Dr. Charlie Wingard preaches a chapel message on Luke 22:31-62 at RTS Jackson entitled “Prayer: A Stronghold for Tempted Christians.”
I direct your attention to Luke, the 22nd chapter, and I will begin reading at verse 31.
Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
We must feel our need to pray. We must feel our absolute dependence upon our Heavenly Father.You know all the arguments for prayer. You can probably make them better than I can, but arguments are not enough. We must feel our need to pray. We must feel our absolute dependence upon our Heavenly Father. May God create in us that sense of dependence as we hear his Word. Let’s go to him in prayer: Man does not live by bread alone, our Heavenly Father, but by every word that proceeds from your mouth. Feed us now from your Word. Give us ears to understand that our lives might be lived by faith in this present age. And this we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
Hear God’s Word.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that, he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” They said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 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.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 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.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:31–62)
Here ends the reading of God’s inerrant Word.
Assaults on your faith are going to come and they are going to come often.Pray that you may not enter into temptation. You can count on it. Assaults on your faith are going to come and they are going to come often and they are going to strike you with hard blows. But pray that you may not enter into temptation, that you will not take one step down that pathway that leads into temptation to sin and away from your precious Savior, Jesus Christ. Pray, brothers and sisters, that you may not enter into temptation. This morning I want to impress upon you three reasons why you must pray, why it is absolutely indispensable to your spiritual life. You must pray, first of all, because of the assaults of Satan. You must pray because of the example of Christ. And when all is said and done, you must pray because it is your duty. Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
We Must Pray to Defend against Satan’s Assaults
First, let’s look at the assaults of Satan. Look with me at verse 31. There the disciples are, all of them, and they are seated around the Lord’s table on that night in which he was betrayed. And Jesus speaks to Simon. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat.” Sifting wheat, taking the wheat and putting it in a sieve and then shaking it violently so that the chaff, the waste products, will be separated from the wheat. The process need not concern us, what is crucial here is what sifting accomplishes: it separates. And it’s Satan’s desire to separate you from your savior. Look at what he asks. “Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat.” Satan longs to sift God’s ministers. He demands it, and it’s worth us taking a moment and asking why would God ever accede to Satan’s request?
Hudson Taylor was the great missionary pioneer in China, founded the China Inland Mission. He would bring to his study a candidate for missionary service, and he would seat the candidate in front of his table. And there on that table would be two cups. He would pour tea into each one of the cups and then he would take his fist and strike the table. The table would shake and out of those cups would come the tea. Then he would look at that candidate and he would say, “When I strike that table, the cups shake and only what’s in those cups is going to come out of them.” Adversity is like that. When adversity shakes you, only what’s inside of you is going to come out. If what comes out of you is anger and bitterness and frustration and resentment toward the Lord, praise God. He’s giving you the opportunity to confess those sins, to repent, to be forgiven and to be restored.
But if when those blows of adversity strike you, what comes out of your mouth is praise for the Savior, a willingness to endure suffering, a desire to love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you, then also give thanks to God because his Holy Spirit is mightily at work in your life. You see, that’s what suffering does. It reveals who we are. It reveals the character of our heart when adversity strikes. What’s in you and me comes out.
Now let’s look at the assaults that the disciples faced on that night in which Jesus was betrayed. They were assaulted by pride. Look at verse 33. After that prophecy that all would fall away, Peter says to the Lord, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you both to prison and to death”. And Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day until you deny three times that you know me.” Peter didn’t believe a word of it, so confident was he in his own flesh. That’s what pride does to us. It gives us confidence in our own flesh, and we resist the word of wise counsel, even when that counsel comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you being assaulted by pride? Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
And then there were the assaults that came because of the disciples’ confusion, and it’s a specific kind of confusion. They were confused by the Scriptures. Oh, they knew the text of Scripture, but they did not know its message. Look at verses 35–38. Jesus is preparing his disciples for that time when he is going to be away from them. He’s going away to his Father that night. He will suffer and die. He’s told them all that, and they cannot get their minds around it.
Jesus tells them, “You must be prepared. In the past, you’ve gone without a moneybag, a knapsack and sandals. And did you lack anything?” And they said, “No.” “Well, now you’re going to have to get those things. In addition, you’re going to have to buy a sword. You’re going to have to be prepared. Why? Because this is the time of my death. I’ll fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’” They couldn’t get their minds around a suffering messiah. They think he’s talking about going out with a sword and fighting. And Jesus has had enough. He says, “It’s enough. You’re not ready to hear the message of Scripture.”
Now, we probably have that message down pat, that the Bible presents to us the suffering Savior. We understand that, but we get confused about our own suffering. We think somehow, even if we know what the Scriptures say, we think somehow that our ministry, our counseling ought to be a place where we receive the applause of man, and it’s a place of great personal comfort. And it’s just not like that. I think of the apostle Paul writing to the Philippians. Sometimes I picture it like it’s a revival meeting. And Paul says, “I want to know Christ!” And the crowd shouts, “Amen!” “I want to know the power of his resurrection!” “Amen!” “I want to know the fellowship of his suffering being made conformable unto his death.” Silence. Philippians 1:29, you ought to take it to heart: “For it has been granted you not only to believe in Christ but to suffer for his sake.” The gift of suffering.
Paul will say somewhere else in the letter to Colossians, “I fill up in my own flesh what is lacking with regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church” (1:24). And we ask what could possibly be absent, lacking in Christ finished work? Well, nothing. But there remains an unfinished work of Christ, which is to bring the gospel to those men and women for whom he died. And to bring that gospel, we must suffer. And so Paul will tell Timothy (2 Tim. 2:10): “I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they may obtain the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.” And if we cannot get our minds around that and the place of suffering in Christian ministry, we will fail. Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
We must pursue our work in the face of our own personal suffering with the meekness and gentleness of Christ.What happens when you confuse the message of Scripture and don’t understand your own place of suffering in it? Well, you find that in verses 47 and following. There, Peter, when he sees those coming to arrest the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in anger he strikes out in violence and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. His missiology is a little confused. As Christians, we’re there to present the gospel and persuade men to believe, not to kill off the mission field. Peter had a lot to learn, and so do we, because you see, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must pursue our work in the face of our own personal suffering with the meekness and gentleness of Christ. And violent Peter will say in 1 Peter 3:15 that we’re to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect.
You see, you can minister in Christ’s name. You can counsel in Christ’s name. You can do that, or you can be sinfully angry. But you cannot minister to someone else and be sinfully angry with them. Are you suffering and are you angry? Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
And then there’s the assault that comes through crippling sorrow. Look at verses 39–46. Jesus tells the disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Jesus enters into the Mount of Olives, and there he prays. He returns from the place of prayer and then verse 45, he comes to the disciples and found them, and look at the words carefully, “sleeping for sorrow.”
Sorrow creates fatigue in us, and we can give up praying.These were not men who were indifferent to their savior. They were crushed by the sorrow of that evening. All the truth of Christ’s suffering was communicated to them during that time around the table, and the fulfillment of that prophecy was here. They were filled with sorrow and as sorrow often does, it makes us weary and it puts us to sleep. Sorrow creates fatigue in us, and we can give up praying.
When I went to meet with the group in 1980 that would become my first church, I drove down to meet with them from Nashville, Tennessee, this small church in the rural countryside. As was my custom, and is now, I try to get to these meetings very early. And as I opened the car door and put my feet on the ground, across the street, the ambulance arrived. I went across the street. I thought I might be of use to whoever was suffering there. I found a couple who would be members of my church, and there at the dinner table was their son. He had dropped dead of a heart attack. That was my introduction to Christian ministry. I would counsel with that couple over the course of the year and then in a year, take them back to the graveside so that they could spend time alone beside their son.
In my 34 years of ministry, I’ve spent a lot more time with people weeping than rejoicing.Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). I have to say, and I don’t think my experience is unusual, that in my 34 years of ministry, I’ve spent a lot more time with people weeping than rejoicing. And I can’t see how it could be otherwise for you that are entering into Christian counseling. Beware of crippling sorrow that causes you to give up on prayer. Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
Then there was the assault that came by way of fear. There’s not time to say much about it, you’ll find that in verses 54 and following. In fear, Peter shrunk back and disowned his Lord. Don’t let that happen to you. Pray when you’re fearful that you may not enter into temptation. Pray that you may not enter into temptation because of the assaults of Satan and then because of the example of Christ.
Christians Must Pray to Follow the Example of Christ
Look at Christ’s prayer for himself, verse 42. Jesus says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” And then we’re told in verse 44: “In agony he prayed more earnestly and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Why this agitation?
You know, some of the early critics of the Christian faith mocked this passage of Scripture. They would say, “Read the story of Socrates and see how our leader died so calmly and serenely. And here’s your leader in a state of great agitation. This is not a man worthy of following.”
They don’t know what they’re talking about because they never looked into the cup that Jesus looked into. And you need to ask yourself, “What was in that cup? What did Jesus see?” When he looked into that cup, he saw sulfur and fire. That’s in the Psalms. And then he saw as he looked into that cup, the cup of God’s wrath. That’s from Isaiah, the prophet.
The moment has come in time, where Jesus Christ will fulfill the responsibilities that he assumed in the great covenant of redemption. He will take upon himself the liability of the sins of God’s people and there die that they might be reconciled to God. What did he see when he looked into the cup that caused such anguish? He saw the wrath of God poured out upon sin and God’s indignation towards sinners. And he took that cup and he drank from it and he drank it to the very dregs. He did that for you and me. You think about that: what Jesus cherished most, unbroken communion with his heavenly Father, he gives up that, as he drinks that cup of God’s wrath.
Think about it. What Jesus hated most—sin—that was laid upon him. He comes into as close a contact with what he hates—sin—as he possibly can without himself becoming a sinner. “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). And he looks into that cup and he staggers. The writer of Hebrews says that his prayers were filled with loud cries and tears, and they were answered (Heb. 5:7). God has said, Isaiah 42, “Behold my servant, in him I delight, I will put my Spirit upon him” (Isa. 42:1). And Jesus says, “Nevertheless, Father, not my will, but your will be done. Oh, it’s my will that you would give me another cup, any cup but this.” But he takes it and drinks it. “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
And when you stagger under burdens that seem too great for you to bear, you think of your Savior on the Mount of Olives. You pray and you know that he will uphold you, his servant, by his Spirit. He has put his Spirit upon you. Then I want you to not only look at his prayer for himself, but look at his prayer for his people. Go back to verse 32. Jesus says to Simon, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demands to have you [all of you disciples], that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you [you, Peter] that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, prays that on this night, when Peter’s faith is assaulted and when he’s brought to his knees that his faith will not be extinguished.
That’s how he prayed on that side of the cross and now on this side of the cross, he lives ever more to make intercession for us that our faith will not fail. And that should become a model of prayer for you. When you’re praying for those men and women in your congregation, don’t just pray for their physical needs, as important as those are. Don’t just pray for their health, but pray that their faith will not fail. The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prays that the right hand of the Father so that all of the benefits that he won for us on the cross will in time be applied to our life: justification, sanctification, glorification. We pray for men and women, like our Savior, that their faith will not fail. Pray that you may not enter into some temptation. Pray because of Satan’s assaults. Pray because of the example of your Savior. And finally, pray because it is your duty.
Christians Should Pray Because It Is Their Duty
That duty’s impressed upon us twice in this passage. Verse 40: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And then again, verse 46, “Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And that must be our prayer, sometimes once a day, sometimes once an hour, even more frequently, pray that we’ll not take that step into temptation that takes us into sin and away from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Sometimes God answers that prayer in marvelous ways. We begin to have a desire to step in the wrong direction and God removes the opportunity, praise his name. At other times, we start to have the desire to move away from him, and he removes the opportunity. He preserves us. He spares us. But we’re sinners and like Peter, we fail to pray and we stumble.
How does the Lord deal with us? Well, I think that we have an insight in verse 61. Peter denies the Lord Jesus Christ for the third time, and we’re told that the Lord turned and looked at Peter. When Peter looked into the Lord’s eyes, what do you think he saw? Resentment at this guy that didn’t have the strength to persevere? Bitterness at disloyalty? Anger? Peter, how could you do this? No, when Peter looked into the eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ he saw the look of love. And that’s Christ’s attitude toward his prayerless and stumbling servants, his attitude toward you and me.
And in love, on the other side of the cross and the empty tomb, he’ll go to Peter. He’ll forgive him. He’ll restore him. And Peter will strengthen his brothers. And he continues to strengthen us each time we pick up the Book of Acts or those two letters, the epistles, he strengthens us in our faith. Peter will become a man of prayer who knows that it’s his duty to pray that he may not enter into temptation.
This morning, as I was working on the sermon, I went up and I closed the door to my office because there is a loud professor that lectures at the foot of my stairs. Usually I can hear the lectures word per word. Well, today I could just hear a loud voice. But the one word that I could pull out of that lecture from beginning to end was prayer, pray, prayer and pray. That is what I want us to take away from this passage: an absolute sense of our utter dependence upon the Lord so great that we pray that we may not enter into temptation.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.