“It’s 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.”
John Piper first introduced his life story with many twists and turns in the context of prevailing worldview and theologies of the time – how he was determined to find the purpose of life, how he “become alive to life” with the help of C. S. Lewis, how he learnt and defended the obvious and the Truth, how he learnt the secret of understanding the bible and finally found the answer with the help of many teachers. He talked about his “debt” to the list of teachers who helped him along the way. I wonder who will be in my list when I look back at my life and whose list will I be in? Will I be able to make anyone glad in God and help them along their Christian life on earth?
He gave some compelling examples of how wasted lives look. They are sad and tragic stories that belong to other people, but they are also serious warnings to me. What would I say to the Lord when he asks me, “what have you done with the days and years on earth I gave you? Did what you do make my name great?”
John Piper’s writing is clear, passionate and convincing. When I read, I can almost hear his voice talking to me. It’s very personal. His words make me think and feel. For example, this is one of the paragraphs that touches me most:
As I write this, I am fifty-seven years old. As the months go by, I relate to more and more people who are young enough to be my sons and daughters… Few things, if any, fill me with more longing… than the longing that my children not waste their lives on fatal success. This longing transfers very easily to you, especially if you are in your twenties or thirties. I see you, as it were, like a son or a daughter, and in these pages I plead with you as a father – perhaps a father who loves you dearly, or the father you never had. Or the father who never had a vision for you like I have for you – and God has for you. Or the father who has a vision for you, but it’s all about money and status. I look through these pages and see you as sons and daughters, and 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.
Because it’s so clear and convincing, once I understood it, it’s hard to see things in the old way anymore. What is the goal of my life? How do I reconcile the natural pursuit of happiness with the right thing to do: glorifying God? What is the meaning of love and the best way to love someone? Is there such thing as safety which shuts away dangers and risks? Is spending time with family always better than working? How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation? What’s wrong with questions like “what’s wrong with watching this film” or “what’s wrong with spending my spare time in this way”? The pages on war-time stories, war-time mindset and lifestyle are particularly persuasive and touching for me. “No war on earth was ever fought for a greater cause or a greater king” than rescuing people from hell and making them glad in God. However throughout history, many individuals made tremendous sacrifices during many conflicts: For your tomorrow, we gave our today. I’m not sure I can say that.
When you understand the true purpose of life, you’ll see people in a different light and are compelled to do something about their wasted lives: Christians who spend “quality time” watching TV with their family; Young people who are obsessed with latest fashion and celebrity gossip; Parents whose entire life goal is to find a suitable husband for their daughter. I think back my whole life and seven years of Christian life. I thank God for his grace and patience, for all the teachers (in person and in books) and for giving me this book at this point of my life. I ask for forgiveness for all the time and opportunities I wasted. I pray for a passion to make Jesus’ name great and the joy in God’s glory. I also pray that many more young Christians will read this book and be changed as a result!