Desiring God by John Piper
In this appendix I give pointers, not full explanations. I hope someday to
turn this appendix into a small book that gives more help than merely
pointing. But since the most common question asked after reading or hearing about Christian Hedonism is “How can I become this kind of person?” I thought I should at least give pointers to where the answer is found. In the end the answer is this: The capacity for spiritual joy is a gift of God. But that answer should not paralyze us, but make us active and hopeful. God has ordained that He act in and through means. In other words, there are paths where He loves to meet His people, for example, in the path of His Word. So I point to some of these paths with the prayer that God will meet you there and grant you the sweetness of His fellowship and the strength of His joy.
1. REALIZE THAT AUTHENTIC JOY IN GOD IS A GIFT
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness. (Galatians 5:22)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing
spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
2. REALIZE THAT JOY MUST BE FOUGHT FOR RELENTLESSLY
Faith has joy at its heart: It is being satisfied with all that God is for us
in Jesus (see above). Therefore, the “good fight of faith” is a fight for joy.
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.
(2 Corinthians 1:24)
I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress
and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1:25)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the
faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which
you were called. (1 Timothy 6:12)
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow
cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew
3. RESOLVE TO ATTACK ALL KNOWN SIN IN YOUR LIFE
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in
Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make
you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments
for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who
have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as
instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:11–13)
If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the
Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
(Romans 8:13, NASB)
4. LEARN THE SECRET OF GUTSY GUILT: HOW TO FIGHT LIKE A JUSTIFIED SINNER
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in
darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of
the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall
look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:8–9)
5. REALIZE THAT THE BATTLE IS PRIMARILY A FIGHT TO SEE GOD FOR WHO HE IS
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes
refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,
to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of
Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves,
but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for
Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has
shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4–6)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being
transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For
this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet
appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O
LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10)
6. MEDITATE ON THE WORD OF GOD DAY AND NIGHT
God reveals himself in His Word. What we see of God in the Word is the kindling of the joy of faith.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his
name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the
LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart. (Psalm 19:8)
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me
a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O
LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and
that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day
and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its
fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:2–3)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so
that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from
the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the
Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you…do so by works of the law, or
by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:5)
Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,
that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
Sanctify them in the truth. (John 17:17)
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of
God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:14)
Hudson Taylor (Illustrates Psalm 1:2)
It was not easy for Mr. Taylor, in his changeful life, to make time for
prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital. Well do the writers
remember traveling with him month after month in northern
China, by cart and wheelbarrow with the poorest of inns at night.
1. Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Chicago: Moody, n.d., original 1932), 235.
2. Autobiography of George Müller, comp. Fred Bergen (London: J. Nisbet, 1906), 152–4.
Often with only one large room for coolies and travelers alike, they
would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves,
with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a
measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of
candlelight which told that Mr. Taylor, however weary, was pouring
over the little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four
A.M. was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time he could be most
sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God.1
The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and
primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my
soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not,
how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but
how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man
might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a
child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and
not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all
this might not be attended to in a right spirit.2
7. PRAY EARNESTLY AND CONTINUALLY FOR OPEN HEART-EYES AND AN INCLINATION FOR GOD
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will
receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice
and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing
spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help
my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
[I pray] that you may know what is the hope to which he has called
you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! (Psalm
8. LEARN TO PREACH TO YOURSELF RATHER THAN LISTEN TO YOURSELF
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within
me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation. (Psalm 42:5)
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the
fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?
Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in
the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to
you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is
3. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965), 20.
talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s
treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk
to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my
soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he
stands up and says: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”3
9. SPEND TIME WITH GOD-SATURATED PEOPLE WHO HELP YOU SEE GOD AND FIGHT THE FIGHT
And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and
strengthened his hand in God. (1 Samuel 23:16)
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving
heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one
another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may
be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12–13)
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of
fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
10. BE PATIENT IN THE NIGHT OF GOD’S SEEMING ABSENCE
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and
set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in
my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and
put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1–3)
William Cowper’s Hymn: God Moves in a Mysterious Way
God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
of never failing skill,
4. Jonathan Edwards, Memoirs, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1995, orig. 1834), xxxviii.
He treasures up his bright designs
and works his sovereign will.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.
11. GET THE REST, EXERCISE, AND PROPER DIET THAT YOUR BODY WAS DESIGNED BY GOD TO HAVE
I once struggled with the truth that “patience” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit
(Galatians 5:22) because I knew from experience that it is also a “fruit” of a
good night’s rest. In other words, I was crabbier on little rest and less so on good rest. What brought light to this perplexity is that one of the ways the Spirit produces His fruit in our lives is by humbling us enough to believe that we are not God and that God can run the world without our staying up too late and getting up too early. There is a very close connection between what we eat and how we exercise and sleep, on the one hand, and our spiritual experience on the other hand. The command to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20) is relevant to more than sexual abstinence.
5. Ibid., xxxv.
6. Ibid., xxi.
7. Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1954), 158.
8. John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 89–90.
9. It would be impossible for me to list all the biographies that have shaped my life and thought. You can pursue the fruit of my biographical reading by consulting the Swans Are Not Silent series, published by Crossway, in which I give biographical sketches of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Brainerd, Cowper, Bunyan, Simeon, Wilberforce, and Newton. I commend the literature cited in these books. For some contemporary reading lists of theology, see www.desiringGOD.org (found in the Online Library, Theological Q&A, Reading and Bible Study) as well as the reading lists for laymen and pastors at www.churchreform.org. Helpful books on missions have been compiled by Doug Nichols at www.actionintl.org/topbooks.html. Online booksellers that distribute God-centered books include www.cvbbs.org and www.discerningreader.org.
Elijah’s Emotional Need for Sleep and Food:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all
the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah,
saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make
your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he
was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba,
which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went
a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a
broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now,
O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And
he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel
touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and
behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of
water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the
LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and
eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and
drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights
to Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:1–8)
Jonathan Edwards on the Use of Food for God’s Sake:
Sereno Dwight tells us that Jonathan Edwards “carefully observed the
effects of the different sorts of food, and selected those which best suited
his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labor.”4 Thus he
abstained from every quantity and kind of food that made him sick or
sleepy. Edwards had set this pattern when he was twenty-one years old
when he wrote in his diary, “By a sparingness in diet, and eating as
much as may be what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be
able to think more clearly, and shall gain time; 1. By lengthening out
my life; 2. Shall need less time for digestion, after meals; 3. Shall be able
to study more closely, without injury to my health; 4. Shall need less
10. J. Campbell White, 1909, secretary of the Laymen’s Missionary Movement.
time for sleep; 5. Shall more seldom be troubled with the head-ache.”5
Hence he was “resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating
12. MAKE A PROPER USE OF GOD’S REVELATION IN NATURE
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his
handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into
barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more
value than they? (Matthew 6:26)
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28–29)
He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing
of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods,
the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind
among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his
soul grows heavy. A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few
hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the
cobwebs our of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now
but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face,
would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body,
which is the next best.… The firs and the rabbits, the streams and the
trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the
farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the
1 J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1979, orig. 1883), xxix.
best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining,
the best refreshments for the weary. For lack of opportunity, or inclination,
these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim.7
13. READ GREAT BOOKS ABOUT GOD AND BIOGRAPHIES OF GREAT SAINTS
Hebrews 11 is a divine mandate to read Christian biography. The unmistakable implication of the chapter is that if we hear about the faith of our forefathers (and mothers), we will “lay aside every weight and sin” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). If we asked the author, “How shall we stir one another up to love and good works?” (10:24) his answer would be: “Through encouragement from the living (10:25) and the dead (11:1–40).” Christian biography is the means by which the “body life” of the church cuts across the centuries.8
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
For the good of your soul, I encourage you to read great books about God
and about His people. Books by the Puritans are among the richest ever written, and the church stands in the debt of Banner of Truth and Soli Deo Gloria Publishers for reprinting so many of them.9
14. DO THE HARD AND LOVING THING FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS—WITNESS AND MERCY
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the
afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as
2. See under “Hedonism,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1972 reprint; first published 1967), 3:433.
3. C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963), 90.
the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your
desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be
like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
15. GET A GLOBAL VISION FOR THE CAUSE
OF CHRIST AND POUR YOURSELF OUT
FOR THE UNREACHED
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine
upon us…that your way may be known on earth, your saving power
among all nations.… The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God,
shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
(Psalm 67:1–2, 6–7)
J. Campbell White:
Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives.
Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except
the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world he came to redeem.
Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the
boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of
his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s
undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless
4. V. Eller, The Simple Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1973), 12.
6. Ibid., 109.
7. Ibid., 121–2.