Virtue of the Week: Suffering a Cause

John PiperWhat a waste!

In his excellent book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper tells about Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards, who died in April, 2000, in Cameroon, West Africa. Ruby was over eighty, had been single all her life, and had spent her life making the gospel known among the unreached, poor, and sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty, who served with Ruby in Cameroon. Their brakes failed, the car went over a cliff, and they both were killed instantly. Piper asks, “Was that a tragedy? Two lives, driven by one great passion, namely, to be spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor —even two decades after most of their American counterparts had retired to throw away their lives on trifles.” He answers, “No, that is not a tragedy. That is a glory. These lives were not wasted. And these lives were not lost. Their suffering for a cause had inspired thousands.

He continues, “I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Readers Digest, which tells about a couple who ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast … when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they
cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells When Piper first read that, he thought that it was a joke, a spoof on the American dream. But it wasn’t. Rather, this was the dream: “Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious life, —and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before their Creator at the great day of judgment:

“Look, Lord. See my sea shells.”

“Lord, look at all my softball trophies.”

Piper concludes, “That is a tragedy.” He rightly urges, “Don’t buy it [that golfing, fishing, traveling, tinkering in the yard version of the American retirement dream]. Don’t waste your life.” Suffer a cause! Get out there and serve others. Make this a better world before you are gone!

Through this toilsome world, alas! Once and only once I pass; If a kindness I may show, If a good deed I may do To a suffering fellow man, Let me do it while I can. No delay, for it is plain I shall not pass this way again.Unknown
No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.Theodore Roosevelt

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