Okay, I will be the first to admit it: It is much easier to desire God than desire to read “Desiring God.” I spent 40 minutes reading the introduction and another hour reading about the happiness of God. But at the end I felt that I needed to read that chapter again. I wasn’t happy, albeit I was reading about God’s happiness. Did you have a similar reaction? I would love to know.

Perhaps this will help you. John Piper is trying to anticipate his critics in these first couple of chapters. After all, he chose a sub-title for his book which he knew was going to be controversial. If it is today, imagine 25 years ago when the book was first published. “Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.” If he had said “Meditations of a Christian Joy-seeker,” no one would care (and consequently the book might not have become the bestseller that it is!). If he chose “Meditations of a Happy Christian,” even Joel Osteen would have recommended the book. Instead, he stuck with a difficult title, which required him to write an introduction, two chapters, then later a couple of post-script long notes just to explain what he means.

I would like to ask you to go pass the hurdle of the title, not get too discouraged because of the opening chapters, and zero in on the main premise of the book. God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself. Toward that end, He created the universe, sent His Son to the world, and decided to enter into a redemptive relationship with us, His servants. It is because of God’s chief end in seeking joy that we can experience true joy in Him. That is what you need to keep in mind as you continue to plow through this book.

I don’t often mark books that I read, but I write notes. I encourage you to write notes. Whether you use the margins of the book, a notebook or a smart phone note device, write down the things that jump at you. For example, I wrote down his daughter’s Talitha Ruth’s motto at 15: “a girl should get so lost in God, that a guy has to seek Him to find her.” Now that stuff preaches, especially coming from a teenager. When I read it, it made me ask the question: “What sort of teaching and example was that girl exposed to in order to arrive at a profound motto like that?” And, more importantly, would my life cause anyone to come up with these sort of statements about God, because they have seen the way I live?

From the first chapter my take home lesson was the statement that there are no mere coincidences, not even in the small affairs of life (page 37). That is one small practical implication of this theological concept we call the “sovereignty” of God. Speaking of place and time in the universe, Paul summarized the same concept this way, “From one man he made all the nations of men, that they should inhabit the earth. And He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:26). I love the NASB expression here: “the boundaries of their habitation.” Paul is talking about the nations (“ethne,” from where we get the word “ethnic”) of the world, but we can also apply the concept to individuals.

I don’t know how many times I have met Christians who are so unhappy with their station or stage in life. “I hate my job,” “I hate this neighborhood,” “I wished we had never moved from…” I have made the statement that at times it appears that as often as I have met happy pagans I have also met unhappy Christians. John Piper would probably say that the last phrase – “unhappy Christian” – is an oxymoron. What do you think?

But if we, followers of Christ, understand this concept of the sovereignty of God and the fact that there are no mere coincidences, we will pause before we go running our mouths about hating this and hating that. God has picked the exact time in history and the exact place where you should live – down to the Zip Code, I believe. And why has He done that, you may ask. Paul says that God went to this “trouble” so that “they should seek Him (as if groping for Him) and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Think about this: God put you where you are when you are, to give you a chance to get to know Him. So buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Happy reading!