MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST

uHave You Come to “When” Yet?

The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.  Job 42:10

A pitiful, sickly, and self-centered kind of prayer and a determined effort and selfish desire to be right with God are never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I pray, “Lord, I will purify my heart if You will answer my prayer— I will walk rightly before You if You will help me.” But I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. Am I humble enough to accept it? I have to surrender all my rights and demands, and cease from every self-effort. I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession. There is a great deal of prayer that comes from actual disbelief in the atonement. Jesus is not just beginning to save us— He has already saved us completely. It is an accomplished fact, and it is an insult to Him for us to ask Him to do what He has already done.

If you are not now receiving the “hundredfold” which Jesus promised (see Matthew 19:29), and not getting insight into God’s Word, then start praying for your friends— enter into the ministry of the inner life. “The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.” As a saved soul, the real business of your life is intercessory prayer. Whatever circumstances God may place you in, always pray immediately that His atonement may be recognized and as fully understood in the lives of others as it has been in yours. Pray for your friends now, and pray for those with whom you come in contact now. From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition

Bible in One Year: Esther 1-2; Acts 5:1-21

How to Battle Depression in Isolation

If I am honest with myself, there are times even in a house full of people that loneliness is stronger than ever. Maybe it is the quarantine rules that are keeping me from interacting with friends in a way I am used to. Or maybe it is the fact that it feels like so much has been taken and life has, in some ways, stopped making sense.

I have long struggled with bouts of depression. Thankfully they come and go and don’t linger if I can redirect and move myself out of it. For others, I know it is not quite that easy. It’s painful to even get out of bed for some.

For many, this season has inflamed mental health problems.

Those who have never struggled suddenly find themselves depressed. Those who have rarely feared, find themselves riddled with anxiety. The isolation, the limitations, have added great weight to us all.

We get to make a choice moving forward. How will we fight back against the walls that are closing in? How will we peel the layers of depression away from us so that we can thrive rather than suffer?

The answer to mental health will never be one size fits all.

What works for me may not be the solution for you. I believe there are things we can all do to help us find a little relief from the weight of the depression that has fallen on many of us in this season.

1. Be honest with what you are feeling.

If you take nothing else away from my words, let it be this—we must be honest with what we are feeling. Honest with ourselves and honest with other people. We don’t need to feel shame over the depression we are under. When we are honest with our feelings, we remove the hold it has on us in favor of truth.

Being honest with what we feel also helps those around us navigate how to help or be present when we need it.

2. Give yourself something to look forward too.

These days all feel the same. There is nothing new to do, nowhere to go. It can all feel monotonous and never ending. Unfortunately, this can lead to an even deeper state of depression. There is nothing to look forward to.

In our house, we have decided to change things up. We pick new movies to watch, and we try new games, new places to walk, etc. We plan special things at home, like a big breakfast, and we also have a running list of the things we want to do when we get out of quarantine: first stop, a trip to the ocean.

Plan something that gives you a time or event to look forward to. It can be as simple as a movie night at home date, or taking a drive to pick up ice cream as a family or with a friend.

3. Ask for help.

Along with being honest with what you are feeling, asking for help is an outflow of that. Whether we need someone to hold us accountable for getting out of bed, or doing the mundane tasks of the day, or just someone to check on us, asking for help isn’t a weakness.

My way of asking for help has come in the form of weekly counseling during this time. Checking in with a professional helps me keep my thoughts in check and motivates me to press forward. My counselor has been a valuable tool for helping me put one foot in front of the other with my emotions don’t fully make sense.

I also ask for help from the people in my home. When I am honest about what I feel, I can ask my people to help pick up the slack to keep things moving and take some overwhelm off my plate. People are more apt to help when they know what is happening in your heart and mind.

4. Get out into the sun.

It seems trivial in so many ways, but getting out into the sun has so many benefits to our health, both mental and physical. This could look like simply sitting outside with a good book, or taking a much-needed walk to get your body moving.

Make yourself do it.

Not only is it healthy, but it is a reminder that we are very much alive and that God is still very much in control. Experiencing His creation brings us joy, true joy. Step outside, feel the breeze, and the blazing sun on your skin. Rejoice in being alive.

5. Don’t be alone.

This one may sound hard. If you are quarantined alone in your home as a single, and you are not able to quarantine with other family members, it may be time to explore some options. This may include finding a friend to temporarily quarantine with or scheduling FaceTime chats with friends regularly throughout the day. This can help you feel less isolated.

Wherever you find yourself in the midst of this pandemic, it is important to take care of your mental health. It is vital that we tell the truth about how we feel, not just for ourselves but for others as well. We need to ask for help, whether that is from a trusted friend or a professional counselor that can meet us in the midst of where we are. We need to take care of ourselves physically and do what we can to not be alone during these times.

More than any of that, though, we need to remember the truth of Scripture. We need to remember who God is and that He is walking with us through it all. God cares about you, so He cares about your mental health. He is the greatest source we can tap into in times when we do not understand, or cannot get control of our depression.

God will always be a safe place to land when our mental health feels wildly out of control.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/torwai

Michelle Rabon is a wife and homeschooling mom of three who feels called to help women thrive in their walk with Jesus every day. In 2012, she started Displaying Grace, a ministry that is focused on helping women engage with God’s Word. Michelle has also served in women’s ministry for the past five years seeking to equip women in the local church through Bible study. When she is not writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, being close to the ocean, and drinking a lot of coffee.


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Update from John Piper and How You Can Help Us

Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

APJ listeners, hello! Welcome to this special episode, an update from Pastor John’s life and ministry and a little summary of all our labors at desiringGod.org. As some of you know, our ministry year runs July 1 to June 30, so we close out fiscal year 2020 and enter fiscal year 2021 in a few days. And of course, we are fully supported by God’s people, listeners like you. So this episode is also a big thank you to all of our partners. And we’d love for more of you to join us. I’ll explain how later.

It’s been an incredible year for this podcast as we near episode 1,500. Unreal! That episode — episode 1,500 — should drop in mid-July, and when it does, we will take some time to talk more about APJ and explore some of the productivity takeaways of Pastor John’s ministry as we approach the eighth anniversary of Ask Pastor John.

More broadly, when you look at all the resources at desiringGod.org — the books, the articles, the podcasts, the Look at the Book videos — and combine the reach of them all, we’ve seen about 200 million resource views across all our platforms this fiscal year. Incredible numbers.

And of course, most recently, the Coronavirus and Christ book has seen over a million downloads globally and is being made freely available in almost thirty languages now.

It’s been a crazy spring for everyone. But here in this transition, as we close off one year and look ahead to the next year, I wanted to take a moment to ask you, Pastor John, about our past year. But first I would love a personal update. What has life been like for you during this pandemic, and now especially with the protests and riots happening within blocks of your home in Minneapolis?

Right, well, the most important thing to say about what has happened here in Minneapolis in the last week (and I know this is being played a couple of weeks later than we’re recording it, about a week since the death of George Floyd) is that the authority and holiness of God was defied by a policeman who put his knee on a man’s neck for seven minutes until he died, ignoring all legitimate pleas that he was sufficiently subdued — and that he was dying. That’s the main reality of this moment here in Minneapolis. And of course, the burning and the looting of hundreds of businesses, about a mile from my house, down on Lake Street, is also defiance against the authority and the holiness of God.

War Underneath

As I’ve been pondering these things, my thoughts about the wars on the streets and the hundreds of fires and the looting and the coronavirus — what presses in on me is that there’s a war beneath the wars, and there’s a looting beneath the looting, and there’s a virus beneath the virus. Everything is deeper; nothing is merely what you see.

James asks, “What causes [wars] and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder” (James 4:1–2). In other words, beneath the wars of knees on necks and wars of reprisal and the war of looting, there’s a war of soul going on, with murderous effects of unsatisfied desires.

“There’s a war beneath the wars, there’s a looting beneath the looting, and there’s a virus beneath the virus.”

And underneath the looting, there’s another looting: the looting of heaven. We have stolen God’s honor, robbed him of glory ten thousand times. And beneath the coronavirus is an unfathomable — oh, how I have been impressed with the power of sin — power and deadly virus of God-belittling sin. It is absolutely resistant to every cure but the blood of Jesus.

So, that’s where my mind has been, Tony, in these days: the war beneath the war, the looting beneath the looting, the virus beneath the virus.

Looking at Paul’s Letters

And what is our calling? What is the calling of Desiring God? You might say that the coronavirus has created the kind of solitude for me, and the street wars have created the kind of urgency in my mind and heart, that blow away the fog of worldliness and confusion, and bring a good deal of clarity to what life is really for — even 74-year-old John Piper life.

We’ve had to cancel all our travels in recent months and indefinitely into the future and turn all our regular meetings into Zoom meetings. But this has been very clarifying for me because it has confirmed something God was doing, a stirring in my own heart: that focusing on the study and the teaching of God’s word through Look at the Book at desiringGod.org should be a higher priority for me in these next years (if God gives me years), than travel should. Look at the Book feels to me, increasingly, like the kind of legacy that I want to leave; namely, “Look, look with me. World, look, look at God’s word with me. Come, let’s walk together among the riches of Ephesians.” Nothing in these days of police brutality and rioting and coronavirus is more important than actually seeing the reality of God, in Christ, in his word, and submitting to it in all of its detail and its radical, radical difference, from the pathways of sin.

So, every minute that I am granted by the limitations put on me now by coronavirus — every minute that I’m granted that I wouldn’t have been granted — I’m pressing in on a life goal of opening all of Paul’s letters with Look at the Book.

Amazing — a multiyear project ahead.

Realistically, unless I do nothing else for fifty hours a week, it’s probably a ten-year project. But that puts me at 84. Whether I’ll be functioning at 84, God knows.

Yeah, amazing. And we’re talking about Look at the Book, your video series where you draw on Bible texts. I’m sure a lot of listeners know what it is.

A Million Downloads Later

Give us some reflections on your latest book, Coronavirus and Christ. It’s now been translated all over the world. What are your takeaways as you look back on it?

The emergence of the Coronavirus and Christ book is really stunning, as I look back. It’s almost like a dream, how that happened. We were in a leadership-team meeting — you were there — and praying, thinking, “Should we say anything? Should we do anything? Should we create a website? What should we do?” And somebody, I think it was Scott, said, “Well, maybe you should tweak your book Lessons from a Hospital Bed, how to not waste your suffering, how to not waste your hospital stay. Tweak that into how to not waste your coronavirus or something.”

So, I went home and started to write, and a hundred pages later, it was not a tweak anymore. It was a burden that just fell out of my heart. It took four days to write that book. And then the team just jumped on it right away, edited it within 24 hours. Crossway, bless their hearts, almost dropped everything, turned it into a book — turned it around in a matter of days.

And the heart of Crossway with us is so wonderful because they’re so ready with us to say, “Okay, let’s give away the electronic copy. Let’s give away the audiobook.” I’d never recorded an audiobook before. And somebody suggested that; let’s do that. So, you and I, with our electronic possibilities here, we recorded the book. And so, the book recording is free, and the e-book is free, and then you can buy a hard copy.

And then Rick Denham, our partner in international relations, jumped on it. And what? We’ve got close to thirty translators, recruited from all over the world, to turn the translation around in a matter of weeks. And I think we’re pushing thirty — not quite, but all of that was absolutely stunning to me.

“I exist to make the truth plain and powerful that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

And here’s my prayer for the book: If somebody were to say, “What’s it about? What are you trying to do with that book?” I would say my goal is for the church and the world, in reading the book, to be brought to a fresh, or maybe a first-time, repentance. When I say repentance, I don’t mean you feel bad about what you’ve done in the past. That’s part of it. It’s not the main part though. Repentance, metanoia, is a mind that gets turned around, like 180-degrees from belittling or ignoring or neglecting Jesus, and now bringing all of your thinking, all of your feeling, all of your acting, into alignment with the infinite value of Jesus Christ.

And a key text here would be Philippians 3:8, where Paul says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” And so, I just think one of the effects of threats to our life and our world should be this: Jesus is really precious — really, really precious.

Yes, props to Scott Anderson for igniting that book project — and launching what became a team effort at DG, all-hands-on-deck, with Crossway.

Soul Experience

Speaking of books, we’re recording this episode early because the summer months are when you normally write your new, big books. And you are planning to do so again. Can you give us a preview of what book project is up next for you?

For several years, I have longed to write a book — not a huge one, I hope, a manageable one, but rigorous — on the nature of saving faith. And when I say nature of saving faith, I don’t mean anything too philosophical. I mean, What is it actually like in the soul, in the mind, in the affections? What is it like to have, or to exercise, saving faith? Specifically, I’m a Christian Hedonist. I want to know more precisely and express helpfully for others how the affectional dimension of our lives relates to this act of faith.

For example, What’s the relationship between trusting God and loving God? And a key text there is going to be 1 John 5:2–5, where John is just amazing in the way he relates love for God and faith in God. And goodness, ever since I wrote Future Grace, I’ve always defined saving faith as being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus. Now, that’s a pretty controversial definition because it foregrounds the affectional dimension of our hearts called “being satisfied.” And I base that on John 6:35. And what I’m going to do in this book is test that. I’m going to do a more thoroughgoing, rigorous, across-the-Bible — and mainly, New Testament — effort to ask, “Okay, Piper, you’ve been talking that way for a long time. You got any other verses? Like, is this your weird, eccentric way of talking about saving faith, or does the Bible, as a whole, really warrant that?”

Take, for example, John 1:11–12: “[Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So, you can see how receiving and believing are being treated as parallel there and explaining each other. Now, my question is, Receive him as what? Receive him how? If you receive him as Savior, what is that soul experience like? If you receive him as Lord, what is that soul experience like? If you receive him as Treasure, what is that soul experience like? And you can see, right off the bat, that the word receive there, which is right at the heart of the essence of what faith is, is not obvious when it relates to different objects, or Christ viewed through different lenses, as Savior or Lord or Treasure or other ways.

That’s the gist of what I’m after in the book. And I would love for people to pray for me. I think we set aside about seven or eight weeks to work on that. Pray that I could get it done and that it would, of course, be as faithful to Scripture as possible.

A big task ahead. I know we will be praying for you as a team at DG. And I would welcome APJ listeners to be praying for you this summer as well, as you write this book.

Purposeful Sovereignty

And let’s not forget, you have a big book, Providence, coming out in January. Any thoughts on that launch ahead? It’s significant.

I have in my left hand, at this very moment, the “color comps,” as they call them, for the book. They’re asking me, “How do you like this color for the cover?” And so, Crossway is publishing this book, and they’re so gracious to work with us at Desiring God to take our sense of things into account. So, that’s where we are. The layout of the book, the typesetting and the copyediting are going on right now. We’re pretty far along. It will be in its fixed form within a matter of weeks probably.

It’s a very big book. It’s a book I have dreamed of writing and finished last summer. It’s a book that I had hoped I could write for years, and God finally gave me the two summers in a row to devote to writing it. In a sense, I would say it’s the foundation and the sum of all I have ever taught. It seeks to be biblical throughout, rather than mainly philosophical, which I think sets it off from a good many other books on providence. It addresses the goal of providence, the nature of providence, the extent of providence.

And if people wonder, What do you mean? What’s the difference? Why didn’t you call it the sovereignty book instead of the providence book? And the answer is that sovereignty, in my understanding, is the right and the power of God to do all he pleases, but providence is purposeful sovereignty. Providence brings into the observation and the discussion, Why is he doing what he’s doing?

My wife loves to do birdwatching and put up feeders outside, and we watch the sparrows and wrens by the truckload. She tries to get rid of them so we can get a bird of color here, something blue and red and yellow. But every one of those brown sparrows and wrens — there’s a bazillion of them all over the world — not one of them, Jesus says, falls to the ground apart from our Father (Matthew 10:29). If that’s true, what’s he doing? What’s God doing? If he decides that a bird drops down in some dark jungle today in Papua New Guinea, and it falls to the ground, what was the point of that? There is a point. God never acts whimsically — ever. He does what he does for all-wise reasons. And so, Providence poses that question.

“God never acts whimsically — ever. He does what he does for all-wise reasons.”

In a sense, this book will provide the biggest, most extensive rationale for the existence of Desiring God, because Desiring God and I exist to make the truth plain and powerful that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Where is the world — where is the universe — going in the exercise of all God’s sovereign providences? The answer is this: he’s going to be glorified in his bride’s satisfaction in him.

Yeah, the incredible conclusion. I’ve read the book but I cannot wait to hold a print copy in hand. Thank you, Pastor John, for all of those updates.

Thank you. My pleasure. I appreciate your partnership, and everybody’s partnership out there that makes possible what we do here. We love our work, and we love those who make it possible.

Partner with Us for What’s Ahead

Amen. We sure do. And that is no overstatement. All of the strategic book projects, this podcast, everything we do at desiringGod.org — all of it — exists because we have generous ministry partners who pray for us regularly and who pitch in to donate, to fund all of our labors.

We feel your support in seasons like this one when the ministry opportunities — and the spiritual needs — seem particularly large and demanding. We meet these needs because we have you at our side, even during a global pandemic and through national social upheaval, when the time is right to spend more money than normal on gospel mission.

If you are already a ministry partner with us, we love you and thank God for you. Thank you for your prayers and for helping to make this past year possible and the year ahead possible.

And we would love for more of you to join us. You can join us, say monthly, for as little as $10 a month. And that would help make it possible for us to continue our labors and to expand our ministry outreach into the new ministry year, beginning July 1.

Well, what does the Lord have in store for us in the year ahead? I’m almost afraid to ask. But I’m sure there will be a lot more work to be done. You will be with us. And most important of all, God’s presence will be with us for whatever is ahead. To join us, and to make a gift today, visit desiringGod.org/donate.

As always, I am your host, Tony Reinke. Thank you for partnering with us. We’ll see you next time.