Book Review: The Dangerous Duty of Delight, by John Piper

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‘I write this little book because the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are breathtaking.’

John Piper argues in this little book that delight or joy is not an add-on to the christian life; it is of the essence of biblical Christianity. God commands us to delight in Him (Psalm 37:4). We are to serve the Lord with joy and a glad heart (Deut. 28: 47-48). And we are to serve Him with gladness (Psalm 100:2). Jesus calls us to rejoice and be glad when we are insulted (Matt. 5:11-12). Paul instructed the Thessalonians to ‘be joyful always’ (I Thess. 5:16).

We are called to pursue our joy in God and to glorify Him by desiring Him. All men seek pleasure and joy, but we often seek it in all the wrong places – career, sex, drugs, fame, wealth, family, etc. The proper object is God himself and He invites us to pursue it with our whole being. The words of St. Augustine remind us of this: ‘ You made us for yourself and our heats are restless till they find rest in you.’

After discussing the obligation of delight, Piper goes on to point out what this means for Worship, for Marriage, how it affects our use of Money, and its implication for Missions.

Writing on Worship, he reminds us: ‘ God is not honored when we celebrate the high days of our relationship out of a mere sense of duty. He is honored when those days are our delight!…Worship is nothing less than obedience to the command of God, “Delight yourself in the Lord”(Psalm 37:4).’

What does this imply for Marriage? ‘The reason there is so much misery in marriage is not that husbands and wives seek their own pleasure, but that they do not seek it in the pleasure of their spouses’ (p.54). The way to happiness in marriage is not to abandon one’s own pleasure, rather we should seek our joy in the happiness of our partner. And this was the path taken by Christ (Eph. 5:25-30). ‘For he who loves his wife loves himself’ (p.57).

How about money? If we are seeking to make many more find their joy in God, then we would focus on using our material resources to evangelize the unevangelized, educate the uneducated, and feed the unfed. We would spend less on ourselves, adopt a ‘wartime lifestyle’, and use the money that could have been spent on unsatisfying luxuries for improving the wellbeing of millions.

‘No matter which way the market is moving, God is always better than gold. His promises of help sever the cords of bondage to the love of money.’

Why do great missionaries like David Livingstone and William Carey give up material comfort in order to get the gospel to unreached tribes? It is because they were pursuing a satisfaction that material riches can never supply. ‘They have discovered a hundred times more joy and satisfaction in a life devoted to Christ and the gospel than in a life devoted to frivolous comforts and pleasures and worldly advancements’. Even when Jim Elliot, the missionary to the Indians of Ecuador was killed in 1956 by some of the very people he was trying to reach, his wife recalled that this was no tragedy. For her husband had always lived by a simple truth:

‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’

This is the motto of a life in pursuit of lasting joy. Are you ready for the adventure? Get the book or, better still, get the fuller version, Desiring God.

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