Interview with John Piper

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

How do we glorify God in the little, day-by-day things? The question comes up today. “Pastor John, hello! My name is Trent. I’ve begun reading your book Desiring God, and I understand now what you mean by Christian Hedonism. How wonderful it is to know that God commands our supreme happiness and joy in him! Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, ‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ How can I give the Lord glory by enjoying him through food? Is it by knowing that the food for that day was provided for me by him and it’s OK to enjoy it? Or another example would be happiness when our children do well in school. I’m just wondering how to be happy in the Lord in the right way to bring him the most glory. How do I do all things to glorify God?”

He brought up Christian Hedonism. I’ll say a word about that and put everything in context here. Christian Hedonism teaches that every person — all of us — should seek with all of our might to maximize the intensity and the duration of our enjoyment of God above all things, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

“We should live in order to display the supreme worth and beauty and glory of God.”

If you are most satisfied in family or job or fame or success or money or food or music or health or staying alive — if you are more satisfied in any of those than you are in God — then you diminish the glory of God, and you magnify the glory of what you’re most satisfied by. And the Bible makes clear that we should live in order to display the supreme worth and beauty and glory of God. That’s our primary reason for existence.

Pain or Pleasure

Now, there are two main challenges that Satan uses to diminish the glorification of God in our lives by causing us to value something else more than we value God: one of those is pain, and the other is pleasure. Those are Satan’s two strategies for ruining the way we glorify God.

Pain can cause us to value something else more than God by making us angry at God that we have this pain, and making us want to be done with it more than we want to embrace God. Which means that pain is a golden opportunity for us to glorify God, by showing how much more we value him than we value comfort or being free from this pain. Pleasure can also cause us to cherish something else more than God — not by making us angry at God, but by making us forget God, because we’re so satisfied in the pleasures that his gifts give us. We can see that in Ezekiel 16:14–15, where God says to Israel,

And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore.

In other words, God gave Israel the great gift of beauty, and instead of leading them to glorify God for the gift, they fell in love with the gift. They preferred the gift over the Giver; they dishonored God by not being satisfied in God, but fell in love with God’s good gift.

“Pain and pleasure are Satan’s strategies that can ruin our glorification of God.”

Pain and pleasure are Satan’s strategies that can ruin our glorification of God. Withholding good things can ruin us. Giving us good things can ruin us. Both can be an occasion for dishonoring God and not glorifying him — or for indeed glorifying him. And Trent’s question has to do with this last point; namely, How do you glorify God in the good things that he gives us? He mentions food and children. If he wants a book-length answer to that, then he should read Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth.

God in the Good Things

I’m just going to point to a couple of passages that will give part of the answer, I think, to his question. In Philippians 4:11–13, Paul says,

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Paul makes clear that there is a spiritual secret, something deep and wonderful to be learned in the Christian life, that enables a person not only to be brought low, but to abound; not only to hunger, but to have plenty; not only to be in need, but to have abundance. In other words, Paul is making it clear that abounding and having plenty and having abundance is as much of a challenge to the glory of God in our lives as is suffering. So, Paul had to learn something peculiar and special and deep to help him know how to abound. And that’s Trent’s very question.

And I think Paul’s answer of what the secret is for abounding is in Philippians 3:7–8. The secret is not in discounting or diminishing the goodness of God’s gifts, but in knowing Christ so well and loving him so deeply and finding him so satisfying that good things can be received from his hand as Christ-exalting gifts, and good things can be torn from our hands as Christ-exalting discipline. Here’s what he says in 3:7–8:

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ [in other words, Christ is way better]. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth [that’s the point] of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

The fact that good things are counted as loss or as rubbish does not mean they can’t be enjoyed, but it does mean that the moment they compete with the superior beauty and worth and glory and satisfaction of Christ, they become an enemy; they become rubbish. But Paul has learned the secret: if Christ is more precious than anything, then both the loss and the presence — the gain of good things — is an occasion for treasuring Christ.

The other passage that I think points to the answer is 1 Timothy 4:3–5, where Paul says that some

forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Oh my, every word there almost begs for a sermon or an essay or something. And then he adds in 1 Timothy 6:17 a warning for “the rich in this present age” not “to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”

Orange Juice to God’s Glory

Now, I wrote an article once ages ago called “How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God.” And that’s what I’m being asked. So let’s make orange juice the test case, and we’ll end with just a few illustrations of how you drink orange juice to the glory of God.

“All of the world is like a prism, giving us some new sight of the glory of God.”

1. I will affirm, joyfully, from the word of God, that the color yellow is a gift of God. The sweet taste is a gift of God. The nourishment and the way my body uses it is a gift of God. The sun and the rain that grew the oranges is a gift of God. The trucking and the grocery chain that brought it to me is a gift of God. And the list could go on and on. I will gladly, joyfully, say that out loud. I will feel that.

2. I will lift my heart and voice in prayer, thanking God. And I will do this often so that others can know where all this came from, and how wise and strong and good God is.

3. I will remind myself that I do not deserve this juice. I deserve to be in hell today. And so, I will give thanks that my sins are forgiven and that this pleasure is, in fact, bought for me. This orange-juice pleasure is a blood-bought gift for this child of God on the way to heaven.

4. I will remind myself that this particular pleasure, this taste, this coolness on my tongue, this nourishment, reveals something of God to my senses and my soul that could not be known any other way. That’s why the world was created, because all of it is like a prism, giving us some new sight of the glory of God.

5. Then, I will share this juice, in love, with others at the table; I won’t horde it all.

6. And finally, I will use the strength that it gives me to live for the glory of God.