Luke Meyers is taking part in "Impact", a year of serving and being trained at Christ Central Preston. Here he provides an in depth review of Don't Waste your Life by John Piper which available from a number of sources including TenOfThose.
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”
Those words from 1 Corinthians 6 Are the first words written in Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, and this passage perfectly sums up what this book is about. He then explains that his intentions in writing this book are to “Help you taste those words as sweet instead of bitter or boring.” The main focus of this book is to prove that a life lived out to the fullest for God is more satisfying and useful than a life of success, comfort and riches. A life lived fully for God which ends at the age of thirty is a successful life, whilst a long life of success, but of apathy towards the gospel and Christ is a life wasted. Each chapter of the book delves deeper into why it is that Living fully for God should be the primary focus of any Christian, and what it looks like to live a life like that.
Piper begins by taking us on a journey through his own life, particularly the earlier years, sharing with us his own search for purpose and meaning to his existence. Part of his tale includes explaining the conditions which inspired this search, stories from his childhood that instilled in him a fear of wasting his life. These stories are both moving and inspiring, and I have no doubt that Piper has included them so that he might set his readers to thinking about what it could be that would give their life meaning, and by including them here, I hope to do the same thing.
The first of these stories is a highly moving tale which was told by his own father as he preached in their church. He recounts the memory of an old man, who nearing the end of his life became a Christian after years of prayer from members of the church. The heart-breaking tale climaxes with the old man breaking down in tears as he realises the truth, only able to continuously sob the words, “I’ve wasted it, I’ve wasted it”. It was these words which inspired Piper. They filled him with a fear of reaching that point at the end of his life and realising “I’ve wasted it”. The second story he tells, includes a short poem, one which took pride of place upon the wall of Piper’s parent’s kitchen, and helps to shed some light onto how you can avoid wasting your life.
“Only one life,
‘Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
for Christ will last”
These words emphasise the shortness of life for Piper, and he vowed he would discover what it meant to not waste his life. There was one problem that he had in answering that question, he had come up with two answers that he couldn’t decide between. I exist to glorify God, and I exist to try and be happy.
Piper describes the first as feeling absolutely right, and the latter as seeming absolutely inevitable, and he was certain that the two were at odds, until he discovered the words of Jonathon Edwards’ sermon, ‘Nothing Upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven’ which opened up to him the idea that his two answers could actually coincide.
“if God created the world that he may be glorified in the creature, he created it that they might rejoice in his glory: for we have shown that they are the same”
In the words of this sermon Piper discovered that the best way to assure you don’t waste your life is to joyously magnify God’s glory, to delight in displaying his excellence. Indeed, that to attempt to magnify his glory when you don’t delight in him is hypocrisy, and to delight in him without displaying and sharing him is selfishness.
Piper continues to offer his insight into what living a life that glorifies God looks like throughout the subsequent chapters, focusing often on the teachings and life of Paul as a key example. He urges readers to never boast except for in the cross, as Paul writes in Galatians 6:14, and unpacks that to show that everything we have in this world, every breath in our lungs, every step in our feet, every tiny little moment of happiness is a gift given to us by God through the cross. Since we deserve nothing but eternal punishment, and it is only through him that we can be spared from that, we should remember that it is not the gift that satisfies, but the giver, without whom we would have nothing.
He shows us how death can be gain as Paul claims in Philippians 1:21, that by dying we will join Christ, which is better for us, and that in death we can magnify God’s glory with our attitude. By not fearing death and showing the world that we are happy to depart and be with Christ, we show that he is worth more to us than life. He accompanies this with the statement that our honour and pride should come at the glorification of Christ through our actions, and that we should only feel shame when Christ is belittled or diminished by our account.
A Wartime Mindset
Piper speaks of a wartime mindset. A way of thinking which challenges us to not become too comfortable, but continue to sacrifice where needed. He urges us to acknowledge that life as a Christian is war, not with those of other faiths, but with the sin and spiritual forces that keep them from knowing the Joy and Glory of Christ crucified. He argues that in wartime, entire nations sacrifice their comfortable lifestyles, and in many cases, their lives, to help the cause, and are happy to do so. If they, who are fighting for a mere earthly country, with maybe the freedom of a few hundred thousand at stake are willing to do this, how much more should we, who are fighting for the salvation of every person on this world, both now, and in time to come, be willing to sacrifice.
God did not call people to live comfortably, avoiding evil, and loving their family and friends, how does that make us any different to other sinners? Look at Luke 6:32. God calls us to a radical life of sacrifice, a life which demonstrates that there is more at stake than our life, possessions, properties, reputations, and relationships. A life in which all of our actions point towards him, and demonstrate that we do not need anything in this world outside of him, and that nothing is worth more in our lives than Christ. To not waste your life is to demonstrate in everything that Jesus Christ is your greatest and only treasure, and to show through everything you do, that your greatest Joy comes from glorifying him.
If anyone finds themselves stuck in the daily grind, if life feels stale, or if you have lost touch with what it truly means to be alive, then I urge you, read this book. I have been inspired by the words of Piper here. I have been reminded why I am alive, and through this book God has revived my passion for him, and reminded me of my place in the world in which I live. As I read this book God has challenged many of my actions, expectations and asperations, prompting me to question what my real aims and underlying reasons are for each, and helping me to realign them where necessary. I would recommend this book to anyone, even those who feel they have it all figured out, this book will help you examine what you think you have figured out, and make sure it is truly aligned with God’s purpose. Read this book, and don’t waste your life!
By Luke Meyers
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