When Jesus foretold Simon Peter’s denials prior to his crucifixion, he also gave us some important instructions. In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (NASB).” There are three key elements in this passage we should note.
First: “Satan has demanded permission.” This reminds us that God is sovereign and nothing happens without His “permission.” We may not see his purpose in the things that happen to us, but he has a greater plan we often cannot see. This principle is repeated many times in the Bible such as in the case of Joseph: “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5).”
Second: “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail;” Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him three times, but he also prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. When Peter realized Jesus’ prediction came true, “he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62).” It was a crushing blow to Peter yet his faith did not fail. We should do the same for those we know who are going through trials that test their faith — pray that their faith will not fail.
Third: “and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” We all have our moments of failure. Peter knew what it felt like to deny Jesus and he wept bitterly about it, but his faith only strengthened. He is the one who strengthened his brothers in their time of need. In Acts 1:15, it is Peter who “stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together) and told them they must select someone to “become a witness with us of His resurrection (1:22).” It was Peter who responded to the critics who claimed the disciples were drunk after receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-40). Our experience with trials, with failures, should give us empathy for others going through similar struggles; it should prompt us to encourage and strengthen them.