What constitutes a wasted life? It depends on what you value most. For many even in the church, we define the good life as a comfortable job, good kids, a happy marriage, and maybe early retirement. Few of us see the waste that even a good life like that can be, if there are no eternal priorities that shape it.
John Piper begins this book with his own story, his “search for a single passion to live by.” He found it in Christ and the joy we can find only by pursuing it in God.
The next chapters talk about boasting only in the cross, the “blazing center of the glory of God,” how risk is right, how our goal in life should be to make others glad in God, how our use of our money reveals our god, how we can make much of Christ in our secular professions, and how many who will not waste their lives will spend them in frontier missions work.
It’s a heady mix.
Anyone familiar with Piper will know the famous core of all his biblical teaching: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. A self-proclaimed “Christian hedonist,” Piper lives to help others experience the joy found in God alone.
What I found most convicting in this book was the chapter on money. Most of us, Piper argues, do our work with one purpose: to earn money to spend or save, for ourselves. And yes, we need to earn our bread and provide for our families. But there can and should be a higher motive for our work: we should work to give.
Do I view my money as mine, or God’s? Do I see that everything I have (including the ability to work) is a gracious gift of God? Am I using my money mostly for my own needs and pleasures, with a little siphoned off to the church because I have to — or am I actively looking for ways to invest financially in the great cause of Christ? Ouch. My giving should have much more of a savor of joy to it than it currently does.
Piper talks about the value of a wartime mindset in the life of a Christian who is bent on not wasting his life. During World War II, great sacrifices were made because each person, whether on the front lines or at home, was committed to a purpose bigger than himself. People willingly went without all the luxuries and comforts we consider so essential to happiness today, because there was something more important than those luxuries. This was hugely convicting to me, even down to little things like how much to spend on personal cosmetics — could I justify expensive products when there is so much need around me? Sadly, most of us are so self absorbed that possessing material pleasures and comforts has become critical, not optional.
I like how Piper distinguishes between a wartime lifestyle and a simple lifestyle. Simplicity can be inward focused, pursued for selfish purposes just as much as an excessively materialistic lifestyle. A wartime lifestyle will of necessity be simple, but not for simplicity’s sake alone. It is outward focused on a great cause beyond itself, and that’s the difference.
This is a short book, very easy to read. I enjoyed our adult Bible fellowship group’s time in it this summer. I have been challenged to assess the way I live, and I pray that these lessons won’t fade away in the press of everyday life and the temptations of material things. I’m sure I will reread. Recommended!