And when you have turned again . . .

Today's guest blogger is Emily Duffey. Emily is a student of biblical counseling and is working toward certification. 

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

I turn to this passage a lot in my Bible. I don’t put myself on the same level as Peter, by any means—but I can empathize with being sifted, tested, tried. I turn here because I find encouragement in these words. In this passage I learn more of the heart of Jesus—the compassion that overflows from His heart over one of His children. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”—what a comfort! What encouragement! Jesus Himself prayed for Peter, to be strengthened, that his faith may not fail.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

These prayers are precious to me, because it brings me before the throne of God, experiencing the heart of God. Knowing I have THE intercessor going before the throne of God on my behalf encourages my faint heart and weary soul in a way nothing else can.

“And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers…”

This is one of the verses that has continuously held my interest in discipleship. There was a time I thought that I’d messed up too many times, I had sinned too great, my hands were too dirty and marred with sin to the point the stain would never wash off my hands. I sincerely thought I was “washed up” and of no earthly good to the Lord. I remember reading this verse over and over, thinking it was impossible. I knew I would return to the Lord (as He causes me to persevere), but strengthen others? Encourage others—with these unworthy hands and a heart that is bent towards sin oh, so easily?

In Luke 22 Jesus tells Peter he will deny Him three times, and this was immediately after Peter pledges to follow Christ to His death. Peter goes from verbally pledging his life to Christ and within the space of a breath denied ever knowing Jesus. There’s nothing that keeps you or me from the greatest sin conceivable but the staying hand of God Himself. We are a breath away from the worst sin you can conceive—just like Peter.

In the book of John we see the last encounter between Peter and the resurrected Jesus.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" and he said to Him, "Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. (This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’” John 21:15-19 (ESV)

What a restoration . . . yet even in this reconciliation, this great ministry we are all called to be a part of, Jesus pointed out more to Peter in this passage than how he would be used of Him. Jesus told Peter how he would die. This story started off with Peter pledging his life even to death, and continues later with Jesus affirming this as reality in Peter’s life. What’s the difference between the two?

The second time there was a new promise—you, Peter, will persevere to the end and glorify Jesus in your death. You will strengthen your brothers. No longer will you deny knowing Christ, because Christ is the most precious thing to you.

Peter would proclaim His name. Peter endured—because Jesus prayed for him. Peter endured because the Holy Spirit continued to intercede on his behalf before the throne of God when words failed him. You and I have that same benefit of the Spirit of God interceding on our behalf. If we are born again Christians, we will endure to the end. We can move forward in confidence of God working out His perfect will in our lives. This is trusting God in action.

It sounds so simple—trust God! Of course! In your heart you may long to trust Him, yet you struggle in the moments when trust is most necessary. Sin likes to leaks out around the edges when hard pressed, and you may find your trust isn’t as concrete as you thought. The refining—the pressing—gives an opportunity to try again. The Lord graciously gives you an abundance of opportunities to learn to glorify Him!

Do you think you have stained your hands so greatly with sin that you are of no earthly good? Repent of your sin (genuine repentance on the heart level—if you need a reminder of what genuine repentance looks like, read Julie’s blog here: Turn from your sin and strengthen your brothers and sisters. Use the lessons God has taught you for the good of others. Trust God to perform His perfect work in you, a poured out vessel for His glory. Remember—it isn’t about you. It is all about Him.