I was asked to share something before communion at the recent Elim100 Leaders’ conference. Some people asked me for notes at the end of the service. Unfortunately I didn’t have any notes, so I will try to reproduce here the spirit, if not the letter, of what I said. You might also find some explanatory comments which were not in the original talk. It is not a complete exposition, as there is a dimension of spiritual warfare that I didn’t emphasise. And there is also a difference between the “you” plural of v.31 and the “you” singular of v.32: Simon Peter was clearly at the sharp end of this Satanic attack.
Text: 31 ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ 33 But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’ Luke 22.31-34
Communion is a defining mark of the church. As believers have celebrated the Lord’s Supper over the centuries, this defining mark has resulted in many defining moments.
On the night Jesus was betrayed there were a number of events that could be classed as defining moments.
Simon Peter is one of the disciples whom we might think had the most obvious defining moments during that evening of betrayal. In Luke’s gospel chapter 22.31-34, Jesus warns Simon Peter that Satan is seeking to sift him as wheat, but assures him that He, Jesus, has prayed for him that his faith will not fail. Simon Peter protests that he is ready to pay the ultimate price for his faith. In reply, Jesus declares that Peter will not die for Him, he will rather deny that he knows Him at all.
On the surface, it would seem that Peter had three very obvious defining moments: the three occasions on which He denied the Lord.
There is no doubt that Peter failed. Yet Jesus had said that He was praying for him that his faith would not fail.
Peter’s flesh failed, but in the overall scheme of God’s purpose for Peter, his faith did not fail. Why? Because Jesus was praying for him.
Peter’s defining moment was not the first, second, or third time that he denied the Lord. His defining moment was when Jesus said to him “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”.
A failure of flesh is not necessarily a failure of faith. If Peter’s denial constituted a failure of faith, then Jesus’ prayer that Peter’s faith would not fail was not answered positively.
The “failures of flesh” could have become Peter’s defining moments. But in the eyes of Jesus they never were nor would be his defining moments. Our “failures of flesh” do not need to become our defining moments, if we default to the grace of Christ.
The words Jesus spoke to Peter in Luke 22 are words for the whole of the church. in those few words of encouragement, Jesus reveals Himself as our Great High Priestly intercessor the one who “ever liveth to make intercession for [us]” (Hebrews 7.25 KJV).
Jesus is praying for us as much as He was praying for Peter. Whatever the circumstances we face. However difficult and daunting our challenges. I made a note in my kindle on these verses: “The hidden prayer life of the greatest intercessor releases unseen power that shapes our lives”. Jesus is praying for us.
Failures of flesh happen. But they are not meant to define us. Such is clear from what Jesus says to Peter: ‘And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
We can choose our defining moments. And if we make our encounter with the grace of Christ our ultimate defining moment, we will retain His perspective over our lives. Not only that, but out of the grace we have received, we will have something precious and redemptive with which to strengthen our brothers. Let’s choose to be defined by the grace that we have found in Jesus.