Publication date: 05/20/16

Sifted… to Strengthen Your Brothers

Are you being sifted?

Remember when Satan asked permission to “sift Peter like wheat?” (Luke 22:31) Are you feeling sifted? A great many of our ministry partnters, friends, church members and co-workers are.

In 2 Chronicles 14:7, good King Asa tells Judah: “we have sought the Lord our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” When I read and feel drawn to passages like this one, it makes me admit the appeal of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” It just seems right to say that if you do right, well-being and enjoyment should follow. Doesn’t everything just fall into place when you’re in the center of God’s will?

Actually, no, it doesn’t. That assumption fails to consider the Devil who slanders, accuses and asks permission to trouble us. It ignores Bible stories like Noah’s, Job’s, Joseph’s and Daniel’s. It omits Christ’s promises of hatred, persecution and struggle. It fails to take note of the epistles’ principles of inescapable heresies meant to reveal those who are approved (1 Corinthians 11:19) and adversity inevitably accompanying open doors. (1 Corinthians 16:9)

The office of “Prophet” should have effectively been an in-house ministry, “preaching to the choir,” in a way. But both Christ and Stephen used Israel’s persecution and slaughter of the prophets as “exhibit A” in the case against the religious leaders of the day. Why did the faithful have to suffer so much?

God does not tempt us to see us fall; (see James 1:12-22) In warning Peter about the trouble Satan had in mind for him, Jesus also revealed His own purpose in it: “Strengthen your brothers,” He said. How does our misfortune, struggle and suffering strengthen our brothers, even when we’re serving Him faithfully? Hebrews 11 gives the answer. It reads like a continuation of the story of the suffering Old Testament prophets. Only this time, it’s entered as evidence of the faith accmpanying justification.

“Rest on every side”, prosperity and well-being are appropriate when God’s will prevails and the enemy is subdued. But earth is still disputed territory: a war zone under the influence of our enemy. (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19) It’s the day of testing, not resting.

Testing is on my mind a lot lately. I manage GMO’s training implementation for our Online Missionaries, and quite a few of us don’t test well. Victims of so-called test anxiety anticipate future experiences like the past ones they want to forget. They feel inadequate and liable to penalty and embarrassment. Some are even willing to abandon their service with us to avoid these uncomfortable emotions. They’re literally the answers to our prayers as we have asked the Lord of the Harvest to bring us laborers, and we don’t want to make them give up. What do you do, when your goal is to strengthen and equip, not eliminate, your co-laborers?

You extend the deadline. Our first deadline was March 29, then April 19, and now extensions have taken us into June. A refresher course averaging under two hours in duration can effectively drag out to four months. To me, that’s reason for test anxiety! Do you think that’s how God operates, too? I think it is. I can see it in my own life and in the lives of Bible characters like Jonah, Gideon and the Israelites in the wilderness: God will prolong a test we’re not passing.

God uses people who still have rough edges. Baggage about past experiences. Trouble believing in their suitability for a high calling. If you feel like you’re being sifted, return to the promise of God’s Word. The “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 is full of great stories. But it doesn’t end there: they are entered as evidence, meaning they’re not themselves the point. Even the fact that they’re our witnesses isn’t meant to move us as much as Hebrews 12:2. Lay aside the baggage and Look to Jesus. If your test is extended, it’s because He’s unwilling to allow it to eliminate you.

As GMO is bringing more and more to Christ, we know mature believers aren’t the only ones who are tested. Thats’ why my co-worker Dan and I co-wrote our new “Look To Jesus” initial discipleship series. (Name inspired by Hebrews 12) It’s been translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and is sent out to thousands of visitors each day!

We are grateful to you for continuing to stand with us through every test! May He continue to sustain you in times of trouble as well as sufficiency.

Love, in Christ,

Mike Skinner Cindy Skinner

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