OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #308 Non Destructive Testing
Had the Lord not called me into ministry, I think I might have chosen engineering as a profession. Then again, a lot of things are fun if you don’t have to make a living doing them, like cutting wood, for instance. Even still, I love to know how things work and as a child I took a lot of things apart. Sometimes I even got them to work again. Even now, I love to watch shows on how things are made or built.
I remember watching a show on how they test metals for how strong they are. This was on things like bridges and airplanes and pipelines, where they can’t destroy it by testing it. That’s one way, to stress it until it breaks and measure it. But some things you can’t test by breaking them, so they have to develop ways to test them. One way is to do an x-ray. That’s how they test the welds on pipelines. They wrap a piece of film around the pipe, and then use x-ray, an extended and larger version of the way they do our teeth.
And then there is another way where they sprinkle iron filings across the piece of metal and then use a magnet. If the metal is good and there are no cracks, then the iron filings line up, but if there are cracks, even tiny microscopic ones, then the filings don’t line up properly. It can look good, but unseen cracks threaten the strength of the structure.
Engineers test materials because they want to know the fundamental nature and character of the metal. What is it really like? Will it stand up to the test of daily use and abuse? I’m grateful for this work because when I fly, I want to know that the landing gear of the plane is strong, and that the wings won’t fall off.
There are a lot of parallels to human character. How do we know what someone is like? What they are really like? This is important in hiring, marrying, or appointing leaders to programs, boards, and committees.
But this is not only about evaluating others. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to evaluate our own character and behavour. There are lots of passages which help us, but lately I came across 1Thessalonians 1:3 in my own reading: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul was thankful for three fundamental characteristics: Their faith, love and hope. The evidence of these traits was seen in the results they produced - works, labour and endurance.
As I read this passage one day, it hit me that I was working hard, but that’s all it was, just hard work. I was lacking the faith that told me the work was for something larger and bigger than I am. And I was doing it just because that’s what I do. I work hard and there is always something to do, but I was lacking love as a motivation. Not that I hated what I was doing. Rather, it startled me that I forgot I was doing so much of what I do to help people. I got caught in a list of tasks. This passage reminded me that there are people on the other end of what I do, and it changed the way I looked at my work.
The line that got me was this one: “Your labour prompted by love.” It was the spiritual x-ray that revealed little cracks in my character. I don’t believe I was far off, and no one, perhaps, would have detected it. But I had lost sight of the people I was serving, and that was a character issue which needed to be addressed. I thanked God for the insight and almost immediately the work became easier, more pleasant and enjoyable. That was a confirmation of the verse and a further reminder to remember my love for these people.
As at other times, I pass along this along because I figure if I have trouble with these things, and I’m the “professional religious guy,” then perhaps others face the same things. I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Dec 2, 2013. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com, but I’m a little behind in updating things. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com