Originally read and written in March 2011.
Summary of Desiring God by John Piper at Simply Convivial
- 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
Thesis: Our job is to plant thriving churches in all people groups — it’s a finish-able task and one we need to seriously pursue and accomplish, because it is accomplishable in this generation (we think, according to our charts and graphs).
Again, Piper’s premil eschatology came out. Again, because he wanted to emphasize something, he neglected the balancing and steered too hard the opposite direction. He says that he thinks it’s his job to shock parishioners into waking up from a stupor, but I do not find it compelling. I would rather he present a clear and balanced vision, one that emphasizes that different people are called to different emphases and missions, rather than trying to overcorrect. Yes, Paul was called to preach where the gospel had never been heard. Yes, that is a needed and legitimate calling. No, that is not the only legitimate calling nor the best or most-to-be-sought calling. Piper wants all our happiness in God to funnel toward reaching unreached people groups, and I just don’t see how that must be the necessary conclusion. I will respect and admire him if he says that is the burden of his heart, I will not respect or listen if he says that because that’s his burden, it must be mine. Paul says he planted and another watered. The one who plants is not greater than he who waters and he who waters is not unnecessary or lacking in proper focus.
Thesis: Suffering proves that our pleasure is found in Christ’s sufficiency, not in physical comfort or ease or convenience.
Sufferings sanctify, testify, assure, and glorify. God promised suffering and trial, and that is how He always has and how He does work; He does not promise ease & prosperity. When we suffer, we are weaned from self-sufficiency, we are forced to rely on God, we show the world that hope is found only in God and not in this world, and we focus on our heavenly reward instead of on earthly and worldly pleasures.
Is there a difference between persecution and illness? Ultimately, no. All are tests of faith, all give us a chance to prove that our hope and sufficiency is in God and not in ourselves or our situation. Did Job know his physical suffering was persecution by Satan? Did it matter? No matter what kind of suffering we face, we suffer for God’s Name’s sake when we rely on Him and show the world that otherwise inexplicable peace and joy and comfort is found in God alone. We also must remember that we can face difficulty with peace because our hope is in the resurrection. Suffering is meaningless and we are most to be pitied if there is no resurrection; it is the hope of heaven and glory of our eternal reward that eclipses the pain of this world and brings us joy set in Christ.
Really, I thought this chapter was worth making it through the book. How trials and sufferings glorify God has always been a difficult question, but Piper handled it clearly and with wisdom, I thought. Also, I have noticed that most suffering that the Bible talks about, that God promises, seems to be persecution-suffering. Does sickness or bad decisions or accidents fall into the same set of promises and assurances? Piper says yes, and I thought his reasoning was convincing and encouraging.
I am glad that I read this book, my first exposure to Piper. I must admit, though, that I wasn’t terribly impressed overall. He seemed to veer off into overbalanced extreme statements; while it might have “shocked” me into thinking about what he had to say, it also also left me discrediting much of what he had to say. I thought he would have been more persuasive if he had been more reasonable in his presentation. Moreover, he tends toward wordiness, which is a particular pet peeve of mine.