Two fifty-something year old retirees wasting their lives collecting sea shells. The American Dream or modern tragedy? What is the purpose of life? If we only get one shot at life, how do we avoid wasting it?
1. What is the book about?
Pastor and theologian John Piper addresses the age-old question that plagues our modern generation: what does it mean to live well? Whereas secular culture would point you towards hoarding wealth to retire early or finding a career that you’re passionate about, Piper makes it clear that any life not lived for Jesus is a wasted life. In essence, the goal of his book is for Christians to see the transformative impact of the gospel in every aspect of our lives.
Piper begins by recounting his own search for meaning (which eventually led to his calling to full-time ministry), followed by tracing God’s purposes throughout redemptive history, then focusing on the cross of Christ as our only boast. The book then goes on to explore the implications of living to glorify God in light of suffering, vocations and global missions.
2. What did I learn?
My first main lesson from ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ is how making much of Christ in life and death is intricately connected to risk. Growing up we’re taught to avoid risk as much as possible, which subtly informs all our life decisions. We try to secure the best grades to get into the best degree to land the best career; all for the fleeting illusion of security. In Mark 8:25, Jesus states it plainly: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it”. The real danger that we face today isn’t losing our lives, but wasting them. His point is helpfully illustrated through the sacrificial lives of the Apostle Paul, Esther and missionary Adoniram Judson. Yet through all the uncertainty that life may bring, Christians can confidently profess that nothing shall separate us from the love of God.
Following this, I was especially struck by Piper’s promotion of the so-called ‘wartime lifestyle’. If you ever wonder why your friends don’t ask you for the reason behind your hope, a better question may be, can they even tell? Or do our lives reflect that we hope in the same things that they do? Our possessions are not neutral and will pull us towards the world’s values if we allow them to. Relating to possessions through the lens of a ‘wartime’ perspective helps us to see their purpose in light of God’s greater plans for the world. It guards us from the peacetime mentality that encourages hedonistic indulgence & luxurious distractions. The credibility of our witness for Christ to the world around us hangs on our use of money. More than ever, our lifestyles must proclaim that Christ is greater than all the world can offer.
3. What did I enjoy?
In my humble opinion, this book presents the most concise and biblical view of gospel-centered work and mission that I’ve encountered in my recent reading.
As with all of John Piper’s work, his writing is firmly driven by the belief that ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him’. This naturally flows into his call to make others glad in God through missions abroad and mercy at home, emphasising how mission exists because worship doesn’t. Piper’s message is also reflected in his plea for Christians to live counter-cultural lives that place Christ as most worthy. Though written almost two decades ago, the same words prophetically ring true towards our godless culture today.
4. Why should other people read it?
This is a book that every Christian should consider reading at some point in their lives, sooner rather than later. It will either reshape your view of life, sharpen your convictions, or reconsider where your priorities truly lie. Piper clearly captures the difference it makes living with Christ as the all-satisfying Treasure of our souls. Honouring God through faith-filled risk will come with heavy costs yet also the promise of everlasting joy & an unwasted life.
You can find a copy of ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ in the ACG library in both physical and digital format. Pick it up for yourself this summer, or read it alongside a brother or sister in Christ!