In high school I took pride in my ability to play chess. I joined the chess club, and during lunch hour I could be found sitting at a table with other nerds, poring over books with titles like Classic King Pawn Openings. I studied techniques, won most of my matches, and put the game aside for 20 years. Then I met a truly fine chess player who had been perfecting his skills long since high school, and I learned what it is like to play against a master. Although I had complete freedom to make any move I wished, none of my strategies mattered very much. His superior skill guaranteed that my purposes inevitably ended up serving his own.

Perhaps there is a spiritual picture for us here. God grants us freedom to rebel against His original design, but even as we do so we end up serving His eventual goal of restoration (Rom. 8:21; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1). This transformed the way I view both good and bad things. Good things—such as health, talent, and money—I can present to God as offerings to serve His purposes. And bad things—disability, poverty, family dysfunction, failure—can be “redeemed” as the very instruments that drive me to God.

With the Grand Master, victory is assured, no matter how the board of life may look at any given moment.