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And the Lord said, 'Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.'
(Luke 22:31-32, NKJV)
 
Today’s devo is for all of you graduates: high school grads, college grads and Bible School grads.

First – Congratulations on a major accomplishment! To complete four years of high school or undergraduate college study is a big deal. It’s not always easy to go through puberty in front of everyone; it’s no small feat to live in a dorm, eat student food, stay awake all hours of the night, work on projects and complete finals year after year, in order to earn your high school diploma or college degree. You deserve some kudos! Way to go!

For others, the completion of your training at a Bible Training Center, School of Ministry or Ministry Commission is worth celebrating! It’s very likely that you sacrificed some things to get trained in the Word and for ministry. Maybe you moved your family to a new city and took a pay cut in order to be trained for God’s calling. Perhaps you gave up one evening a week to sit under the Word and be equipped for serving God. Maybe you had to say goodbye to some friends to pursue God’s calling on your life. Congratulations on getting to the finish line!

Enjoy this season of a job well done. Celebrate and revel in the accolades, gifts and well wishes. May the Lord guide you as you embrace the world as your oyster, the sky as your limit and the seeds of greatness within you. It’s a new season…and the Lord is with you!

Second – Here’s something I wish I would have known (or had ears to hear) upon my graduation from college and Bible school, and my commencement into a life of ministry. I wish I would have known that I was in for a sifting. I wish I would have paid attention to Peter's "graduation and commencement" and the sifting he faced (like the verse in Luke above).

It seems that most graduates from high school, college or ministry training are flying high with a full force wind in their sails. They are ready to change the world and make a difference. In many cases, the Lord opens doors for them to get started in their purpose. However, they are not aware that the devil wants to shut them down before they can get started; so he prepares a sifting.

“To be sifted,” is to shake in a sieve. According to Thayer’s Lexicon, to sift is the idea of an inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow. The devil wants to sift our faith to the point of overthrow. He will work to agitate us internally until we are discouraged, tired, frustrated, mad, offended or worn out and he wins. We need to be wise to his devices and prepare to stand strong through any battle we face.

We’ve seen this so many times, in our own lives and in the lives of other graduates. When you graduate from anything, you become a target for the enemy. You've proven your ability to succeed and now He wants to stop your progress. So, upon graduation, the obvious encouragements for a life of success are things like: don’t get offended, don’t be weary, don’t quit, stay strong, stay full of faith, stay prayed up and having done all – stand!

These are good bits of wisdom, however, there are two other lessons worth taking a closer look at. If you’ll take heed, you can overcome a sifting and stay on the pathway God has ordained for your life!

Live for the Praise of God – Not Men: Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat and shortly after that comment, the sifting began. In Peter’s case, the devil wanted to shake Peter out. He wanted to neutralize Peter’s influence for Christ. He wanted Peter to live for the praise of men, not God. The devil wanted Peter to blend in with the crowd – tone down his witness and be a mere onlooker to the plan of God.

Remember, Peter promised that he would not deny the Lord, but as soon as he was accused of being a Jesus-following, Scripture-believing, flame-throwing disciple, he back-pedaled and tried to blend in with the crowd of unbelievers. He wanted their approval more than God’s. When Peter had the chance to identify with Christ and His cause, he denied the Lord. He was sifted and he flunked. Eventually, because of Jesus' prayers and mercy, Peter was restored, but not before he had lived with the sense of failure, guilt, regret and inferiority that came with being sifted.

Listen, dear graduate, when the devil tries to sift you by getting you to blend in with your friends, family or co-workers – don’t fall for it. Live for the praise of God, not men. Make a stand for Christ. Be a strong witness for the Lord. Make sure you have His approval, no matter what the cost. You won’t regret it. God will reward you richly in this life and in the sweet bye and bye when you receive the praise that comes from God!

Stay Small – Don’t Be Wise In Your Own Eyes: The Bible tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and in due time, He will exalt us. This will not be easy. The Word is full of stories about those who had great potential, but fell through the sifting of pride – the Devil himself, Korah, Dothan and Judas to name a few. The Bible also tell us about those who did it well and flourished through a sifting by staying humble – Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul and Jesus Himself!

Be advised, the enemy has many devices and one of his top strategies is to cause our downfall through pride. He will fill our ears with our own amazingness. He will flatter us. He will pump us up. He will sift us with pride. After all, we are graduates – full of knowledge and zeal – right? The devil likes to feed this.

It starts off innocently enough, we graduate and land a great job or ministry opportunity. We have a few successes and life is good. The enemy knows he must put a stop to our effectiveness and the sifting begins. Pretty soon he is sending people our way to inflate our ego. They tell us we are their favorite; we are the only one they can talk to; we are the only one who understands; we really care. We are soon compared to this great person and that amazing world changer. We like hearing these things. We believe it, too. After all, this is why we went to college and ministry training school.

Pretty soon, we begin to hear that people like us “better than” – fill in the blank. They like us better than the other staff, the others who are parallel to us, the other leaders, the other directors, the other supervisors, the other boss, the other teachers, the other worship leaders, the other youth minister and the other preachers – they like us better than anyone else!

After a while, people begin to feel so comfortable around us that their flattery opens the door for us to become the dumping ground for their murmuring, complaining and critical speech. If you ever notice that those who flatter you feel safe filling your ears with divisive negativity, you’re being set up. Take heed to the sifting. Don’t fall for it. Don't be wise in your own eyes; stay small.

Dear graduate as the Lord guides and leads you, as He opens doors for you, as He gives you favor and causes you to succeed – stay small, stay humble. Trust the Lord with all your heart. Don’t fall for flattery or murmuring. Put a stop to those who undermine, usurp or come against the people or the things God has anointed. Don’t build on another man’s foundation or take things for yourself that belong to others. Don’t draw people to yourself. Give honor to whom honor is due. Redirect the flatterers to the Lord. Be loyal. Defer. Rest in the reality that in due time, He will exalt you!

The devil may do his best to sift you so he can stop you, but he cannot win as you live for an Audience of One and stay small in your own eyes!

Remember, Jesus prayed for you. He died for you and rose from the dead so your faith will not fail! Congratulations graduate. As you commence, be strong in the Lord and power of His might!
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
(Eph. 6:10-13, NKJV)
Prayer: Father, thank You for the wisdom I need as I graduate and commence my new life! Help me to live for Your praise alone. Help me to stay small in my own eyes. I will be strong in the Lord and the power of Your might. I know that in due time, You will exalt me and You will use me for Your glory. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Beth Jones Ministries
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Author Biography

Beth Jones
Web site: Valley Family Church
 
Pastors Jeff and Beth Jones serve as the Founding & Senior Pastors of Valley Family Church. Pastor Beth is a gifted leader, teacher and writer and is passionate about helping people "get the basics" of their christian faith. She's an anointed communicator, hilarious and full of joy as she shares the gospel in a real and relatable way.
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