The Danger of Being Earnest about Being Earnest

John Piper:

Unbroken seriousness of a melodramatic or somber kind will inevitably communicate a sickness of soul to the great mass of people. This is partly because life as God created it is not like that.

There are, for example, little babies in the world who are not the least impressed with or in need of our passion and zeal and earnest looks. They are cooing and smiling and calling for their daddies to get down and play with them. The daddy who cannot do this will not understand the true seriousness of sin, because he is not capable of enjoying what God has preserved from its ravages. He is really a sick man and unfit to lead others to health. He is, in the end, earnest about being earnest, not earnest about being joyful.

The real battle in life is to be as happy in God as we can be, and that takes a very special kind of earnestness, since God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.

(HT: Justin Taylor)


I am currently serving churches and colleges as a bible teacher, overseas and in the UK.

2 thoughts on “The Danger of Being Earnest about Being Earnest

  1. “Since God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy”?
    Does He?
    I was saying ‘Amen’ until that last line, which is like a dagger through my soul.
    I am thinking of those I pastor who struggle with depression, or who are earnestly battling hurt in their lives that means that receiving God’s Fatherly love and believing they are safe with Him is probably going to be the journey of many years.
    Are they to understand that they are only safe with their Father if they are happy?
    I sincerely hope that on this point, the venerable Mr Piper is profoundly wrong.

    • Piper is not talking about being happy per se. He is directing our focus to joying in God. That is what we have been saved for. If we don’t find our ultimate joy in the Lord we will pursue other joys to satisfy us, thus demonstrating something else (other than him) is of superior worth in our life (that’s the essence of sin). That is idolatry – and that is dangerous. That’s why it’s got to be fought for with all the intention and strength that God himself will supply. Now we’re getting close to what discipleship really means. In other words, what Piper is saying is, by all means be very earnest about finding our ultimate joy in God, (he is the object of our earnestness, not the discipline itself – which often leads to joylessness) and all he is for us in Christ, then we will enjoy his other gifts in life in relation to him.

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