We all experience troubles. Each of us has pain. We wonder what God is doing. Bad things aren't supposed to happen to good people.
Lawrence says what is behind what is happening is found in Luke 22:31-32. Jesus has pulled back the curtain on the spirit world. Lawrence takes his readers through the seven sentence fragments in those verses.
God calls us by name. He knows each one of us.
Satan is our enemy. He is a illusionist. "...[H]e has no real legal power or authority of his own, so he must steal our by deceiving us." (75) Satan is detailed, organized and shrewd. He is systematic in his "sifting." The "you" is plural. Although Jesus mentions Peter by name, all of the disciples (and all Christians) will be sifted. Satan's motivation is our destruction, but God uses it for good. God using Satan's sifting for good "is an explanation of His genius and a summation of His redemptive strategies in our lives." (112) The essential work of sifting is revelation. Our true identity is revealed through suffering.
"But." That little word makes all the difference. God is unfailingly kind. Sometimes the kindest act is not the most pleasant. As Satan accuses day and night, Jesus is continually making intercession for us.
Jesus' intersession is centered on our faith, that it would not fail. Lawrence gives insights to keeping faith at the level needed. Our faith grows in relation to how often and how deeply we listen to Jesus. (192)
Jesus knew Peter would "turn back" and survive the sifting. Jesus was not worried about Peter and He is not worried about us.
Jesus predicted Peter would strengthen others. After the sifting Peter would have something great to give others. It was to Peter Jesus would say, "Feed my sheep." We give to others of the strength we receive from Jesus.
Lawrence concludes, "Only those who have been sifted like wheat, then have offered themselves as food for God's beloved, have the clarity to proclaim that, in truth, they love God unconditionally..." (261)
This is an excellent book to give to someone who is being sifted. Finally, a theology of suffering that is biblical and compassionate. The is will certainly be an encouragement to anyone who reads it.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
"People who have been sifted and revealed see God's heart
more clearly, and therefore understand His goodness
more deeply, and therefore give what they have
Have you experienced deep pain that has left your world in shattered pieces around you? Have you looked up to find that some cataclysmic event in life, some unexpected storm has left your world turned upside down? Or are you the one who looks up one morning and feel as if the weight of the daily grind has pulled so much from you that you just don't know if you can handle one more of life's "little aggravations" because if your honest you've just had too many of these little events to juggle with lately. Your broken, your empty, your all poured out, your exhausted and the road you are walking is suffocating darkness. You look up and wonder what your faith has really done for you - who is this Jesus that you've loved and served - where is He now - and if He loved you so much why isn't He helping you?
This is one of those rare books that you pick up that has the power to cause you to stop and reevaluate your life and your beliefs. It is one of those books that on the outside seems absolutely harmless, maybe even interesting - then you crack the cover and what you begin to realize is this is a book that reflects some of your deepest questions about God - that known thing that you are too "religious" to admit out loud; the thought that God seems filled with contradiction - deep a passionate love, and then a "brutal" terrible side that conditions us and allows sifting that will shatter us so that we better understand Him.
My copy of this book is already separating from it's binding, it is dog-eared, tabbed, underlined and has thoughts and revelations written in the margins. It has been re-opened time and time again to certain passages and cross-referenced with scriptures. It is in a sad shape for a book, but it bears the evidence of one that has already been well read - as I am sure every copy sold will.
Dealing mainly with the topic of Simon Peter's sifting experience this book explores what on the surface is the contradiction of God's loving side. This is eventually exposed as our misinterpretation of God's deep, intense, personal love for His creation; and His driving desire to have His creation conformed to His image.
I am adding this book (a new copy of course) to my shelf to recommend to those going through a sifting process. Almost a year ago we lost an infant son at 4 months of pregnancy due to a Subchorionic hemorrhage. This condition is usually resolved, however just when we got the confirmation that it was resolved just a few days later it reappeared. I will say that of all the sifting experiences in my life this was by far the most devastating and most life-changing. I can personally relate to this book. As in the middle my only hold to life when my faith became thread-bear and I began to wonder how much more can I bear. In the midst of the darkness I cried out for God to just show me the cross - I knew if I could just focus on that I would somehow survive this great ordeal. Continually I prayed for the survival of Caleb Levi - but on the other end of this prayer was a mother's heart broken plea, "Father, please give me the courage, the strength to accept Your will no matter what it is. Please give me spiritual eyesight to see past this numbing pain and recognize Your glory". Needless to say we lost our child - but in an essay labeled "The Sacrifice of Praise" I explained how this very experience brought to me a deeper more intimate knowledge of Christ and my identity in Him. In the wake of this loss my husband and I learned of the need for a new ministry, our raw hearts longed to comfort those who did not have the same tie to Jesus - to introduce them to the calm waters of His land even in the midst of a crashing world and shattered dreams. I remember telling my when he said he did not know if he could go through this again, "Who are we to say what we can or can not go through - these things are in God's hands and are for our good. I must believe and hold to the fact that He said He has good thoughts toward me - even in the bad. Therefore He will sustain me again and again...I must trust that He will not crush me completely".
Page 97... " God has not promised that He's going to stop [the bad from happening], but He'll show up in the middle of it, and there is nothing so dead that He can't grow something out of it. There's nothing so broken that He can't heal it. And there's not anything so lost He can't find it."
Special thanks to B&B Media Group, Inc for this review copy.
Lawrence proves that there are no pat answers to God's role in our hard times. Not a stranger to pain and suffering, he allows us to see honest reactions to his own trials and shows how God's love shines through the sifting process.
Rick Lawrence is the editor of GROUP Magazine and the co-leader of The Simply Youth Ministry Resource. He has authored hundreds of magazine articles and the author, co-author or editor of 31 books.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The B&B Media Group, Inc. as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."