The opposite of wasting your life is living life by a single God-exalting, soul-satisfying passion.
The well-lived life must be God-exalting and soul-satisfying because that is why God created us (Is. 43:7; Ps. 90:14). And passion is the right word (or, if you prefer, zeal, fervor, ardor, blood-earnestness) because God commands us to love Him with all our heart (Matt. 22:37), and Jesus reminds us that He spits lukewarm people out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16).
The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single, soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things. How serious is this word single? Can life really have that much singleness of purpose? Can work, leisure, relationships, eating, lovemaking and ministry all really flow from a single passion? Is there something deep, big and strong enough to hold all that together? Can cars, lovemaking, work, war, changing diapers and doing taxes really have a God-exalting, soul-satisfying unity?
This question drives us to the death of Jesus on the cross. Living for the glory of God must mean living for the glory of Christ crucified. Christ is the image of God. He is the sum of God’s glory in human form. And His beauty shines most brightly at His darkest hour.
But we are driven to the same bloody place also by the question of a single passion. The Bible pushes us in this direction. For example, the apostle Paul said that his life and ministry were riveted on a single aim: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). That is astonishing, when you think of all the varied things Paul did, in fact, talk about. There must be a sense in which “Jesus Christ and him crucified” is the ground and sum of everything else Paul says. He is pushing us to see our lives with a single focus—and for the cross of Christ to be that focus.
You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people who make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things but rather have been mastered by one great thing.
If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks and riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things—or one great all-embracing thing—and be set on fire by them.
You may not be sure that you want your life to make a difference. Maybe you don’t care very much whether you make a lasting difference for the sake of something great. Perhaps you just want people to like you. If people would just like being around you, you’d be satisfied. Or if you could just have a good job with a good wife or husband, a couple of good kids, a nice car, long weekends, a few good friends, a fun retirement, a quick and easy death, and no hell—if you could have all that (even without God )—you would be satisfied. That is a tragedy in the making, a wasted life. As I write this, I am 57 years old. As the months go by, I relate to more and more people who are young enough to be my sons and daughters. You may be in that category.
I have four sons and one daughter. Few things, if any, fill me with more longing these months and years than seeing my children not waste their lives on fatal success. This longing transfers very easily to you, especially if you are in your 20s or 30s.
I see you, as it were, like a son or a daughter, and I plead with you as a father—perhaps a father who loves you dearly or one you never had. Or the father who never had a vision for you like I have for you—and God has for you. Or the father who has a vision for you, but it’s all about money and status. I see you as sons and daughters, and I plead with you. Make your life count for something great. Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.
This article is an excerpt from Louie Giglio’s new book, Passion: The Bright Light of Glory, released Feb. 25.
John Piper is an author and preacher who served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., for 33 years. He is the founder of Desiring God Ministries with the aim to spread the passion of God’s supremacy in all things.