Book Review: Sifted
There is something about good journalism that reminds me of solid social work. See, a good journalist does not just ask questions for the sake of asking questions, but they know which questions to ask and when to ask them. Social workers and counselors do the same thing when they dig for the Truth. Rick Lawrence applies his journalistic craft of excellent question asking in Sifted : God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand. Rick focuses on two verses in Luke and asks hard questions of Jesus, of Simon and of ourselves. Luke 22:31-32 read:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Rick opens his book with one of the best Introductory chapters I’ve ever read in any book (with two master’s degrees that’s no small feat.) Rick aptly opens his book with concise and clear illustrations of the problem he is exploring. That is, Why does God allow us to be Sifted like wheat? or in other words, why does bad things happen to good people. While the question of theodicy is centuries old, Rick opens up these two verses and examines each phrase in the light of Scripture and examines exactly what is going on in the context.
Jesus Calls Us By Name
It is important to realize that Jesus Calls us by name. Jesus not only calls us by name, He gifts us a new name as we go through our sifting. This sifting process is painful, but in the end, the Sifted Simon, becomes Powerful Peter. One reason for sifting, is to discover your true identity in Christ.
For all the power we think he has Satan still has to ask.
Satan has no real power apart from what is given to him. He tricks us into thinking he is greater than our creator and tricks us into giving him our power to fight him. For Christ followers, this means that while we may be put through the ringer, Christ has the answer to what is going on. Though it might be painful, God is still in control.
Simon was to be sifted like wheat.
For those not familiar, sifting is and has been a very painful process for that kernel of wheat. Imagine sitting on a stalk somewhere and suddenly being thrown into a mill and press, then tossed up in the air until you are separated from those things that have made you comfortable and those things that have made you whom you are for the beginning of your life. You have no idea of what it is to do to you, yet the sifting has a purpose that you do not yet know of.
But I have prayed for you!
God’s eternal plan is still in action. Jesus prays for you during your sifting experience. The BUT here is huge, and even huger in the original Greek! This displays that despite what Satan has to offer, God has a plan to defeat it already in place. When you get sifted, God is already there.
That your faith might not fail.
He prays that our faith doesn’t fail. Rick does an awesome job illustrating how Simon’s faith although put through the ringer, does not fail in the end. Faith in this story is not about being victorious, it is about not giving up the fight and withdrawing in fear.
And when you have turned back.
Rick points out the presumptive assumption in this passage: When you have turned back, not an if, but a when. There is a part that God already knows that we will fail from time to time. God’s promise to Peter is that the Rock will stand firm, and turn back to him. Jesus knows that Peter’s sifting is required for him to finish his call in life:
Strengthen your brothers
The end of Simon’s painful process, (he doesn’t know how it will end). Is that he becomes the Rock that the church is built on. In many ways Peter will become a great evangelist who, an unlearned fisherman before Christ, becomes one of the greatest theologians and apologists of all time.
I really can’t say enough about this book. Rick aptly uses many illustrations from stories we know well (like Lord of the Rings) and from stories we don’t know well, such as Spurgeon and Sir Earnest Shackleton. The question of why God creates pain and trials in our life is never an easy one to answer on a particular level. Sometimes we know why, sometimes we will never find the answer. However, through these verses we see God’s promises in action and exactly how He helps us is played out.