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Tim Challies

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February 06, 2015

My time of prayer began today with a verse from Isaiah. Right there, on the very first card I saw, was one of my favorite texts. The Lord speaks to his people and assures them, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). God looks at his sinning, sinful people, reminds them that they are his, and assures them that he loves and longs to extend his mercy to them.

This is the best kind of God—the best kind of Savior. He is a God who acknowledges all that is wrong about us, and is both willing and able to do something about it.

Imagine the God who is able to do something about our sin, but unwilling. He could blot out our transgressions—he knows how it can be possible and he has the ability to make it happen. But he has chosen not to, and all of humanity will be lost. That is a God of pure and utter justice, perhaps. That is a God who treats us exactly as our sins deserve and who gives no less and no more. But that is a God who proves he has no capacity to display love and mercy, or perhaps just has no desire to display love and mercy. That is not our God. “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” (43:2).

Imagine the God who is willing to do something about our sin but unable. He loves his people and longs to blot out their sin and remember those sins no more. But he can’t. He doesn’t know how or he doesn’t have the ability. His justice far exceeds his mercy or his desires far exceed his abilities. His longings go unfulfilled because there is no possible way for him to reconcile himself to sinful humanity. That, too, is a God of justice, but a God of hopeless and helpless justice, whose love goes unrequited and,  who for all of eternity, will be unable to love and be loved. That is not our God. “I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. …
I declared and saved and proclaimed…” (43:11-12).

But our God is able to save. Our God is willing to save. And so he assures his people, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (43:1-3). That is our God.

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February 04, 2015

I have friends who like to ensure that they are constantly reminding themselves and others about the grace of God. The way they do this is to append a simple phrase to many of their sentences. What was at one time a deliberate decision has, over time, become a habit. A good habit, I think.

“How have you been lately?” “I’ve been doing well, by God’s grace.”

“How did you do with your personal devotions this week?” “By God’s grace, I read and prayed every day.”

“You asked me to pray about your battle against sin in this area. How did it go last week?” “It went really well, by God’s grace.”

It’s easy to overlook a little phrase like that. It’s easy to let it be little more than background noise, quickly filtered out. But a couple of weeks ago it was like I heard it again for the first time: “By God’s grace.” It’s a beautiful thing! It is an acknowledgement that without the sweet grace of God, the very opposite would be true. It is an acknowledgement of utter dependency upon God.

I am healthy today, instead of deathly ill today, only because God has extended grace to me.

I was able to spend time in the Bible this week, and I was able to be committed to prayer this week, only because God reached out to me in his grace. Without that grace I would have run far and fast.

I did not succumb to that ongoing temptation this week, and instead was able to do those things that honor God, and only because God gave me the grace to put off sin and put on righteousness.

Without God’s moment-by-moment grace I would be this way, but with the existence of God’s constant, powerful grace, I am this way instead.

By God’s grace.

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February 03, 2015

We like to believe what we believe, and to believe it all the way. We like to prefer what we prefer and to hold our preferences high above the alternatives. We sometimes find ourselves expressing our beliefs and preferences in off-handed little comments that seem so insignificant to us, but can hit another person with unexpected force.

Reading the Bible is something we all believe in. We know it is good and necessary to remain in God’s Word day-by-day. If we are to obey God, we must know who he is and what he commands, and if we are to know who he is and what he commands, we must hear him speak, and if we are to hear him speak, we must go to the one source where he has promised we can always hear from him. And so we develop that discipline of daily Bible reading.

When we search the Bible we find that we must read, but we do not learn nearly as much about how to read. This is yet another area in which we have freedom, and in which one person’s practice may look very different from another person’s. And this is good. Vive la difference!

When I consider Bible reading, I see two broad approaches: one that aims for familiarity and one that aims for intimacy. Both are good, both are beautiful, and both have their place.

A few months ago I was at an event where I heard a leader condemn Bible reading plans like the McCheyne plan that requires reading 4 or 5 chapters per day. His critique was that these plans do not allow for deep consideration or meditation. He did not frame this as a matter of preference, but as a matter of right and wrong. But then I don’t have to go far to find people advocating and celebrating the many-chapter-per-day kind of plan and speaking ill of Bible reading that moves too slowly, so the reader bogs down in a text and never looks up to see the wider landscape. Again, we prefer what we prefer, and often bring far too much force to our preferences.

I love to grow in Bible familiarity. I appreciate the McCheyne approach of reading the Old Testament once per year and the New Testament and Psalms twice (Or even the Dr. Horner plan of ten chapters per day). This is drinking from the firehose of Scripture, and it is a beautiful thing. There are few better ways to understand the overarching story of the Bible and to see all those connections between Old and New, between shadow and reality, than to read it in this manner.

I love to grow in Bible intimacy. I appreciate the two-verse per day approach to reading the Bible—just a verse or two slowly observed and applied. This treats the Bible like a lozenge soothing a sore throat—something to be slowly savored and not quickly crunched up. There are few better ways to fully understand and precisely apply the Bible than to look deep into its words, to ponder them, and to work them deep into our hearts and lives.

I happen to believe we do best when we have a mix of both. So I generally stick to the McCheyne plan for my personal devotions. Then in our family devotions we read a short passage—often just a few verses—and push toward understanding and application. In church I hear the Word preached expositorily book-by-book and verse-by-verse, with focus on both interpretation and application. I read Christian books that often single out a verse or passage and provide a bit of explanation and application. In so many ways I surround myself with the Bible, sometimes pursuing familiarity and sometimes pursuing intimacy.

This is why I find it helpful to speak of “Bible intake,” a term I first encountered through Donald Whitney. It allows us to focus less on the particulars, and more on the simple joy and value of getting the Bible into our lives in as many ways as possible. Intimacy or familiarity—we simply can’t go wrong.

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January 29, 2015

There are few things I pray for with greater frequency or intensity than the salvation of my children. I long for them to be saved, and long to be able to be able to call them not only my son and daughters, but my brother and sisters. I long for them to profess faith, and for those professions to be proven true.

I don’t only pray it and long for it. I believe it. I believe God will save them. I believe he will save them because that is what he does—he saves. I believe he will save them because that is who he is—he loves to save. I believe he will save them because from their infancy they have been exposed again and again to the powerful gospel of grace, and that gospel is too good and too powerful to do nothing.

I believe it, but sometimes find myself trying to hedge my bets just a little bit. Sometimes I edge away from the gospel of God’s free grace and begin to trust in works—not their works, but mine. Sometimes I try to bring my works before the Lord, adding a little of my merit to their account.

I can find myself putting my trust in worldview training, believing that if I can only get them to think right, they will turn to Christ. Or I can find myself putting my trust in Bible training, convinced that if I can only get them to know enough facts about the Bible, they will believe in the God of the Bible. And for a time I can feel confident, at least until I remember all the kids I grew up with who knew their Bible and their worldview and their catechism, and who jettisoned it all the moment they got out from under their parent’s authority. Or until I meet other kids who appear so much more advanced than my own. And then, in despair, I have to admit what a shaky edifice I’ve constructed.

In those moments I have to remind myself to be careful what I wish for. I need to be careful what I hope for, or what I hope in. I can go before the Lord and plead all the things I’ve done right for my kids, but if I do that, I also need to go before him to admit all the things I’ve done wrong. And he, better than anyone, knows how much I’ve done wrong. Do I really want to take this accounting before him? The math is simple: If all the good things I do count toward their salvation, then all the bad things must count toward their perdition. And if that is the case, I, of all fathers, am most to be pitied.

So instead I entrust their souls to him. I put my confidence in him, and in his character, and in his Word. This is an act of the will—I have to push myself to believe it, and stretch my faith to hold firm to it. And then, in confidence, I do what is right before my children as God opens my eyes to see the right: I teach them the Bible, I help them construct a Christian worldview, I tell them all about Jesus, and I involve them in a Christian community. Mostly I just plain love them in a way that reflects God’s love for me. I don’t do all this in order to accrue favor, but because these are the means God uses to save his people, to expose them as sinners and to reveal the Savior.

I do what is right and trust his grace, pleading not my own merit, but the merit of Christ, trusting not in my own works, but in the work of Christ. And I pray—I pray that the God who graciously extended favor to undeserving me, would extend it to my undeserving children as well.

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January 28, 2015

Do you want to know how to make a Calvinist angry? Do you want to know how to offend a whole room full of them? Just bring up the old line about Reformed theology being incompatible with evangelism. We have all heard it, we have all read it, we have all rejected it.

It’s the word on the street, though, that Calvinists make poor evangelists. Many people are firmly convinced that there is a deep-rooted flaw embedded within Reformed theology that undermines evangelistic fervor. Most blame it on predestination. After all, if God has already chosen who will be saved, it negates at least some of our personal responsibility in calling people to respond to the gospel. Or perhaps it’s just the theological-mindedness that ties us down in petty disputes and nuanced distinctions instead of freeing us to get up, get out, and get on mission.

We like to answer this charge with facts. We go to the Bible to show that the sovereignty of God is not the snuff that extinguishes the ember of evangelistic fervor, but the spark that causes it to burst into flame. We go to the pages of Scripture to show that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible, but that people truly are both free and bound, that God both chooses some while extending the free offer of the gospel to all. We go to history to show that the great missionaries, great preachers, and great revivalists of days past were Calvinists, and that Reformed theology was what fueled their mission.

Those are good and valid responses. But, to quote the Bard, perhaps the lady doth protest too much. The Bible and history answer the charge. But do our lives? Do our churches?

When I look at myself, I have trouble finding a clear line extending from my Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal. I can easily draw a line from my Reformed theology to my beliefs about evangelistic zeal, and I can go to history and look to other men and women to draw a line from their beliefs about Reformed theology to evangelistic zeal.

But in moments of honesty, I have to own it: My life does not consistently display it. Too often I am the cliché. I have got the theory. I have got the facts. I have got the history. But I don’t have the zeal. Not often, anyway. Not often enough.

There are only so many times I can point to Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Great Awakening, or William Carey and the great missionary movement of the nineteenth century, or Charles Spurgeon and the countless thousands saved under his ministry. Sooner or later I have to stop looking at my heroes and look to myself. I can’t claim their zeal as my own. I can’t claim their obedience as my own.

It is my conviction—conviction rooted in close study of God’s Word—that Calvinism provides a soul-stirring motivation for evangelism, and that sharing the gospel freely and with great zeal is the most natural application of biblical truth. But it is my confession—confession rooted in the evidence of my own life—that my Calvinism too rarely stirs my soul to mission. The truths that have roared in the hearts and lives of so many others, somehow just whisper in me. The fault, I’m convinced, is not with God’s Word, or even with my understanding of God’s Word; the fault is with me.

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January 27, 2015

About once a year I go through a phase—a deliberate phase—in which I evaluate our family finances to see where we’re doing well and where we aren’t doing so well. I especially look for places we are spending money we don’t need to spend—bills that are too high, subscriptions we no longer need, and all of those little money-wasters that eventually add up. And over the years, I’ve collected quite a list of ways that we, and perhaps you, waste money. Here are some of them:

The Daily Latte

I read quite a few books on personal finance and there is a trend I have noticed in recent years: Every book now uses Starbucks as the negative example of financial management. The math really is that simple: $5 per day for that latte, multiplied by 365 days in the year, adds up to an extra mortgage payment or two. And if both of you go every day, the damage is doubled. Consider brewing at home, or at least sticking with the brewed instead of specialty coffees.

Keeping Up

There is something in all of us that longs to keep up with the neighbors—to have the things they have and to do the things they do. But it’s a fool’s game, of course. Envy and jealousy are never satisfied, and the more you have, the more you’ll need. It is far better to learn contentment and to stop fooling yourself into believing that more stuff will bring more happiness. A quick audit of your finances may show all the different ways you are trying to keep up and get ahead of your neighbors. It’s wasted money.

Club Packs and Jumbo Sizes

Club packs and jumbo sizes offer great value, but only if you can consume it all before it expires or is otherwise ruined. The stores have a knack for knowing exactly what products you are likely to buy in such quantities that you cannot possibly get through them before they go stale (or melt or wilt or grow mold or…). Buy the toilet paper, but be careful of the crackers, flour, or vegetables.


Just like jumbo sizes, coupons can offer great value. Who doesn’t want to save a few dollars or even a few cents, just for waving that little piece of paper? But coupons fail you when they are for something you are buying only because it seems like a shame to miss out on such a good deal. If you wouldn’t buy it anyway, your savings come to exactly nothing. If it’s brand name but still more expensive than the generic, the same is true. It’s important to be honest with yourself: Sometimes you just can’t afford to save any more money. And while I’m on the subject of shopping, don’t buy the licensed shampoo or toothbrush or band-aids—you are paying extra for the picture of the princess or superhero.

Kindle Books You Won’t Read

I’m all for buying Kindle books at a discount, and there are plenty of phenomenal deals on phenomenal books. But if you buy those books and then never read them (or never even open them up to refer to them), you are getting precisely nothing for your money. Collect them if you know you’ll read them or are certain you’ll want to use them in the future. Otherwise, take a pass on them. It’s only $1.99 each, but that still adds up to a lot over a year.

Buying Junk

Sometimes you can save money by investing a little more up-front. Those dollar store toys may mimic the brand name, but if they cost half as much but break on the way home (which they always did for my kids) you aren’t any further ahead. Electronics, pots and pans, and even contractors—through hard experience we have learned it is better to spend a little more at the beginning to get a lot more in the end. Financial stewardship doesn’t always mean spending less.

Paying Cash

We need to be careful with this one, as some people, by wisdom or necessity, force themselves to hold to a cash budget. However, for those people with good habits and financial self-control, credit cards offer points or cash-back—a sweet little bonus for those things you would buy anyway, or those things you can use to treat yourself. Play your cards right, and you may be able to begin saving for that vacation, or enjoy a bit of free cash, just for using your credit cards wisely. I’m bringing my family to the Ligonier conference this year, and I owe it all to points.

Paying Interest

It seems appropriate, after pointing out the potential value of credit card points and perks, to speak to another massive money-waster: Credit card interest. Credit card companies are betting that they can get you to over-spend so they can charge you their exorbitant interest rates. Don’t ever carry a balance! Play the game right and you can have all the benefits without any of the drawbacks.

Failing to Meal Plan

Meal planning is a practical way of stewarding the responsibility of caring for a home and family, but there is financial value to the practice as well: Meal planning allows you to know what you should (and should not buy) and pushes you to ensure that you use every bit of food in the fridge and pantry before it goes bad. We have wasted far too much money by throwing out food that we should have eaten while it was still edible. The better our meal plan, the less we waste.

Eating Out

Eating out is just so easy, and sometimes so pleasurable. But it also tends to cost an awful lot more than eating at home. Not only that, but the nutritional value is usually much lower. Save eating out for the special occasions, and day-to-day, learn to pack a lunch and prepare dinner at home. If you do eat out, eat out wisely. Here’s an example: If we order two medium pizzas and have it delivered, it costs us $24 dollars, but if we walk-in and pick-up, the exact same pizzas cost us $10—a cost-effective, quick and easy dinner on a frantic night.

Extended Warranties

The guy at Best Buy has to offer you the extended warranty, and will give you a long list of reasons why you are utterly foolish to resist. But don’t fall for it. In almost every case, the extended warranty is a waste of your money, and especially so when you are buying quality products. And remember: That 3-year warranty overlaps with the manufacturer’s warranty, so it is actually only a 2-year warranty.

In-Game Purchases

The freemium model is the new trend in gaming—to charge nothing (or almost nothing) for a game, to allow you to advance to the point where you are committed to it, and then to make the game agonizingly slow or agonizingly difficult unless you spend a bit of money on upgrades. Don’t do it! There are plenty of games out there that will treat you better, and you will almost always regret those charges when you see them on your credit card statement.

Not Asking

It always surprises me what I can get by asking. Cell phone bills, bandwidth overage charges, gym fees—many of these things are negotiable. We even asked our dentist if we could get the up-front cash rate for my daughter’s braces and he gave it to us just for asking, even though we will be paying in installments. Tell your doctor or dentist when you don’t have insurance and see what they’ll do for you. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to look for alternatives—it’s amazing what a customer-retention department will do for you to keep you as their customer.

And that’s our list. Where do you find that you are tempted to waste money?

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January 26, 2015

The Bible is not a book. I know we talk about the Bible as if it is a book. I know we praise God for giving us his book. I know we tend to buy our Bibles from book stores. But it’s not a book. Not really. We’ve confused the nature of the thing with its form.

The Bible is a collection. It is a collection of all that God meant to communicate to us through inerrant and infallible words. The apostle Peter describes it well: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). God spoke, men wrote. Men wrote the exact words of God exactly as he breathed them out. Over 1,600 years they wrote them as histories, as letters, as prophecies, and as poetry. They wrote whatever he spoke until he stopped speaking.

What should be done with all of these writings? The answer was obvious: They needed to be collected and combined to form a canon, the complete works of a single author. In Moses’ day the Bible was words spoken and memorized and passed along through oral tradition. In Jesus’ day the Bible was a collection of scrolls. In Paul’s day the Bible was that same collection of scrolls with handwritten letters added to it. But in every form it has always been the Bible.

Today we know the Bible as The Good Book only because for the past few centuries the book has been the dominant medium through which we encounter it. But it has not always been that way, and will not always be that way. As the dominant medium has changed, so too has its form. Today it is The Good Book, but before that it was The Good Codex and before that The Good Scroll.

Now here is why I tell you all of this: The Bible transcends form. It transcends media. Not only that, but whatever the form, whatever the media, it has proven dominant. The reason we have such confidence that it has been faithfully transmitted through history is that it has been so widely copied and disseminated in every form. 

Not too long from now the Bible will transition from being The Good Book to being The Good App. As information migrates to digital media, the Bible will make the shift, just as it as has through every other literary media. But through our little glimpse at history we know that we have nothing to fear from the appification of information. Since the dawn of the printing press, the Bible has been the most dominant book. We have no reason to doubt that in time it will prove the dominant app. And when apps have had their day and we move to whatever is next, the Bible will remain and will dominate.

As one medium gives way to another, we do well to remind ourselves of what the Bible really is. Not a book, but something far better, and far more transcendent. It is the enduring words of God himself.

January 22, 2015

I knew next to nothing about my wife on the day I married her. We had dated for a few years, we had spent countless evenings talking on the phone, we had attended church, we had organized events, and even run a business together. But despite all that, we still barely knew one another. The knowledge we had was genuine, but it was shallow. Still, that small amount of knowledge was enough to compel us to invite our friends and family to a little church in Ancaster so we could pledge our lives to one another.

I have never had a moment’s regret for marrying Aileen (which is not the same as saying we have never had disagreements or difficult times). This is remarkable when I consider how little I knew of her on the day of our wedding. I loved and appreciated her as far as I knew her, but in retrospect can see how little knowledge I really had.

Fast forward through sixteen years of marriage, and our knowledge has increased dramatically. It has increased to a level that all those years ago would have seemed downright creepy. Through the pleasure of living together, the toil of working together, the intimacy of sleeping together, the delight of having children together, and all the normal joys and trials of life, we have come to know one another in a much deeper way. I love her much more now than I did at the time, because today’s love is based on much more substantial knowledge.

Don’t hear me saying that I have now learned everything about her, as if sixteen years has been sufficient for that. I am fully aware that, should the Lord grant us thirty-two or sixty-four years together, I’ll look back and marvel at how little I knew of her in 2015. This is part of the joy of marriage—spending a lifetime growing in my knowledge of, and therefore love for, another person. This is part of the honor of marriage, that another person would allow me to know her to this degree, to allow me to know her mind, body, and soul.

When I first began writing these words, I intended to make a comparison to the Christian’s relationship with God. And there is a sense in which the comparison works. But there is another sense in which it fails.

When you became a Christian, you did so on the basis of partial knowledge. You had genuine knowledge of genuine truth, but it was very limited knowledge. Still, it was enough—it was enough to see yourself as a sinner and Christ as a glorious Savior, and so you put your faith in him. But to some degree it was still a leap in the dark. Then, as you have grown as a Christian, you have inevitably come to a better and deeper understanding of God, and his glory and grace; that small faith has been rewarded as it has grown into a fuller and more robust faith. You love for God has grown as your knowledge of God has increased.

But God’s love for you has remained unchanged. It has not grown a bit, and that’s because God’s knowledge of you has not advanced one bit. Before you were born he knew everything you would be. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). Before he saved you, he knew everything you would do: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). He knew it all. His knowledge of you was complete and is complete. His love for you was complete and is complete. It will never change. It can never change.

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January 21, 2015

I receive the emails often, the emails from the man who wonders how he, he of all people, could possibly lead his family. He has blown it. He has sinned too often, too flagrantly, too publicly. Usually it is the porn: She found the stash on his hard drive or the links in his browser. Hard-earned respect was demolished in a moment.

Aside: Men, don’t you know what it does to your wife’s heart when she learns this about you? Don’t you care how it destroys your reputation in her eyes? Don’t you fear how it shatters her confidence in the man she married? 

Or maybe it wasn’t porn, but years of apathy, of neglect. How could he lead after so many years of being so passive? Or maybe it is neither porn nor apathy, but fear, fear of a woman who is so much wiser and so much more knowledgeable, who knows so much more about the Bible and so much more about the God of the Bible. How is he supposed to lead his wife and family when she is the one who knows so much more?

Whatever the reason, he hasn’t led. He hasn’t given direction to the family, he hasn’t called the family together for devotions, he hasn’t prayed with the kids, he hasn’t stepped up and been a leader. And the longer he goes, the harder it gets.

This is the most difficult time to lead. The most difficult time to lead is when you have forfeited the respect of those who are meant to follow you, when your confidence, and theirs, is shattered. But this is also the most important time to lead. This is where a real man will, and must, lead.

No one leads because he is worthy of the honor. In all of human history there has only been one person who was a worthy leader, and only one person who perfectly succeeded in his leadership. The rest of us, the best of us, are unworthy. We fumble along. We lead and stumble. We lead and fail. We lead and lose our way. We lead and hope desperately to learn something from it all. In all of human history there has been only one person who was a worthy leader, but the call to lead goes to the unworthy as well. And so we lead. Like it or not, confident or not, skillful or not, we lead.

We don’t lead because we are worthy, but because we are called. You don’t lead because you are worthy, but because you are called. And, my friend, you have been called— commanded and called by God himself. If you are a husband, you have been called. If you are a father, you have been called. You have been called to lead—you and no one else. You have been called to lead despite your sin and your failure, despite your fear and apathy. There is no backup plan, there is no one to lead in your absence, no one better suited, no one better qualified.

It won’t be easy, but it will be right, and God always blesses when you do what is right. So ask forgiveness for your sin. Turn away from those failures. Put to death the doubt and pride that traps you in inactivity. And lead. Lead gently, lead humbly, lead prayerfully. But lead.

If you won’t lead, who will? If not today, then when? You know what to do. So do it.

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January 19, 2015

Have you ever compared the front and back of a tapestry? The front of a tapestry is art. In the hands of a skilled weaver it displays incredible artistry and fine detail. The world’s best art museums collect the world’s best tapestries and display them there as examples of a rare but beautiful form of art.

The back of a tapestry is a mess. A tapestry is made by weaving together different-colored threads, and the images and designs are created by the interplay between the different colors and textures. What is clear on the front is opaque on the back. The back shows something of the image, but it looks more like a child’s attempt than a master’s: it lacks nuance and clarity and detail. Where the front is smooth, the back is covered in knots and loose ends.

We are meant to see and admire the front of the tapestry, not the back, and this has often served as an illustration of the truths of Romans 8:28: That God promises to use every single event in our lives to bring about good. Though I have often heard Joni Eareckson Tada use the illustration, I believe it originated with Corrie Ten Boom and her poem “The Master Weaver’s Plan.” “Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow; / And I in foolish pride / Forget He sees the upper / And I the underside.” It serves as an effective illustration for the truth that for now we get to see only the underside of all God is weaving together in this world, while clinging to the promise that someday we will see the upper side and marvel at what he has been doing.

But it illustrates something else equally well. I have been thinking a lot lately about good deeds—not the good deeds people do to try to earn the favor of God, but the good deeds people do when they already know that Christ has earned them the favor of God. Titus 2 calls us to be people that are zealous for good works; in Matthew 5 Jesus tells us to let our light shine before others by doing good works; Ephesians 2 tells us that God’s very purpose in saving us was enabling us to glorify him by the good works we do for others. As Christians we are to be known for our good works—those things done for the glory of God and the good of other people.

And so we go through life doing these good works, and far more often than not, these are small and seemingly inconsequential deeds. We rarely talk a person out of recklessly taking his own life; we rarely write a check that utterly transforms a life or ministry; we rarely save a drowning child or defuse a ticking time bomb. Instead we interact with people for moments at a time and attempt to say something—anything—that may be encouraging; we write small checks and place them in the offering basket; we have brief conversations with children, and we share just a shred of the Good News with that taxi driver.

Most of our good deeds go unnoticed and unmarked by others. I suspect that even we ourselves fail to notice or remember the majority of the good deeds we do. But not God. God sees them all, knows them all, remembers them all, and uses them all.

Just as some day we will see the beautiful tapestry God has been weaving through our suffering, through the events we never would have chosen, in the same way we will see the tapestry this Master Weaver has been creating through those good deeds. We will see how a kind word resonated in a person’s heart even days and weeks later; we will see how that small amount of money was used to accomplish something amazing; we will see how that little shred of the gospel was the pebble in the shoe of the person who had hardened himself against God.

Some day God will show us his tapestry, we will see how God has woven each of these little deeds together to his own glory, and we will rejoice.

Here is Corrie Ten Boom’s poem:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.