I’ve been thinking a lot about self-denial. In the church, Asceticism has become a dirty word–a classic case of tossing the baby out with the bathwater. In your quest to grow as a man of strength consider some of these quotes on the subject of asceticism.
Chapter 6 of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
Unbridled AffectionsWhen a man desires a thing too much, he at once becomes ill at ease. A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace. An unmortified man is quickly tempted and overcome in small, trifling evils; his spirit is weak, in a measure carnal and inclined to sensual things; he can hardly abstain from earthly desires. Hence it makes him sad to forego them; he is quick to anger if reproved. Yet if he satisfies his desires, remorse of conscience overwhelms him because he followed his passions and they did not lead to the peace he sought. True peace of heart, then, is found in resisting passions, not in satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal man, in the man given to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and spiritual man.
Chapter 9 of The Letter to the Romans by Paul
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Epilogue from The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
The disciplines for the spiritual life are available, concrete activities designed to render bodily beings such as we ever more sensitive and receptive to the Kingdom of Heaven brought to us in Christ, even while living in a world set against God. Lovingly practiced they join with grace to enable us matter-of-factly to “come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need.” Heb. 4:16 Their wise use allows us to live our lives by this throne of God. This is what makes the yoke of Jesus easy, his “burden” light. His commandment are not bad news, not grievous, once we have found the ways to be with him.
Chapter 1 of Celebration of the Disciplines by Richard Foster
We are tempted to believe there is nothing we can do. If all human strivings end in moral bankruptcy (and having tried it, we know it is so), and if righteousness is a gracious gift from God (as the Bible clearly states), then is it not logical to conclude that we must wait for God to come and transform us? Strangely enough, the answer is no. The analysis is correct–human striving is insufficient and righteousness is a gift from God–but the conclusion is faulty. Happily there is something we can do. We do not need to be hung on the horns of the dilemma of either human works or idleness. God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.Consider this an appetizer.
If your interest is sparked I highly recommend any of the books quoted above as places to pursue this line of thought.