Tag Archives: John Piper

It’s not enough to be sorry


I remember Don Knight speaking words of wisdom to a group of men at church years ago. He encouraged us all to speak “those three little words” every woman desperately longs for a man to say. You’re probably thinking he was going to remind us the importance of saying, “I love you.” But according to Don, the three little words most important and most cherished by women are those spoken by the man who admits, “I was wrong!”


The popular movie, “Love Story” became famous for it’s punch line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Even the actor who spoke the line looks back and says, “What rubbish!” Love means admitting you’re wrong and saying you’re sorry. It’s sometimes hard to say it because quite truthfully we want to be right. But as perfect as you might be, there will come a time when you will not be right and it will be best to swallow the pride and say “those three little words.”


But it’s not really enough, is it? We can’t just say “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” Something more is required. The purpose of admitting being wrong and sorry is to change our thinking and our behavior so we don’t find ourselves in that same situation again! The spiritual word for this is repentance, which means to turn away from wrong and change.


Some folk complained to Jesus about other “sinners.” Jesus’ response was that there aren’t some who are worse sinners than others and that “unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:3)


The truth is, we all fall short. (Romans 3:23) None of us hit the mark. Maybe some days, we aren’t even aiming at the right target. We aim too low in pursuing personal ambitions and filling our sense of self-worth. We aim to “keep busy” rather than to live with purpose. We set up goals that really won’t satisfy us at life’s end. Sometimes we don’t even set up any goals, but just coast through life as it happens to us. Our lives, while designed to be fruitful in spiritual ways, encouraging to others and honoring to God, sometimes may be barren of any good and lasting value.


A couple retired and sold their home. They purchased a boat and spent all their last days collecting sea shells. Piper asks, “How will they answer God when he calls them home and asks what they did with the life he gave them? “I collected sea shells?!” What a waste!”” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life)


Jesus tells the story of a man who had a fig tree that never bore fruit. Year after year it remained barren. He was going to have it cut down. But the man who took care of his vineyard pleaded with him, “Leave it alone for one more year and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not then cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)


It’s not enough to be sorry that our lives are so barren of God’s love, joy, and peace. It’s not enough to feel regret that we lack patience, kindness, or goodness. We can admit we have too little faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But it’s not enough. We can’t produce fruit by working harder or doing more good things. But while time still remains, today is the day to dig in and fertilize our lives with the nourishment of God’s truth. This is the day to soak up his promises and let them feed the very root of our lives. That’s when fruit will come, by changing our life so it stays connected to God, the very creator of life. And THAT is enough.


Resting and wrestling



John Piper writes: “There is a restful side to the Christian life. “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. “Be anxious for nothing . . . let your requests be made known to God . . . and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). There is rest and peace in the Christian soul.


But there is also wrestling. Jesus said in Luke 13:24, “Strive <wrestle/struggle> to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” At the end of his life, Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” Keeping the faith is a fight to be fought and a race to be run.”


We’ve written quite a bit about the resting side of the Christian life. Unless you are facing mighty challenges yourself, who wants to pursue the kind of suffering that comes from a wrestling life? But the two are interrelated. We wrestle with our response to life challenges with the goal of finding rest. And, as we’ve commented before, we find rest in these trials because Christ-in-us has already won the battle and assured our victory, IF (and this is a very strong IF):


IF you are willing to believe God at His Word, even when it flies in the face of your present circumstances.


IF you believe that God is sovereign and He has a provident plan for your life.


IF you believe that you are an alien and foreigner in this land we call earth; that your real home is heaven.


IF you believe that you are a spiritual being with a temporary earthly shell, not merely a physical being with some small spiritual component.


IF you believe that God’s loving discipline is even better for us than the parental discipline of our childhood.


We wrestle with each of these tenets when we face difficulties and temptations. God knows that our wrestling makes us tired and can lead us to lose heart. He knows our wrestling can lead to a dangerous sense of despair. And so he reminds us:
“Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3-4)


If you are wrestling with pain, suffering, sorrow, unpleasant work or home life, there is good news. There comes from wrestling a sense of rest IF we believe what God has in store for us as His children.


“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” ( v 7,11)


Maybe you need to wrestle harder. If so, rest in the confidence that Jesus-in-you has already secured the victory. Believe it.



Don’t waste your suffering



John Piper wrote a great little book called Don’t Waste Your Life, followed later by Don’t Waste Your Cancer. Both books spoke to me – before and during my experience with cancer. The premise is simple. Life is short so live it intentionally and live it well. Oh I know, when your journey is filled with suffering of all kinds, life seems to move slowly, like it may never end. A year and a half after achieving remission from cancer and after my stem cell transplant, I’m still asking my doctors, “When will I get stronger?” But even in the midst of all kinds of trials, life really is short compared to the eternity of time that awaits us. So, how do we respond?


“Don’t waste your suffering.”


Suffering seems to be wasteful in itself; it robs us of comfort, patience, strength, productivity, and so much more. Suffering leads us to experience indignities that we are sure are unnecessary to the human challenge. But suffering also is a worker, accomplishing in us that which we cannot accomplish ourselves. Consider Paul’s story:


Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”  2 Corinthians 11:24-27


Whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, threatened by robbers and countrymen, surrounded by danger all around, sleepless, hungry, cold, and naked… I think you will agree that Paul knew suffering.  If anyone had reason to complain, it was him. But how did he perceive this tremendous distress?


” For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17


He considers his trials light and momentary, insignificant compared to what? Compared to what they are achieving right now for eternal glory. Our sufferings are at work to purify us and build us up, even as we are sure they are only working to tear us down. And they are working also to build others up too:


Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12


None of us like to suffer and we don’t like watching others suffer. But in the midst of these, we are called to pray (for ourselves and others) and to stand firm. Don’t waste your suffering, knowing that our loving God will not waste an ounce of the pain you give to Him.



Firm Foundation



Do you ever read anything that disagrees with your belief? I do. Sometimes I learn some truth they discover but maybe don’t fully recognize; sometimes the futility of their thinking sharpens my own perspective. Take Bertrand Russell for example. The acclaimed anti-Christian believed there is no God, just physical matter. His beliefs as he stated them:


“That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of the universe in ruins. . . . Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built“(Why I Am Not a Christian, editor Paul Edwards [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], p. 107).


Only on the foundation of unyielding despair?! Is that how you would like to build your life, on hopelessness and despair? You might as well accept the motto: “Life is hard and then you die.” But we have a quite different conviction. As John Piper shares:
“The vision of life revealed in the Bible explains more of what we experience than the materialism of Bertrand Russell. It makes more sense out of the material and immaterial, the impersonal and the personal, and puts a solid foundation under the soaring eloquence of Russell’s contradictory despair.


Yes, we die. And there is darkness and sorrow. For those who see only that, there will be something much worse than Russell’s “extinction in the vast death of the solar system.” That is not what hell is.


But for believers, the despair and futility are swept away in the dawn of Easter Sunday.” John Piper, Strange Collocation, October 2009.



What is the foundation on which you base your life? I mean your daily life. What is the firm foundation that holds you safe no matter what storms rage around you?


“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”” 2 Timothy 2:19



You are a delight to God



Delight in the one who delights in you.


Being a light-bearer raises the bar for all fully devoted followers of Jesus. Even during the challenge of running the race we need to maintain a perspective of who we are – from God’s point of view.


“Jesus loves me this I know” – we’ve been taught it from the beginning but do you believe it today? “For God so loved (insert your name here; also the name of someone who irritates you) that He gave his only begotten Son.” “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him – in those who hope in His steadfast love.” (Psalm 147:11) “He will rejoice over you with gladness.” (Zephaniah 3:17) “He brought me out into a broad place – he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:19) And the list goes on and on.


It’s official: God loves you and delights in you. How can that be when we have so very many shortcomings? It is because God sees us as redeemed and made holy by the forgiving grace of His Son. As John Piper relates, “He sees us becoming in practice what we (already) are positionally in Christ.” Believe it or not, God loves you dearly. Put your troubles at the feet of that truth!


Such an affirmation of our worth, our value to God could be a dangerous thing. We could (but better not) let our egos get puffed up and say, “Look who God loves.” It is a popular “me-centered gospel” preached too often today: ‘God delights in you and wants to favor you with all kinds of (materialistic) blessings.’ The truth is that God does delight in you but His favor may be evidenced by the hardships that draw you ever closer to Him.


The best choice of how to respond to God’s amazing expression of love for us is to delight in Him. “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3. We are created to delight in God and to enjoy Him more than anything else. We are made to seek His presence throughout the rough parts of life and the mundane as well as the mountaintop experiences of great joy. It is our primary purpose.


Delight in God, not just in His blessings. Delight in Him for who He is, not just what He has done. Even if nothing else is going ‘your way’, fill your day with your delight in Him who delights in us!


“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2



Enjoying love

What if on Valentines Day a husband came to his wife and gave her a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates? That sounds pretty nice. And what if his wife thanked him profusely for the thoughtful gifts. Then what if the husband responded, “Oh don’t think anything of it. It is my duty to give you these tokens of appreciation. I do it because I am supposed to do it.” (Yikes, is there a way to hit reverse in this story?!) How would you feel if a gift was presented in this way? Probably not very honored or loved.

Let’s hit rewind and consider a different and heartfelt response to his wife:
“It makes me glad to bring you things. In fact, it brings me more delight to spend this night with you than anyone I might. I cannot think of a way I’d rather spend this day than satisfying my desire with one I so much admire. It gladdens me to be with you. I will magnify you by making you the joy of my life.”
(From John Piper, Desiring God)

It is not that duty is wrong. In fact it is a virtue to behold. But loving out of duty is not the greatest expression of love. Loving because there is nothing else which you find more satisfying, now that is love.

Now imagine that instead of man and wife, the scenario is between you and God. “God, look at my good deeds that I do for you. Consider my gifts to the church. Watch how my life is one of service to you, because it is my duty to serve you.” Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad to you, because we have been raised, many of us, to think of our spiritual life as one of service and duty. And it is, but only because this stems from a greater enjoyment of spending time with God, being more satisfied when in his presence than anything else on earth. I think God is as pleased with such an expression of love as you are when a child comes to you simply because they enjoy your company.

Enjoy God. Be fully satisfied in him and celebrate such great love.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

Hope for the hopeless

Have you been struggling for some time with a particular problem or sin, only to find that your efforts are never sufficient to bring resolution to your problem? Are you thinking, here comes yet another year of hopeless struggle? Do you need a gift of hope today?

John Piper wrote a devotional, Hope for the Worst of Sinners, that offers real hope for all of us. He recalls the true story of Moses who pleaded with God to have mercy on the rebellious Israelites. God responds:
“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19)

What an incredible verse of hope for us! God’s decision to grant mercy is not based on my goodness! I remember visiting with a gal several years ago about this. She just could not grasp the truth of this statement: No one can go beyond the reach of God. There is no limit to his grace that any of can exceed. There is always room at his feet to receive mercy. (That’s why it is called Amazing Grace!) You may think you are not good enough, you’ve done too much wrong and not enough good. You are probably right, but that doesn’t limit God’s ability to forgive and to grant you grace.

Piper reminds us that if you haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are still not beyond God’s reach. While you breathe there is time to repent. Perhaps you’ve made a commitment to follow Jesus but you’ve drifted away. Perhaps you’re following him in many ways of your life but have kept back certain parts of your life to try to control on your own. (It’s not working, is it?)

Where is our hope? It is in turning away from our futile self efforts and asking God to guide us. It is in seeking his presence not just to solve a problem but to enjoy being with him. In his presence you will find mercy, love, and real hope.

“Come, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Fully satisfied

What really satisfies you?
A nice house? A relaxing vacation or exciting adventure? A really good meal? A good run? Time with friends and family? A day at the beach? Singing and listening to music? Doing good? Five minutes in the bathroom without interruptions from the children? 🙂

Did you know God wants us to have joy? He wants us to experience being fully satisfied. But it might not be in the way we expect. We so often seek satisfaction in things, in others, and in physical and emotionally charged experiences. And I’m thankful for the way God blesses us with these experiences. They have enriched my life and provided many great memories.

But I think we were designed to be fully and permanently satisfied only through a close and genuine relationship with our loving God. He is the only one who can fill our need for ultimate satisfaction.

John Piper’s book, Desiring God, has helped me view God, and interpret His Word from a different perspective. Like so many others, I had previously thought my primary purpose was to serve my wonderful, gracious, and loving creator. (And that IS a result of the Christian’s personal encounter with Jesus.) But Pastor Piper challenges us to consider “the chief purpose of man(kind) is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” That is, to be more satisfied in HIM than in anything else.

Maybe you will ponder this one thought for a moment. How do you feel when your child or grandchild really wants, more than anything else, just to spend time with YOU? Or when you realize it really doesn’t matter a great deal what you and your closest friend do, so long as you can really enjoy each other’s company? Those experiences speak great satisfaction and value to you, don’t they? Imagine how our Heavenly Father feels when we come to Him, simply because it is so SATISFYING to be in His presence!

Like any goal, we won’t hit the mark every time. Just as there are times when we are upset with or don’t feel close to those we love here on earth, there will be times, perhaps even seasons, when we don’t feel satisfied with God. But just as we keep pursuing satisfaction on earth, let’s intentionally seek to find real satisfaction today by enjoying God more than anything else.

Psalm 63:1-5
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.