And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:…
There are defects in many Characters which apparently can be removed only by some terrible experiences like those of Peter. This seems to have been true of David. Mingled with all his noble qualities, qualities which made him, when purified, the man after God's own heart, there were many evil elements of which his nature had to be cleansed; and he also was allowed to fall into Satan's hand to be sifted. But from that sifting he came a new man, cleansed and enriched. Many of David's sweetest songs received their inspiration from the experience of his fall and eclipse, and from the painful chastening he endured. In every matured life, however many the noble qualities, there are also many faults and defects bound up with the good. For example, one has firmness, and firmness is a good quality; but it is yet a very chaffy firmness. Some of it is stubbornness; part is selfish pride; part is most unamiable obstinacy. There is a good element there, but there is also much chaff which must be blown away before it can be noble, Christlike firmness. By and by, when mid-life has come, and when the defects have been sifted out, you will see a firmness stable as a rock, yet gentle as the heart of a little child. It has been cleansed of its chaff in the gusts of trial, and is now pure, golden wheat. Or there is pride in the character. It makes a man arrogant, self-willed, haughty. But pride is not altogether an evil quality. It has in it an element of nobleness. It is the consciousness of dignity, of Divine birthright, of power. As it appears, however, in early years, there is much in it that is offensive and bad. The man must be winnowed until the unlovely qualities are removed, till the arrogance and the selfwill are gone. At length you see the old man, after many experiences of trial and pain, lordly and regal still, but gentle, humble, benevolent, with a sweet spirit, using his noble gifts for lowly service, with his fine hands washing the feet of humble disciples. Pride has not been destroyed; it has been sifted, cleansed, and sanctified. Or take gentleness; even this quality, beautiful as it is, may be very chaffy. It may be weakness; it may be the absence of firmness, mixed up with timidity and want of strong moral principle. The gentleness is golden, but the defects must be got out. Take, once more, what we call temper. A man is easily provoked, swept away by sudden gusts of anger. Now, temper itself is not a bad quality. It is not to be destroyed, as we sometimes say. Without temper a bar of steel becomes like lead. A man without temper is weak and worthless. We are to learn self-control. A strong person is one who has a strong temper under perfect mastery. These are simple illustrations of the sifting which Peter experienced. Every one has, in greater or less degree, to pass through the same processes in some way. Sometimes the separation and cleansing go on quietly and gradually, under the kindly culture of the Spirit. Sometimes afflictions are God's messengers — sickness, or sorrow, or pain. Sometimes temptation is necessary, the buffeting of Satan. All of us have in us by nature, even after regeneration, much that is unlovely, much that can never enter heaven, and must in some way be got out of us. In Guido's painting of "Michael and the Dragon" the archangel stands upon the fallen foe, holding a drawn sword, victorious and supreme; but the monster beneath him yet lives. It cowers and writhes. It dares not lift up its head, but it is not yet slain. This is a symbol of the conquest of grace over the old nature in the best of us. It is not dead, though under our feet; and this old evil must be got out. The process may be tong and painful, but Christ is looking on, and every experience of sifting should leave us a little purer. Thus it is that even our falls, if we are Christ's, make us holier. Evil habits conquered become germs of character. An old man sat dreaming one day about his past, regretting his mistakes and follies, and wishing he had never committed them. He made a list on paper of twenty things in his life of which he was ashamed, and was about to seize an imaginary sponge and rub them all out of his biography, thinking how much more beautiful his character would have been if they had not been committed. But to his amazement he found that if there were any golden threads running through his life, they had been wrought there by the regrets felt at wrongs; and that, if he should wipe out these wrong acts, he would destroy at the same time whatever of nobleness or beauty there was in his character. He found that he had got all his best things out of his errors, with the regret and the repenting which followed. There is a deep truth here — that our mistakes and our sins, if we repent of them, will help in the growth and upbuilding of our character. We can make wrong the seed of right and righteousness. We can transmute error into wisdom. We can make sorrows bloom into a thousand forms like fragrant flowers. Our very falls, through the grace and tender love of Christ, become new births to our souls. In the hot fires of penitence we leave the dross, and come forth as pure gold. But we must remember that it is only Christ who can make our sins yield blessing.
(J. R. Miller, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: