Don’t Waste Your Life

Author: John Piper

Summary: Near the beginning of this book, John Piper recalls a story he heard his father tell—a story about an old, spiritually-hardened man. After hearing a sermon delivered by Piper’s father, this man finally responded to the gospel. And while he was joyful for having been shown grace and mercy by his heavenly Father, this old man wept as he looked back on his life. “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”

This thought haunted Piper. Would his life be wasted? Would his life make a difference? That story lodged in his memory and had a profound effect on the author as he aged. And in this book, he presses upon readers what God has pressed upon him: life is not about experiencing pleasure, about getting by, about storing up treasure, about being safe, or about any other pursuits along those lines. Life is about “glorifying God by being satisfied in Him.” As human beings, we exist to magnify the greatness of God—to show His worthiness by our worship, love, and obedience.

Yet, if you stop and think about it, Muslims might even agree with that last statement. Thankfully, Scripture gives us more specific direction and calls us to a more specific Treasure.

Piper argues that the clearest expression of God’s greatness has been the sending of His Son—to live a perfect life, bear the Father’s wrath on the cross as a sacrificial substitute for His people, be raised to eternal life, and be crowned as the King of the universe who will reign forever. So the only way we can magnify God—the only way we can “glorify” him or “make much” of Him—is by treasuring His crucified and resurrected Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Piper eloquently says, “a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life—the only God glorifying life. All others are wasted” (59).

Throughout the book, Piper calls people to this type of life. He calls his readers to use their lives for the magnifying of Christ, and he gives wise advice about how to do so.

For example, one chapter is dedicated to the magnifying of Christ through suffering, pain, and even death. Our culture views suffering as the great enemy—something to be avoided at all costs. Our world is baffled by the idea of a loving God who allows (and even ordains) suffering for anyone, let alone His own people. Yet, as Piper points out, the way a Christian suffers can reveal that his Treasure is not of this world. A Christian must not depend on health, safety, or comfort as his sources of joy and peace.

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He should not be crushed or depressed when those are stripped away. He has Christ! So in the midst of great hurt, a believer can magnify his Savior by looking to Him and trusting in Him. In the short term, addictions work; they take away the all your pain now. When you have to feel something, like that cut, it hurts at first. It can hurt quite a bit to clean that cut and take care of it properly. It can hurt quite a bit to clean out an emotional wound also. We often just rather not feel any pain. If we turn to our addictions, they’ll turn off the pain almost instantly, this is the reason why people become addicted to them, sadly in most of the cases a person needs help from places like the rehab new jersey in order to overcome the addiction.

Other chapters give further counsel about how to magnify Christ with our lives. One chapter challenges readers to take risks for the glory of Christ. Another boldly calls Christ’s people to share their Treasure by proclaiming the gospel locally and globally. Another calls on believers to hold less tightly to their money and possessions—to be generous with their resources. Another calls Christians to redeem the time spent at their place of employment—to use it as a Christ-magnifying tool instead of viewing it as an inconvenience or a spiritually neutral territory.

Strengths: Don’t Waste Your Life has numerous endearing qualities that make it a valuable read. In it, Piper grounds all of his claims in Scripture, refusing to use passages as proof-texts for claims he already wanted to make. Instead, he chews on passages and explains their significance for the Christian life. Piper is extremely passionate and sincere in his writing. He doesn’t give his readers clichés or cute-sounding arguments that tickle their ears without truly challenging them. Willing to write difficult things that might make many comfortable Americans rather un-comfortable, Piper brings his enormous theological thoughts down into bite-size chunks that could rock readers’ boats in very practical ways. (His conversation about television comes to mind.) And he tries to be broad in his scope, writing to people of all ages. While challenging the young to give their lives to evangelism among unreached peoples, he also urges the older generation to re-think retirement and middle-aged workers to re-evaluate their approach to employment.

Weaknesses: There are a few words of caution in regards to this book, however. John Piper is an extremely intelligent and intellectual pastor. Though he goes to great lengths to bring his big thoughts to bear on the life of “average” Christians (which I greatly appreciate), at times his writing can still be a bit thick. It is not un-readable by any means; yet it is not a book that you can just breeze through—particularly if you are a young believer. For that reason, I would probably not recommend this to anyone under the age of 16 or so.  But for anyone who is willing to read through this book slowly and thoughtfully, be warned: the Holy Spirit will probably use Dr. Piper to shine a bright light on your life, expose some things that need to be changed, and press you toward a life that will not be “wasted.”

Review by Marc Goodwin