John Piper: “Don’t Waste Your Life”

It is possible to waste your life. Few things make me tremble more than the possibility of taking this onetime gift of life and wasting it. Every morning when I walked into the kitchen as a boy I saw hanging on the wall the plaque that now hangs in my living room: “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” And now I am almost 58, and the river of life is spilling over the falls of my days with tremendous speed. More and more I smell eternity. And oh, how I want to use my life well. It is so short and so fragile and so final. You get one chance to live your life. And then the judgment. I speak as a father who has children your age, and I am jealous with Jesus that they and you not waste your life. “

“What is the unwasted life? What does it look like? What is the essence of the unwasted life?   A life that puts the infinite value of Christ on display for the world to see. The passion of the unwasted life is to joyfully display the supreme excellence of Christ by the way we live. Life is given to us so that we can use it to make much of Christ. Possessions are given to us so that by the way we use them, we can show that they are not our treasure, but Christ is our treasure. Money is given to us so that we will use it in a way that shows money is not treasure, but Christ is our treasure.

The great passion of the unwasted life is to magnify Christ. Here is the text that, perhaps more than any other, governs what life is really about: Philippians 1:20-21. Paul says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Paul’s all-consuming passion was that in his life and in his death Jesus Christ be honored, that is, that Jesus Christ be made to look like the infinite treasure that he is. The reason you have life is to make Jesus Christ look great. There is one central criterion that should govern all the decisions you make in life and in death: Will this help make Jesus Christ look like the treasure he is?

You can see this in the way Paul talks about the two halves of his statement in verse 20. He says that his passion is that Christ be honored (or magnified, or made to look great) whether by life or by death. There is the life half of the verse, and the death half. How does Paul show that Christ is his treasure by life?

The answer is given in Philippians 3:7-8:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

In other words, Paul displays the worth of Christ by counting everything else as loss for Christ’s sake. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of Christ.” Which means that the life that displays the worth of Christ—the unwasted life—is the life that uses everything to show that Christ is more valuable that it is. Money is used to show that Christ is more valuable than money. Food is used to show that Christ is more valuable than food is. Houses and lands and cars and computers are used to show that Christ is more valuable than they are. Family and friends and your own life are a place to show that Christ is more valuable than any of them.

The way we display the supreme worth of Jesus in our lives is by treasuring Christ above all things, and then making life choices that show that our joy is not finally in things or even in other people, but in Christ.

And the same is true in the second half of what Paul said in Philippians 1:20, namely, his honoring Christ by the way he dies. “It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” How is Christ honored—how do we make much of Christ and display his worth—by our death? He gives the answer in the next verse (21): “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Why is death gain? It’s gain because verse 23 says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Death is gain because death means more of Christ. It means to depart and be with him—with him!—and that is far better.

How do you show that Christ is a treasure in death? By experiencing death as gain. Christ will be most magnified in you, in your dying, when you are most satisfied in him, in your dying. When Christ is more precious to you than all that life can give, then being with him through death will be gain. And it will be plain to all that Christ is your treasure, and nothing on the earth.

Here is the essential lesson for living the unwasted life and dying the unwasted death:

Life and death are given to us as means of displaying the supreme value of Christ.

The supreme value of Christ is displayed when you treasure him above all earthly things and all other earthly persons.

This treasuring of him above all earthly things and persons is most clearly seen in what you are gladly willing to risk, or to sacrifice in order to enjoy more of him.

Here is the radical way Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, where Christ refused to remove Paul’s painful thorn in the flesh:

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [There’s more of Christ!] Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Magnifying the surpassing power of Christ in his own weakness and pain was Paul’s supreme passion! I will rejoice in whatever makes Christ look magnificently satisfying—including all my pain.”

Listen to this sermon:  

From John Piper

About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on February 27, 2011, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, The Cross and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Having almost reached half a century, I am aware of the years I have wasted. The years that although I walked with God and was aware of God, I didn’t do what He had called me to do.
    Thank you for the post. It is a reminder call, especially to those of us in New Zealand where recently many have perished in the Canterbury earthquake.
    Where suddenly life isn’t a given, we can’t guarantee tomorrow.
    All we can know is where we stand with Jesus.


  2. Video games, television, sports, etc… so many things seemed designed to rob us of what’s truly valuable in life. None are wrong by its mere existance but each becomes a sinful waste of life when allowed to become an obsession.

    Thanks for the great post and God bless,


  3. Clarissa Rivers

    All I can say is thank you so, so much for posting this. As a teenager my biggest fear is wasting life. This will be my lifelong struggle, to pursue an unwasted life.


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