And the Lord said, “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.”
I can hardly imagine what it must have felt like for Peter to hear, “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you like wheat.” I also have to wonder if the next words were a bit of a knockout punch when Jesus first said, “but I have prayed for you,” and then followed that with, “when you have returned to me.” The impetuous Peter, hardly able to believe what he was hearing, boldly declared, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (v. 33), to which Jesus somberly replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me” (v. 34).
I’m sure Peter’s heart must have thudded at these words, but there is also a wonderful truth we often miss in reading this account. Too often, in this case and in life, we focus on the words and actions of a person rather than on the words of the Lord. The beauty within this famous exchange is that Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail before Peter’s three denials; and since Jesus is incapable of praying outside the Father’s will, this means Peter’s denials did not cause his faith to utterly collapse.
At one time or another, we all have denied knowing the Lord through our actions or attitudes, and our accuser is always quick to make our hearts thud at the remembrance. But the Lord has prayed for us because He is our intercessor who sits at the right hand of majesty on high (Heb. 1:3).
Of course it is better not to ever deny the Lord, but it is also important to remember the full account of what happened here with Peter. The Lord said to Him, and I am paraphrasing, “Your faith will sustain you even through your denials, and when you return to Me, you will come back stronger than ever and will even strengthen your brethren.” This means that God wastes nothing! He takes our doubts and denials, which the enemy uses to condemn and discourage us, and transforms them into areas of strength.
Church tradition tells us that later in life Peter not only refused to deny the Lord under threat of death but also requested to be crucified upside down, insisting he was not worthy to die in the same manner as the Lord. That sounds to me like a man whose faith had matured from weak to immoveable, just like Jesus had prayed.
Don’t deny the Lord, friends, in anything. But if you do experience a moment of weakness and fear-based denial, return to Jesus and let Him turn your weakness into a magnificent strength.
Excerpt from “Body Builders” now available on Amazon.