Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper, approx 190 pgs
The message of this book is fairly clear: we have choices, all throughout our lives and within each day, and we can use those choices to do our own thing (“pursue our own joy”) or to glorify Christ. These two categories–doing our own thing and glorifying Christ–don’t have to be separate, but it will likely take some work to bring them into unity, where we see our own thing, our heart’s desire, as making those choices and living our lives such that we glorify Christ. For most of us, we begin in a place where it is far too easy to default to actions that are intended to satiate our own hungers, preferences, and desires, without ever challenging ourselves to think beyond to how we might use our lives for the bigger purpose of glorifying God.
I generally find John Piper an excellent thinker–someone who examines the Scriptures and sets forth profound ideas on how to practically integrate God’s truth into our thinking. He is perhaps at his best when he is preaching. On the other hand, I occasionally find him a rather uninspired author. This book is easy to read (not bogged down in theological jargon), but also somewhat bothersome to read: every 2-4 paragraphs begins another section, with the result that his thoughts comes across very choppy, and the flow of each chapter is hard to detect.
In an effort to re-view this book, I will present a few of Piper’s thoughts and questions which I found to be most personally poignant:
1. How do I get beyond the minimal life, where my question is “what is permissible” (i.e. what can I get away with), and instead look for an abundant life, where my question is “what is the main thing and how can I pursue it”? (p.14)
2. It behooves us to flee from “chronological snobbery…newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern” (p.19).
3. Since being married, “every thought has been a thought in relationship. Nothing is merely an idea, but an idea that bears on my wife” (p.21).
4. “But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it” (p.48).
5. “…every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love” (p.58).
6. “Suffering with Jesus…is not merely the result of magnifying Christ; it is also the means” (p.61; emphasis original).
7. “What you love determines what you feel shame about” (p.65).
8. “Death is a threat to the degree that it frustrates your main goals. Death is fearful to the degree that it threatens to rob you of what you treasure most” (p.66).
9. “Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience him in our losses” (p.73).
10. “Evidently God intends for us to live and act in ignorance and in uncertainty about the outcome of our actions” (p.80).
11. “God does not promise enough food for comfort or life–he promises enough so that you can trust him and do his will” (p.94).
12. “We have become almost incapable of handling any great truth reverently and deeply.” Why? Because “we all live in a world created by television.” So how do we fix this? “Biographies are a great antidote to cultural myopia and chronological snobbery” (p.121).
13. One “way we make much of God in our secular work is through the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry” (p.142).
14. “Thinking that our work will glorify God when people do not know we are Christians is like admiring an effective ad on TV that never mentions the product” (p.143).
15. Before sin entered the world, “the essence of work was not the sustenance of life…. Man was free, not from work, but in work, to be creative without the anxiety of providing food and clothing” (p.145; emphasis original).
16. “The evangelization of the world is the only enterprise large enough and important enough to provide an adequate outlet for the Church’s wealth” (p.171).
I read this book because I am currently in a season of determining what job to take next. I appreciated the author’s admission that he evaluates his own ministry as a pastor every year, to determine if he should remain in his current role, or if it’s time to change, if there is a better way for him to live his life for God’s glory.
If you haven’t asked yourself such a question lately, reading this book could help stimulate your thinking. Even if you are intentional about the choices you make in life, this book can help give you some thoughts and language to use in asking yourself important questions in a fresh way.