The Dark Side of Don’t Waste Your Life
I had a verse from the Bible hit me right between the eyes a couple days ago. You know what it was? Psalms 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still. Not read another book to know that I am God. Not go serve to show that I am God. But rather just be still and know that I am God. The sad, gripping truth is that you and I can live so radically that no man could ever accuse us of wasting our lives, and yet have it all count for nothing. We could serve in a homeless shelter every day in an attempt to not waste our lives and still miss the point. We can cram every nook and cranny of time full of Sproul and Mahaney and MacArthur; we can use vacation time to go build houses for pastors in Tijuana. We can live on half our salary and refuse to spend the money to fix the old but still perfectly functional hardware in the bathroom in order to give all we can so more missionaries can preach the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus.
The dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life is manifest in a frenzy of spiritual activity. It’s the worried activity of a heart standing mortified over the possibility that any part of the day be spent on anything other than directly advancing the kingdom of God. Gone is any unhurried enjoyment of God’s good gifts of laughter and creation and sports. The sacred/secular divide stands a dozen stories tall and a mile thick as prayer and bible study and intentional fellowship consumes the dayplanner. And that nagging hollowness of heart must be because I’m not praying enough or reading the Scriptures enough or having enough spiritual conversations. It certainly couldn’t be because of being busy…because God’s not pleased by wasted time.
If I’m honest, it’s a lot easier to try and fill a hollowness of soul with action rather than stillness. It’s easy to read another book or listen to another sermon. It’s easy to distract myself from a spiritual problem with spiritual activities. It’s hard to sacrifice my pride and say “Lord, I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or where to go. I’m lost…help! Please, help!” The dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life is the lie that we can find spiritual vitality through spiritual activity. Truth is, reading another book or listening to another sermon isn’t going to help me at all unless the Holy Spirit takes that book and opens my eyes and strengthens my resolve to apply it to my life. Same as physical food, spiritual food needs to be digested. While I can glut myself with good teaching, I still can’t digest spiritual food any more than I can command my stomach to produce the enzymes needed to break down what I eat.
What do I mean exactly by “the dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life”? John Piper’s book by that title has radically transformed my outlook on life. I first read it during my freshman year at TMC. And it rocked my world. It opened up a new world of possibilities. A world of high risk and high reward where the cross shines brightly and Jesus is a God worth pursuing with everything–even at the cost of my life. This is the message the American church needs to hear. We who have more money than the rest of the world combined. Who have the freedom to pursue deep theological study, who have good health. And who sadly most often squander it. (In general. I’m not thinking of any one person, church, organization, etc. in particular.)
But the concept of Don’t Waste Your Life has its dark side too. Radical Christian living can become an idol. Spiritual activity and risk taking becomes central to our life in Christ rather than Christ Himself. Living as practical Catholics, our good deeds become a kind of Pope that we trust in to dispense joy and blessing and fulfillment. Instead of pursuing Christ, we make the horrible mistake of trading the Creator for the creation–albeit the creation being the good works He has called us to walk in. (Eph 2:10)
At it’s heart, the dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life is the trading of being for doing. The call to follow Christ is fundamentally a transformation of nature. Paul likens it to putting off old, soiled clothes and putting on new, shining garments. This is where our position in Christ rests. This is what has secured our justification, sanctification, and glorification. God’s command to be still is a command to pause and understand that everything has been secured in His death upon the cross. Like a photographer in a moving car trying to capture the landscape, the beauty of the cross will be blurred if we never stop for a long, clear gaze upon it. “Be still,” God says. “Be still and know that I am God.”