31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. (Luke 22, 31-32).
We hear all the time Christians talking about their faith, many even brags about their faith without realising the fact that there is a possibility for their faith to fail at times. Of course, the reason for the potential failure mainly come from the attacks of the enemy.
Saints, the moment we profess our faith in Christ, the moment we decide to follow Him genuinely, we begin a journey that also includes confrontations. Unfortunately, these confrontations are not with the flesh and blood but with the powers and principalities in the Spiritual Realm whose leader is that great adversary called Satan or the Devil.
12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6, 12)
As you know, the disciples of Christ were with Him 24×7, they witnessed every miracle that He performed and listened to every sermon that He preached. Not only that, they even received power and authority from Christ to cast out demons and to heal the sick.
But still their faith was vulnerable and had the potential to fail. If this was true for the twelve disciples of Christ, then, how much more it might be true for us.
So, they were still vulnerable, the enemy still set his eyes on them and wanted to pull them down spiritually. But Jesus was well aware of the schemes of the enemy and He engaged himself in spiritual warfare through prayer. He kept His disciples covered under His prayers in order to protect them.
When we examine the verses below, we could find that Jesus spoke those words to Peter after the Last Supper.
31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22, 31-32).
It seems very clear that Jesus already knew in advance His arrest and the subsequent denial of Peter and He prayed for Peter that his faith fails not.
However, Peter was an over-confident guy like you and I who thought that his faith in Christ was as solid as a rock and he would never deny Christ. That is why he says:
However, Jesus’ reply was as follows.
As I mentioned earlier, Peter was an overconfident guy; despite the warnings from Jesus, he still did not think about the vulnerability of his faith in Christ and hence he did not bother to pray for himself or for the ministry that he was part of.
Jesus had already warned everyone many times about the certainty of His death on the cross and the subsequent crisis that the disciples would face. But, none of them could comprehend what Christ was warning about. Their spiritual eyes were shut because of their dull prayer life.
Even after the Last Supper, they expected things to be as usual. Though Jesus took them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, they still did not pray. All of the disciples were sleeping while Jesus prayed.
39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. c
45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 12, 39-46)
Each time when Jesus returned after praying, he found them sleeping and He repeatedly commanded them to pray – so that they will not fall into temptation. But still the disciples did not pray in order to strengthen themselves to face the ensuing crisis.
Consequently, when Jesus was arrested, most of the disciples fled the scene as they had no strength to face that critical situation.
Though, Peter was following Christ from a distance, he still pretended to be a stranger; even after repeated questioning, Peter still denied knowing Christ. Surely, it was a very tragic day for Peter.
But his loving Master foresaw this very moment and already prayed for him. Otherwise, Satan would have sifted Peter like wheat and we would not be hearing anything today from our church pulpits about Peter.
Saints, we have a few lessons to learn from this particular context that we are discussing here. Peter was one of the main pillars of Christ’s ministry; but there were a few weak links in his faith and those weak links almost destroyed his future in the ministry.
The Prayers of Jesus was the only reason that he survived. So, let us examine what we could learn from Peter.
1.Do not be Over-confident about Your Faith.
Yes, over-confidence has been one of the main reasons why many giants in the Spiritual realm have fallen from the heights that they were standing.
Remember, your faith, no matter how much you have achieved or what great things you have done in your church or ministry, is not as big as a small mustard seed. Jesus knows this truth very well even if you don’t admit it.
Your faith is like a small plant in a desert where water is scarce. If you don’t water this plant through prayer it won’t take long for it to wither away. Even if it survives it won’t be able to withstand the sand storms of the desert.
As long as you walk on the face of this planet earth, there is a potential for your faith to fail and to avoid that failure you should keep your faith covered in prayer. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of those who preceded us, then, we will surely repeat their mistakes.
When we examine Peter’s faith, we could find that he was over-confident and expected it to be as solid as a rock. But Jesus saw the vulnerability of Peter’s faith and prayed for him so that it will not fail.
Yes, if Peter’s faith could fail, definitely our faith too could fail; realizing this vulnerability of our faith will enable us to be vigilant and withstand the circumstances that might ship-wreck our faith.
2. Examine Yourselves to See Whether You are in the Faith;
In the above verses Apostle Paul is instructing Corinthian believers to examine their faith on a regular basis. As an Apostle and Elder – Paul already knew the vulnerabilities that Corinthians believers were exposed to. So, he wanted them to examine their faith continually so that they could plug the holes through which the enemy could sneak in.
But here you might wonder – how am I to examine my faith?
You examine your faith by scrutinizing your thoughts, words and deeds in your daily life; you need to examine them in the light of God’s Commandments and see if there are any areas that are broken or weak.
Examine your lifestyle in the light of what Christ has taught you through His Holy Scriptures and see whether your words and deeds bring glory to Christ or profane His Holy name. Examine your words and deeds and see if they reflect your true faith and hope in Christ or just reflect your faith in the world and its stinking ideologies.
Examine your lifestyle and see whether it reflects the desires of the Christ who dwells in you or it fulfils the desires of the flesh that is hidden within you.
Remember, Christianity is a way of life; when you accepted Christ; you have accepted to follow His way of life. Faith in Christ is all about taking the narrow road that Christ has shown us.
However, unfortunately, many Christians have mis-understood the true Christian way of life; they think following Christ means going to church on Sunday and receiving the Sacraments. They think following Christ means distributing tracts and teaching in the Sunday School. They think living for Christ means having a “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker behind their cars.
Saints; please remember, you could perform all of those Sunday rituals while having no faith in your heart. There are many in the Church who are very active and religious but lack compassion in their hearts. Like the Pharisees they talk about the love of Christ but they never share the love of Christ by their deeds. They are insensitive to the needs of their fellow believers; they will be quick to pray for the needs of their fellow believers while keeping their wallets tightly closed.
Sadly, these people do not know that their faith has grown dimmer and dimmer and they are standing on a slippery ground. Lack of compassion and sensitivity are the best indicators of lack of true faith in Christ.
So, it is very important for believers in Christ to examine their faith on a regular basis, so that, they can make corrections whenever it is necessary. Examining your faith continually will also help you to be sensitive about the challenges that are thrown at you by the enemy. Moreover, it will also help you be better prepared to resist him.
3. Keep your faith Covered in Prayer.
Yes, keep your faith covered in prayer, saints, let me remind you, we live in a fallen world among fallen human beings and there is an enemy roaming around like a lion looking for prey. Remember, he will use every opportunity that comes on his way to destroy our faith.
8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 peter 5, 8-9)
Yes, in the above verses Apostle Peter is instructing us to stand firm in our faith so that we could resist the devil. But how do we stand firm in our faith? It is by the power that we get from ABOVE through prayer. So, it is of paramount importance for believers to keep their faith covered in prayer.
Likewise, please do not substitute prayer with other ministry activities. What prayer does only prayer can do. Other Ministry activities will not be able to produce the results that prayer produces.
In the spiritual realm everything depends on your faith and your prayer. So, keep your faith always covered in prayer.
4. Strengthen Thy Brethren.
Yes, this was one of the most important parting instructions that Lord Jesus Christ gave Peter – “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”
Saints; this is not an advice just for Peter; Christ is commanding us too to strengthen our brothers. As you know “faith” in a believer is like a growing tree. As a tree goes through different stages of growth; our faith too goes through different stages of growth and we all need someone to strengthen our faith on the way. When we strengthen the faith of our brothers, we are, in fact, strengthening our own faith. Let me illustrate this fact by another example.
We, believers in Christ, are like the bricks of a wall that holds a roof in its place. If we examine the bricks in a wall; we could find that each brick is carrying the other; holding the other brick in its place. If one brick is weak or broken, it will affect the strength of the other bricks and ultimately the strength of the wall that holds the roof in its place.
Saints, similarly, we are also like those bricks; we need to strengthen our brothers to stay strong in their faith so that they could in turn help us stay strong in our faith. But, on the contrary, if we ignore the weakening elements in our brother’s faith, then, we are also exposing ourselves to those weakening elements which might eventually pull down the whole wall and the roof.
If we examine the history of the church, we could find many examples for this. Actually, we do have examples right in front of our own eyes; right now, we are really witnessing many Shepherds and the sheep renouncing their faith and many congregations falling apart.
But here you might ask – How do I strengthen my brothers? First of all, it is by keeping them covered in your constant prayers. Secondly, by pointing out their errors and helping them to correct those errors. Thirdly, by being a good example for them through your own life.
How can you be an example if your faith fails when the real test comes? You are not supposed to fail as Peter did when the enemy approached him with the temptation to deny Christ.
When you compromise with the Word of God; you are also showing the way for others to compromise. So be a Responsible Christian with a sense of accountability towards both Christ and to your fellow-believers.