I've been looking for this book for a long time - I just didn't know it.
I've been looking for a book about how to draw nearer to God, how to find out what God wants, how to live a life that will please God.
I know...I know...just read the Bible. I do. I also find that supplemental material from other Christians is very useful.
This is the most useful book about Christianity other than the Bible that I have ever read! After the Bible itself, this would be my number one pick for my bookshelf. Yes - it would even supplant some C.S. Lewis material.
John Piper examines it all - prayer, purpose, and life. He does so under the spotlight of joy - God's joy and our joy. He takes the discussion away from the clutter of theological terminology by focusing on joy - that often overlooked aspect of our faith.
Don't get me wrong. This book is comprehensive and well researched - he often quotes other authors (including C.S. Lewis), and his teaching is Biblically based. He just keeps it focused by concentrating his efforts on the topic of joy. His style is not as conversational as that of some other authors, but he strikes the right chord.
I would recommend this book for anyone. I will be listening to this book again many times over because I think I've just become addicted to true joy.
I've read quite a few theological works by great Christian authors, but in my opinion, they all pale in comparison to this one.
What John Piper does so well is to make it so clear that we are creatures made for worship, and we were created to worship God. It is in this activity alone that we find complete peace and satisfaction. It is not that we have too much desire; it is that we do not have enough desire. It is not that we seek too much satisfaction, but too little. God is the only desire that will fulfill us. Piper compares this truth to C.S. Lewis' infamous analogy of a child playing in the mud because he cannot imagine a holiday at the beach. We attempt to satisfy ourselves with lesser things to our detriment because we don't understand just how full our satisfaction can be when we seek it in God.
Piper does not stop there, however. He goes on to discuss what pursing God means and how to incorporate that pursuit into our daily lives. He tells us that joy is something we have to fight for, and he discusses various tactics for that battle. He makes his presentation very easy to understand. He uses quotations from other well-known Christian authors, such as C.S. Lewis, but he keeps theological rhetoric to a minimum. His style is conversational, and it was translated very well through the narrative talents of Grover Gardner. Gardner did an outstanding job with the narration with a beautiful melodic voice that maintains an upbeat cadence throughout the audiobook.
Let me just say that by applying Piper's view of God as my ultimate goal and desire, decisions have become much easier, bothersome thoughts don't bother me as much, and I am a much happier and more satisfied person.
I know...You're thinking..."Seriously? She read this book and it changed her life that much? This sound suspicously like that self-help nonsense that works for five minutes until life happens." Life has happened and life will happen, and I know that I will continue to see it differently...through the eyes of a God Who wants nothing more from me than my worship, praise, adoration, and love. I'm not suggesting that I will do this perfectly, but, at least, John Piper has shown me what a holiday at the beach with God might look like, and once you've seen an image like that, there's no going back.
This book is an exploration of why a good God would allow for pain and suffering. It is not an easy book to listen to because Lewis explores the merits and fallacies of various theological ideas about the topic, which requires some foreknowledge of theological terminology and concepts. Because of this, I don't know that I would recommend this book for a new Christian. It is not that a new Christian could not benefit from it, but the vocabulary may cause a great deal of frustration.
This is one of the few books where I can say that I thought the first half was better than the second half. In the first half, the reality of pain is discussed as it relates to the nature of God. In the second half, Lewis begins exploring various beliefs on the subject of pain, and I thought he tended to wander a bit off topic at times and contradict himself. For example, in chapter nine, he discusses pain as animals experience it. One second, he says we can't really know about their pain or their immortality and the next he conjectures that the reference to the lion and the lamb lying down together in heaven was probably a common analogy of the time and shouldn't be taken literally, implying that animals probably do not possess immortal souls. I believe he overlooked quite a few verses in the Bible that imply otherwise. I deducted an "overall" star for that.
The narrator would have been a good narrator for a Shakesperean play but not for a C.S. Lewis book. Lewis had an off-the-cuff style and most narrators of his books reflect that. James Simmons' style was anything but off-the-cuff. He made it sound more like a lecture than like Lewis reading his own work. It's not that he's a poor narrator, it's just that a narrator with a more relaxed tone should have been chosen.
Overall, there are certain ideas that I will take with me from this book that I believe will help me in my moments of pain. I knew intellectually that God does not allow pain without reason, but the explanations of God's character relative to reasons he might allow for suffering will be something that will help me to emotionally understand Him. I would listen to this book again (or at least the first half) and I would recommend it to anyone who wonders why a good God allows bad things to happen to good people.