Don't Waste Your Life

Don't Waste Your Life

by John Piper

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John Piper 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 early 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....' Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: 'Look, Lord. See my shells.' That is a tragedy.

Most people slip by in life without a passion for God, spending their lives on trivial diversions, living for comfort and pleasure, and perhaps trying to avoid sin. This book will warn you not to get caught up in a life that counts for nothing. It will challenge you to live and die boasting in the cross of Christ and making the glory of God your singular passion. If you believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain, read this book, learn to live for Christ, and don't waste your life!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433550201
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 03/31/2018
Edition description: Gift Edition
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,172,188
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.organd the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God;Don’t Waste Your Life;This Momentary Marriage;A Peculiar Glory;andReading the Bible Supernaturally.

Read an Excerpt


My Search for a Single Passion to Live By

* * *

My father was an evangelist. In fact he still is, even though he doesn't travel now. When I was a boy, there were rare occasions when my mother and sister and I traveled with him and heard him preach. I trembled to hear my father preach. In spite of the predictable opening humor, the whole thing struck me as absolutely blood-earnest. There was a certain squint to his eye and a tightening of his lips when the avalanche of biblical texts came to a climax in application.

"I've Wasted It, I've Wasted It"

Oh, how he would plead! Children, teenagers, young singles, young married people, the middle-aged, old people — he would press the warnings and the wooings of Christ into the heart of each person. He had stories, so many stories, for each age group — stories of glorious conversions, and stories of horrific refusals to believe followed by tragic deaths. Seldom could those stories come without tears.

For me as a boy, one of the most gripping illustrations my fiery father used was the story of a man converted in old age. The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone's amazement he came and took my father's hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face — and what an impact it made on me to hear my father say this through his own tears — "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!" 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.

"Only One Life, 'Twill Soon Be Past"

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. We moved into that house when I was six. So I suppose I looked at the words on that plaque almost every day for twelve years, till I went away to college at age eighteen. It was a simple piece of glass painted black on the back with a gray link chain snug around it for a border and for hanging. On the front, in old English script, painted in white, were the words:

Only one life,
To the left, beside these words, was a painted green hill with two trees and a brown path that disappeared over the hill. How many times, as a little boy, and then as a teenager with pimples and longings and anxieties, I looked at that brown path (my life) and wondered what would be over that hill. 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. I am fifty-seven as I write, and that very plaque hangs today on the wall by our front door. I see it every time I leave home.

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. I was not even sure how to put the question into words, let alone what the answer might be. What was the opposite of not wasting my life? "To be successful in a career"? Or "to be maximally happy"? Or "to accomplish something great?" Or "to find the deepest meaning and significance"? Or "to help as many people as possible"? Or "to serve Christ to the full"? Or "to glorify God in all I do"? Or was there a point, a purpose, a focus, an essence to life that would fulfill every one of those dreams?

"The Lost Years"

I had forgotten how weighty this question was for me until I looked through my files from those early years. Just when I was about to leave my South Carolina home in 1964, never to return as a resident, Wade Hampton High School published a simple literary magazine of poems and stories. Near the back, with the byline Johnny Piper, was a poem. I will spare you. It was not a good poem. Jane, the editor, was merciful. What matters to me now was the title and first four lines. It was called "The Lost Years." Beside it was a sketch of an old man in a rocking chair. The poem began:

Long I sought for the earth's hidden meaning; Long as a youth was my search in vain. Now as I approach my last years waning, My search I must begin again.

Across the forty years that separate me from that poem I can hear the fearful refrain, "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!" Somehow there had been wakened in me a passion for the essence and the main point of life. The ethical question "whether something is permissible" faded in relation to the question, "what is the main thing, the essential thing?" The thought of building a life around minimal morality or minimal significance — a life defined by the question, "What is permissible?" — felt almost disgusting to me. I didn't want a minimal life. I didn't want to live on the outskirts of reality. I wanted to understand the main thing about life and pursue it.

Existentialism Was the Air We Breathed

The passion not to miss the essence of life, not to waste it, intensified in college — the tumultuous late sixties. There were strong reasons for this, reasons that go well beyond the inner turmoil of one boy coming of age. "Essence" was under assault almost everywhere. Existentialism was the air we breathed. And the meaning of existentialism was that "existence precedes essence." That is, first you exist and then, by existing, you create your essence. You make your essence by freely choosing to be what you will be. There is no essence outside you to pursue or conform to. Call it "God" or "Meaning" or "Purpose" — it is not there until you create it by your own courageous existence. (If you furrow your brow and think, "This sounds strangely like our own day and what we call postmodernism," don't be surprised. There is nothing new under the sun. There are only endless repackagings.)

I recall sitting in a darkened theater watching the theatrical offspring of existentialism, the "theater of the absurd." The play was Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Vladimir and Estragon meet under a tree and converse as they wait for Godot. He never comes. Near the end of the play a boy tells them Godot will not be coming. They decide to leave but never move. They go nowhere. The curtain falls, and God[ot] never comes.

That was Beckett's view of people like me — waiting, seeking, hoping to find the Essence of things, instead of creating my own essence with my free and unbridled existence. Nowhere — that's where you're going, he implied, if you pursue some transcendent Point or Purpose or Focus or Essence.

"The Nowhere Man"

The Beatles released their album Rubber Soul in December 1965 and sang out their existentialism with compelling power for my generation. Perhaps it was clearest in John Lennon's "Nowhere Man."

He's a real nowhere man Sitting in his nowhere land Making all his nowhere plans For nobody Doesn't have a point of view Knows not where he's going to Isn't he a bit like you and me?
These were heady days, especially for college students. And, thankfully, God was not silent. Not everybody gave way to the lure of the absurd and the enticement of heroic emptiness. Not everyone caved in to the summons of Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. Even voices without root in the Truth knew that there must be something more — something outside ourselves, something bigger and greater and more worth living for than what we saw in the mirror.

The Answer, the Answer Was Blowin' in the Wind

Bob Dylan was scratching out songs with oblique messages of hope that exploded on the scene precisely because they hinted at a Reality that would not keep us waiting forever. Things would change. Sooner or later the slow would be fast and the first would be last. And it would not be because we were existential masters of our absurd fate. It would come to us. That is what we all felt in the song, "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

The line it is drawn,
It must have riled the existentialists to hear Dylan, perhaps without even knowing it, sweep away their everything-goes relativism with the audacious double "The answer ... The answer" in the smash hit, "Blowin' in the Wind."

How many times must a man look up Before he can see the sky?
How many times can a man look up and not see the sky? There is a sky up there to be seen. You may look up ten thousand times and say you don't see it. But that has absolutely no effect on its objective existence. It is there. And one day you will see it. How many times must you look up before you see it? There is an answer. The answer, The answer, my friend, is not yours to invent or create. It will be decided for you. It is outside you. It is real and objective and firm. One day you will hear it. You don't create it. You don't define it. It comes to you, and sooner or later you conform to it — or bow to it.

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.

The little brown path over the green hill on our kitchen plaque was winding its way — all through the sixties — among the sweet snares of intellectual folly. Oh, how courageous my generation seemed when they stepped off the path and put their foot in the trap! Some could even muster the moxie to boast, "I have chosen the way of freedom. I have created my own existence. I have shaken loose the old laws. Look how my leg is severed!"

The Man with Long Hair and Knickers

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. 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 (which Schaeffer pronounced something like "Reawity"). All that looks like reality to us is dependent on God. There is creation and Creator, nothing more. And creation gets all its meaning and purpose from God.

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.

I suppose there is no point lamenting that one must spend his college years learning the obvious — that there is Truth, that there is objective being and objective value. Like a fish going to school to learn that there is water, or a bird that there is air, or a worm that there is dirt. But it seems that, for the last two hundred years or so, this has been the main point of good education. And its opposite is the essence of bad education. So I don't lament the years I spent learning the obvious.

The Man Who Taught Me to See

Indeed, I thank God for professors and writers who devoted tremendous creative energies to render credible the existence of trees and water and souls and love and God. 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.

Someone introduced me to Lewis my freshman year with the book, Mere Christianity. For the next five or six years I was almost never without a Lewis book near at hand. I think that without his influence I would not have lived my life with as much joy or usefulness as I have. There are reasons for this.

He has made me wary of chronological snobbery. That is, he showed me that newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty and opened for me the wisdom of the ages. To this day I get most of my soul-food from centuries ago. I thank God for Lewis's compelling demonstration of the obvious.

He demonstrated for me and convinced me that rigorous, precise, penetrating logic is not opposed to deep, soul-stirring feeling and vivid, lively — even playful — imagination. He was a "romantic rationalist." He combined things that almost everybody today assumes are mutually exclusive: rationalism and poetry, cool logic and warm feeling, disciplined prose and free imagination. In shattering these old stereotypes, he freed me to think hard and to write poetry, to argue for the resurrection and compose hymns to Christ, to smash an argument and hug a friend, to demand a definition and use a metaphor.

Lewis gave me an intense sense of the "realness" of things. The preciousness of this is hard to communicate. To wake up in the morning and be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun's rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the sheer being of things ("quiddity" as he calls it). He helped me become alive to life. He helped me see what is there in the world — things that, if we didn't have, we would pay a million dollars to have, but having them, ignore. He made me more alive to beauty. He put my soul on notice that there are daily wonders that will waken worship if I open my eyes. He shook my dozing soul and threw the cold water of reality in my face, so that life and God and heaven and hell broke into my world with glory and horror.

He exposed the sophisticated intellectual opposition to objective being and objective value for the naked folly that it was. The philosophical king of my generation had no clothes on, and the writer of children's books from Oxford had the courage to say so.

You can't go on "seeing through" things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to "see through" first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To "see through" all things is the same as not to see.

Oh, how much more could be said about the world as C. S. Lewis saw it and the way he spoke. He has his flaws, some of them serious. But I will never cease to thank God for this remarkable man who came onto my path at the perfect moment.

A Fiancée Is a Stubbornly Objective Fact

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. Way too soon probably. But it has turned out okay; I still love her. Nothing sobers a wandering philosophical imagination like the thought of having a wife and children to support.

We were married in December 1968. It is a good thing to do one's thinking in relation to real people. From that moment on, every thought has been a thought in relationship. Nothing is merely an idea, but an idea that bears on my wife, then later, on my five children. I thank God for the parable of Christ and the church that I have been obliged to live these thirty-five years. There are lessons in life — the unwasted life — that I would probably never have learned without this relationship (just as there are lessons in lifelong singleness that will probably be learned no other way).


Excerpted from "Don't Waste Your Life"
by .
Copyright © 2003 Desiring God Foundation.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface: For Christians and Non-Christians 9

1 My Search for a Single Passion to Live By 11

2 Breakthrough-the Beauty of Christ, My Joy 23

3 Boasting Only in the Cross, The Blazing Center of the Glory of God 43

4 Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death 61

5 Risk Is Right-Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It 79

6 The Goal of Life-Gladly Making Others Glad in God 99

7 Living to Prove He Is More Precious Than Life 107

8 Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5 131

9 The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy-A Plea to This Generation 155

10 My Prayer-Let None Say in the End, "I've Wasted It" 183

Desiring God Ministries 191

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Don't Waste Your Life 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first Piper-read book. I am new to Reformed theology. I am 56.5 years old. I have wasted most of my life. I struggle with understanding Piperisms. He is a very dry writer to me. I understand Calvinism better than I do Piper. In all honesty, I am convicted by some what he writes. I do appreciate some of his wisdom. It is not a high priority in reading. I have read most of it. In putting my life back in a Godly manner, other books have more revelance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most of the reviews I have read are from collge age students, but I read it about seven years out of college and find it that much more impacting on my life! I have a deeper understanding as to why our society has shaped our thinking for the worst. This book unlocks those chains and give you direction and know how in living a Christian lifestyle with excitement and optimism. I also felt like it gave more insight as to how God loves us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a bored Christian, feeling like you've heard it all, you need to read this book. It has the capacity to turn you on your head, urging you to rethink the 'God loves me' and 'WIFM' mentality that is taught at most churches today. If you are bored and feeling lost, unfed, this book will tell you why. You've been looking for the wrong thing. You've been focusing your energies in the wrong direction. God does have a plan for you and your life - but it isn't what you think it is.
temsmail on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This popular level devotional shows why the Christian should have hope and activity in their live of piety. To do or feel less is "wasting your life."
davegregg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a great book. It does what it does well, but it doesn't deal with the possible (or even, likely) reaction that people might have to it. That is, to draw their sense of approval and validation from how successful they feel they are at "not wasting" their life. If they aren't what they consider to be successful at this, then they will feel less approved or loved by God (even if they know intellectually that isn't true). So if they aren't "successful," then they will be depressed. If they are "successful," then they will feel that all is well, but only because their identity and significance is attached to their performance. It can easily be a hidden lair of religion: a subtle snare of works-based righteousness. This is how "Don't Waste Your Life" almost ruined mine. I'm only now coming out of this myself.So, just remind yourself that your identity, significance, approval, validation, and justification come from Christ alone. You are loved and valued unconditionally. You don't have to justify your existence. You just have to live loved.
Neeva_Candida on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! This was an eye-opening book for me. Why are we here? What are we to be doing? These are hard questions for anyone to answer. However, Christian's don't necessarily have much better answers than their unsaved peers. This book will help point you in the right direction. Plenty of scripture supports the various points presented.
perrigoue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this instead of Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life".
jdrullard on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely one of the best books ever! It is so simple, but it hits so hard! This book literally got the fire going for me. I recommend anything by Piper!
sloDavid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Piper's challenge hits home yet again. We only have a few years to live our faith. God has called us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. God has called us to live a risk-filled adventure for His glory, not to live for the end goal of a retirement collecting seashells.Powerful stuff. Inspiring. Encouraging. A necessary pep-talk from a coach that's going to give it to you straight and not mince words. It's half-time and the game is on the line.
Samer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simple, but some good stuff, particularly for new Christians... Then again, I wouldn't want any new Christians to get into Piper and become seven-point Calvinists.
moorereason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don't Waste Your Life was the first Piper book I ever read. Piper is wonderfully hard to read because every sentence is so blood-earnest and full of power that you have be fully engaged to keep up with him. Fortunately, Piper brakes all his chapters up into short sections to you can stop and ponder what you've read, and it makes for easy stopping points since I usually don't get through a whole chapter in one sitting (kids are great!!). Like many things in life, the most challenging books to read are often the most profitable. I've tagged it as a "life changer," and I highly recommend it.
lmathews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Piper is an extremely redundant author. I read "When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy" prior to reading this book and it contained about 40-50% of the material in here. The book contains a very good message in the sense of demolishing the American Dream, but to understand Piper, one just needs to read one of his books. I am not a big fan of him but others are absolutely crazy about him. I would say don't waste your money on this book
nesum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Piper argues very convincingly for putting Christ first in your life. This is one of Piper's best works, and very much worth the read.
Steve777 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is very helpful to help one to discern what is good and what is best in how to spend ones life for God.
l_millsaps on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The world tells us that our ultimate goal should be the pursuit of our own happiness: a life of free of strife, struggle and pain. But does seeking this really result in fulfillment ¿ or in the end, does it just leave us empty and longing for more? In his book, "Don't Waste Your Life", John Piper answers this question by explaining that a life spent focused on ourselves leaves us self-absorbed, self-centered, selfish and self-destructive. Instead, we should be focused on a passionate pursuit of God ¿ on loving Him more, knowing Him better, and using everything we have been given to further His kingdom. Living for Him is the true road to joy, happiness and satisfaction ¿ a life poured out, but never wasted.
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