Each of us is given a race to run. Some are called to run a long race. Some are called to run a short race. What matters is not how long our race is, but how well we run it. It’s God’s business to determine how long we run; it’s our business to determine how well we run. It is so much better to run a short race well than a long race poorly.
God called my son Nick to run only a short race. Some get 80 years. Some get 90. Nick got only 20. But he ran his short race well. J.I. Packer, a man whose race was very long, once said this: “My contention is that we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.” That was my boy. He sprinted strong to the finish line.
There was so much about Nick that made me proud. But nothing more than this: he finished well. As he finished his race he was doing what he loved with the people he loved. Even better, as he finished his race he was serving the people God had called him to serve. His final moment, his final act, was service.
Nick was not a young man of extraordinary gifting. He didn’t possess an extraordinary intellect. In those innate ways he was as ordinary as his parents. But where he was extraordinary was in his commitment, especially his commitment to obedience and duty. Those qualities aren’t innate, but simply decisions he made day by day. He was determined that if God had called him to be something, he would be it. If God had called him to do something, he would do it. He would do it full-out. He would do it with a smile. He would do it to God’s glory.
When I visited his room to go through his personal effects I saw his name posted outside. “Nick Challies.” And someone had written an arrow pointing to some other words written nearby: “Tim Challies’ son.” They were teasing him about his “famous” dad, I’m sure. But as far as I’m concerned that arrow should run the other way. What it should say is, “Tim Challies: Nick Challies’ dad.” He’s a son that any father would be proud of. He’s a son that this father is immensely proud of.
Among his possessions, I found a pouch in which he had stored the stack of letters I had sent him through his college years. This one stood out, for what was true at that time and in that context, is most certainly true right here and right now. I can’t say it any better today than I did back then.