If I Could Start All Over Again
..Lessons For Your Twenties
(This excerpt is taken from a message by John Piper with his premise being if he could start over at age 22)
I would resolve to read my Bible every day for the rest of my life.
“If you have time for breakfast, you have time for your Bible.”
I would make it more important than eating or getting exercise or kissing my wife. There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days than I have watched television or videos. And I am also certain that I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have kissed my wife because she doesn’t go with me on the road, usually. And my Bible does — always does. I never leave my Bible. I might leave my wife, but not my Bible.
I have learned a few things about reading the Bible that I didn’t know when I was 22, but if I were, I would resolve
every day to read my Bible, and not to settle for hazy, vague awareness of it, but push through the haze to the wording itself;
and I would push into and through the wording of the text itself to the intention of the authors — human and divine;
and I would push through the intention to the reality behind the words and the grammar and the logic;
and I would push into that reality until it was an emotionally experienced reality;
and I’d push into and through that emotionally proportional reality until it became a word and a deed on my life;
and I’d push through that deed and that word until other people saw the reality and join me in my encounter with God in the Bible.
That’s how I would formulate my resolution to read the Bible every day. Nothing is revealed more quickly on the mission field than a superficial encounter with the living God and the glorious realities he has revealed in Scripture. Superficial Bible reading that does not penetrate through the wordsand intentions and reality and experience to deed and life and an encounterwith the living God will be of little use on the mission field in the face of massive demonic forces among unreached peoples. You won’t survive.
The lesson for you: Read your Bible every day. Every day of your life — no exceptions. Never say, “I’ll read it if I have time.” If you have time for breakfast, you have time for your Bible. Skip breakfast. Don’t get your Bible-reading pleasure from the fact that your conscience is clear because you checked the Bible box. Get your pleasure from reading the Bible because of an encounter — a meeting, a fellowship — with the living, supernatural reality that you meet in the Scriptures.
I would become a Christian Hedonist.
I would seek to find more joy in God than anything else in the world for the sake of personal holiness, perseverance through pain, and promotion of the glory of God. That’s why I would become a Christian Hedonist. That is, I would get clarity and certainty around the sentence: God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. I would nail that sentence, and I would either believe it or not believe it. And if I believed it, I would go for broke in being as satisfied in God as I could possibly be, 24/7, over everything else.
“Aim at all-satisfying joy in God, which will empower you for humility, chastity, simplicity, and risk-taking, sacrificial love.”
By means of savoring the sweetness of the promises of God in this precious Book, I would put to death every rising quiver of pride, and self-reliance, and lust, and greed, and fear, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to kill all those sins by the superior pleasure that we have in God. Because unless those sins die, I will be dogged by fruitlessness of life, and damned in the next. I would recognize at age 22 that the fight for joy in God, through the bright and dismal circumstances of life, is the essential key in my mission in life for authenticating holiness, fruitful perseverance, so that God gets the glory. Being happy in God more than you are happy in anything else is the key to holiness and fruitfulness to the glory of God.
The lesson for you: Become a Christian Hedonist. Whether you call it that or not doesn’t matter. Don’t aim at the pleasures of fame. Don’t aim at the pleasures of sexual gratification. Don’t aim at the pleasures of wealth. Don’t aim at the pleasure and contentment and comfort of safety. Aim at all-satisfying joy in God, which will empower you for humility, and chastity, and simplicity, and risk-taking, sacrificial love for other people.
I would recognize that I am not my own, that I have been bought with a price, and that I belong, body and soul, to Jesus Christ for his use and his glory.
I would offer myself up to God at age 22 and tell him that he may do with me anything he pleases. He may kill me. He may torture me. He may send me anywhere. He can do me no wrong. He owes me nothing. And I would tell him that any time he pleases, anywhere he pleases, I am his — at his disposal.
And I would memorize Psalm 25, which had a very crucial role for me in seminary. I would memorize Psalm 25 and trust the amazing promises of guidance that are in those precious verses:
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:8–9)
You don’t have to be left to your own wisdom as to what you spend your life doing. If you believe those verses in Psalm 25, he’s going to teach you his way for you.
The lesson for you: Memorize Psalm 25. Pray it as your own, and give yourself wholly up to God and his mission. Trust him.
I would do a lot more things at age 22, but these are some of the most important things I would do if I only had a few minutes to tell you.