Last week, in Lessons Before the Cross, Part 1, we saw that one of the very important messages Jesus teaches us just prior to going to the cross is one of humility in our trials.
But there was something else heavy on Jesus’ heart. He wants us to know why we must suffer them! Today’s lesson begins just after Jesus finishes His famous discourse about the backwardness of the Kingdom of God. He then turns to Simon Peter and gives us, in two sentences the reason Christians suffer trials:
“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.” (Luke 22:31-32, NKJV)
Let’s take these two verses apart line by line: “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.”
Wait a minute. Do you mean that God knows when we are going to be tested? That the devil must ask permission to test us?
But this isn’t really a new idea. God had to agree to Job’s major temptation (See Job 1,2), and Paul tells us: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1Cor 10:13, NKJV).
So not only does God know of and pre-approve our testing, but there are three important rules that must be followed:
1) There will be no new temptation! It simply isn’t allowed!
2) God will not allow us to be tested beyond what we can bear!
3) Before the test even comes to pass, God has already made a way of escape so that we can bear it!
It would seem oh, so much simpler if God would just tell the devil he cannot tempt us, but it is actually through the tempting process that we learn three vital skills:
1) To recognize temptation;
2) To say “no” to it; and
3) To depend upon God alone.
These are not lessons we could ever learn if we never went through trials.
But the story doesn’t end here. Let’s look at Jesus’ next words to Peter: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.” (Luke 22:32).
In the midst of trials, we often feel abandoned by God. But Jesus assures us that before the troubles even come upon us, He has already prayed for us to be strengthened, and He promises that because He has prayed for us, our faith will not fail!
But wait a minute. Peter did fail! He denied Christ three times! And just like Peter, I fail far more times then I pass! That doesn’t seem much like being strengthened, does it?
It’s true that Peter failed. But what he did after that test is what is notable: “So Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62, NKJV)
Bitter weeping, friends, is something that only comes from a broken heart. Peter, though completely unaware that he was capable of denying Christ, strode out of his failure with a repentant heart. And this same Peter who denied Jesus three times, would later stand up, risking his own life and freedom, and preach Jesus!
Why did God allow Peter’s trials?
Because without it, Peter would have never known his weaknesses.
Because without knowing his weaknesses, he would have never been able to overcome.
And because without overcoming, Peter would never have been able to be the founding stone upon which the church was built: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18, NKJV)
Friends, God knows that we will go through trials. He allows them, because it is in the midst of trials that we are able to learn about our own weaknesses, that we are able to truly repent, that we are able to become truly strong in the Lord! And because God must “approve” our trials, we can be assured that He will never allow anything we cannot handle with His help, and He prepares a way out! In fact, He has already prayed for us that we will remain strong!
Join us on Saturday for Lessons Before the Cross, Part 3: The Truth About Trials, Part b.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
(To access the entire “Lessons Before the Cross” series, please click here.)