Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Don’t Waste Your Life BOOK CLUB

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we start by looking at the Preface of the book:

  • The Bible says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I have written this book to help you taste those words as sweet instead of bitter or boring.
  • If you are a Christian, you are not your own. Christ has bought you at the price of his own death. You now belong doubly to God: He made you, and he bought you. That means your life is not your own. It is God’s. Therefore, the Bible says, “Glorify God in your body.” God made you for this. He bought you for this. This is the meaning of your life.
  • If you are not yet a Christian that is what Jesus Christ offers: doubly belonging to God, and being able to do what you were made for.
  • Glorifying God may mean nothing to you. That’s why I tell my story in the first two chapters, called “Created for Joy.” It was not always plain to me that pursuing God’s glory would be virtually the same as pursing my joy. Now I see that millions of people waste their lives because they think these paths are two and not one.
  • The path of God-exalting joy will cost you your life. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.” In other words, it is better to lose your life than to waste it.
  • If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.
  • This is not a book about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life.
  • Some of you will die in the service of Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy.
  • Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.

Chapter 1 – My Search for a Single Passion to Live By

  • This was the story that gripped me more than all the stories of young people who died in car wrecks before they were converted—the story of an old man weeping that he had wasted his life. In those early years God awakened in me a fear and a passion not to waste my life. The thought of coming to my old age and saying through tears, “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!” was a fearful and horrible thought to me.
  • Another riveting force in my young life—small at first, but oh so powerful over time—was a plaque that hung in our kitchen over the sink. On the front, in old English script, painted in white, were the words:

Only one life
’Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

  • The message was clear. You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.
  • What would it mean to waste my life? That was a burning question. Or, more positively, what would it mean to live well—not to waste life, but to . . . ? How to finish that sentence was the question.
  • That is what I heard in Dylan’s song, and everything in me said, Yes! There is an Answer with a capital A. To miss it would mean a wasted life. To find it would mean having a unifying Answer to all my questions.
  • But God was graciously posting compelling warnings along the way. In the fall of 1965 Francis Schaeffer delivered a week of lectures at Wheaton College that in 1968 became the book, The God Who Is There.1 The title shows the stunning simplicity of the thesis. God is there. Not in here, defined and shaped by my own desires. God is out there. Objective. Absolute Reality
  • Here was an absolutely compelling road sign. Stay on the road of objective truth. This will be the way to avoid wasting your life. Stay on the road that your fiery evangelist father was on. Don’t forsake the plaque on your kitchen wall. Here was weighty intellectual confirmation that life would be wasted in the grasslands of existentialism. Stay on the road. There is Truth. There is a Point and Purpose and Essence to it all. Keep searching. You will find it.
  • C. S. Lewis, who died the same day as John F. Kennedy in 1963 and who taught English at Oxford, walked up over the horizon of my little brown path in 1964 with such blazing brightness that it is hard to overstate the impact he had on my life.
  • Lewis gave me an intense sense of the “realness” of things. The preciousness of this is hard to communicate.
  • There was another force that solidified my unwavering belief in the unbending existence of objective reality. Her name was Noël Henry. I fell in love with her in the summer of 1966.
  • We were married in December 1968.
  • In the fall of 1966 God was closing in with an ever narrowing path for my life.
  • Finally she found me, flat on my back with mononucleosis in the health center, where I lay for three weeks. The life plan that I was so sure of four months earlier unraveled in my fevered hands.
  • In May I had felt a joyful confidence that my life would be most useful as a medical doctor.
  • Noël came to visit, and I said, “What would you think if I didn’t pursue a medical career but instead went to seminary?” As with every other time I’ve asked that kind of question through the years, the answer was, “If that’s where God leads you, that’s where I’ll go.”
  • From that moment on I have never doubted that my calling in life is to be a minister of the Word of God.

Chapter 2 Breakthrough – the Beauty of Christ, My Joy

  • If there is only one life to live in this world, and if it is not to be wasted, nothing seemed more important to me than finding out what God really meant in the Bible, since he inspired men to write it. If that was up for grabs, then no one could tell which life is worthy and which life is wasted.
  • The driving passion of my life was rooted here. One of the seeds was in the word “glory”—God’s aim in history was to “fully display his glory.” Another seed was in the word “delight”—God’s aim was that his people “delight in him with all their heart.” The passion of my life has been to understand and live and teach and preach how these two aims of God relate to each other—indeed, how they are not two but one.
  • No one outside Scripture has shaped my vision of God and the Christian life more than Jonathan Edwards. His life is inspiring because of his zeal not to waste it, and because of his passion for the supremacy of God.
  • Delighting in God was not a mere preference or option in life; it is our joyful duty and should be the single passion of our lives. Seeking happiness in God and glorifying God were the same.
  • Here was the greatest mind of early America, Jonathan Edwards, saying that God’s purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God’s glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion. When I saw this, I knew, at last, what a wasted life would be and how to avoid it.
  • God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.
  • The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.
  • The Bible is crystal-clear: God created us for his glory.
  • Life is wasted when we do not live for the glory of God. And I mean all of life. It is all for his glory.
  • We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life.
  • God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.
  • We were made to see and savor God—and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them.
  • The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.
  • Love has to do with showing a dying soul the life-giving beauty of the glory of God, especially his grace.
  • Every good work should be a revelation of the glory of God. What makes the good deed an act of love is not the raw act, but the passion and the sacrifice to make God himself known as glorious.
  • If you don’t point people to God for everlasting joy, you don’t love. You waste your life.
  • All heroes are shadows of Christ. We love to admire their excellence. How much more will we be satisfied by the one Person who conceived all excellence and embodies all skill, all talent, all strength and brilliance and savvy and goodness.
  • God loves us by liberating us from the bondage of self so that we can enjoy knowing and admiring him forever.
  • Would you feel more loved by God if he made much of you, or if he liberated you from the bondage of self-regard, at great cost to himself, so that you enjoy making much of him forever?
  • Now we see that in creating us for his glory, he is creating us for our highest joy. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
  • That is the single, all-embracing, all-transforming reason for being: a passion to enjoy and display God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.
  • God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.
  • Jesus is the litmus test of reality for all persons and all religions. He said it clearly: “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). People and religions who reject Christ reject God. Do other religions know the true God? Here is the test: Do they reject Jesus as the only Savior for sinners who was crucified and raised by God from the dead? If they do, they do not know God in a saving way.
  • There is no point in romanticizing other religions that reject the deity and saving work of Christ. They do not know God. And those who follow them tragically waste their lives.
  • Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain.

Chapter 3: Boasting Only in the Cross – The Blazing Center of the Glory of God

  • I plead with you: Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.
  • One thing matters: Know Christ, and gain Christ. Everything is rubbish in comparison to this.
  • What is the one passion of your life that makes everything else look like rubbish in comparison?
  • Paul means something that will change every part of your life. He means that, for the Christian, all other boasting should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross.
  • Therefore every good thing in life, and every bad thing that God turns for good, is a blood-bought gift. And all boasting—all exultation—should be boasting in the cross.
  • We learn to boast in the cross and exult in the cross when we are on the cross. And until our selves are crucified there, our boast will be in ourselves.
  • You become so cross-centered that you say with Paul, “I will not boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The world is no longer our treasure. It’s not the source of our life or our satisfaction or our joy. Christ is.
  • Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ—the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life—the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.

Chapter 4: Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death

  • Suffering with Jesus on the Calvary road of love is not merely the result of magnifying Christ; it is also the means.
  • The normal Christian life is one that boasts only in the cross—the blazing center of God’s glory—and does it while bearing the cross.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a gift to my generation of students. I pray that his costly message will be rediscovered in each generation. The book that set fire to the faith of thousands in my generation was called The Cost of Discipleship. Probably the most famous and life-shaping sentence in the book was, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer’s book was a massive indictment of the “cheap grace” that he saw in the Christian Church on both sides of the Atlantic. He did not believe that the faith that justifies could ever leave people unchanged by the radical Christ they claim to believe. That was a cheap response to the Gospel.
  • A life devoted to making much of Christ is costly. And the cost is both a consequence and a means of making much of him. If we do not embrace the path of joy-laden, painful love, we will waste our lives.
  • The Calvary road is costly and painful, but it is not joyless.
  • If Christ is not made much of in our lives, they are wasted. We exist to make him appear in the world as what he really is—magnificent. If our life and death do not show the worth and wonder of Jesus, they are wasted.
  • What you love determines what you feel shame about.
  • Paul’s all-consuming goal in life was for Christ to be magnified. Christ was of infinite value to Paul, and so Paul longed for others to see and savor this value. That is what it means to magnify Christ—to show the magnitude of his value.
  • But how are we to magnify Christ in death? Or to put it another way: How can we die so that in our dying the surpassing value of Christ, the magnitude of his worth, becomes visible?
  • If you experience death as gain, you magnify Christ in death.
  • That is what death does: It takes us into more intimacy with Christ. We depart, and we are with Christ, and that, Paul says, is gain. And when you experience death this way, Paul says, you exalt Christ. Experiencing Christ as gain in your dying magnifies Christ.
  • Death makes visible where our treasure is. The way we die reveals the worth of Christ in our hearts.
  • The essence of praising Christ is prizing Christ. Christ will be praised in my death, if in my death he is prized above life.
  • If we learn to die like this, we will be ready to live. And if we don’t, we will waste our lives.
  • Daily Christian living is daily Christian dying. The dying I have in mind is the dying of comfort and security and reputation and health and family and friends and wealth and homeland. These may be taken from us at any time in the path of Christ-exalting obedience. To die daily the way Paul did, and to take up our cross daily the way Jesus commanded, is to embrace this life of loss for Christ’s sake and count it gain.
  • The way we honor Christ in death is to treasure Jesus above the gift of life, and the way we honor Christ in life is to treasure Jesus above life’s gifts.
  • We are always on the lookout for ways to justify our self-protecting, self-securing, self-pleasing ways of life.
  • The greatest joy in God comes from giving his gifts away, not in hoarding them for ourselves.
  • God’s glory shines more brightly when he satisfies us in times of loss than when he provides for us in times of plenty.
  • No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life, or had their sweetest encounters with God, on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes. That is the way God designed it.
  • Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience him in our losses.
  • When everything in life is stripped away except God, and we trust him more because of it, this is gain, and he is glorified.
  • But when all is said and done, the promise and design of God for people who do not waste their lives is clear. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • What a tragic waste when people turn away from the Calvary road of love and suffering.

Chapter 5 Risk Is Right— Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It

  • If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.
  • I define risk very simply as an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury.
  • Risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot avoid risk even if we want to.
  • One of my aims is to explode the myth of safety and to somehow deliver you from the enchantment of security. Because it’s a mirage. It doesn’t exist. Every direction you turn there are unknowns and things beyond your control.
  • Queen Esther is another example of courageous risk in the service of love and for the glory of God.
  • Esther did not know what the outcome of her act would be. She had no special revelation from God. She made her decision on the basis of wisdom and love for her people and trust in God. She had to risk or run. She did not know how it would turn out. So she made her decision and handed the results over to God. “If I perish, I perish.” And this was right.
  • The great New Testament risk-taker was the apostle Paul. He had two choices: waste his life or live with risk. And he risked his life every day. And this was right.
  • It is the will of God that we be uncertain about how life on this earth will turn out for us. And therefore it is the will of the Lord that we take risks for the cause of God.
  • What happens when the people of God do not escape from the beguiling enchantment of security? What happens if they try to live their lives in the mirage of safety? The answer is wasted lives.
  • Risk is right. And the reason is not because God promises success to all our ventures in his cause. There is no promise that every effort for the cause of God will succeed, at least not in the short run.
  • We are wired to risk for the wrong reasons.
  • God has given us another way to pursue risk. Do it “by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And the way God supplies his strength is through faith in his promises. Every loss we risk in order to make much of Christ, God promises to restore a thousand-fold with his all-satisfying fellowship.
  • The bottom-line comfort and assurance in all our risk-taking for Christ is that nothing will ever separate us from the love of Christ.
  • On the far side of every risk—even if it results in death—the love of God triumphs.
  • It is simple trust in Christ—that in him God will do everything necessary so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. Every good poised to bless us, and every evil arrayed against us, will in the end help us boast only in the cross, magnify Christ, and glorify our Creator. Faith in these promises frees us to risk and to find in our own experience that it is better to lose our life than to waste it.

Chapter 6 The Goal of Life— Gladly Making Others Glad in God

  • It is impossible to risk your life to make others glad in God if you are an unforgiving person. If you are wired to see other people’s faults and failures and offenses, and treat them roughly, you will not take risks for their joy.
  • The question is, do we lean toward mercy? Do we default to grace? Do we have a forgiving spirit? Without it we will walk away from need and waste our lives.
  • God is the goal of forgiveness. He is also the ground and the means of forgiveness. It comes from him; it was accomplished through his Son; and it leads people back to him with their sins cast into the deepest sea. Therefore the motive for being a forgiving person is the joy of being freely and joyfully at home with God.
  • What is the nature and aim of glad-hearted, Christian giving? It is the effort—with as much creativity and sacrifice as necessary—to give others everlasting and ever-increasing joy2—joy in God.
  • By gladly pursuing the gladness of others in God—even at the cost of our lives—we love them and honor God. This is the opposite of a wasted life.
  • How then do we make others glad in God?
  • There are two clarifications I should make. The first clarification is that, of course, we can’t make anyone glad in God. Joy in God is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
  • The second clarification is that gladness in God is not a peripheral religious experience.
  • I am saying that gladness in God is the goal of all saving work, and the experiential essence of what it means to be saved. Without this joy in God, there would be no salvation.

Chapter 7: Living to Prove He Is More Precious Than Life

  • If we walk away from risk to keep ourselves safe and solvent, we will waste our lives.
  • If we look like our lives are devoted to getting and maintaining things, we will look like the world, and that will not make Christ look great. He will look like a religious side-interest that may be useful for escaping hell in the end, but doesn’t make much difference in what we live and love here.
  • Why don’t people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do.
  • Jesus loves faith-filled risk for the glory of God.
  • If we want to make people glad in God, our lives must look as if God, not possessions, is our joy.
  • Sometimes I use the phrase “wartime lifestyle” or “wartime mind-set.” It tells me that there is a war going on in the world between Christ and Satan, truth and falsehood, belief and unbelief. It tells me that there are weapons to be funded and used, but that these weapons are not swords or guns or bombs but the Gospel and prayer and self-sacrificing love (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). And it tells me that the stakes of this conflict are higher than any other war in history; they are eternal and infinite: heaven or hell, eternal joy or eternal torment (Matthew 25:46).
  • One of the marks of this peacetime mind-set is what I call an avoidance ethic. In wartime we ask different questions about what to do with our lives than we do in peacetime.
  • If we are going to pay the price and take the risks it will cost to make people glad in God, we move beyond the avoidance ethic. This way of life is utterly inadequate to waken people to the beauty of Christ. Avoiding fearful trouble and forbidden behaviors impresses almost no one. The avoidance ethic by itself is not Christ-commending or God-glorifying. There are many disciplined unbelievers who avoid the same behaviors Christians do. Jesus calls us to something far more radical than that.
  • The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ? The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). So the question is mainly positive, not negative. How can I portray God as glorious in this action? How can I enjoy making much of him in this behavior?
  • Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family.
  • Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up.
  • The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God.
  • Oh, that young and old would turn off the television, take a long walk, and dream about feats of courage for a cause ten thousand times more important than American democracy—as precious as that is. If we would dream and if we would pray, would not God answer? Would he withhold from us a life of joyful love and mercy and sacrifice that magnifies Christ and makes people glad in God? I plead with you, as I pray for myself, set your face like flint to join Jesus on the Calvary road.

Chapter 8: Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5

  • It would be a mistake to infer from the call to wartime living in the previous chapter that Christians should quit their jobs and go to “war”—say, to become missionaries or pastors or full-time relief workers. That would be a fundamental misunderstanding of where the war is being fought.
  • The war is not primarily spatial or physical—though its successes and failures have physical effects. Therefore, the secular vocations of Christians are a war zone. There are spiritual adversaries to be defeated (that is, evil spirits and sins, not people); and there is beautiful moral high ground to be gained for the glory of God. You don’t waste your life by where you work, but how and why.
  • The call to be a Christian was not a call to leave your secular vocation. That’s the clear point of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.
  • Therefore, the burning question for most Christians should be: How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation?
  • Our aim is to joyfully magnify Christ—to make him look great by all we do.
  • Boasting only in the cross, our aim is to enjoy making much of him by the way we work. The question is, How? The Bible points to at least six answers.
    • 1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
  • When the saints are at work in their secular employment, they are scattered. They are not together in church. So the command to “remain there with God” is a promise that you may know God’s fellowship personally and individually on the job.
  • One way to enjoy God’s presence and fellowship is through thankful awareness that your ability to do any work at all, including this work, is owing to his grace.
  • This is the way God speaks to you through the day. He encourages you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He reminds you that the challenges of the afternoon are not too hard for him to manage: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). He tells you not to be anxious, but to ask him for whatever you need (Philippians 4:6), and says, “Cast all your anxieties on me, for I care for you” (paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:7). And he promises to guide you through the day: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
    • 2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
  • So if you go all the way back, before the origin of sin, there are no negative connotations about secular work. According to Genesis 2:2, God himself rested from his work of creation, implying that work is a good, God-like thing.
  • To be sure, when God sends us forth to work as his image bearers, our ditches are to be dug straight, our pipe-fittings are not to leak, our cabinet corners should be flush, our surgical incisions should be clean, our word processing accurate and appealing, and our meals nutritious and attractive, because God is a God of order and beauty and competence. But cats are clean, and ants are industrious, and spiders produce orderly and beautiful works. And all of them are dependent on God. Therefore, the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God’s power, and in conscious quest of God’s pattern of excellence, and in deliberate aim to reflect God’s glory.
  • When you work like this—no matter what your vocation is—you can have a sweet sense of peace at the end of the day. It has not been wasted. God has not created us to be idle. Therefore, those who abandon creative productivity lose the joy of God-dependent, world-shaping, God-reflecting purposeful work.
  • True personal piety feeds the purposeful work of secular vocations rather than undermining it. Idleness does not grow in the soil of fellowship with God. Therefore, people who spend their lives mainly in idleness or frivolous leisure are rarely as happy as those who work. Retired people who are truly happy have sought creative, useful, God-honoring ways to stay active and productive for the sake of man’s good and God’s glory.
  • So the second way we make much of God in our secular work is through the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry. God created us for work so that by consciously relying on his power and consciously shaping the world after his excellence, we might be satisfied in him, and he might be glorified in us. And when we remember that all this God-exalting creativity and all this joy is only possible for undeserving sinners like us because of the death of Christ, every hour of labor becomes a boasting in the cross.
    • 3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel.
  • There is no point in overstating the case for the value of secular work. It is not the Gospel. By itself, it does not save anyone. In fact, with no spoken words about Jesus Christ, our secular work will not awaken wonder for the glory of Christ. That is why the New Testament modestly calls our work an adornment of the Gospel.
  • So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the Gospel we profess before unbelievers.
  • Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians.
  • Should Christians be known in their offices as the ones you go to if you have a problem, but not the ones to go to with a complex professional issue? It doesn’t have to be either-or. The biblical mandate is: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23; cf. Ephesians 6:7).
  • So the third way we make much of God in our secular work is by having such high standards of excellence and such integrity and such manifest goodwill that we put no obstacles in the way of the Gospel but rather call attention to the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. When we adorn the Gospel with our work, we are not wasting our lives. And when we call to mind that the adornment itself (our God-dependent, God-shaped, God-exalting work) was purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and that the beauty we adorn is itself the Gospel of Christ’s death, then all our tender adornment becomes a boasting in the cross.
    • 4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
  • The curse under which we live today is not that we must work. The curse is that, in our work, we struggle with weariness and frustration and calamities and anxiety.
  • Able-bodied people who choose to live in idleness and eat the fruit of another’s sweat are in rebellion against God’s design. If we can, we should earn our own living.
  • How then do Christians make much of Christ in working “to earn their own living”? First, by conforming willingly to God’s design for this age. It is an act of obedience that honors his authority. Second, by removing stumbling blocks from unbelievers who would regard the lazy dependence of Christians on others as an evidence that our God is not worthy of following. “Work with your hands . . . so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). We honor God by earning our living because this clears the way for non-Christians to see Christ for who he really is. Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. They waste their lives.
  • Third, we make much of God by earning our own living when we focus not on financial profit but on the benefit our product or service brings to society.
  • This is paradoxical. I am saying, yes, we should earn enough money to meet our needs. But, no, we should not make that the primary focus of why we work.
  • In other words, don’t focus on mere material things in your work. Don’t labor merely with a view to the perishable things you can buy with your earnings. Work with an eye not mainly to your money, but your usefulness. Work with a view to benefiting people with what you make or do.
  • So don’t labor for the food that perishes. Labor to love people and honor God. Think of new ways that your work can bless people. Stop thinking mainly of profitability, and think mainly of how helpful your product or service can become.
  • You are not working for the food that perishes. Your goal is to enjoy Christ’s being exalted in the way you work.
  • None of us in our vocations should aim mainly at the food that perishes—leave that to the Lord. We should aim instead to do the will of him who sent us. And his will is that we treasure him above all else and live like it.
  • If we simply work to earn a living—if we labor for the bread that perishes—we will waste our lives. But if we labor with the sweet assurance that God will supply all our needs—that Christ died to purchase every undeserved blessing—then all our labor will be a labor of love and a boasting only in the cross.
    • 5. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
  • So my point here is that, as we work, we should dream of how to use our excess money to make others glad in God. Of course, we should use all our money to make others glad in God, in the sense that our whole life has this aim. But the point here is that our secular work can become a great God-exalting blessing to the world if we aim to take the earnings we don’t need for ourselves (and we need far less than we think) and meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus.
  • God clearly tells us that we should work to provide the needs of those who can’t meet their own needs.
    • 6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.
  • But now I want to say that speaking the good news of Christ is part of why God put you in your job. He has woven you into the fabric of others’ lives so that you will tell them the Gospel. Without this, all our adorning behavior may lack the one thing that could make it life-giving.
  • Christians should seriously ask not only what their vocation is, but where it should be lived out. We should not assume that teachers and carpenters and computer programmers and managers and CPAs and doctors and pilots should do their work in America. That very vocation may be better used in a country that is otherwise hard to get into, or in a place where poverty makes access to the Gospel difficult. In this way the web of relationships created by our work is not only strategic but intentional.
  • In conclusion, secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8 to 5. God’s will in this age is that his people be scattered like salt and light in all legitimate vocations. His aim is to be known, because knowing him is life and joy. He does not call us out of the world. He does not remove the need to work. He does not destroy society and culture. Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. If you work like the world, you will waste your life, no matter how rich you get. But if your work creates a web of redemptive relationships and becomes an adornment for the Gospel of the glory of Christ, your satisfaction will last forever and God will be exalted in your joy.

Chapter 9 The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy— A Plea to This Generation

  • God does not call us to ease, but to faithful joy. He is closing in on some of you, smiling and with tears in his eyes, knowing how much of himself he is going to show you—and how much it will cost. As I write, I pray that you will not turn away.
  • If you have pity for perishing people and a passion for the reputation of Christ, you must care about world missions.
  • One of the burdens of this book is to show what life looks like when you believe that you dare not choose between the motives to love people and glorify Christ. They are not separate motives.
  • This single passion—to see that Christ be glorified as perishing people become eternally satisfied in him—drives the great global enterprise we call world missions.
  • Missions exists because worship doesn’t.
  • There can be no weary resignation, no cowardly retreat, and no merciless contentment among Christ’s people while he is disowned among thousands of unreached peoples.
  • Those of you who stay—the senders—should keep this remarkable fact in mind: Foreign missions is a validation of all ministries of mercy at home because it exports them abroad.
  • Ministries of mercy close at hand validate the authenticity of our distant concerns.
  • Just as there is a partnership between the Gospel itself and mercy to the nearby poor, so there is a wonderful partnership between Christians being the merciful church at home and Christians planting the merciful church abroad. Neither is a wasted life.
  • The partnership that emerged between students, who were going, and businessmen, who were sending, was profound, because there were God-centered visionary leaders in both groups. Both were moved by the same passion not to waste their lives.
  • Laypeople, pastors, churches—all of us who stay behind—will find the “sweetest and most priceless rewards” as we enlarge our hearts to embrace not only the needs close to home, but also the hard and unreached places of the world.
  • These businessmen from a hundred years ago saw their secular calling and their missionary vision as an integrated whole.
  • Missions is not only crucial for the life of the world. It is crucial for the life of the church. We will perish with our wealth if we do not pour ourselves out in ministries of mercy at home and missions among the unreached peoples.
  • One way to describe the situation is to say that about 1.2–1.4 billion people have never had a chance to hear the Gospel;26 that is, they live in cultures where the preaching of the Gospel in understandable ways is not accessible. Other analysts estimate the number of unevangelized somewhat higher.
  • About 95 percent of these live in what has been called the 10/40 window (between latitudes 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator and between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans). This is the great challenge of our day.
  • There is a call on this generation to obey the risen Christ and make disciples of all the unreached peoples of the world. I am praying that God will raise up hundreds of thousands of young people and “finishers” (people finishing one career and ready to pursue a second in Christian ministry).
  • Frontier missions does what Paul aimed to do: Plant the church where there is now no possibility of ministry. This is the great need of the hour, not only for missionaries who go to serve the established church in other countries (which is a great need, especially in leadership development), but also for missionaries who go to peoples and places where there is no church to serve.
  • Don’t think the days of foreign missionaries are over, as if nationals can finish the work. There are hundreds of peoples and millions of people where there are no Christian nationals to do same-culture evangelism. A culture must be crossed.
  • Missions, not same-culture evangelism by nationals, will finish the Great Commission.
  • So “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), and ask him if you should be one. Expect this prayer to change you.
  • Get a copy of the amazing world prayer guide called Operation World, and pray and read and ponder your way through the nations day by day.
  • Abraham Kuyper put it memorably: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
  • if you want to be most fully satisfied with God as he triumphs in the history of redemption, you can’t go on with business as usual—doing your work, making your money, giving your tithe, eating, sleeping, playing, and going to church. Instead you need to stop and go away for a few days with a Bible and notepad; and pray and think about how your particular time and place in life fits into the great purpose of God to make the nations glad in him. How will you join the great global purpose of God expressed in Psalm 67:4, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy”?
  • Many of you should stay where you are in your present job, and simply ponder how you can fit your particular skills and relationships and resources more strategically into the global purpose of your heavenly Father. But for others reading this book, it is going to be different. Many of you are simply not satisfied with what you are doing.
  • If the discontent with your present situation is deep, recurrent, and lasting, and if that discontent grows in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work. If, in your discontent, you long to be holy, to walk pleasing to the Lord, and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life, then God may indeed be loosening your roots in order to transplant you to a place and a ministry where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.
  • It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation; but when he deploys you from one place to the next, he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship. God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace.
  • May God give you a fresh, Christ-exalting vision for your life—whether you go to an unreached people or stay firmly and fruitfully at your present post. May your vision get its meaning from God’s great purpose to make the nations glad in him. May the cross of Christ be your only boast, and may you say, with sweet confidence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Piper concludes the book with a chapter-length prayer in Chapter 10 “My Prayer – Let None Say in the End, “I’ve Wasted It”.