“The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples…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.” (31-32)
I have gone through this book on three separate occasions. The first was with a group of friends back in college when the book was first released in 2003, then again all alone in 2006, and finally as a study with college students this past year. I hold this book up as one of the most transformative in my life. Piper’s treatment of a non-wasted life was one of the great stimuli in making me first question the importance of “The American Dream” and then in turn questioning the need for my remaining in this country at all. Whereas all my friends were graduating and finding work either in our college town or in familiar places back home, I suddenly recognized that God had something completely different in store for me. Shortly after reading this book, I wrote an article that combined all my disjointed yearnings and warnings into a comprehensive call to action: “Forget the American Dream!” was my basic premise, and it laid the groundwork for what would eventually become my reasoning for moving overseas.
This is not the only book that has helped reconfirm these same convictions of “God’s will over peer pressure” and “service over work” in my life. Both David Platt’s Radical and Francis Chan’s Crazy Love teach the same. When you consider your life in terms of God and eternity, the flotsam that surrounds you each day loses all its appeal. “With eternity’s values in view,” you come to realize that life is too short to waste behind a desk crunching numbers. “Let the world do that!” I thought, and thus made it my life’s determination to never get stuck in a job that would take away my freedom to serve Christ. Thirteen years, a marriage, and two kids later, I’m still there, and I praise God for it!
The work to which He has called me has been difficult, sure, but I shout with Paul a life motto that every believer should be so fortunate to both claim and mean: “So whether we are at home or away [in Heaven or on Earth], we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Cor 5:9) On my dad’s desk was a magnet of a familiar verse I’ll never forget. You probably know it too:
Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
This has remained a constant reminder for me of the valueless nature of the crap this world has to offer when compared to the supreme glories of eternity. Second Corinthians 5:1-10 is all about this contrast, and it is well worth a read-through.
Piper’s treatment of life in this book is virtually no different than what he writes in Desiring God, yet at the same time this book seems to be the practical outflow of such joy-centered theology. In fact, in announcing his deep desire for the outcome of Don’t Waste Your Life, he exemplifies the very point he’s trying to make: “Oh, that God would help me waken in you a single passion for a single great reality that would unleash you, and set you free from small dreams, and send you, for the glory of Christ, into all the spheres of secular life and to all the peoples of the earth.” (54) When an author writes as passionately as John Piper, you simply can’t help but be inspired to greater things.
Piper’s book has helped reconfirm the most important spiritual lessons and convictions in my life again and again, and I highly recommend it to anyone college-aged and above. Why not to high schoolers? Mainly because they experientially have nothing to which they can contrast a wasted life. While it’s tough to say, I really do think that it’s important for Christians get a taste of the wasted life, if only for a short period of time, so that they can then understand the supreme gift that a life lived for Christ can actually be. If you’ve already sown your wild oats, then you know what I mean, and this book will be a real spotlight down the path of the rest of your life.