That your faith may not fail

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Introduction Albu van Eeden

We welcome all of you. We are encouraged by the youth of the congregation who were cleaning the premises yesterday in preparation for the Youth Conference. It is an encouragement to see young people who are zealous and who want to get involved in the Lord’s work.

An American girl who met the Lord had a burden for mission work in India. At one stage her jacket became worn out and her mother wanted to buy a new one. But she asked her mom to leave her with the old jacket and send the new one to the mission field. Then she fell ill with a fatal disease and just before she died she asked her mother to send all her clothes to the mission field. We know that since the start of this revival the Lord has mightily used young people. There is a place for young people in this revival and it brings us joy to see you taking your place.

Friends, Paul admonishes us to not neglect the coming together of the saints which means the meeting we are holding today. Do not take these meetings lightly otherwise the devil will preach to you in various ways. He will preach to you through messages on the internet, through gossip and stories going around. This is why it is critical to attend ‘the coming together of the children of the Lord’ where you hear God’s perspective, God’s opinion on life and on these things. Even if it causes you great discomfort to get to a service on a Sunday, do not neglect it. You may meet up with things in the coming week that you are unprepared to deal with if you did not hear what the Lord is saying.

Nico Bosman

I read this portion of Scripture some time back and I made notes. I remember many years ago Rev Stegen told me that when you read your Bible and the Lord reveals something to you, write it down. It happens that we read something but tomorrow we have forgotten what the Lord said. So, he told me make a note of it and one day it will be needed. When I read this portion, months, maybe a year ago, I made notes. When Rev Stegen asked whether I could take today’s service, I thought of these notes.

Do not let a day go by without reading your Bible. Dr van Eeden said that the Lord prepares us when we come to church, He gives us something for the week ahead. When you read your Bible and the Lord speaks to you, write it down. He very often prepares you for something that is coming and later when you are in that situation, you can remember what the Lord wants you to do.

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31– 34

This event is found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Luke was a physician and possibly for this reason he adds something that describes the emotion or atmosphere of the situation. In this portion he refers to Simon Peter as Simon. In the beginning of the book of Luke, he was called Simon. But when the Lord called him he said, now I call you Peter. Sometimes he was referred to as Simon Peter but from the time the Lord called him he is mostly called Peter. Here he is referred to by his old name, Simon. Why? Possibly the Lord saw the old Simon, the Simon He knew before He called him, the Simon before the Lord changed him. Maybe He saw the very thing that the Lord had saved him out of, for some reason he called him Simon again.

Dear Christian, do you remember what the Lord called you out of and saved you from? Do you remember how He led you to believe that this is the right way? Very often we forget what the Lord has done for us and what He has shown us and return to what we were before. It is a tragedy if you see Christians going back on what they confessed years ago, even a month ago. That is why the Bible says, remember what the Lord has done. Do you still remember what the Lord has done for you and are you still staying with that? Do not let the devil convince you otherwise.

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded… Satan requested. Satan asked, but God allows. Satan can ask what he wants, but God will allow for His purpose. I am not speaking about the consequences of sin but about a person who has given His life to the Lord and who confesses to serve the Lord. The Lord allows what is fit for Him and for His purpose. It is sad when Christians talk and complain about how things are going wrong when God allows things. The devil cannot act without God allowing it. If I say I serve the Lord, He will allow things in my life. Things might not go in the way I think they should go, or the way my mind tells me, or the way I expect. It might happen in a way that I feel things are out of hand but remember, God allowed it. May we not lose hope or faith. Our response should be, “Lord, you allowed it in my life, let me benefit from it in the way you planned it or else I can lose everything.”

Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat… There is a process that is followed when wheat is prepared. The first thing is that the wheat must be cut. There are times in our lives when it may feel as if we are cut off from everything – from that which we know, what we think, our own mind, that which we grew up knowing and were taught – there are times when it feels as if the Lord is cutting us off from all that. The cut wheat is put it in a bowl and hammered in order to get the seed that is inside, out. To separate the chaff from the seed it needs to go through a hammering process. Sometimes it is hit with a wooden implement or it is put on a concrete floor and trampled on. Sometimes the grain is hammered with rocks in order to separate the seed from that chaff. Spiritually, this may be an intense attack from the devil where you think you cannot take it anymore. The word ‘tribulations’ in the Bible is derived from the Latin word for threshing wheat. Things can be difficult but God will reach His purpose through them. May we not fail under that pressure, that in a situation when all seems lost, our faith will stand. Expect difficult times in your life if you serve the Lord.

After this hammering the wheat is poured from one bucket into another where there is a slight breeze. The seeds, because they are heavier, fall directly into the bucket but the chaff that is lighter, is blown away. Not much wind is necessary for the chaff to blow off in another direction. For the first part the seed and chaff fall very close together but as they drop further down, the separation between the two enlarges, the seed falls into the bucket and the chaff is taken away.

Sometimes a lie is so close to the truth, you would almost think it is the same. Sometimes we think even if I make a small compromise I will still be on the way. Sometimes we think it is not so bad – you know, my children really want to do this thing and maybe this one little thing will not do anything to their Christian faith. But the direction it is takes can be fatal. Dear friends, we need to stay on this road that the Lord has shown us otherwise we will find ourselves ‘outside the bucket’ and it might be too late.

32 …but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. He did not pray that it would be easy. He did not pray that Peter would be wise in that situation. He did not even pray that Simon would be strong. He prayed for one thing: “…that your faith will not fail you”. This was the important thing. Through all this and through all that is happening, your faith will remain. Peter, even though you make a mistake, even though you will deny Me, I pray that your faith will remain. Christian, is your faith still strong? Is it still as strong as it was the first day the Lord called you? Is it stronger than the first day the Lord called you or has your faith wavered?

21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. Romans 3:21,22 (NLT)

Martin Luther calls this passage “…the chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible.” Faith is the complete trust and confidence you put in someone. Complete trust. “I put my life in your hands, do as you see fit.” This is not just believing. The devil also believes, he knows there is a God, better than you and I. Can I take my life and entrust it to God and say, “Lord, take it and do with it as You see fit. I will rejoice in You, not in my own mind or understanding, not in the way I see things but in the way You see them.”

In 2010 my four-year old son was in hospital. We did not know whether he was going to make it or whether the Lord would take him. The worst for me was not knowing what was going to happen the next day. Sometimes the unknown is killing. I felt that if I would just know whether the Lord would take him or whether he would survive, I could prepare myself for either situation. Things are easier to handle when you know but the Lord says, trust Me. Often during that week I would go behind the hospital and pray. One day as I sat on a step, there was an empty cold drink tin in front of me. It was little dented and deformed. I thought my son looked like that tin, hurt and deformed as well. With that in mind I asked the Lord if he could show me what was going to happen. I knew that the Lord knew what was going to happen, but I asked the Lord whether I could also know it. I said, “Lord, this is the way I think. If I come here tomorrow and this tin is perfectly normal, I will know that You will heal him.” I believed the Lord could show me through that tin and He could. “If I come here tomorrow and the tin is more shriveled up or the same then I will take that as a sign and I can prepare myself.” That evening I opened my Bible. I cannot remember whether I just opened it or continued where I had stopped reading last, but I read where the Lord says, A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign…Matthew 16:4. I got a shock. I closed my Bible, knelt down and asked the Lord for forgiveness. It is so easy if we know, but to trust in the Lord and say, “Lord, I put it in Your hands, whatever may happen tomorrow,” is not so easy. But the Lord wants us to put our confidence and trust in Him and live day by day with Him and not be concerned about tomorrow. But in every situation say, “Lord, I trust You to take me step by step. I put my trust in you 100%. You know the future and I trust you.” Christian, it has to be like this.

32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus told Judas that he would betray Him. He warned him. Here He warns Peter and tells him that he will deny Him. Denying Christ and betraying Him are both evil but Jesus warned both of them. Peter repented, Judas did not. We know Judas’ end and Peter’s end. When the Lord shows you something, when He speaks to you, repent. When He reprimands you, no matter how hard or difficult, repent or else you will end where Judas ended.

33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Peter thought this was one place he would not fall. This was one thing he would never do. You may feel strong in a particular area. The Bible says, be careful if you think you stand that you do not fall. We put ourselves in positions or places where we think we will not fall and we feel strong enough. Maybe you think I can look at certain things, which you know are not the best things but you feel you are strong in that area. This is where devil gets us. We think our children are strong, we think the best of them, we think they will never fall and you allow them to do some things. You put tools in their hands that the devil can use. How many children have lost the way because of the things the parents have given them? Very often you see young children with cellphones put into their hands, the very thing that destroys them. We think they are stronger than the attack from the devil. Parents, watch and pray. Children often fall because of their parents. Their blood will be on our hands.

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22: 54-62

Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. He must have thought this was a hopeless situation. I do not think he did it on purpose, he was possibly overcome by the situation. Maybe he did not know what was happening next or he just lost his focus. He might have thought only of himself and tried to save his own skin. But he must have felt hopeless. Jesus, the One he followed all these years, the One who saved him, the One they looked up to, was arrested. All his hopes were dashed. But this took place on the point of one of the biggest miracles in our Christian history, in the world. One of the biggest miracles of all time. The Lord was on the point of doing that on which our Christian faith is built even though it did not look like it at that time, it was the beginning of a victory.

We sometimes think things are lost and hopeless. Why are things like this? We do not understand it and we get to the end of ourselves and yet the Lord is about to do the miracle of miracles. Victory over Satan. Dear friends, let us not lose hope. Let us not lose focus because of the difficulties around us. Rev Stegen has often said it, and I believe it will all my heart, that the Lord will still do great things. He is doing great things, and He will do even greater things.

56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” A servant girl, someone insignificant, a little thing. Something happens to us, the smallest of things, and we deny our Lord. We are worse than Peter. Someone says something to me that I do not like or something happens or I hear something and I deny the Lord for a little servant girl. I do something and I do not get thanked afterwards and in my reaction, in my heart or in what I think, I deny the Lord. How often in our everyday life, in what we do, where we are, don’t we deny the Lord? We say things, we complain, we are negative, we deny the Lord.

61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  He turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly this veil of sin was pulled away from Peter’s eyes and he sees himself the way the Lord sees him. His heart is revealed to the Lord and to himself. When last did you realise that God’s eye is on you? God’s eye that reveals our hearts. When last did you allow the Lord to show you how He sees you? We can be so busy with every day things and every day battles that we do not hear what the Lord is telling us. We can be like the man in the middle of the river, fighting the rapids, fighting the current and he cannot hear what the people on the side are telling him. When we see ourselves the way the Lord sees us, it changes everything. Are you prepared to stop, to be quiet, to say, Lord how do you see me? If the Lord would stand here and look me in the eyes, would I still continue with the same things I am doing now? My talk, my thoughts, will they be the same if the Lord stood and looked at me? Just a while before, Peter had pulled out his sword and chopped off a man’s ear. The Lord was standing next to him and he had the courage to do it. But when we are alone, with our friends or at another conversation, we forget that the Lord is watching us all the time. Do you realise that God’s eye is on you every minute of the day? So let us live in a way that shows that.

62 And he went out and wept bitterly. After he saw himself through God’s eyes, he wept bitterly. People are quick to say, David sinned like this, Peter denied the Lord, I have also made mistakes, nobody is perfect. But can we repent like Peter did? When last did you see your sin? When last did you see yourself the way the Lord sees you? When last did I see my weaknesses and weep bitterly and say, “Lord, I am a weak sinner, only You can save me through Your grace and mercy.” Peter wept bitterly. He cried aloud. He repented. We know how the Lord used Peter later in his life. Can we repent like Peter repented?

When you go home, read this portion and ask the Lord to show you His way and the way He sees you. Do yourself a favour and read it prayerfully. I am sure the Lord will reveal even more to you.

Conclusion Albu van Eeden

We have heard a mystery today: The secret of allowing God’s work to go forward without trying to save ourselves in the process. Sometimes God’s work is like a big gear that is turning. If we want to be part of God’s work and do not want to stand in the way, it is as if we are in between the teeth of the gears where we are squashed and ground to pieces. You say, “Lord, I want Your work to go forward.” God says, “If you want to take part in My work and want it to go forward, you will be squashed in between those gears and ground to pieces.” If you are unwilling, you will become an obstacle in My work. The flesh and the self in you will respond by saying, “Why did I ever get involved in God’s work? Why on earth did I get involved in a revival where God works mightily?” This does not happen once, it happens all the time. You and I have the choice of dying to ourselves so that God’s work may go forward or else block God’s work in order to escape dying to self.

Rev Stegen stood on this pulpit and said that he could not remember a day, since he started with God’s work that he did not have to die to himself. You feel like saying, “Lord, is it not enough that the devil and the world is against me, that I must die to the devil and the world and now You are also my enemy? Why does Your kingdom work like this? I am constantly in between the gears, being ground, my own desires dying, I am constantly the least.” When Rev Stegen gives his testimony in Afrikaans he says, “Jy moet buig of bars.” (you must bend or burst) In revival you must bend and burst. It seems as if God is constantly against you.

Friends, under these circumstances, the devil will send his people to show you a way where you do not have to die continuously. It will be very, very attractive to you. Just a way where it is not necessary to continuously be in God’s mill. Do not fall for that. Support God’s work. Stand with God that His work goes forward even if you and I must die a thousand times over. God expects you to refer back to your personal relationship with the Lord. Is it right? Am I still with the Lord? Am I still where the Lord wants me to be? The devil will show you a way in which you continue somehow in God’s work but abandon your conscience.

God throws you into this situation and then He sits back and says, “I want to see what he/she is going to do. There is another way to do My work, an easier way, there is some escape, if he does not want to keep his relationship with Me in order.” He not only sits back when He throws us into such a situation, He prays for us, passionately. It feels as if He has just thrown us in to see what we are going to do. We need to remain faithful and keep on dying to ourselves. May God be merciful to you and me that we do not stop God’s gears from turning because our own desires and interests are becoming more important to us than God.