If you are looking for a book to give to an older person near retirement, or a younger person close to graduation, or simply a serious-minded Christian who enjoys reading and thinking, this may be your book! I’ve read many of John Piper’s books, but this one may be the most readable and challenging of all!
The author writes, “I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest. A couple ‘took retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. … ‘”
Piper goes on to write, “Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.”
“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.”
Take a look at the table of contents of this 189-page provocative work:
Chapter 1 – My Search for a Single Passion to Live By
Chapter 2 – Breakthrough – the Beauty of Christ, My Joy
Chapter 3 – Boasting Only in the Cross, the Blazing Center of the Glory of God
Chapter 4 – Magnifying Christ through Pain and Death
Chapter 5 – Risk Is Right – Better to Lose Your Life than to Waste It
Chapter 6 – The Goal of Life – Gladly Making Others Glad in God
Chapter 7 – Living to Prove He Is More Precious Than Life
Chapter 8 – Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5
Chapter 9 – The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy – A Plea to This Generation
Chapter 10 – My Prayer – Let None Say in the End “I’ve Wasted It!”
If you’ve read any of Piper’s books, you know his life’s theme is: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” How did he come to this understanding that has transformed his life and the lives of many others whom he’s influenced? If you really want to know, read chapters one and two. They are the most autobiographical of anything I’ve seen by Piper. Being very close to Piper’s age, from the same part of the country, and similar in some other ways, I found this reading especially fascinating.
Being passionate about the Great Commission, I also loved his “Plea to this Generation” in chapter 9. He entitled it “The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy.”
At the same time, since I know that God does not call everyone to cross-cultural missions, I greatly appreciated chapter eight on “Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5.” How can we make Christ look great in whatever arena He’s called us to?
Piper believes we can do it in our secular jobs:
- through the fellowship we enjoy with Him throughout the day in all our work;
- by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry;
- though confirming and enhancing the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel;
- by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards;
- by earning money with the desire to use it to make others glad in God;
- and 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.
Risk is right
What part of the book made me feel the most uncomfortable? Chapter 5, entitled “Risk Is Right – Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It.” The writer reminds us that risk is built into the fabric of our finite lives. I was moved by the biblical stories of General Joab in 2 Samuel 10, Queen Esther in Esther 4, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3, and the Apostle Paul in Acts of the Apostles and 2 Corinthians 11.
Why did this make me feel uncomfortable? Because, though I believe I’ve matured with age in many areas of my life, in the area of risk-taking for the Lord, I may have gone backward. I was probably more willing to step out and trust God for hard things at age 25 than I now am at nearly 70. Is being more adverse to risk just part of getting older? Is it because we are more subject to health problems as we age that we take fewer risks? In the area of our personal finances, we are told we should take fewer risks, but in the case of service for our Lord, should that be the case? If anything, because we have fewer years ahead of us than behind us, maybe we should we be more willing than ever to risk it all, even life and limb, for the glory of God. These are just some of the questions that were going through my mind as I read this chapter.
John Piper ends his book in chapter ten with a characteristically passionate prayer for the reader – that we would not someday get to the end of our life and say, “I’ve wasted it!” Let’s join Piper in praying for one another – that we would make living and dying in the cross of Christ our singular passion of life.