But whatever you do, find the God-centred, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life. (DWYL p 47)
There’s a famous parable told by Jesus which many people know today as the story of The Prodigal Son. A young man demands his inheritance from his father, leaves home and squanders all he has on high living. Eventually the money runs out and he becomes destitute and starving, caring for a farmer’s pigs. He comes to his senses and resolves to return to his father, confess his wrongdoing and unworthiness to be called his son. He decides to offer to become a servant in his father’s household. However, the father – who has spent the years watching and waiting for his son’s return – runs to meet him when he is still far away, embraces him and rejoices over his return. Restoring to him the honour of sonship, the father orders a huge party to celebrate the return of the one who had been lost to him.
It’s an astonishing parable which captures every nuance of salvation by God’s grace: the waywardness of the lost, the need for repentance, the compassionate and forgiving love of the father, the undeserved and costly restoration. So many profound concepts contained in this one short story. And yet I can remember a time when I felt outraged by the forgiveness of the father. In truth, I identified with the older son in the story, who could only see the sin of his brother and his own (self-)righteousness. But that’s how it is if you are convinced that you must earn God’s love; perceiving that you have earned the Father’s love through what you do, you believe you deserve it. And the worst of it is that your belief in the worthiness of your own efforts, completely negates the worthiness of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross – his payment for the sin you cannot see and will not acknowledge. It’s a soul-hammering realisation when the legalist finally understands salvation by grace alone, through Christ alone. As it is for anyone. But it’s interesting that Jesus includes the older brother in the story.
For me, the light only came on when I understood that – just like everyone else – I was the prodigal son and – like him – I had indeed wasted the gift of life. That’s what prodigal means: wastefully or recklessly extravagant (The Macquarie Dictionary p 1355). Like the old man whose heart was opened to the gospel of Christ through John Piper’s father (p 12), every sinner must come to the realisation that they have wasted it. Life lived apart from God is life wasted. But in Don’t Waste Your Life John Piper wants us to see that even the gift of salvation and eternal life can be wasted, like a piggy bank kept on a shelf, occasionally dusted but never added to, sometimes admired but never filled. Like the couple (p 46) who retired early in order to cruise in their boat, play softball and collect shells – we can have a wonderful gift and yet still squander it.