“The basic premise of religion– that if you live a good life, things will go well for you– is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet He had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture.”
–Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Dutton, 2008), 182.
“God’s people are never so exalted as when they are brought low, never so enriched as when they are emptied, never so advanced as when they are set back by adversity, never so near the crown as when under the cross. One of the sweetest enjoyments of heaven will be to review our own experiences under this law of compensations, and to see how often affliction worked out for us the exceeding weight of glory. There is a great want in all God’s people who have never had the education of sharp trial.
There are so many graces that can only be pricked into us by the puncture of suffering, and so many lessons that can only be learned through tears, that when God leaves a Christian without any trials, He really leaves him to a terrible danger. His heart, unploughed by discipline, will be very apt to run to the tares of selfishness and worldliness and pride. In a musical instrument there are some keys that must be touched in order to evoke its fullest melodies. God is a wonderful organist, who knows just what heart-chord to strike.”
–Theodore Cuyler, God’s Light On Dark Clouds, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 11-12.
“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 1948/2001), 44.
“Each must bear his own cross. For whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of His fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evils. It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put His own children to a definite test. Beginning with Christ, His first-born, He follows His plan with all His children.”
–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John T. McNeill, Ed. Library of Christian Classics (Nashville: Westminster John Knox, 1960), Vol. 1, Book 3, Chapter VIII, Section 1, p. 702.
“‘To take up one’s cross’ does not mean to put up with some minor irritant, like a crabby in-law or a runny nose. Crucifixion was the form of execution reserved for the most despised and evil of criminals. No Roman citizen could be crucified without the sanction of the emperor; that form of death was reserved for slaves and non-citizens.
After sentence was passed, the victim was scourged with the most severe of the three Roman levels of beating… and then the cross-member was lashed to his arms and shoulders so that he could carry it out to the place of execution. There the cross-member was fastened to the upright member of the cross, already sunk in the ground.
Thus, for anyone to ‘take up their cross’ was to go to the place of painful, shameful execution. To use that expression in a metaphorical sense is not to strip it of its force. Jesus means that His followers must die to self-interest, declare themselves dead to the glories and attractions of this world, and be prepared for suffering, even the most ignominious suffering.”
–D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990/2006), 75.