Crash dummies have a hard job. They “report” for work, get strapped into their seat and are sent headlong into a wall…over and over again. Ever feel like this describes your life at times? What you thought would be a “Sunday drive” turned into a fast-paced race on a track with enough crashes to cause NASCAR drivers to shudder.
Automotive companies put cars through a variety of tests under conditions that mimic what customers may face. Not only do they test their cars, but they may also look at those produced by their competition. However, different motives underlie the reason for each crash test.
When a company tests their own product, they do so with the intent of improving it. Seat belts, air bags, and the metal framework of the vehicle undergo design enhancement based on the information gained in the crash to make the car safer and stronger. In their ads, they display the strengths of their product and expose the weaknesses of the competitor.
The analogy has inherent weaknesses, but reminds us of how God and Satan use the tests and trials we face with different motivations. God seeks to improve us, making us more like Christ,and Satan seeks to find and exploit our weaknesses.
Deuteronomy reveals the motives for the tests that God allows or sends: “the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not…that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.” (Deut. 8:2, 16b, ESV) James gives further elaboration on what “good in the end” means for us: “Count is all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-3 ESV) God’s purpose is to produce spiritually mature individuals and his reward is sure (James 1;12). Spiritually mature Christians have learned how to survive a crash because past tests have led to “improvements.”
However, we have another tester. Satan has an entirely different motive. He doesn’t want to improve us; rather, he seeks to destroy us in the progression of our trial…or at least leave lasting scars that limit our effectiveness. Jesus warned Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31) and he would have understood, and feared, the process involved. Sifting wheat involves a crushing event that separates the useful (grain) from the useless (chaff). Rick Lawrence writes an excellent exposition on this process in his book Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand (David C. Cook, 2011). Peter later testifies to Satan’s intent when he warns “Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (! Peter 5:8, ESV)
While it is easy to realize we have an enemy hell-bent on destroying us, we need to remember that God is also at work on our behalf.
When Peter was about to be sifted, Jesus reminded him that prayers were offered on his behalf and that he would strengthen his brothers in the end (Luke 22:32). Peter reminds us of the universal nature of such testing and offers further hope. “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (! Peter 5:8-10, ESV)
Restored. Confirmed. Strengthened. Established.
These “improvements” lead to spiritual maturity…a place where we are safer and stronger when new storms arise. Keeping God’s end result in mind, we are better able to consider it all joy when trials commence.