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Tim Challies

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December 27, 2009

A little while ago I participated in one of those silly memes that made its way around the Net, filling out a list of really boring things about myself. My mom enjoyed it but figured she could do better. Today she and Aileen got a couple of my sisters together (since we’re all together for Christmas) and came up with a list of things they knew would embarrass me. They told me I had to post it on my site. So here goes. Ten things about me (or memories from my family members) you probably didn’t know…

Tim is eight. His brother is twelve. They have been left to co-babysit their three little sisters. When we come home, Tim produces a pan of strawberry tarts he has baked from a recipe taken from his sister’s “Anne of Green Gables” cookbook.

Tim has discovered business principles—specifically profit. He sneaks off school property, buys penny candy, then retails it at school for much more than he paid. We only find out about this many years later.

Tim and his family are in the heart of London, England. His middle sister has gone missing, lost in the crowds. The kids are commanded to “Sit! Stay!” while we split up to go and look for her. And off we go. We come back minutes later without her—but there she is. Tim has disobeyed orders, found her, and brought her safely back.

A stove element has started a grease fire. Mom and sisters run out of the house. Tim, eight, runs in and puts out the fire. Nothing a little soda won’t fix.

Tim is five years old and has just returned from his first day in school. He sees a little neighbour boy, four years old, waiting to greet him. “Hi, kid” he says, and ruffles his hair. He’s a big kid now.

Tim is now a teenager and has a new hobby—breeding and raising love birds. The stench! Threats and revilings from mother! Eventually mom ends up cleaning the cages at five dollars per cage. Tim considers it a good deal. Sigh.

Tim has a temper and once, blam, his fist goes through the basement wall. All his parents know is that he has become a convinced non-smoker. Why else would that non-smoking sign appear, so strategically placed in his room? Dad finds and patches it after Tim gets married and moves out.

Nothing is too good for Tim’s girlfriend, Aileen. As a matter of fact, he wants to marry her. But the expense of Ancaster’s finest restaurant is prohibitive to his twenty year-old budget. Hold on! His sister has won a $100 gift card to that restaurant as a prize for her long-distance running. And somehow that card wends its way into Tim’s wallet.

Tim and his friend Brian are racing on their bikes to Tim’s house, where they will share a bag of chips—Brian’s treat. All of a sudden Tim goes over his handlebars and into the ditch. Brian rides up, looks down at the twisted mess of boy and bike and with anguish on his face cries, “My chips!” And somehow they are still friends.

Tim is a middle-schooler aiming at being the best “mediocre” he can be. “Mrs. Challies,” says his teacher, “Tim is a very average boy.” To which the principal later responds, “Mrs. Challies, Mr. ________ is a very average teacher…”

December 25, 2009

Our Christmas morning began at a reasonable hour here in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past couple of days we’ve been staying with my sister’s family and we enjoyed watching our kids and their kids open their presents. In just a few minutes we’ll be heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee (about two hours away) to meet up with the rest of my family. We’ll all be together for the second time in a calendar year (a record, I think). That means there will be 21 of us, by my count, all celebrating Christmas together (that’s 2 Challies parents, 5 Challies kids, 4 Challies spouses and 10 Challies grandkids).

Before we hit the road, I thought I’d send along this special message from my children…


Have a Merry Christmas!

December 14, 2009

Shortly after Aileen and I were married we moved to the small town of Dundas, Ontario. A historic and picturesque town, Dundas has made its way into a few movies. When we lived there, a movie called Haven (starring Natasha Richardson) was shot in its streets. We lived just half a block from the action so would sometimes wander on over in the evenings to watch what was happening.

One thing that fascinated and impressed me was how the filmmakers transformed the town to fit the setting of the film. The movie was set in the Second World War so for the sake of historical accuracy the town had to look like it had during the 1940’s. All the parking meters had to be pulled up and all the traffic lights had to be pulled down. The streets were suddenly filled with beautiful old antique cars. Many of the storefronts were little changed since the 40’s but of course there were some that had been built since and could not possibly pass the historic test. It was amazing to see what happened to these ones. In a matter of a couple of days the props people constructed false fronts for all of these stores. An ugly stucco building that was clearly a product of the 70’s or 80’s was transformed into a brick-built small-town general store from the 40’s. Nothing had changed inside, but the outside was given a fresh and entirely deceptive new face.

One of the climactic scenes of the movie has the lead character marching a large number of Jewish refugees through the town. They shot this scene and a few others and then, nearly overnight, the town was restored. The parking meters were put back into place, the traffic lights were strung back up, the old cars were hauled away and all those false fronts were torn down. The ugly buildings were exposed again, as ugly as ever. The movie, anti-American propaganda as it turns out, was awful. But that’s beside the point.

I was thinking about Tiger Woods this weekend and thought about the town of Dundas and all of those false fronts. I’ve hesitated to write about Tiger. First of all, his travails are reaching the point of media saturation, I think. His story has been glamorized and made into a sick form of entertainment. Of course it’s exactly the kind of entertainment our culture loves. We love reality shows which, by and large, are only pseudo-reality. We get to watch families fall apart on television and consider it entertaining. But even then the situations are only half real at best. But here we get to see a real family crumble. Their pain is our delight as we watch things turn from bad to worse. Yet here we are all seeing the ugly effects of sin and maybe it is a good opportunity to reflect for just a few moments on the nature of sin and the cost it demands from us. It proved an opportunity for me to think about Tiger’s situation and draw lessons from it.

Here are three lessons I have learned from Tiger Woods.

False Fronts Will Crumble
There is always this temptation to construct false fronts, to add a layer of respectability between yourself and the way you want others to perceive you. Tiger Woods wanted to be known as the all-American family man, a loving husband and doting father. His sponsors, the companies for whom he was a spokesman, needed him to be this kind of figure. And so he said all the right words and put on this veneer of respectability. In front of the cameras he played the role that was demanded and expected of him. And yet behind it all he was the opposite of so much that he claimed to be. Eventually and inevitably the false front collapsed and the truth was laid bare.

Imagine what would have happened in Dundas if the filmmakers had disappeared without tearing down those false fronts. Sure they would have stood for a month or two; maybe even a year or two. But before long they would have crumbled and fallen down. They were not build of sound materials and were not built on a solid foundation. They were made only to look the part, only to disguise the ugly and unfitting reality. All false fronts will eventually crumble and fall.

The lesson is, do not mask your sin behind a false front. Do not construct elaborate falsehoods to mask your sin and your shame. These false fronts cannot stand forever. And the shame and pain of the ruin of a life lived out behind false pretenses will be far worse than the shame and pain of just dealing with sin immediately and properly. The temptation to mask your sin is nearly as strong as the temptation to sin in the first place. But to mask it is just to compound sin upon sin. It is merely to delay the inevitable.

You Cannot Hide Your Sin Indefinitely
Sooner or later your sin will find you out. Just weeks before all of his sins were revealed and his life was laid bear, Tiger conducted an interview in which he insisted that family comes first in his life. “Family first and golf second. Always be like that?” asked the interviewer. “Always,” replied Woods. Yet even then he was in the midst of affairs. Even then he was telling bare-faced lies, thinking that he could get away with them.

The lesson is, you cannot hide your sin forever. Your sin is going to find you out. Your sin wants to find you out. I love how J.R.R. Tolkien displays this in The Lord of the Rings, how the ring puts the ringbearer under its spell but at the same time it wants nothing more than to captivate and expose and destroy him. Its beauty and desire is really a means to enslave and expose. And all sin is like this. It promises what it can never truly deliver. It offers the desires of the heart but delivers the most tragic and unexpected results.

Do not give yourself over to sin. Sin is a cruel, cruel master. Like that ring it will draw you in and like that ring it will chew you up and spit you out. And isn’t this what Satan loves? Wouldn’t he love to draw you into sin and then enjoy watching you suffer the downfall of that sin? Do not give yourself over to sin; inevitably you will find that it is impossible to hide it forever.

The Stage Will Be Bigger
Tiger Woods committed sins against God and sins against his wife and did so in a closed and private setting. Very few people knew about his sin and very few were there to witness it. The actual sins were committed in private on a small, intimate stage. But the stage for his fall is international. Where only the smallest handful of people knew about his sin while it was happening, today countless millions know about it. The other day in the grocery store I spotted his face on eight of the ten magazines by the checkout. People are calling this the sports story of the decade. It will follow him for the rest of his life. His family will never be the same. Surely he did not anticipate all of this when he indulged his sin.

The lesson here is that the stage for the fall is usually infinitely larger than the stage that was used to act out the sin. Private sins are so often publicly exposed. Think of people you know, perhaps in a church context, who have sinned against their families. So often they sinned in private but were exposed in public. So often their disgrace was so much wider than their initial pleasure. And again, this is exactly what we should expect of sin and of Satan. Sin’s pleasure is fleeting, its pain eternal.

Tiger’s sin teaches me that the Bible does not lie when it describes the cause of sin, the effect of sin and the inevitability of its exposure. Had Tiger just read the first nine chapters of Proverbs and applied those ancient but timeless lessons to his life, he would have known all he needed to know to understand where his sin would lead him. How much better would it have been for Tiger to be mastered by God instead of being mastered by sin.

December 09, 2009

Today I want to share the long-awaited news about my next book. I write what I do here because I really want this process to be as transparent as possible. I would not be writing books if it were not for you—the visitor to this web site. I feel that I owe it to you to share with you what I’m up to.

It has been almost two years since the release of my first book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Writing the book was an unforgettable experience and it was very encouraging and gratifying to see that it was generally well-received. I’m often asked how well it has sold. To be honest, I don’t know. Twice a year I receive statements that include sales figures. The trouble is that I’m not so good with numbers and I really don’t know how to read the reports. I do know that the book has gone through several printings. Beyond that, I’m pretty much clueless. But I have received a great deal of encouraging feedback and am pleased with both the book and the way it was received. I am thankful for Crossway’s partnership as its publisher.

Since I wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I’ve often been asked the obvious question: what next? That’s a good question, of course. I have deliberately been biding my time. I’ve been in no real hurry to jump into my next project. A few ideas have come and gone, but none have been intriguing or original enough that I’ve wanted to dedicate a year of my life to them. The commitment to a certain topic is really a commitment to spend at least six months reading and writing about it and then a further six months (at minimum) doing interviews about it, speaking about it, preaching about it, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was find a topic that would bore me and leave me dreading it.

Earlier last year I got myself an agent. I did so primarily because it makes me feel cool (you can command instant respect in any situation by having your phone ring and declaring to the room, “Sorry, I need to take this. It’s my agent.”). But also I knew that a good agent would be invaluable in helping me discover new ideas and in crafting those ideas into worthwhile books. I had several agents who had expressed interest in representing me but eventually settled on Andrew Wolgemuth (who from this point forward will be known as Agent Andrew). Andrew and I first connected during spring training and as long-suffering fans of bad teams (he’s a Royals fan and I’m a Jays fan) we shared an instant bond (which has since been strained by Zach Greinke winning the Cy Young). A few months ago Agent Andrew and I began crafting book proposals and, when we were happy with the results, he sent them off to a list of several publishers.

That led to five publishers sending offers to me. With Agent Andrew I drew up a list of criteria for evaluating them. There were many factors we could have considered: financial (what were they willing to pay and what royalty were they offering?), marketing (how much effort would they put into marketing the book? Did they have a plan for the marketing?), audience (who reads the books from this publisher?) and even physical (hardcover or paperback?). It was remarkably difficult to choose. It was a case of an abundance of riches—each of the proposals had real strengths and very few had glaring weaknesses. But in the end I had to make a decision. And I did. More on that in just one moment.

First, let me tell you about the book. The book’s working title is The Next Story. I’m really pleased with the title, but it does have a downside in that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce (try saying it out loud). It is a book about technology in general and digital technology in particular. Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by technology. Like it or not, we rely upon it in unprecedented ways. Many people feel that they are analog creatures in a digital world. Christians are beginning to awaken to this reality and are trying to think critically and biblically about many new realities brought about by technological developments. Yet, there are few helpful and sympathetic voices for those who wish to do so but have no idea how. I’m hoping to fill this gap, creating a book that will help Christians think well about technology. I do not intend to discuss Facebook and Twitter and whatever will be big and popular next month. I want to discuss technology in the bigger picture so that the book will be applicable today, tomorrow and ten years from now.

If all goes well, the book will be published in hardcover in the spring of 2011. And it will be published by Zondervan. I’m guessing that this will be a surprise to a few people. Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise to me. But in the end it was clear that Zondervan had the best all-around offer, from the financial, to the marketing, to the audience. Zondervan will take the book to a whole new audience, I’m convinced, and will work hard to help me find interesting speaking opportunities. They put together a fantastic proposal and I had no hesitations in signing on with them.

I intend to begin the writing process very early in the new year. While I won’t quite be able to do so on a full-time basis, I do hope that I can spend most of my time on it for at least a couple of months. That should give me a very good start, at the very least. I hope to have the book completed within six months or so. It typically takes 9 months or so from a book to go from manuscript to print and that brings us to early 2011—the earliest date I’m likely to actually have a copy of the book in my hands.

I expect that I will be talking about the book a lot more in the months to come. I will occasionally ask you for help (mostly in your prayer support, I’m sure) and will let you know how things are progressing. I know there is a great deal of collective wisdom represented by the readers of this site and I hope to take full advantage. I also hope to do a few family and technology seminars next year—so let me know if your church or conference would be interested in hosting one. I have found the previous seminars I’ve led amazing opportunities to both teach and learn. Beginning next month I’ll be turning my attention to technology and theology and the convergence of the two. I can’t wait.

November 21, 2009

Having done the legwork and having consulted with the experts, here is Vanderbilt’s conclusion on how to best handle merging. I thought I would post it today just to tie up the loose end of that conversation.

The next time you find yourself on a congested four-land road and you see that a forced merge is coming, don’t panic. Do not stop, do not swerve into the other lane. Simply stay in your lane—if there is a lot of traffic, the distribution between both lanes should be more or less equal—all the way to the merge point. Those in the lane that is remaining open should allow one person from the lane to be closed in ahead of them, and then proceed (those doing the merging must take a similar turn). By working together, by abandoning our individual preferences and our distrust of others’ preferences, in favor of a simple set of objective rules, we can make things better for everyone.

So there you have it. Traffic will flow best if there is an even distribution of late mergers to early mergers and if everyone does their best to alternate. Just stay in the lane you are in until it makes most sense to come together. You need the late mergers and the early mergers to work together if you want traffic to flow with the fewest interruptions.

November 18, 2009

Though I don’t feel quite right about it, I just had to give it a try. It is an experiment of sorts, I guess. I just had to know what it was like to be one of the few, one of the proud, one of the obnoxious—one of the late mergers. You know these people. Most of you, when you are crawling along the highway in heavy traffic and see a sign telling you that the lane will end in one mile (or one kilometer if you’re up here in Canada), quickly bump over into the lane that will not end, glad that you’ve immediately sorted out that problem. Now you can be assured that you won’t find yourself squeezed onto the shoulder or parked endlessly with your light blinking, trying to squeeze your way out of that dying lane while everyone else tries to block your progress. Yet, as you sit there, content that you’ve done the right thing, you can’t help but notice all those people speeding by to your right, driving their cars to the edge, to the brink, to the very last car-length of the lane that is about to end. You grouch, your grumble, you remark on their complete lack of care for the other people on the road. And yet you have to admit that they will get where they are going before you will. They seem unaffected by your plight, content to further their own goals even at your expense.

I’ve been there. And I just had to try life as a late merger. I now zip down that ending lane and merge at the very last second, finding a gap in traffic and squeezing my van into it. I get the dirty looks and angry stares. But I get where I’m going sooner than they do.

In his book Traffic Tom Vanderbilt discusses this same phenomenon. He, too, became a late merger, much to his wife’s chagrin, and he found that life is better this way. “It is a question you have no doubt asked yourself while crawling down some choked highway, watching with mounting frustration as the adjacent cars glide ahead. You drum the wheel with your fingers. You change the radio station. You fixate on one car as a benchmark of your own lack of progress. You try to figure out what that weird button next to the rear-window defroster actually does. I used to think this was just part of the natural randomness of the highway. Sometimes fate would steer me into the faster lane, sometimes it would relinquish me to the slow lane.” But he made a major lifestyle change when he became a late merger.

But the days after he first experimented with late merging were not easy. “In the days after, a creeping guilt and confusion took hold. Was I wrong to have done this? Or had I been doing it wrong all my life.” Seeking answers, he headed to an online community and posed the question to the waiting masses. He was rather surprised at the response, not just in the volume of responses but also in the passion and conviction with which people spoke. Some argued that he was a goon, refusing to do the sort of random acts of kindness that benefit all of society. By refusing to merge early, he was contributing to the overall slowness of the highway and making accidents more likely. Others argued that he was simply a good steward, using the highway to its maximum capacity. After all, what is the purpose of all that asphalt if we are not really allowed to drive on it? By maximizing the use of the highway surface he was actually making life better for everyone. Politeness or fairness (real or perceived) were actually detrimental to everyone.

Later in the book Vanderbilt gives empirical evidence as to what works best—whether early merging or late merging is better in the end. And he offers up his take on how we can best keep traffic flowing.

But for now, by way of light-hearted fare, do tell me, are you a late merger or an early merger? And how do you feel about the people who do the opposite of what you do?

November 01, 2009

It was November 1, 2003 when I decided I’d commit to blogging every day for a full year. I was getting lazy with blogging and had given it little effort in the weeks leading up to that day. I figured I should either commit to doing it on a very regular basis or give it up altogether. A year later I had managed to blog every day and thought it would be good to renew the commitment. I’ve done that every year and here we are, six years later. I suppose the 2193 days in the counter down at the bottom of the site must reflect those six years plus the couple of leap years that have gone by in the meantime.

Though this site dates back to September of 2002, I pretty much think of November 1, 2003 as the day it really began. It was the day that I really fell in love with writing and the day I realized that blogging would be the primary way I’d express myself in writing. I continue to blog daily simply because it is my way of carrying on the commitment. I have always thought that if I start taking the occasional day off, I’ll soon taking off far more than the occasional day. On those days when I’m feeling dry and tired and beat up, it is only my commitment to blog on a daily basis that motivates me to sit down and write. It has been an amazing discipline in this way. I’ve stuck with blogging much longer and with much greater commitment than any previous hobby. And I don’t intend to give it up anytime soon.

It seems appropriate today to thank you, the readers, who continue to visit the site. I am exceedingly grateful, humbled and surprised that you continue to do so. Some of you have been dropping by since before November 1, 2003 and I’m glad to count many of you as friends. I’ve been honored to meet so many of you at churches and conferences and all sorts of other places.

Today seemed like a good time to mention that, as of tomorrow, I will be launching a second blog. I expect that things here at Challies.com will remain pretty much the same. But as of tomorrow I will launch a new site in a new location based around a whole new idea. It will not be a daily site, like this one, but may turn out to be near-daily. Check in tomorrow and I’ll give you about 10 million reasons that you might want to check out that site as well.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your Lord’s Day!

October 21, 2009

Last night was one of those nights where the kids kept me up for pretty much the whole thing. This morning I tried to do some writing but my brain was still clearly lying in bed. Therefore I am going to post something I wrote a couple of years ago; it is a topic that has been in my mind a good bit lately and I hope you can benefit from it.

It’s no secret around here that I love the book of Proverbs and consider it my “home page” in the Bible. I read through Proverbs at least once a year and, whenever I’m not sure what else to read, I turn to it. And while I love Proverbs and envy the wisdom of Solomon I find something really sobering about his life. Whenever I consider Solomon, I am faced with the question of how a man of such great wisdom and discernment could end his life so far from the Lord. How did such a wise man become so foolish? How did such a discerning man stray so far? If Solomon was the most discerning man who ever lived (besides Jesus, of course), and discernment is the application of wisdom, then how do we account for his spiritual digression? How can a truly discerning man be disobedient? How did Solomon, who was so wise and so discerning, end up so far from the Lord?

Solomon’s wisdom is unparalleled by any other human. The Bible tells us that the Queen of Sheba once came to Solomon, having heard of his great wisdom, and “told him all that was on her mind.” There was nothing she asked that he could not answer, for “Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.” We know that “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men…” In the history of mankind, there was no one like Solomon. He was extraordinarily gifted by God.

“Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” He was richly blessed, with wealth and power beyond measure. “He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver and a horse for 150, and so through the king’s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.”

When the Queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s wisdom and gazed at all his wealth, the Bible tells us that there was no more breath in her. She was completely overwhelmed. I have felt the same as I’ve read about his life and have read his proverbs. The man’s wisdom and discernment is clearly unsurpassed among men. And yet there is more to the story.

It is always a shock to turn to the tenth chapter of 1 Kings and to read about Solomon’s downfall. It is awful to hear how a man with such wisdom strayed so far from God. “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” I find the next verse instructive. “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” His wives turned away his heart so that it was not wholly true to the Lord his God. Solomon’s heart was at first divided between women and God, but it soon turned away altogether. He allowed the lust of his heart to overcome and overwhelm his love for God.

This is sobering, is it not? A man with the wisdom of Solomon, a man who had had the Lord appear to him twice and who had heard the Lord directly command him not to turn after other gods, turned away nonetheless. Though he was a wise man, the Lord told him “you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you.” How could this happen?

Ironically, I believe that we can find the key to Solomon’s downfall in one of his own proverbs. In Proverbs 19:27 we read “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” There are some proverbs that are multi-layered and which require great thought. This is not that kind. That meaning of this one is plain. Those who cease to listen to wise instruction, instruction based on the fear of the Lord, will quickly stray. While we cannot know for certain, I am increasingly convinced that this is what happened to Solomon. While he was young, he was visited by God and was endowed with great wisdom and discernment. When he was only a young man, but still a king, he called out to God in what seems to be a healthy apprehension of the difficulties he would face as king:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

God was pleased with Solomon’s request, replying “I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” Solomon knew his weakness and, in humility, cried out to God and asked for His strength. As a little child cries to his father for help Solomon cried out in dependence on God. God was pleased to hear, pleased to answer, and pleased to give to Solomon far more than he asked. Solomon asked for discernment, but was also given great wisdom, great wealth, and great power. God lavished gifts upon him.

But as Solomon grew older, he began to depend less on God. I believe he began to depend on his own wisdom and to stray ever-further from God’s instruction. Where there was once humble dependence on God, there was now dependence on himself. In so doing, he strayed from words of knowledge, and strayed from God Himself. John Anderson once preached a sermon in which he said, “Erring from the words of knowledge is direct rebellion against the authority of God, whose law binds us to believe whatever he reveals. The language of obstinate error is, I prefer my own wisdom and my own will in such a particular to the wisdom and will of God himself.” Solomon preferred his wisdom to God’s wisdom, his ways to God’s ways. The whole earth once “sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” But I believe Solomon soon allowed his own earthly wisdom to overtake his mind. He ceased hearing instruction and strayed from words of knowledge. He strayed from wisdom. He strayed from God.

Wisdom and discernment, then, are character traits that, like the moon, can wax and wane. They are gifts of God, but gifts that we can throw away. They are gifts that need to be nurtured and maintained. We cannot take them for granted, taking refuge in the fact that we may be wise and discerning right now. We need to continue to strive after them and to seek them. We need to learn from Solomon that even the wisest man today may be the greatest fool tomorrow. We depend on grace, even to sustain our wisdom and discernment.

If Solomon could stray so far from the Lord, I know that I can too. This is a sobering thought. This is a terrifying thought, even. But the solution to avoiding the folly of Solomon is clear. I need to take care that I never cease to hear instruction. I must live with an intense focus on God’s Word, never believing that I have learned enough, never believing that I’ve arrived. I must know that from this day to the day I die, I need to maintain a humble dependence on God. I must trust that His words of instruction will continue to edify and strengthen me, protecting me from straying from the words of knowledge. I will never outgrow my need for His sustaining grace.