The Smoke Test
Dad made a living selling and repairing typewriters and adding machines. Some may need a minute to google “typewriters” and “adding machines,” but trust me, such beasts did exist. At first, these were all manual machines, operated by only gears, levers and springs. But it wasn’t long until someone got the bright idea to add electricity, which I personally never liked. My job was delivering them; an electric typewriter was heavy! But then, it was a lot of fun watching an electric mechanical calculator with its cover off grinding away for a couple of minutes on a division problem! When dad would repair one of these old machines, it required hooking up dozens of tiny springs, replacing little gears, and adjusting tiny cams. When he had everything just right, he would say, “OK, we’re ready for the smoke test.” That meant that he would plug it in, turn it on… and if it didn’t smoke— then it was fixed. You never knew whether you had it right until you turned it on and it passed the smoke test.
We sometimes wonder why it is that we as Christians suffer through hardships and difficulties in life? After all, aren’t we the King’s kids? Shouldn’t we get a break? Doesn’t God want what is best for his children? So how can a loving God let his children suffer things like financial setbacks, health struggles, the break-up of relationships and the death of people that we love?
We must remember that God is preparing us—not for an easy, prosperous life here and now, but for eternity. So sometimes there are times of trial and hardship we must go through that get us ready . The Hebrew writer talks about that in terms of the discipline of a loving father, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children” (Heb 12:7). James talks about it as the smoke test.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jam 1:2-4)
God doesn’t keep us from trials and difficulties; He helps us through them. James will say later, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”