Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.”
And the Lord said unto Satan, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.”— Job 1:9-12
No doubt, all the demons in the land wanted to torment Job. Satan wanted to torment him. However, God had a hedge about Job to prevent them from exercising their evil. The fact is, Satan desires to inflict every Christian on earth, but he pays special attention to the godly ones that serve God faithfully.
Christ said to Peter, “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.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Paul wrote years later, “…neither give place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:27)
And what is this “sifting” business that Satan wished to do to Peter? As a boy, I watched my Mom use a sifter. In those days flour did not come as clean and fine as it does today. So she would take a sifter, put flour in it, and shake it back and forth. The fine flour would fall out into a bowl, and she would discard the rest.
I can imagine Satan trying to con the Lord into allowing him to sift Peter. His clever argument may have been, “But he’s impetuous. He cut off a man’s ear. He denied You. Once, you called him by my name.”
Peter was a fisherman, not a swordsman. But he stepped out of his office to do according to a narrative that ran contrary to God’s will. It was the same thing Christ rebuked him for. (Mark 8:31-33) His unwillingness to believe that Christ would suffer, be rejected and killed, was the same way Judas felt about Jesus’ mission. They both wanted Him to rise to power and restore Israel to her former glory. However, Peter was refined in the fire, but Judas submitted to Satan.
Because of my many faults and flaws, Satan would like to “sift” me. But Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and he is the father of lies. I would be better off in the care of the Holy Spirit. At least, when I’m in a fiery refining trial I know that it is a controlled burn. Maybe that is why James wrote:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
When you are in a trial, the first thing that you deal with is the discomfort. It comes when you least expect it and are not prepared to endure it. If you were prepared, you would likely not be in a trial. Like one old saint once said, “If you pray before you get in trouble like you pray when you are in trouble, you will not be in trouble.”
That is not always true. Sometimes God decides in His infinite wisdom that the place you are in is too small for you. You have mastered the difficulties there so thoroughly that you are not pressed to pray fervently or as much. You can perform each task almost habitually. There are no major challenges and there is no advancement in the near future.
That leaves you much more time for indulging in what your flesh desires. No wonder some people love the so-called Word of Faith doctrine. It is the perfect premise for the pragmatism required to live in that dangerous place where faith dies of complacency. “Why should I change when everything is running like clockwork?”
Maybe such a position is “place” for Satan. He does not always strike people as he did Job. Sometimes he recognizes the opportunity to lull people into greater complacency that leads to apathy. If he can design a pastor for a congregation or a leader over a ministry, he would make certain that every time they spoke, the message would honor the messenger. An unplowed field honors itself, not the seed sown on it.
But the individual in the fire is a work of God’s art. He or she is being purified, His or her faith has changed from ore clogged all sorts of worthless minerals into pure gold. Make no mistake about it, Satan with his “sifting” does not have your best interests in mind. He rather enjoys tormenting the servant of God. He will take credit for a trial to convince you that he can harm you anytime he wishes and that you should fear him. But God will purge us with a precision that builds us for our calling and His purpose.
Consider these powerful words from the refined Peter.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” — 1 Peter 5:8-10
Whatever is purged by a fiery trial of faith you don’t need. Whatever is gained by a fiery trial is essential. Whatever survives is acceptable.
Now that very difficult and harsh times are here and more are coming, God is purifying His people. In fact, He has been purifying them for a long period. Many professing Christians have resisted and abandoned truth rather than submit to the baptism by fire. Many are now apostate, Other ones are fearful, insecure, and ill-equipped to deal with this relatively minor stress and angst. They are thus susceptible to the glib and soothing words of the heretics, hirelings, and false prophets.
God’s word must be as a fire shut up in our bones (Jeremiah 20:9). The way the Church began was baptism by fire. Peter spoke with that fire fresh in his spirit. Nothing in Church history of any significance has occurred without fiery ministers of God speaking the truth in boldness. The period that we are in requires people who speak God’s word as a fire breaking out of their mouths. We must be willing to enter and remain in the fiery trial as long as necessary to be baptized repeatedly with God’s fire. If not, Satan will ask for the opportunity to sift us.
It does not matter how eloquent we speak or write if our words are not from an experience with God’s fire. God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). I do not enjoy being in the fire, but I have much less desire to be lukewarm or cold. How we dread to pray, “Father, purge me with Thy flames!” Until we long to see the gold shine more than comfort and sameness, we will maneuver around every purging trial like a water bug. Surrender! God will not harm you! He only wishes to remove that which will defeat you!
“And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.” — Hebrews 1:7