Using Engineering to Understand Christianity

One day in class, the director of our school (the Horizon School of Evangelism) was using the analogy of testing in Engineering to help us understand why our faith needs to be tested, and being a software engineer by profession, it was a comparison that totally made it very concrete to me why we have to go through periods of testing.

Jesus used a lot of parables about farming, because the lay-person in his day was typically a farmer. That’s what they knew well and understood. By drawing upon their understanding of farming, it would make it much clearer to them what Jesus was saying about faith. But what kind of comparisons can you make that make Christianity more concrete to the modern-day engineer?

Testing of Your Faith is Like Engineering Testing

At work one of the phases of development that we do is testing what we make, both the hardware and software components. This testing can help us to understand testing of our faith.

One of the items we make at work is a “control unit” for a training system that is mounted inside a tank. There’s a lot of strange stuff they do in the environmental testing lab to test this hardware before we ship it to the field.

For example, they leave the box in a freezer for an extended period to make sure it can withstand extreme temperatures and still be operable and not crack or the display go blank or something else that would prevent the box from operating in the sort of conditions that it is designe to withstand.

There’s another device that is essentially a shaking table, simulating the roughness and jostling conditions a tank off-roading is likely to encounter. Once again, they turn on the box and test key functionalities of the control unit while it is enduring these conditions.

Why put this piece of hardware through such brutal conditions? Because they want to prove this is reliable hardware capable of withstanding certain types of operating conditions.

Likewise, in the software department, we try to test whatever sort of conditions might make the software break. Testing expected average case values is a practical first step, but reality is, most of the time you run with average values everywhere–those kinds of bugs tend to get squashed out very quickly because they’re easy to find. So what is more interesting to test? Boundary conditions–things on the extreme ends of what is possible. What happens if you pass in a null or 0 value? What happens if you pass in an integer that is the maximum possible value allowed by the data type? What happens if you pass in a negative value?

Likewise, our faith must also be tested. Testing of your faith produces patience [or perserverence or endurance depending on your translation] (James 1:3b NKJV). And keep in mind patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22).”By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:19 NASB)

When God puts you through it, think of it as God “debugging” your faith. Its a pretty apt analogy. Often times, bugs are stubborn, and you have to retest several times before you’ve actually gotten it out. Likewise, perhaps that’s why you’ve had to be tested in the same area of your life repeatedly–to see whether you’ve really gotten that desire to sin out of your head yet.

Rom 5:3

“The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”. Sometimes its hard to prove something directly. If it was overcast and not sunny, you would have no shadow. Therefore having a shadow is indicative of there being sunshine (or other bright light). The light of God is contrasted to darkness. When everything is grey, its hard to differentiate. But when things are very bright, the lack of brightness is in stark contrast.

Abraham: Promises of God

Probably all of us are at least somewhat familiar with the story of Abraham, and remember his frequent title as the “father of faith” and remember his acts of faith being credited to him as righteousness, such as tithing to Melchizedek and taking his son up on the mountain as an offering to God.

Do you remember what God promised Abraham in Genesis 15:4? God said “this man will not be your heir, but one who will come forth out of your own body shall be your heir”. God promised him offspring, and not only that but that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen 15:5).

But somewhere in that I see a lacking in faith. He could have had faith that God would bless his wife Sarah with child, but when they just weren’t…ahem…making any babies, successfully…Sarah doesn’t have the faith (at that point) that God is going to give them a child within God’s design for a man and a woman, and tells her husband to sleep with her servant and get her pregnant. And the result of that whole fiasco was Islam (Ishmael), and a blessing by God to multiply his descendants to be “too many to count”. And when God says no, he’s going to establish his covenant with a son of Sarah, not Ishmael, (Gen 17:19) they have some disbelief in their heart. “Abraham fell on his face and laughed.” In his heart he said, ‘Will a child be born to a man 100 years old. And will Sarah who is 90 bear a child?” (Gen 17:17)

Sometimes God’s promises seem crazy, they seem impossible. Everyone knows nobody who’s 90 years old can get pregnant. That’s just crazy. But sometimes God promises us things that seem crazy too.

But I challenge you: What has God promised you that you aren’t taking him seriously about?

Its so easy to have that doubt, even the “father of faith” doubted God’s promises. Has God spoken something into your life, but you just laugh and say “that’s never going to happen” and start plotting in your own fleshly way how to “make God’s promise” a reality…but not quite in the way God intended? When really, God was just saying, hold on just a little longer in faith that I do come through on my promises?….God wants to bless you with things he’s already promised you.

Are you waiting in eager expectation for the blessing God has individually promised you? I challenge you to take God at his word that he is faithful, no matter what circumstances may lead you to believe. God is greater than our circumstances. And he has some huge blessings he wants to do in your life.

(Its interesting to note also that despite Abraham’s doubts that God could give him a child, he still was obedient to what God told him to do, and had his entire family circumcised, even at his old age. There are further implications you can draw from this…)

Suffering With Joy

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ,
not only to believe in Him,
but also to suffer for His sake.
– Philippians 1:29

Its tough sometimes to accept that promise in the bible that your faith will be tested–and that we should endure and perservere with joy; rejoice even when we are suffering. Take heed of that promise, you will be blessed. And so I share with you a letter I wrote to a dear friend of mine to encourage her when she was enduring some suffering, because I have hope that other people may be encouraged by it as well.

I thought I’d share with you what I’d written in my journal last night as I was going through allergy attack last night myself (did I mention that?!?!) and what God was showing me. Maybe there’s something in there that would be encouraging to you too… who knows? (well, except God) 🙂

“Its so unfair” I whine and fret inwardly over and over, completely disregarding the command the bible lays out in Phillipians 2:14 to do everything without complaining. “How can something that is soo small that it can’t even be seen by the naked eye cause me to suffer so?” And “why me?” (can you hear the high-schooler mantra just waiting to whine its way through “but Mom, everyoooone else gets to…”

But God didn’t make us all to be alike did he? Each of us a unique special creation of God…for a one-of-a-kind purpose. I can (and have) prayed over and over that God would “heal” me, forgetting of course the whole part about IF it would be God’s will…selectively picking verses to show myself why the Lord ought (imagine that…me telling the Lord what he ought do??? Hello Isaiah 45:9…(“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?'”).

Drat, convicted once again. But also convicted that I should be following in the footsteps of the apostle Paul, who even being beaten in prison wrote to us about suffering with joy…for no suffering for the Lord is wasted. And if the Lord desireth not to rid me of my afflictions, I can rest in the assurance that it is for the glory of God. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29). Instead of complaining bitterly and having a heart full of garbage, it could be a heart full of hope and joy that the Lord is calling me to suffer so that I may encourage other people through my own suffering–so that I may take some time to praise him for all the times I don’t have to endure what’s uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Some of the other verses on the joy/suffering: Romans 5:3James 5:10Revelation 2:10Revelation 10:10Revelation 2:9-10Phil 1:27,291 Peter 3:14,2:21Romans 8:18,23-251 Peter 4:12-19 🙂