Summary & Review: Desiring God by John Piper, Chapters 4-6

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Originally read and written in March 2011.

Summary of Desiring God by John Piper at Simply Convivial

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

  • Part 1: Introduction & Chapters 1 & 2 – Happiness & Conversion
  • Part 2: Chapter 3 – Worship
  • Part 3: Chapters 4-6 – Love, Scripture, & Prayer
  • Part 4: Chapters 7 & 8 – Money & Marriage
  • Part 5: Chapters 9 & 10 – Missions & Suffering

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Own.

Love

Thesis: Love is finding your own happiness in the happiness of others.

  • Love is a feeling and not only a verb. Again, we have Piper’s emphasis on feeling over duty. Duty is not good enough and is hypocrisy if it is not paired with feeling. On one hand, I see what he means; there is a cold-hearted duty that is not pleasing to God, obviously. On the other hand, you need to do your duty whether you feel like it or not, so an emphasis on feelings seems to lead to guilt and introspection rather than trusting and obeying. It’s somewhat the faith & works dichotomy with a different spin. Probably, Piper sees more works-righteousness error, whereas I tend to experience and see more the error of “I have faith and believe the right things, so works and fruit necessarily follow. I don’t have to work for works, so I don’t have to put forth effort to bear fruit.” Both are problematic, and both can happen if one side of the equation is emphasized without the other. A balanced statement of the necessity of both seems like it would be more helpful than emphasizing either.

  • Love is not a means to our reward, love is both the way and the end of our pleasure, reward, and happiness. Love of God overflows into love of neighbor. Love is when we put others before ourselves not in a self-derogatory manner, but when we derive satisfaction and happiness from the satisfaction and happiness of others and when we derive our happiness from the hope of heavenly reward rather than from earthly comforts. I thought he made this out to be more complicated than it really is, and his explanations were more confusing than helpful.

Scripture

Thesis: Scripture is your weapon and your defense as you fight for joy; truth — Scripture — provides freedom from sin and freedom for holiness.

  • Both our physical and spiritual life are sustained by the Word — by Jesus Himself, and His Word. Scripture is our food, without which we will dwindle, weaken, and starve.
  • To meditate on Scripture, one must memorize Scripture. The preservation of our joy takes work, and Scripture is our tool in that work. We are to delight in God’s Word, and if we do, we will treasure it in our hearts. The fruit of knowing and meditating upon Scripture are hope, freedom, wisdom, assurance, and holiness.

This was a helpful and encouraging chapter; I appreciated it.

Prayer

Thesis: Prayer is a reliance on God as the Only Giver, the admission of insufficiency and weakness and the joyful acceptance of God’s grace, power, help.

  • Prayerlessness produces joylessness. To have a relationship with God, you must have His input (the Scripture) and you must have a vent for reflecting back to him (prayer). Without prayer, there is no abiding in Christ, there is no vibrant relationship. Prayer provides us with the power to bear fruit, which is why God promises to answer our prayer: the answer is the ability to bear fruit — and maybe even the opportunity, which often looks like a “bad” answer.

I find this to be true. I’ve realized that if I pray for growth in patience, then my patience will be tested. Too often what I really mean is not “Please give me patience,” but “Please make life easy and please take away all situations that require patience.” But, the virtues are like muscles. If I truly wanted my patience to grow, I’d welcome the practice. The faithless answer is to joke, “Don’t pray for patience!” but that would be disobedience. The answer of faith is to pray for what we need and then accept the grace God gives us, knowing that the testing produces steadfastness and ultimately joy, and knowing that it is from the hand of God for our good.

  • We do not pray because God lacks anything, because God needs anything from us; we pray because we lack and ask of God and receive from God. The truth behind prayer is that God works for us, our works are from Him and not our own. In prayer we admit our weakness, our lack, our need — we never give to God. In prayer, we accept His help. Since His purpose in the world is to be exalted for His mercy, it is evident thy prayer is so often commanded by God. Prayer is the antidote for the disease of self-confidence, which opposes God’s goal of getting glory by working for those who wait for Him.

This, also, was a strongly stated chapter, but an excellent one. Piper’s development of how prayer glorifies God was very valuable.

I think this chapter probably gave me the most important application point I took from the entire book, and that is to focus on praying for fruit. That is the prayer God has promised to always answer in the affirmative, because it is His will for us, in Christ Jesus.

To conclude this section of my summary, I thought I’d end with what the Heidelberg has to say about prayer:

Why do Christians need to pray?

Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness that God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.

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