top of page

Summary of "Desiring God" by John Piper


Contrary to his previous belief that true worship required self-denial and a suppression of his own desire for happiness, John Piper recounts the moment he realized that, where God is not treasured and enjoyed, he is not truly worshiped. He reflects on his shift from thinking that pleasure and worship were at odds with one another to seeing the reality that a deep pleasure in God is the only form of worship that truly glorified God.

AIM: Piper states that his aim for this book is to show that we cannot think of glorifying God and enjoying him as two separable entities, but that man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him. Joy is essential for true worship.

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” -C. S. Lewis

“My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms. God is not worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed (22).”


The foundation of ultimate happiness is found in the spilling over of the happiness of God. God delights in his own glory spilling over.

In creation, God “went public” with the glory that reverberated joyfully between the Father and the Son. There’s something about the fullness of God’s joy that inclines it to overflow. There is an expansive quality to His joy. It wants to share itself ... The climax of his happiness is the delight he takes in the echoes of his excellence in the praises of His saints (44-46)


To be converted means that our desires have been converted from seeing anything else — family, fame, fortune, prestige, etc. — could be considered as "rubbish" compared to the infinite treasure of knowing Christ (Matt 13:44; Phil 3:8).

All kinds of lukewarm, world loving church attenders say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus. … Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, “Believe in the Lord,” but, “Delight yourself in the Lord”? (54-55)

The treasure in the field is the fellowship of God in Christ. (70)

Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that he is desirable. (73)


Rather than being simply an action, worship is a state of being, a state of overwhelming delight, wonder, and awe in beholding the majesty of God — the sweetest and most edifying food that is available for our souls.

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Jesus in John 7:37-39)

But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship … The fuel of worship is the truth of God; the furnace of worship is the spirit of man; and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude, and joy. 82

Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. 87

We usually say, [we receive Christ] as Lord and savior. That's right. But something more needs to be said. Saving faith also receives Christ as our treasure. A non-treasured Christ is a non-saving Christ. Faith has in it this element of valuing, embracing, prizing, and relishing Christ. 90

If I take my wife out for the evening on our anniversary and she asks me, “why do you do this?” the answer that honors her most is “because nothing makes me happier tonight than to be with you.” “It's my duty,” is a dishonor to her. “It's my joy,” is an honor. There it is! The feast of Christian hedonism. How shall we honor God in worship? By saying, “it's my duty?” Or by saying, “it's my joy?” 94


“Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.” 119

It is essential to the preacher's success that he should thoroughly enjoy his work... The more thoroughly you enjoy it, the better you'll do it. 128

The joy of experiencing the power of God's grace defeating selfishness is an insatiable addiction … When a person delights in the display of the glorious grace of God, that person will want to see as many displays of it as possible in other people. If I can be God's means of another person's miraculous conversion, I will count it all joy because what would I rather see than another display of the beauty of God's grace in the joy of another person? My joy is doubled in his. 141


Scripture contains the embers that the Holy Spirit breathes upon to inflame our delight in and desire for the Lord.

This has been the secret of God's great spiritual warriors. They have saturated themselves with the Word of God. 151

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 may be nourished ... I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God and to meditation on it. Now what is the food for the inner man: not prayer, but the word of God: and here again not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. (George Müller) 155-157


We pray so that “the Father might be glorified” and so that our “joy may be full.” (Jesus in John 14:13 and 16:24)

The most precious truth in the Bible is that God's greatest interest is to glorify the wealth of His grace by making sinners happy in Him—in Him! 159

Here is a compact, a covenant that God enters into with you who pray to him, and whom he helps. He says, “you shall have the deliverance, but I must have the glory.” Here is a delightful partnership: we obtain that which we so greatly need, and all that God giveth is the glory which is due unto his name … God gets the glory; we get the delight. 163

Evidently, there is a way to serve God that would belittle him as needy of our service … God is not looking for people to work for Him, so much as He is looking for people who will let Him work for them. Religious flesh always wants to work for God rather than humbling itself to realize that God must work for them in free grace. 168, 171-172

We have taken a wartime walkie-talkie and tried to turn it into a civilian intercom to call the servants for another cushion in the den ... we see repeatedly in Scripture that prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences. 177-178

If you don't plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it. 183


How we spend our money reflects where we find our greatest joy. Jesus tells us to pursue eternal joy – to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven — by using our money for Christ’s glory. Piper encourages us to adopt a wartime mentality that is content with what we have so that we can focus on accomplishing God’s mission rather than our own.

We can be content with simplicity because the deepest, most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. 189

According to the Status of Global Mission 2010, only .1% of the total global church member annual income goes to foreign missions. Of that, only 1% goes towards reaching the unreached. 190 Are you awake and free from the false messages of American merchandising? Or has the omnipresent economic lie so deceived you that the only sin you can imagine in relation to money is stealing? 192 We know our joy in heaven will be greater if the people we treat with mercy are won over to the surpassing worth of Christ and join us in praising him. 195


Piper argues that love is “the pursuit of our own joy in the joy of the beloved … love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved” (206-207). God intentionally created marriage as a symbol of Christ’s relationship with His Church: the husband emulating Christ by taking initiative and responsibility, nourishing, guiding, and protecting his bride; the wife emulating the church by recognizing, honoring, and yielding to her husband’s leadership.

God grants us in marriage the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves. 213

A word to husbands: You should feel the great responsibility to take the lead in the things of the Spirit; you should lead the family in the life of prayer, in the study of God‘s Word, and worship; you should lead in giving your family a vision of its meaning and mission; you should take the lead in shaping the moral fabric of the home and in governing it’s happy peace. … Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for his family. 218 The fall twisted man’s loving headship into hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. The fall twisted women’s intelligent, willing submission into manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. The redemption we anticipate at the coming of Christ is not the dismantling of the created order of loving headship and willing submission, but a recovery of it. This is precisely what we find in Ephesians 5:21–33. 220. For us, marriage has been a matrix for Christian hedonism. As each pursues joy in the joy of the other and fulfills a God ordained role, the mystery of marriage as a parable of Christ in the church becomes manifest for his great glory and our great joy. 221.


In contrast to being an endeavor of self-pity and self denial, a life on mission with God is the boundless and joyful and spiritually healing work of being an instrument that God uses to do the humanly impossible work of raising the spiritually dead to new life. There is nothing that could bring us more pleasure than living for the glory of God.

Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can always 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 it’s sweetest and most priceless rewards. (J. Campbell White) 222 My burden in this chapter is to kindle a desire in your heart to be part of the last chapter of the greatest story in the world … I pray that every reader of this book might become what David Bryant calls a “world Christian” – that you would re-order your life around God’s global cause. 231-233 Jesus wants us to think about sacrifice in a way that rules out all self-pity. 241. Missions is the automatic outflow of an overflow of love for Christ. We delight to enlarge our joy in Him by extending it to others. As Lottie Moon said, “Surely there can be no deeper joy than that of saving souls.” 245–246 Missionaries are not heroes who can boast in great sacrifice for God. They are true Christian hedonists. They know that the battle cry of Christian hedonism is missions. They have discovered one-hundred times more joy and satisfaction in a life devoted to Christ and the gospel than in a life devoted to frivolous comforts and pleasures and worldly advancements. And they have taken to heart the rebuke of Jesus: beware of a self-pitying spirit of sacrifice! Missions is gain! Hundredfold gain! 250 I appeal to you to take off your store-bought rags and put on the garments of God’s ambassadors. 251


When we see knowing God as our greatest treasure, we can see suffering for Christ as a gift because suffering (1) weans us from self-reliance and increases our reliance upon Christ; (2) it is often the means for another people’s salvation — the means by which we get to see others become “ new prisms for refracting His glory”; (3) seeing others experience what we enjoy in Christ deepens our joy in Christ; (4) it deepens our assurance that we are indeed Christ’s. Matt 5:11-12; Col 1:24; Phil 3; Acts 5:41

The pearl of greatest price is the glory of Christ. 260 “They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.” Charles Spurgeon 266 I have heard Tson interpret Colossians 1:24 by saying that Christ’s suffering is for propitiation; our suffering is for propagation. 278. The Calvary Road with Jesus is not a joyless road. It is a painful one, but it is a profoundly happy one. When we choose the fleeting pleasures of comfort and security over the sacrifices and sufferings of missions and evangelism and ministry and love, we choose against joy. We reject the spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11). The happiest people in the world are the people who experience the mystery of “Christ in them, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) satisfying their deep longings and freeing them to extend the afflictions of Christ through their own sufferings to the world. 286


We glorify what we enjoy. Our reward increases as we share it. “The motive for writing this book is the desire to double my joy and God’s banquet of Grace by sharing it with as many as I can. I wrote this to you that my joy might be full” (reference to 1 John 1:4). 290

The chief end of man is the glorify God by enjoying him forever.


bottom of page