Boyce College community remembers Nick Challies as a young man “living and breathing for God”
LOUISVILLE, KY—Friends, family, and faculty members gathered Friday morning on the lawn at Southern Seminary to remember the life of 20-year-old Nick Challies, son of noted evangelical blogger and author, Tim Challies, who died suddenly Tuesday.
Challies, a Boyce College junior and Toronto, Canada native, collapsed suddenly while playing a game with his sister, fiancée, and other students at a park near Southern Seminary’s campus. Efforts by emergency personnel to revive him were unsuccessful.
Testimony after testimony described Nick Challies as a young man who worked tirelessly to build strong relationships, prioritized others, and lived every moment, all out, for the glory of his Savior. Nick grew up in church and was saved at age 13. He came to Boyce College and Southern Seminary in 2018 after sensing a divine call to pastoral ministry.
“He came home after his first semester here and he was a different person,” said Michaela Challies, Nick’s sister. “He was a person who was living and breathing for God. . . . I know that I’ll think about the things he never got to do, but then I’ll think about what he’s doing right now, what he’s wanted to do since he was 13 years old—he’s living with the Lord.”
While at the seminary, he met his fiancée, Ryn Conley, and Nick’s sister, Abigail joined him this year as a freshman student at Boyce. He had made numerous friends and had become a leader among students. All the pieces were falling into place that would position Nick for many years of faithful ministry, Mohler said.
“Every single student is a gift,” Mohler said. “Every single student is a stewardship. Every single student is a test: are we really who we say we are? Do we really teach what we say we teach? Do we really serve whom we say we serve? Every student becomes proof of what an institution really is and what it really believes, who it really serves. In the brief time in which he was with us, Nick Challies affirmed that we are who we say we are and we’re the kind of school that would draw the kind of student that Nick Challies was.
“Everything appeared to be coming full circle. In the death of Nick Challies, the world would say that circle was broken. But we’re (here) today to say precisely the opposite; the circle is complete—in the sense that Nick ran his race completely and faithfully. And even as our hearts are broken, and even as we measure loss, for Nick it is entirely gain.”
Nick met Ryn Conley at Boyce College and was engaged to marry her next spring. Conley read portions of two letters from Nick, including the final one he wrote to her just before his death.
“He was a living example of giving grace freely,” she said. “When I would fail and ask him for forgiveness, his answer always was, ‘Well, God has grace for you, so I will, too.’. . . He was a faithful man.
“One of the last conversations I had with him before he left us was about a guy he was worried about. He was constantly doing everything he could to notice every person in the room and make them known and cared for. . . . Nick would want all of us to trust God. If we want to honor Nick’s memory, let us live by God’s grace.”
Nick’s mother, Aileen Challies, said conversations the past few days with his college friends and fellow students told her much about Nick’s reputation at Boyce. Aileen laughingly recalled her son’s personality being such that he sometimes seemed like he was much older than the date on his birth certificate. She held up the Toronto Blue Jays cap that sat atop his head much of the time he was on campus.
“We are undone,” she said. “His time on this earth was far, far too short. And as we have spent the last few days trying to make sense of what happened, a few common themes about who my son was have emerged. My son was a kind man. . . . He was a man of integrity. Nick always worked hard to do the right thing, even when the right thing was hard. He had a dry sense of humor, an incredibly sharp wit, and was delightfully quirky.
“We always said he was a young man in an old man’s body. I was counting on Ryn to smooth out some of those edges. . . . All this was only a small portion of who he was. Nick loved God, and he was determined to live out his life in God’s service. And he did it; it ended far sooner than any of us would’ve imagined, but he did it.”
Nick’s father, Tim, learned from a visit to his son’s dorm that Nick was often introduced in relation to his father, a well-known writer. An arrow by Nick’s name on the door outside his room had an arrow drawn in that led to a handwritten phrase, “This is Tim Challies’ son.”
“As far as I’m concerned that arrow should run the other way,” Tim Challies said. “What it should say is, ‘Tim Challies. He’s Nick’s dad.’ That’s something to be proud of.
“Each one of us is given a race to run and what matters is not how long the race is, but how we run it. It’s much better to run a short race well than to run a long race poorly. He got only 20 years, but he ran them well . . . That was my boy. . . He sprinted strong to the end. There’s a lot about Nick that made me proud, but nothing more than this: he finished well.”
Paul Martin, senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto and Nick’s pastor since he was a child, preached from Job, which chronicles the personal cataclysm which Job suffered. Job lost all his children to death in a single day. Tragedies such as the abrupt, inexplicable death of a young person like Nick, or Job’s children, challenge our faith and lead us to cling to Christ, Martin said.
In the face of his gut-wrenching loss, Job still trusted God, concluding “The Lord gives and the Lord gives away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job learns that, “God is too wise to be mistaken,” Martin said. “He’s too good to be unkind. And Job falls on his face in dust and ashes, and he is comforted. God was enough. God is enough. And Job blesses God. Can you say, ‘Blessed is the name of the Lord?’ Or will you listen to the whispers of our mutual enemy: ‘Curse God and die?’
“We know the right answer to that question. But this is a hard, hard providence. How can we answer it right? Job suffered. Job was comforted. Then Job made intercession for his friends. And God blessed Job. . . . And in the life of Job, you will hear the echoes of another man, one who suffered for us, one who was comforted by his Father, one who has been blessed by his Father forever and lives forever more. . . . Those who have truly repented of their sins and have put all their confidence in the greater Job—Jesus Christ—even in the worst of trials can say, ‘God is enough.’”