The motto of John Piper’s ministry could be “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” This is his definition of Christian hedonism.
In essence, Desiring God is about being satisfied in God; making God our treasure. I think it is easy for us, as Evangelical Christians, to recite a prayer and believe that we have come to a type of saving faith. This is antithetical to Christian Hedonism: our desire to glorify God, according to Piper, stems from the joy we find in Him. Joy is a consistent theme for the Christian Hedonist. Hedonism defined means “the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.” But to the Christian Hedonist, joy is a result of giving God glory. Dr. Piper sets up his thesis by quoting the famous Westminster Catechism phrase, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” He says that enjoying Him and giving Him glory are the same thing. Therefore, Christian Hedonism (remember: the pursuit of pleasure) is doing things simply because you have the pleasure of giving God glory. The thought here is that sometimes Christians are inundated with denial. This denial makes us sometimes begrudgingly worship and do moral things to appease God. But he says that there is a better way: happiness. And that is what this book is about. Perhaps I can illustrate this with a quotation:
All those years I had been trying to suppress my tremendous longing for happiness so I could honestly praise God out of some “higher,” less selfish motive. But now it started to dawn on me that this persistent and undeniable yearning for happiness was not to be suppressed, but to be glutted—on God! The growing conviction that praise should be motivated solely by the happiness we find in God seemed less and less strange (Piper, 21).
Dr. Piper then sets out to defend this thesis in the following chapters: The Foundation of Christian Hedonism; Conversion; Worship; Love; Scripture; Prayer; Money; Marriage; Missions; and Suffering.
By far, I believe the two most powerful chapters are the last two: missions and suffering. How can we take pleasure in our sufferings? How can we take pleasure in missions where 2 billion people (when the book was written at least) have not heard the Gospel, let alone know who Jesus is? You’ll have to read the book if you want to know the answers. But I will say this: I believe that Evangelical America has vastly underestimated the importance of frontier missions in the 21st century. This book puts a desire in my heart to make my joy “full” by pursuing world’s missions. Dr. Piper says, “In fact, in all my reading outside the Bible over the past fifteen years, the greatest source of affirmation for my emerging Christian Hedonism has been from missionary literature, especially biographies. And those who have suffered most seem to state the truth most unashamedly” (Piper, 224). From his mouth, it seems that those who 1) sacrifice, and 2) are involved in missions, have the least problem with making their joy “full.” A message we desperately need to hear in the solace and comfortability of American Evangelicalism.
Please read this book. You can download it for free here: