What can I do to ensure my life counts? To ensure that the life God has given to me matters? That’s significant. It’s a universal question, and one asked of John Piper on June 3 of this year in Montesilvano, Italy. It came in the context of a television interview. Here’s a field recording of what John Piper said, in answering the question: What is the true significance of life, and how does this relate to risk taking?
The true significance of life is that God made human beings in his own image with precious value. And that value, that significance, consists in knowing God, loving God, showing God. In other words, life is about God. Man is not central. God is central. He created the universe and humanity in order to magnify the greatness of God. And our joy in this world, which God made essential, is in Jesus Christ, in God the Father, in the Holy Spirit.
“There is no tension between finding our significance in making much of God and being as happy as we can be.”
So, there is no tension between finding our significance in making much of God and being as happy as we can be. This is one of the greatest discoveries of my life: that God’s purpose to be glorified and my passion to be satisfied are not at odds. They come together in finding my satisfaction in God. So, I use the little phrase, God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him. He gets the glory. I get the joy.
Now, the second part of your question about risk and taking chances is that people who find their fullest joy and satisfaction in God, which can never be taken away, not even death can take it away. In God’s presence is fullness of joy. At his right hand are pleasures forever — forever (Psalm 16:11). So, death cannot stop my joy. Those kinds of people are the most risky — dangerous in the good sense. They love others at any cost.
So, if I see that you are in trouble, that you are dying, which I think everybody is dying and perishing without Christ, I am willing to lay down my life for you, because death doesn’t take away my joy. And if you would believe in Christ, then my joy is doubled, because I find my joy in your joy in God. So, I think it is the best of all worlds. God gets the glory. I get joy. And you get loved.
The follow up question came next: So what is the wasted life? Here’s what Piper said.
“We waste our lives if we seek our happiness and our significance without reference to Jesus Christ.”
We waste our lives if we seek our happiness and our significance without reference to Jesus Christ. If God is left out of the picture, if Christ is taken out of the picture, and we become a millionaire, have all the sexual pleasures we can imagine, become very famous, then we have wasted our lives. Because in the end, God is the one who created the world, and God is bringing the world and everything in it to an end for his purposes. And if we haven’t joined him in those purposes, we are wasting our lives.
You waste your life if you don’t do what you were designed to do. And every human being created in the image of God was designed to reflect the glory of God, the worth of God, the beauty of God. So, if we don’t find our joy in Christ, if we don’t find our satisfaction in Christ, but, instead, find it in other things that may, in the short run, look very satisfying, we have wasted our lives.
Which means, most of the world is wasting its life, because they don’t know God. They don’t love God. God is a very small, marginal consideration out on the edge of life. Maybe every now and then he is brought into life in a crisis. That is a great blasphemy. That is a great dishonor to God, and we will find, at the end of our lives, we have wasted it if we have treated God as marginal instead of central.