us. Jesus affirmed this part of the covenant when he said, “The glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me” (John 17:22-23).
If you stay in Christ — abide in him and trust him — you will surely see his glory!
“For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-4).
Right now, the world is in such turmoil that people are asking, “Is the world spinning out of control? Are we seeing the winding up of history?” We now understand what Jesus meant when he said: “There will be … distress of nations … men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
When Jesus gave that warning, he added this statement: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (21:27-28).
All the terrifying things we see coming upon the earth right now have to do with the coming of Christ. Beyond all the gross darkness covering the earth, a cloud is being formed in heaven, and one day soon Christ is going to enter that cloud and reveal himself to the whole world. “When you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near” (21:31).
The Christians in Paul’s day wanted him to write about prophetic times and Paul responded that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He went on to further describe the event and then he said, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18).
Paul’s exhortation was meant to be an encouragement. Likewise, today, we are not to fret or be overly concerned over current events because we well know that it is all signaling the coming of the Lord Jesus to take away his people.
When Jesus said, “Look up” (Luke 21:28), he was telling us to keep our focus on him and his soon return! Truly, this is our wonderful hope!