John Piper: Don’t Waste Your Life (Transcript)

Full text of Dr. John Piper’s talk titled “Don’t Waste Your Life” which was presented at the 2011 National Conference, Light & Heat: A Passion for the Holiness of God

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John Piper – Founder,

God was very kind to me when I was 17 years old in high school. Something came alive. I can almost pinpoint the class. It was Mrs. Clanton’s Class in English. Something came alive that has never died.

I was already walking with Jesus, and so it wasn’t faith that came alive. It was an awakening of the wonder and the weight of having one life to live, and then its outcome for eternity, no second chances, no retakes like when you do a video, no do-overs in a test – one life and then eternity.

In 1964, we had a high school literary magazine called Leaves of Grass, and I published a mediocre poem in it. And the quality of the poem makes no difference to me whatsoever now, but looking back on it, the burden of it is what grips me because it was an evidence of that coming alive of the sense of I’ve got one life — one life, and I can blow it forever or not.

So that poem was published and in it there’s a verse. It’s written from the perspective of being an old man. I’m 17 years old when I’m writing it. It’s called The Lost Years, and in the verse, the last verse goes like this:

“Long I sought for the earth’s hidden meaning. Long as a youth was my search in vain. Now as I approach my last years waning, My search I must begin again.”

And everything in me in those days toward the end of high school was saying, that must never, never, never happen, come to the end of life – 65 right now – and say, I can’t figure it out. I don’t know what it’s about, just coasting, just doing the next thing, just putzing around, desperately trying to be happy while not thinking. Oh, don’t let me think about what this is heading for or how heavy and weighty it is to have one life.

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Don’t let me think about that. I just want to do the next thing and hope I don’t sink in guilt and frustration. I don’t want to come to the end that way.

Then that burden and sense of the weight and the wonder of having only one life never left, ever. I still think, “What have I got left?” I don’t know what I’ve got left – a year, a minute. This would be a great place to go. It’s cool.

Twenty years – my dad was 87 when he passed away. That’s 22 more years. I don’t know. I just know one thing. Don’t waste it. This is just all you’ve got and then the outcome. And that’s all you’ve got – just one and then the outcome.

So there arose in me this tremendous sense about PURPOSEFULNESS. A lot of people get worked up with the “where did we come from” question, and that’s important. But to me it’s only important for the “where am I going” question. I want to know purpose. I want to know design. I want to know what am I trying to do. Where I came from, if that’s relevant for that, I want to know about it.

But mainly I just want why. You know, the Germans have woher and wozu. We just have why. Woher is why meaning “why did this happen” looking at the past cause. And wozu is “why, what’s the purpose?” What’s the point of it all? That’s the one.

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