"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 you are converted, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32).
There is nothing else in Scripture like these two verses. They are unique and contain a wealth of insight for God's children. Reading them, we quickly decide you and I have a lot more in common with Simon Peter than we may have thought. Here's a few similarities.
1) Satan wants to mess with Simon Peter. To be "known in hell," as the expression goes, is the highest compliment the Lord's servant can have. Satan has the names of those who are most faithful for Jesus and most effective in their service. See Acts 19:15 and notice how he knew who Paul was.
2) Satan wants to "sift you like wheat." Personally, since "Peter" literally means "rock," I'd preferred the Lord to say "sift you like sand" and hold to the metaphor (it's a joke, I promise), but His audience was more familiar with wheat being sifted. Either way, the devil wanted to break him down and destroy his effectiveness. That's his goal for you and me also.
3) Satan had to ask permission to trouble this warrior of the Lord. The redeemed are the property of the Lord Jesus and off limits to the enemy. See Job 1-2 for similar occasions of Satan asking permission. Does this mean he always has to get permission before bugging us? Answer: I don't know.
4) Jesus is praying for him. How good is that? Hebrews 7:25 says "He ever lives to make intercession for us." See also Romans 8:34 and John 17:9. Jesus prays that Simon's faith will not fail. It always comes down to one's faith. I like to think of faith as simply "I believe in God and I have confidence in the Lord Jesus," as He said in John 14:1. See Hebrews 11:6, 2 Corinthians 5:7, and Luke 18:8.
5) Jesus wants Peter "converted." The word literally means to "turn again." It refers not to a first time salvation experience but a mid-course correction. When NASA sends a rocket ship to Mars, they do not try to aim it on the launching pad. First, they simply try to get it into space, away from the pull of earth. Then, they fire smaller rockets to turn it in the general direction of the planet. From time to time, they do more mid-course corrections.
6) The stronger should bless the weaker. Jesus, knowing the leadership role of Peter with the disciples and how they all looked up to him, instructed him here and in John 21:15ff on his responsibility to strengthen and feed them.
Lessons: You and I are known and beloved to our Lord, and if we are faithful, we are known and targeted by the enemy. We are in Satan's cross-hairs and in Jesus' prayers. The object is that our faith remains strong so we may bless fellow believers who are also being targeted.
Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at www.joemckeever.com.