Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


God Always Sifts His Flour

Once in awhile my desire for dessert overpowers my desire to eat healthy and take off a few pounds. Equal to my love for eating is my love of cooking.

In an attempt to avoid television that doesn’t represent my values, I watch a lot of cooking shows. My favorite is Chopped, in which contestants are given a basket of unrelated ingredients and have 30 minutes to produce something edible.

I’ve watched so many re-runs that I now believe almost any combination of foods can potentially be transformed into an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. If a Chopped contestant can combine kale, a goose egg, M & M candies, and sweet pepper sauce, why can’t I? (Okay, minus the kale.)

Winning or losing a cooking game show often has little to do with the ingredients. Technique is what matters. Ice cream must be whipped until absolutely smooth before going into the blast chiller. Diligently wash the greens; judges chop people whose food is gritty. And never, ever skip sifting the flour. A dense cake never wins the $10,000 prize.   

Until now I thought sifting was an unnecessary step. It burns time off the clock—whether in the Chopped kitchen or my own. However, real chefs know the importance of sifting. So does Satan.

In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus says to the apostle Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."  

Whether making a late-night cake to share with Husband, or building a Christ-honoring life to share with others, I usually want to skip the sifting step. I want to be spared the tedious and often painful experience of having my lumps smoothed out and my character made soft and light. For good reason-- being sifted always leaves a scar.

Notice how Jesus explains this. He tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift the disciple. Reminiscent of Job, the enemy requested and was given permission to test Peter. Jesus doesn’t say the request was denied. He says only that He prayed for Peter’s faith not to fail. In other words, Jesus holds the disciple together, but He doesn’t stop the testing.

That same imagery appears in the writing of Amos. God declared, “I have commanded that Israel be persecuted by the other nations as grain is sifted in a sieve, yet not one true kernel will be lost.” (Amos 9:9)

Like the nation Israel, it’s only after the sifting and restoration that Peter can come out of hiding and strengthen his brothers. That’s the technique that is necessary for the ingredients in the basket to be transformed into a perfect dessert. Peter gets sifted (through his denial of Jesus), but because his faith was then stronger, not destroyed, he was able to restore others.  

Sifting hurts. Israel was shaken nearly to the death by the turbulence of captivity while God separated the good from the bad. Amos prophesied that every pebble, every faithful one of the righteous remnant of Israel would-- by God’s grace-- be kept from falling to the ground and perishing.

We’d all prefer that God just snap His fingers and make us the man or woman He desires us to be. We do everything possible to avoid being sifted. But if He did, we would miss the blessing that comes from our faith being strengthened, even if it is painful at the time.

I think God uses our scars to strengthen the faith of those He sends to us after the sifting stops.