Some time ago, I wrote a series meant mainly for intercessors, called Knowing Your Seasons of Prayer. Today’s post is about a more general season that any believer might go through — the season of sifting.
We can encounter a sifting season in a couple of ways. The first type involves us being sifted directly and personally. The Lord allows us to go through testings and trials to see how we will respond under pressure. He already knows what we will do, but we must still live it out experientially, or it would not be real and would not profit us in any way.
Job is the most prominent example in the Bible of this kind of sifting. In Job 1:8 and 2:3, twice we see God initiating a conversation with Satan: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” The devil did not come up with the idea to afflict Job all on his own; God deliberately brought Job to his attention! Why did He do that? So that He could prove Job through severe testing and display him as a shining example of integrity to inspire believers throughout many centuries to come. God received glory through Job’s triumph over his troubles — but Job also received eternal honor from this episode in his life. God knows how to compensate His beloved saints for the trials they go through.
Peter was also sifted. Although he intended to do the right thing, he trusted in his own power to stay faithful to Jesus no matter what. Jesus gravely informed him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat: but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail, and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32). Unlike Job, Peter did not pass his test, yet in tender mercy, the Lord used Peter’s failure to teach him to lean upon the Lord’s grace, instead of glorying in his own integrity. The outcome was a far better Peter than ever would have existed without the test.
King Hezekiah was tested more than once by the Lord to see what he would do under pressure. In the matter of the Assyrians attacking Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:1-23), he made all the right choices. He trusted the Lord with all his might, assured the people that God would act on their behalf, and prayed the situation through until they saw an undeniably miraculous deliverance. God also supernaturally healed him of a terminal illness, in response to his prayers. But his heart became proud, and he did not give God the gratitude which was due. Although he repented and humbled himself, when Babylonian ambassadors came for a visit, “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (v. 31). Passing one test does not mean we have arrived and we’re done. The Christian life is a bit like a video game: succeeding at one level just means you get to do it again at a new level — with different circumstances to conquer.
When we go through a season where God either sifts us directly or uses circumstances, our own carnal appetites, or even the enemy of our souls to try us, His ultimate purpose is to refine us by driving us to the realization that we cannot manage on our own, and that our complete dependence must be placed in Him. The crux of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden was a desire to be self-sufficient and independent from God. Ever since then, the Lord has been working to bring us back into alignment with Him — and that alignment demands acknowledgement that we are helpless without Him. Whether we learn to cleave to the Lord in the midst of a trial, and thereby pass the test, or whether we fail miserably and learn dependence through the experience, the goal is the same — that we will become yielded, humble people, free of the rebellious nature, people who are transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
So that’s one type of sifting season. Next time, we’ll examine the season where we are the ones doing the sifting.