ne year ago on September 12th, I found a lump
that changed my life forever. And, it was one year ago today (September 14th) that I had a mammogram to get a picture of that lump. Wow, how time flies. This past year has been an incredible journey - one that I never really thought I would be going through, at least not in my early forties. I did not enjoy this path I was put on, but I did find joy in the journey because I have chosen to allow God to work in and through me through it all. Back in 2002, my dad (Dr. James L. McIntosh
) preached a sermon on this very thing. I took notes on the sermon without realizing just how relevant it would be to me some day. Here is a quick summary of the message...
Luke 22:31-32 "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."
ave you ever been "sifted," as in Luke 22:31? (To be sifted means to be put through a challenge). Every Christian goes through "stuff" in their lives. At times we handle it correctly and at times we "drop the ball." When God sifts us, it is a time of change that helps us to grown closer to Him. Therefore, as James 1:2 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials."
There are 3 men in the Bible we will focus on who were sifted. The desired result of their sifting was:
- For them to be broken and empty before God.
- To bring about a time of change in order to draw them closer to God.
- To help them prove their loyalty to Christ.
- To teach them to say "no" to the urges of the flesh.
- To teach them to say "no" to pride and "self-esteem." (We need to focus on God rather than ourselves. A better term would be to have "God-esteem.")
- To help them be better able to say "yes" to the longing for God which He has placed in our soul.
What types of things does God use to bring about the changes He deems best?
The three men we will focus on are:
-- He was an upright and blameless man (Job 1:1 & 8). He knew the difference between good and evil. He didn't try to combine the two, like many of us do in our lives. Instead, he turned from evil. In Job 1:5, he even interceded for his children. When Satan approached God (Job 1:6-12), God brought up the subject of Job. Satan said Job was so loyal because he was "coddled." He had everything he ever wanted. So, God gave Satan permission to test Job. During the sifting process, Job mourned but he still worshiped God (Job 1:20-22). Instead of saying, "Why me?" he fell on his face and worshiped in the trial.
-- 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul had an encounter with God and was changed dramatically for the better. He became a very Godly man, walking close to the Lord and willing to be persecuted for Christ. He was used of the Lord in innumerable ways. However, he was still given a "thorn" in his flesh in order to keep him humble. We don't know what the "thorn" was. It could have been a physical problem, a spiritual problem, a battle with a sin such as lustful thoughts, or there's even speculation that it could have been the mere fact that Paul was being persecuted and mocked and he had a hard time dealing with it at times. It's not important for us to know what the "thorn" represented. All we know is that Paul asked God to take the thorn from him at three different times, and God said "no." So, Paul learned to accept the Lord's decision and to be content to suffer for Christ. The thorn shows that Paul was not perfect. He was human. But, despite his weaknesses, he was still highly used of God. We don't have to be perfect in order to be in ministry or be used by God. If that's what we are waiting for, then we will never serve the Lord the way He intended us to.
-- Luke 22:21-32, 54-62, Satan was allowed to sift Peter (vs. 31). He wanted Peter to prove his loyalty to Christ and expected him to fail. In verse 32, Jesus did not tell Peter to wage a campaign against the enemy. Instead, He prayed for Peter. He prayed that Peter would pass the test and then be able to strengthen his brothers. Peter didn't think he would ever deny knowing Christ. But, 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Jesus knew that Peter would fail this test, but he allowed Peter to go through it because He knew it would strengthen him in the long run and he could be an encouragement to others.
In Luke 22:62, Peter understood what had happened and how he had failed. Peter is now broken and sifted, and usable for the Lord. There are times that we need to be broken so we are less likely to fall. Peter repented of his sin as he realized he can not do things under his own strength.
hrough MY CANCER JOURNEY
, I also have been "sifted."
- I have become broken and empty before my Lord.
- A change has been brought about that has drawn me closer to Him.
- It has helped me to prove my loyalty to Christ.
- It has taught me to say "no" to my fleshly desires, and focus on what God wants instead.
The journey is not over, and God is not finished with me yet. But, as I continue, I feel more confident in knowing that God causes ALL things to work together for good, to those who love HIM.