For John Piper, his desire is to glorify God. He said at one point that all his books are the same. To some degree that is true. His aim is to make the glory of God, and the pursuit of our joy in God’s glory the goal of all people. That theme find’s its way into everything Piper writes. That said, it was a bit overstated to say that all his books are the same.
Don’t Waste Your Life (DWYL) presents the same themes that are found in his other books, namely that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. DWYL takes all of this a step further by insisting that to do other than make God our all consuming passion is to waste our life.
I have read this book twice now, and the first time through it really didn’t affect me much. I agreed with most of what he said but it made no impact. The second time through, however, was a fairly radical challenge to the way I live. I expect that this was completely due to the fact that I read it the first time just to get through it. I always have a list of books on my to-do list and this was just one more. But there is a massive difference between reading a book and meditating on a book. If you are not going to meditate on what you have read, you may as well not bother. This book is not for the weak of heart – if you really meditate on it and spend time in introspection (the study guide was helpful in this regard).
Piper begins the book (the first two chapters) by taking you along on his journey to God. The essence of these chapters is that our full satisfaction should be found in God. The truly amazing things in life are things that make us feel small. It is when we stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or at a peak in the Himalayas, and we feel small and in awe. True awe and joy occurs when we experience things beyond ourselves. “Heaven” Piper says,”will not be a hall of mirrors.”
He then illustrates this conviction with the following two stories:
In April 2000, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards were killed in Cameroon, West Africa. Ruby was over eighty. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon. The brakes failed, the car went over a cliff, and they were both killed instantly. . . . Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”
The question put before us is, “Which of these two stories is a tragedy?” The bold answer is that the elderly women who gave their lives in service to God and others who were brought home at an old age is not a tragedy. Rather it is the couple who retires to spend their days sailing and collecting sea-shells that represents a tragedy. If you can swallow that, the stubbornly nagging question is, “Which of these two stories is closer to your life?” Are you wasting your life?
God’s justice and love and mercy and grace and holiness are best seen in the cross. A God-glorifying life must be, therefore, a cross-centered life. It is the cross of Christ which has purchased for us every good thing that we enjoy. The food which I eat is a blessing from God purchased by the blood of Christ on the cross. Were it not for that act of mercy, hell would be my present experience. Thus the glory of God us the root of my enjoyment of food (through the cross) as well as the aim of my eating of my food (done in a way that glorifies him).
Chapter 4 is titled “Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death.” The study guide tricks you by asking you to list your goals only later to ask whether of your listed goals would be frustrated by death! Everyone of mine would have been frustrated by death. But Paul’s goal was to make much of Christ whether by his life or by his death (Philippians 1:20-21). This chapter serves as a challenge to our interaction with the suffering that comes from being a follower of Christ. Do we avoid it like the plague or are we fully faithful to Christ such that if we suffer we rejoice that we were found worthy?
Safety was a mirage, it didn’t exist for the apostle Paul. He had two choices: waste his life or risk it. (Risk is right, p 85)
We will not gladly risk making people glad in God if we hate them, or hold grudges against them, or are repelled by their faults and foibles. We must become forgiving people. (the goal of life, p 99)
People who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior. They ask, What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with this movie? Or this music? Or this game? Or these companions…The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ? (Living to prove he’s more precious than life, p 119).