By Drew Benac
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
Sobering to think that Jesus spoke these words to Peter, a beloved disciple, and one of his closest friends. Not even Simon Peter was immune to the trials and testing that God has promised to us all (Matthew 6:33). It is this doctrine of trails and our ability to willingly accept the circumstances God sends that will ultimately determine our ability to find and experience true rest this side of eternity.
Peter was all too familiar with the reality of “various trials” (1 peter 1:6). The words spoken above from Luke 22 come moments before Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, and ultimately the crucifixion of Christ. This was only the beginning for Peter. Amidst the birth of the early church due in large part to his vision and leadership came Peter’s imprisonment, numerous beatings and then his own death..upside down on cross in Rome.
Why did God’s son allow his good friend to suffer so greatly? How could He allow you and I to suffer the way we do. Cancer, death, financial distress, dejection, rejection, failure, hopelessness, despair…these words describe seasons of life for so, so many of us. If our belief is in a God who is is all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present, how can this be?
Perhaps He allowed Peter to suffer because He was bigger than Peter’s circumstances. Perhaps His plan and the big picture for our world and for Peter’s soul is more valuable than Peter’s comfort or happiness in any single, solitary moment. Perhaps God knew that in Peter’s imprisonment, torture and death the Gospel would ring out like never before. Perhaps the Lord hoping to do the same with you and I. As a point of comparison, the Apostle Paul had similar way of thinking when he wrote, “My circumstances (imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks,etc) have turned out for the further progress of the gospel.” Coincidence? I think not.
Over time Peter realized what God was up to . He grew to accept God’s sovereign plan and cherish the Lord’s presence regardless of his circumstances. Most importantly though, Peter remembered Jesus’ words from the Lord’s super in Luke 22, “I have prayed…that your faith may not fail.” Peter knew that while it was the good Lord who allowed his trials (Satan must ask permission to test us remember) it is also our good God who sustains, provides, upholds and strengthens his children. He does not let us go. No matter what. John 10:28 reminds us of this, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” Yes God allows struggle and hardship but he is forever faithful. As we are repeatedly reminded throughout the scriptures, he does so “for the sake of his name” (Psalms 100:6). Or in the words of Isaiah, “I have refined you…I have tired you in the furnace of affliction. For my own name’s sake, I do it” (Isaiah 48:9-11)
Ultimately, the acceptance of God’s sovereign plan and unwavering belief in the promise of His presence led to great PEACE and REST in Peter’s life. This is evident through the words in his writing:
“Therefor let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful creator.” (1 Peter 4:19)
” Humble yoursleves, therefor under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on Him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Peter knew that his future was safe in the hands of a faithful God. He could accept God’s provision and relinquish anxious living because he knew that God was mightier than whatever he was about to face that day. Can you?