Unfortunately, I also talk to several pastors and directors who bring opposite accounts. I will never forget the call I received about a student who quit our RUI Men’s School of Discipleship, thinking that he was sober and could stand on his own, yet his pastor had to inform me that they found him DOA in a crack house. This kind of news brings uncomfortable questions to family, friends, and those who tried to help him, including our staff in Rockford: what could we have done more? Incredible guilt can come to those who witness lives that implode due to the contents being under pressure.
What can we do? We can look to Jesus as our great Example to see what He did while He lived here on earth. Look to the time when Jesus was having a personal one-on-one conversation with the disciple who would soon deny the Savior and quit the ministry. Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to have him and would “sift him” as wheat. First of all, the phrase “hath desired” means, literally, “to obtain by asking.” Apparently, Satan approached Jesus and said, “I want Peter.” Praise the Lord, the devil could not have Peter, because Peter was bought with a price, and he belonged to Jesus. Praise God for that truth!
The illustration, or word picture, described here is the process of wheat being sifted. The sifting process is a much-needed operation for the grain to be of any use. Sifting is a refining process that separates the impurities from the wheat, leaving it pure. God knew that Peter must go through this process if he were to be of any use. Harvested wheat is placed into a sieve and is thrown up and down – shaking it, tossing it – so that the wheat is separated from the stalk, and ready for use, either for storage, sowing, or grinding into flour.
Therefore, Jesus said, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” (Luke 22:31-33) Jesus prayed for Peter. There was going to be a fight, and it was going to be a tough one. All that Hell could unleash was about to be poured upon Peter. Without the Lord, no man can withstand this kind of satanic attack.
The single greatest thing one person can do for another is pray for him. Peter did not have a mere human praying for him, but the very Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and Savior of the world. Jesus understood this all too well, for Satan, that old tempter, had also desired to have Jesus. His attacks on Jesus were so severe that God sent angels to minister to Jesus during His hour of temptation. Jesus loved Peter and wanted Peter to serve Him so much that He warned Peter about what was to come and then promised to pray for him. Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail. Peter failed, but Jesus prayed his faith would not. Do you pray for those who are facing the fight of their lives, or do you just talk about praying for them? Do you verbally ask that their faith fail not? So many times we ask God to help them with this or that. Often, our focus is on the sieve that is doing the thrashing, instead of on the faith in God Who can overcome any negative results. I have prayed ineffectively for some who were being sifted. Have you? Jesus gave valuable insight for us to pray that their faith fail not.
A little later in Luke 22:61-62, Jesus did something different as this brother was being tempted. “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” Jesus looked at Peter. The Bible teaches that Peter was already beginning to follow afar off. What do you do when students start to follow afar off? Do you take the 2-3-4 plan serious? When you see that little hesitation, or sense the pressure due to the outward signs of his/her contents, what do you do to help? What do you say? As I recollect this story, I am encouraged that Jesus took the time to look Peter’s way. Many will not give a backslider the time of day. Even though Jesus was bound and could not speak, He took the time to look at Peter. Peter never forgot Jesus’ look.
Jesus remembered Peter. Mary Magdalene, Mary (Jesus’ mother,) and Salome went to the tomb where Jesus was laid, and after seeing the stone rolled away, they saw a man sitting on the right side clothed in a white garment. This man said, “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” (Mark 16:7) The message he had for them from the Lord included that little phrase: “and Peter.” He did not want to leave Peter out. Peter had quit and taken others with him, but Jesus did not forget him. He had a plan for Peter’s life and was not giving up on him.
Why would Jesus “waste His time” on an old, backslidden, quittin’, cussin’ preacher like Peter? Peter was one whom Jesus had bought with His own blood. Peter may have thought he was through with Jesus, but Jesus was never through with Peter. Peter did eventually get right with God, and within two weeks after Jesus went to Heaven, preached on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and 3,000 lost souls were saved.
May God help us never to give up on those who appear to have a sign on their back that says: Contents under pressure, but rather help us to pray, look, and remember them…often.
This article is dedicated to our former students who are in the place “…where sin cannot molest, O Jesus, blest Redeemer, Sent from the heart of God, Hold us who wait before Thee, Near to the heart of God.”
To learn more about Reformers Recovery Ministries and Benjamin Burks, please visit reformu.com, benjaminburks.com, or follow him on twitter – brburksrui