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Sifting the Saints

I am going to confess something to you right now.  The past two months have been, without question, the most difficult in my ministry to date.  I’m not complaining but rather simply stating fact.  There has been loss, conflict, and drama seemingly everywhere I’ve turned.  I admit that there were times when I wondered what God was up to and why He had me here.  Surely there was someone more fit to handle all of this than me!  There were times where I was ready to throw in the towel.  Just when I was at my lowest point, that is when God finally spoke to me with such clarity as to what He was up to.  He revealed to me that He was ready to sift UBC.  Before you get all weirded out and think that I’m talking just a bunch of nonsense, let me give you some perspective to what I’m talking about. 

 

For months now, I’ve had this unrelenting feeling that the Lord was about to do something truly special with UBC, that He was about to blow the lid off this place, so to speak.  But there was always something holding us back.  Every time I’d think we would get to a place as a corporate body where we were truly ready, something would happen, and the movement would seem to be stifled.  After months of praying and going through trial after trial and heartache after heartache, the Lord revealed to me that He was finally ready to move like He wanted to move in our midst and that He was preparing and stirring the hearts of His people, essentially sifting us to get us to the place where He can best use us.  Through a variety of prayer warriors, the Lord led me to the Biblical account of the sifting of Peter and the apostles in order to show me what He is currently doing.  In Luke 22:31-22, Jesus says this:

 

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 (NIV).

 

Understand that this sifting process that Jesus is referring to in this passage describes the process of testing by which the genuine is separated from the false, the good from the bad.  The word “you” in verse 31 is plural in the original Greek, referring to all of the apostles, for the loyalty of all of them will be put to the test by the events that were to come that very night, a night which would see Jesus arrested, tried, beaten, and eventually murdered.  In other words, Jesus was testing His apostles, the twelve that were closer to Him than anyone else, to see if they were genuine believers or if they were counterfeits.  As I prayed through this passage, I realized that the Lord is testing UBC, separating the genuine from the counterfeit.   

 

As I read more on this sifting process that Jesus was referring to, I discovered that the process of loosening the chaff from the grain so as to remove it is called threshing-traditionally done by milling or pounding. Separating remaining loose chaff from the grain is called 

winnowing – traditionally done by repeatedly tossing the grain up into a light wind which gradually blows the lighter chaff away. This method typically utilizes a broad, plate-shaped basket or similar receptacle to hold and collect the winnowed grain as it falls back down.  This is often a difficult, labor-intensive process, but the end result is that you get the very best grain.  As I thought about this, everything began to make sense.  The trials, the loss, the heartache, the seemingly endless supply of tears, the exhaustion, even the frustration.  God was and still is allowing us to go through this difficult and intensive process so that He ends up with the very best UBC possible.  Then and only then will He use us to accomplish His kingdom purposes.  What a revelation!  What initially dismayed and discouraged me suddenly strengthened and buoyed me for what was to come.  What God initially told me was about to come to fruition.  He is about to use UBC to accomplish something amazing.  What that is, I don’t exactly know, but I am convinced that He is prepping us for it!

 

Look what Jesus goes on to say.  He says that Satan asked for Jesus’ permission to sift Peter.  That tells me that the Lord is still in complete and total control.  Whenever we look at what is going on in the world around us, it is difficult not to get discouraged, but don’t lose heart, because this passage reminds us that any authority that Satan has is authority that has been given to Him and in the very same way that it has been given to him, it will one day be taken away.  The Lord is still sovereign and in complete control.  Even though He might permit Satan to send us trials in order to discourage us, God can use those same trials to strengthen us.  How?  It says how in the same passage!  Because He prays for us, just in the very same way that He prayed for Simon.  He prays for us now that we, in faith, would rise above the trials and come through them with a faith that has been refined like gold.  And look how He concludes the passage.  He tells Peter, “when you have turned back”.  In other words, when you come back, not if you come back.  That is how we know the genuine from the counterfeits.  The genuine will return.  And when they return from their sifting, we are to use our experiences to strengthen our brothers and sisters in the faith.  That is the process.  Our suffering is not in vain!  It has a purpose, and that purpose is to create exactly the church that the Lord can use to accomplish His kingdom purposes in Thibodaux and wherever else He might take us!

 

So, people of University Baptist Church, read my words closely.  We have all been suffering in various ways over the last few months.  Know that it has not been in vain.  Be encouraged and challenged that the Lord is sifting us in order to be able to use us exactly the way He sees fit.  That is painful, and we might well lose some folks along the way, but the reality of the situation is that God is going to be glorified through the people that He chooses.  Go through the process.  Cling to your faith.  Be strengthened in the fact that the Lord is actively praying for you.  We will soon see the wheat separated from the chaff, and when the Lord has completed the process, and I have no idea when that will be, He will have the UBC that He wants, not that we want.  Remember, it is always about Him, not about us.  The real question is this.  Are we wheat or are we chaff?  Time will tell.

 

I Love You,

 

JP