A Word to the Reader
One of the reasons I put together collections of short meditations is that my life has been changed as much by paragraphs as by books. Books on one topic are valuable. They let the author explore all the angles of an insight. But where do the insights themselves come from? Usually they come from paragraphs. Even sentences. For reasons not entirely explainable, God can make a single paragraph life changing.
Perhaps some evening your soul is hungry. Not for anything in particular, just a soul-hunger. A longing. Something is needed beyond what television is going to give. Something about God, or about the meaning of your life, or about eternity. You’re tired and you know you probably can’t stay awake to read twenty pages. So you pick up a book that you know focuses on eternal things, a Godward book. And three minutes later you have seen something, and you will never be the same again.
It may take a lifetime to sound the depths of what you just saw. But the seeing happens in an instant. It’s as if God takes the paragraph in his fingers and uses it to adjust the lens on the eye of your soul, and something wonderful comes into focus that you had never seen before.
Isn’t it amazing to think about the relationship between God’s focusing fingers and the human activity of writing and reading? You may have read that same paragraph before, perhaps just the other evening. But this time God put his fingers on it and turned the lens just one more focusing notch. What this means is that I should pray as a writer and you should pray as a reader. We should ask God to do this focusing.
I think of your reading and my writing as a kind of partnership in the pursuit of a Godward miracle. I write, you read, but God gives the sight. What we both want is this miracle of seeing—seeing lifechanging things about God and life and eternity.
In one of his letters the apostle Paul said, “By reading you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4, author’s translation). But was reading enough? A few sentences later he prayed that they “may have strength to…know the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18–19). Something more was needed than reading. Something from God—he called it “strength to know.” Earlier he had prayed that the eyes of his readers’ hearts would be “enlightened, that you may know” (Ephesians 1:18). Something from God is needed—in answer to prayer. This is what I meant when I said that God takes a human paragraph and puts his fingers on the lens of the eye of your soul. The slightest turn and we are made strong with sight. We are never the same again.
So I have written. And you are reading. And God is ready to act. My words are not Scripture. They are not infallible like God’s words. But my earnest aim in all I write is to be faithful to God’s written Word in the Bible. To point to God and his Son and his works and his ways. My aim is a Godward book in the hope that God will put his fingers on its paragraphs and turn the lens of the eye of your soul, ever so delicately, and bring glories into focus.
This is how God forms us into his image. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is our aim: From a Godward paragraph, to a sight of glory, to a Godward heart.
A very special word of thanks is due to David Mathis, executive editor at Desiring God. David helped me assemble these meditations from all the different places and times where I had written them. After I reworked them for this book, he provided his sharp theological, stylistic, and formatting eye to help me refine them for final release. I admire David’s gifts and love his friendship. Thank you, David, for your partnership.
I have enjoyed a long and happy relationship with Multnomah Books, especially in bringing my shorter writings to publication. A Godward Heart is a continuation of what we began in A Godward Life, Book One (2001), continued in A Godward Life, Book Two (2003), Pierced by the Word (2003), Life as a Vapor (2004), and Taste and See (2005). I am thankful for this publishing partnership for the sake of spreading what I pray will prove to be life-changing, Christ-exalting paragraphs.
Excerpted from A Godward Heart by John Piper Copyright © 2014 by John Piper. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.