Mastering desire for the sake of others

‘There is a wholeness about the fully grown man which makes him concentrate on the present moment. He may have unsatisfied desires, but he always keeps them out of sight and manages to master them some way or other. And the more need he has of self-mastery, the more confidence he will inspire among his comrades, especially the younger ones, who are still on the road he has already travelled. Clinging too much to our desires easily prevents us from being what we ought to be and can be. Desires repeatedly mastered for the sake of present duty make us, conversely, all the richer. To be without desire is a mark of poverty. At the moment I am surrounded by people who cling to their desires, so much so that they haven’t any interest for others: they give up listening, and are incapable of loving their neighbour.’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, Letters to a Friend, March 19th 1944

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Grace-filled monasticism

‘The monastic tradition we have been looking at more or less took it for granted that it is only gradually that we make progress in our christian lives, and that we may never get any further than oscillating between falling and getting up again. As likely as not, our whole life will be one long battle and, when all else fails, we may end up simply saying to God, ‘Lord, save me, whether I like it or not; dust and ashes that I am, I love sin.’

Simon Tugwell O.P., ‘Ways of Imperfection’ p. 37

Suffering and rejoicing

‘It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good. All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within it a promise of salvation: a promise of joy. “I am now rejoicing in my suffering for your sake,” writes Saint Paul (Col 1:24).’

John Paul II, Memory and Identity

The cycle of a Christian Life

“The Christian life is a continuous cycle of prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and temptation. Luther often said he knew he was a Christian because the devil taunted him. The devil wouldn’t waste his time with anyone far from the faith. The irony of the devil’s taunts is that it drives us back to the Word for refuge.”

Paraphrasing Dr John Kleinig

Sharing twice

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:17

“For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” – 2 Corinthians 1:5

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:10

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:13

Making sense of a hard passage

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Colossians 1:24

‘Christ has prepared a love offering for the world by suffering and dying for sinners. It is full and lacking in nothing – except one thing, a personal presentation by Christ himself to the nations of the world and the people of your workplace…

What this means, I think, is that God intends for the afflictions of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of his people. God really means for the body of Christ, the church, to experience some of the suffering he experienced so that when we offer the Christ of the cross to people, they see the Christ of the cross in us. We are to make the afflictions of Christ real for people by the afflictions we experience in offering him to them, and living the life of love he lived…

The point is that taking the gospel to people (across the office or across the ocean) ordinarily requires sacrificing and suffering, a losing of life or a denying of self. This is the way Christ means for his saving sufferings to be taken to the world, through the sufferings of people. Suffering is God’s strategy for completing the Great Commission. We have plenty of time in eternity to enjoy the benefits.’

John Piper, ‘Filling Up What is Lacking in Christ’s Afflictions’, @ desiringgod.org