Satan Desires to Sift You

What does Luke 22:31 mean?

Here’s a verse that frightens many people:

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. (Luke 22:31)

Here are three conclusions people draw from these words of Jesus:

  1. Satan needs permission to attack us
  2. God gives Satan permission to attack us
  3. God and Satan are colleagues in the business of attacking you, hallelujah!

To think that God and the devil are in cahoots is ridiculous.

Believe this and you’ll believe that God is behind your illness or was complicit in the death of your child. Lose your job and you might say “God gives and takes away.”

Phooey! With a God like that, who needs a devil?

So what is Jesus really saying?

Does the devil need permission?

This has nothing to do with permission. (The word asked isn’t in the Bible. It’s a bad translation.) Satan is a thief. If the thief had permission he wouldn’t be a thief. Jesus is talking about Satan’s agenda. “Satan desires you in the way that sin desired Cain” (see Gen 4:7).

In other words, “Wise up. There’s a war going on. On one side is your heavenly Father who loves you; on the other is Satan who hates you.”

Now this is a very uneven war. Satan doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, he’s already been defeated and disarmed (Col 2:15). Thus the only way the enemy can win is through deceit, by getting you to believe lies about your Father and turning you against him.

If you believe a good God does evil, Satan wins.

If you believe God is making you sick, perhaps to teach you character, Satan laughs.

If you don’t resist the devil, because you think God has ordained whatever he is doing against you, the devil will not flee.

“Ah, but God allows the devil to do his work because it suits the Lord’s purposes.”

Which is bit like saying you allow your children to suffer. “I allowed my kid to get hit by that truck so I could show them my love.”

No, no, and a thousand times no! God is never the author of evil.

It’s important that we don’t confuse God with the devil. God is good; Satan is not. God’s will for your life is not Satan’s will for your life. What Satan wants is not what God wants.

“But what happened to Peter is the same thing that happened to Job in the Old Testament.”

Sure, as long as you understand that God didn’t give Satan permission to afflict Job either. Satan is not God’s sheepdog.

What about sifting?

To sift like wheat means to separate: Satan wants to separate you from Jesus. He wants you to make you run from the Lover of your soul. Look at how Christ’s words appear in other translations:

Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. (Luke 22:31, MSG)

And this is exactly what Peter and the disciples did: They ran! They abandoned the Lord.

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matt 26:56)

What Satan desired came to pass.

Like sifted chaff, the disciples separated themselves from Jesus. It was a victory for Satan – or so it seemed.

But wait…

What Satan meant for evil, God turned around for good. This is what God does – he redeems our failures and turns defeat into victory so that we might experience his unconditional love and grace (Rom 8:28).

This is the essence of what Jesus says to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32:

Peter, tough times are coming. I’m heading to the cross, and you guys are going to run like chickens. It will seem like the devil is getting his way. I’m telling you this in advance so that you won’t be discouraged.

Peter, you think you’re so strong with your boasts, but you’re not. You’re going to fail, and you need to know that I’m okay with failure. Indeed, my grace is greater than your failures. I’m praying for you, Pete. I’m in your corner. I will not abandon you even though you abandon me.

And after you’ve come through this, remember what I said and encourage your brothers. Maybe write an epistle telling people about the testing of your faith. Just a thought.

Don’t fall for the devil’s lies and don’t be ignorant of his schemes. He cannot win except by getting you to rely on your flesh and agree with his lies.

Satan desires to sift you and separate you, so stand firm in the Lord and let nothing move you.

Tough times will come, and your strength will fail. But be of good cheer, for Jesus is cheering you on. You may have deserted the Lord but he will never desert you.

No one can snatch you from his hand. Nothing can separate you from his love.

From time to time, you will fail and fall and it will seem as though the devil has won. But what he means for evil, the Lord can turn around for good.

No matter how big your mess, God’s grace is greater than your worst.


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47 Comments on Satan Desires to Sift You

  1. Eric Holman // April 20, 2017 at 12:17 am // Reply

    Paul thanks for that. Was needed. 😊 Just a note in the second last paragraph NB Jesus is cheering you ‘own’…. should be ‘on’ maybe??? Cheers mate.

  2. Janaki goday // April 20, 2017 at 12:24 am // Reply

    Timely revelation – I.e. that Satan wants to separate us from God by not trusting Him. Timely encouragement – we need to be reminded of this truth every now & then.We tend to get caught up in the problem & forget Satan’s intentions toward us. Thanks for the Reminder(huge).

  3. Brandon Petrowski // April 20, 2017 at 12:39 am // Reply

    Good stuff, I think the word “asked” is an issue with translation and English understanding, which would explain many people’s confusion. Also, it doesn’t say Satan asked God to sift Peter. The intent could very well have meant Satan was “asking” (tempting) Peter and the disciples to sift them, just as he “asked” (tempted) Eve to take the forbidden fruit.

    • Thanks, Brandon, I think that does help clarify this verse. Satan is speaking to Peter attempting to separate him from Jesus. Then Jesus, knowing what was going on, speaks words of encouragement to Peter. “You’re going to come back to Me, Peter, and when you do, strengthen your brothers.”

    • Brandon Petrowski // April 20, 2017 at 11:35 am // Reply

      Young’s Literal Translation seems to support this also…
       “And the Lord said, `Simon, Simon, lo, the Adversary did ask you for himself to sift as the wheat”

    • Roddy perkins // March 1, 2019 at 6:38 am // Reply

      I needed to hear this again today thank you, much appreciated 😊

  4. Brandon Petrowski // April 20, 2017 at 12:41 am // Reply

    This might be one of my favorites of your posts. So many people need to grasp this.

  5. God is good! Thank you for your ministry!

  6. Pure gold. Thanks Paul 🙂

  7. Roger Bedard // April 20, 2017 at 2:15 am // Reply

    Well put my brother. I confront these very arguments, that you shed light upon, on an ongoing basis, amidst the brethren.

    Many are they that walk out their day-to-day not knowing the love of their heavenly Father. And hold to leavens of thinking and conjectures that are run thru “a way that seems right to man” filters … taking the fight out of the Christian, taking the run out of the race.

    Our heavenly Father’s love is absolutely amazing and so glorious … so pure and so transforming. Be blessed everyone. Be healed be whole. In Jesus’ name.

  8. Paul I have shared, what you just wrote in this article, for years and one of the comments I get is, “I am not giving Satan any glory by acknowledging he has any power. Jesus defeated him; He put him under our feet.” Yes He did, Praise God, but we have to keep him there by using the authourity that we have been given in the name of Jesus and by declaring the Word of God over our situations. (Luke 10:19)

    Sometimes it feels like they are implying that because Satan is defeated, all the evil has to be coming from God now–you know, He teaches us by causing bad things to happen to us. Even though Satan is under our feet, this world is full of evil and Christians are fall prey to it because of lack of knowledge. We ask God to do things that He already finished at the cross. He did everything He could do and now it is up to us to walk in His benefits. Faith is simply agreeing with what God says in His Word. He says He took our sickness on His own body on the tree and we don’t have to bear it, He wants us to prosper in every area of our lives. Why do we question Him and His will? He has no desire to deprive us of any GOOD thing. He is not competing with the devil to bring evil our way.

    Grace is much more than unmerited favour; it is God’s ability gifted to us so that we can walk in power and authority on this earth and take domimion over it. The authourity that Adam and Eve forfeited to Satan has been restored to us through Jesus Christ. It is time to use it so we can “do even greater things”! Jesus said it, I didn’t !

  9. Hey Paul, I’m really interested in this topic. I know you’ve written other posts about God not using the devil as His sheepdog and Him not giving us evil things to teach us character. Do you know of any books, though, that you would recommend that flesh this out in a more in depth manner? Something I’m desiring to gain a greater understanding of and be able to set others free in this way, too. Thanks!!

    • Books that show God not using Satan? Isn’t that like asking for a book that shows light is not dark? Why not just read a book about the light? Why not just read about what God does do? Or am I missing your meaning? (It’s very early here – well before dawn – so that’s a possibility.)

      • Okay, I totally think you misread my comment haha! Maybe another cup of joe will do the trick 😉 I’m just asking for a book that digs deeper into this subject matter. I come from a reformed theological background, so the “Sovereignty of God” is very much ingrained into me. Although I’m starting to believe otherwise that God “allows” suffering to teach us a lesson or grow our character, I want to study this topic and see what the Holy Spirit reveals. Just as if you’d point someone in the direction of a book on the Father’s heart/sonship or a book around the topic of grace, I’m asking for a little direction in a topical book on this subject ha. Does that help?

      • I generally don’t like to write where others have written, so if there was a book I wouldn’t be writing these articles. I guess you may have seen my series on Job. And this shorter series on the sovereignty of God. If you have specific scriptures in mind, check out the Scripture Index. For instance, Isaiah 45:7 comes up often in discussions with reformed folk. I hope this helps.

  10. Thank you Paul.

  11. Very good article…..

  12. Luke 4:5 tells us “Then the devil took him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of mankind in a sudden vision, and said to Him, I will give you all this power and magnificence, for it belongs to me and I can give it to anyone I please.” Jesus had no interest in the “cheese” the devil dangled in front of him. He didn’t take the bait because He walked in unity with the Father and was fixed on a mission – “the joy that was set before Him.” However, there is an important revelation pertaining to man in what Satan said to Jesus – in referencing the kingdoms of the world, he said “all this power and magnificence belongs to me”. Did God give Satan this authority and power? NO! Who gave Satan power to rule this world? We have. Us. Humans. Man is constantly giving over his God given authority to the devil in exchange for lies. Many across the history of the world have said yes to the bait Jesus was not interested in. (One could even make a comparison to much of the modern prosperity preaching with the devil’s offer) We have been duped. Indeed, all of humanity has fallen for Satan’s false system, virtual (fake) reality, if you will. Jesus, the Savior of humanity, seeks to raise us up out of the deception that is the blindness (darkness) of those who think they see. He is the light in the darkness. Satan had shrouded the world in darkness and convinced us it is light.

    As Paul says above, “Wise up. There’s a war going on.” Satan’s attacks are so effective in leading the world astray because we SLEEP as if everything is fine and wonderful and don’t recognize the war. Man has cozied up to the devil as if he is our buddy and wants the best for us and just wants to see us happy. We are in great error in this regard.

  13. Well we can all relate, cuz I firmly believe that we all, I don’t care the position, has failed God/Christ over and over and over in words thoughts and deeds period. That is one of the reasons why he gave us another comforter, to comfort, to bring all things to remembrance, to remind us how much God loves us. I believe Job always knew, one of his reasons he did not curse God and die. Job was just overwhelmed by the hot battle.

  14. Mac in NW Fla // April 20, 2017 at 10:52 am // Reply

    At my age, I can and do personally attest to the attacks faced on a weekly, if not daily basis. The devil , flesh and world are at every turn. Face each day with the full armour of God!

  15. Jane Matela // April 20, 2017 at 6:46 pm // Reply

    This article confirms that nothing in our lives takes God by surprise. He knows our beginning and our end. All our failures are well catered for in His unconditional love and grace. Asking could also mean devil is very well aware that he is not allowed to meddle with our lives but try his luck anyway.
    Thank you Paul.

  16. A just and perfect judge does not express his anger when issuing a judgement, neither can he be said to be in cahoots with the accuser if he upholds the accusers charge or grants a lawful petition. Of course it can be said, but only by those who misunderstand their relationship with the law. For the lack of knowledge people also misunderstand their relationship with the judge/accuser/saviour and live out lives less than a son of the King.
    Only in the most corrupt governments of the world where despotic rulers rein is an accuser refused access to the judge. Only in these countries are the sons of judges immune from accusation.

    God the Father provided a way for men to stand before him as God the judge. Our Father provided a councillor, an advocate and a new law that saves us from being subject to the law of sin and death. The new law is called the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus and we can petition(ask) God to apply it in our lives. If men use a different law to defend themselves the judge must rule in favour of the accuser, yet the judge is neither a colleague of Satan or an attacker.
    Faith is the knowledge of relationship, and Satan accuses men of being guided by their egos and senses than by our relationship with God. Wherever men trust in themselves, Satan (the God of this world) reins with our permission, not Gods.

  17. Betti Hindman // April 22, 2017 at 2:04 pm // Reply

    All that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer tribulation, persecution. If you preach the gospel of grace, and not of works, all hell seems to break loose….

  18. I’ve been wondering: God is omniscient and omnipotent, so why did He create a being who He knew would become the adversary and destroyer? On the same trend of thought, why did God create some (non-elect – Calvinism) who He “knew” would lose out on eternal life?

    Is it because “…all mankind will see God’s salvation” (Lk 3:6)?

    • Brandon Petrowski // April 24, 2017 at 9:00 am // Reply

      Remember we are created in God’s image. Like us, God wants to be “chosen” and pursued for relationship. If he dictated everything so there is no ultimate choice on our part, then we’d all be on puppet strings dancing to His tune. Do you want someone to be “forced” to love you? Not really love when they have no choice in the matter.

      • Marjorie // April 24, 2017 at 9:28 am //

        Right on Brandon! God wants us to come to Him of our own free will. It is His love for us that draws us and we return that love as we draw closer in relationship with Him. I love Him cause He first loved me!

    • That seems like a tough question Niazam, but just like we want children and family, I believe God does too. Even when our kids abandon us, there is nothing like the day when they come to us and tell us they are sorry and that they love us. God knew what His kids would do and He also knew how blessed and rewarding it would be when they returned to Him. God created man and Lucifer in perfection, but He gave them free will and it was their choice as to what they did with it. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

      • Thanks for your response, Marjorie.
        Do you agree there is NOTHING we can do – or not do – to lose eternal life?
        Since we did not choose Jesus, why would we believe that He who started a good work in us would NOT see it through to completion?
        Do we truly believe that ALL knees will bow and ALL tongues that Jesus is Lord.
        God conquers through LOVE.

      • Marjorie // April 25, 2017 at 5:47 pm //

        Hi Niazim, I believe that the only way you can lose out on eternal life in heaven is to reject Jesus as your Saviour. Once you are born again you can’t change that. Your spirit man becomes alive to the knowledge of God’s existence and to the reality of the Kingdom of God. You might miss out on some of His benefits because of lack of knowledge, but you won’t lose your salvation.

      • Brandon Petrowski // April 26, 2017 at 12:16 am //

        Well said Marjorie.
        Nizam, not everyone will be saved. The Bible is very clear about that. Every knee bowing does not mean they’ve received salvation. Jesus does choose us, but we also have to choose Him. I can give you a magnificent gift wrapped blessing, but if you do not choose to open and receive it, then you are profited nothing.

  19. Very timely … thank you Paul

  20. Andries Marais // April 26, 2017 at 4:19 am // Reply

    Grace 101 (Beverly Sheasby):

    God is good. The devil is bad.
    God do good. The devil does evil.
    It is impossible for God to do bad. It is impossible for the devil to do good.

  21. So good, Jesus’ words brought tears to my eyes. Hallelujah!

  22. Jeffery Jackson // July 14, 2018 at 1:28 am // Reply

    Great I really love it

  23. Jared Westendorp // August 31, 2018 at 2:02 pm // Reply

    Nice. I needed to understand why on earth he asked permission. It bugged me so I came here and was able to relax and get started on the right foot to understanding this. Good comment section to by the way, I read some good stuff there too.

  24. Sandra D. W. // February 4, 2019 at 12:24 am // Reply

    This commentary was very helpful in my time of need. I will hold fast to the promises of the Lord by never losing faith. Thanks

  25. Wow so encouraging. Whatever difficulty we are facing today God is bigger to bring a solution. We may not see a way out, and just as we opened the door to let Jesus into our hearts, Jesus now opens the door so we are able to escape the clutches of the evil one. God provides a way out of the maze we find ourselves in, even when we cannot fathom a way.

  26. cityofgodatm // May 7, 2019 at 9:56 am // Reply

    Maybe you should do an interview with a REAL EXORCIST….you may have to change your thinking!

    • As someone who has encountered and experienced 100% victory over all sorts of demons, I’m not sure what you are suggesting. Care to clarify?

  27. Sherri De Witt // February 23, 2020 at 3:04 am // Reply

    Wow, thank you Paul for such a powerful lesson!! This clarifies a lot for me on the intense spiritual battle I am going through! God bless you in all you do!!
    Mount up brothers and sisters!

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