Theme: Learning to control your anger before it controls you.

Text: Ephesians 4: 26 - 27 (NLT)
"And don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil."

Introductory Remarks
If I were to ask you, of all the human emotions you're capable of experiencing, which one seems to be the most difficult for you to cope with? I believe that the majority of you would say that dealing with the emotion of anger is the most complex and challenging of them all on a day in - day out basis.

Complex - because anger can and will surface at the strangest times - brought forth for the strangest of reasons - and exhibited in the strangest ways.

Challenging -  because anger, if not handled properly, can be a very dangerous and destructive emotion. It can be hurtful to us physically - emotionally - relationally and spiritually.

There is always a price tag for improperly handling anger. Anyone who has experienced an incident when they let their anger get the best of them will confirm that actions committed in that kind of anger are later regretted.

Proverbs 25:28 (GNB)
"If you cannot control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without walls, open to attack."

Most of us realize that people who can't control their anger have a real problem. What is your routine for handling the emotion of anger? Does it work? Not always? Seldom?

Take heart! God has a method that does, and He tells us about it in His Word.

In this teaching I want us to look at God's biblical method for "taming the temper." Notice,  I didn't say God's method for "getting rid of our anger," but for the taming of it. It is not in God's purpose to eliminate the ability to get angry. He put it in us to begin with. All anger is not bad. Sometimes it's good for us to get angry. Anger in itself is neither good or bad. It's why we get angry and how we express it that determines if it's good or bad, healthy or unhealthy anger. God has given us His Word and His Spirit to work in us to enable us to harness and take control over our anger so it becomes a positive and not a negative force in our life.

He wants us "to be angry and sin not.Ephesians 4:26, KJV) Anger managed correctly can be an asset and not a liability. Anger is something we can't avoid, but it's something we can learn to control.

Anger has been compared to the combustible explosions in a car engine that produces the power to make the car move. When those explosions are under control, they will take the car safely to its destination. But, if instead of controlling the flow of gas producing these orderly explosions  --  we ignited all the gas in the tank at once --  we'd blow both the car and ourselves up.

 

Proverbs 29:11, "A fool gives vent to their anger, but a wise person keeps themselves under control."

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Point 1:
Four faces of anger---
There are four words we use to describe different levels or types of anger that we experience.

1. Rage - used to describe a short fused-intense-explosive-uncontrolled anger. It's a "fly off the handle," "let it all out temper blowout." that leaves you and everybody around you torn to pieces. We try to excuse it by saying, "I know I lose my temper real fast, but it's all over in a few minutes." So is a bomb explosion, but an awful lot of damage can take place in those few minutes.

 

"People who fly into a rage seldom make a good landing."   Will Rogers

"When you lose your temper, you always lose."

Proverbs 14:17, People with hot tempers do foolish things."(LB)

Proverbs 29:22, A hot tempered man starts fights and gets into all kinds of trouble." (LB)                    

 

People who express this type of anger are walking time bombs with hair trigger tempers ready to explode. Typical excuses used by these "short fusers" sound like this:

"I just couldn't help  it. It made me so angry."
"It just got to me and touched off my temper."
"It's like something just came over me and I couldn't do anything about it."

James 1:19, gives some sound advice to "the ragers", "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."

The quickest way to cut your own throat is by your own sharp tongue by saying things you shouldn't have said because you "just had to get it off your chest."

 

"If you keep your mouth shut, you will never put your foot in it." Austin O'Malley

 Let's label rage as a sudden anger that must be  controlled.

2. Wrath - used to describe an anger that wants revenge, that desires to retaliate, that wants to 
  return the hurt or injustice the offender has caused them.
 It's an anger that holds a grudge. It's an "eye for an eye," or a "tooth for a tooth,"
"don't get even, but get ahead," I'll think of a way to pay you back for this" type of anger.
 A wrathful anger is always accompanied by an unforgiving spirit.

"Revenge is often like biting a dog because the dog bit you." Austin O'Malley

Wrath anger was what the Pharisees felt toward Jesus. They had built their own "religious playhouse" by taking the laws of God and attaching hundreds of their own addendums to it, making it almost impossible to keep the original laws of God. The truth Jesus came teaching began to dismantle their playhouse and the Pharisees got fighting mad.

Luke 6:11, "But they  (the Pharisees)  were furious, (at Jesus) and began to plot with each other what they might do to Jesus."

Let's label wrath as a sinful anger that must be  condemned.

3. Resentment - is used to describe an anger that stems from a grievance. It is an anger that the
person suppresses over a long period of time and allows  to quietly smolder down inside them

  • Resentment anger doesn't blowup, but clams up.

  • As it is nurtured inside the person, it produces self pity that eventually turns to bitterness.

Resentment anger was what the elder son felt toward his prodigal brother and father. He had been the good son, the faithful son, the stay at home son, keep on the job son. The prodigal brother was the bad son, the unfaithful son, the vagabond, lazy son. Now, that son was back at home and the father was celebrating with a party for him. The elder son was overcome with a resentful anger. He resented his brother, he resented the celebration over his return, and he resented his father for receiving his wayward brother back into the family. He stubbornly refused to let go of his angry resentment and join in the festivities.

Luke 15:28-30, "And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore his father came out and entreated him. And he answering, said to his father, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments: and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed the fatted calf."

  • Resentment anger damages the human personality and destroys relationships with others.

  • Proverbs 18:19, "It is harder to win back the friendship of an offended brother than to capture a fortified city. His anger shuts you out like iron bars."

Let's label resentment as a stubborn anger that must be  conquered.

 4. Indignation - used to describe an anger that rises up in us as a result of seeing someone 
 or something of importance to us being mistreated or suffering an injustice.

Indignation anger is free from rage, resentment, and retaliation. It's a healthy anger that is aimed at the problem and not the person. It's an anger for the right reason and expressed in the right way. It's a controlled anger that is meant to be corrective and constructive.

Indignation  anger is the kind Jesus displayed. The gospels tell of Jesus becoming angry on several occasions, but it was always of the indignation type, aimed at correcting a wrongful practice or adjusting  an unhealthy attitude.

Mark 3: 1-6, reveals the kind of thing that triggered the indignation anger of Jesus.
"And He (Jesus) entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So the (Pharisees) watched him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Step forward." Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him."

The Pharisees had lost their compassion for others. They cared not for the condition of the man with the withered hand. All that mattered was maintaining legalistic obedience to the letter of the law. They believed their traditions were more important than easing the pain or meeting the needs of another human being. They had forgotten that " the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."  Mark 2:27.

Jesus looks at them in anger. He is stirred with indignation at what He sees in them because He recognizes their compassionless rule keeping mindset. Notice how Jesus expressed His anger.

  • He did not explode in a rage.

  • He did not call down fire from heaven on them in wrath.

  • He did not allow resentment anger to smolder down inside Him. He didn't suppress His anger.

But Jesus chose to channel His anger into carefully chosen words of response that He released in a controlled way. He didn't respond in a way that would allow them to fight back.

"You can't put things across by getting cross."

"To take the wind out of an angry man's sails - stay calm."

Indignation anger is the only type of anger that Scripture allows. Any anger that rises up in us filled with rage, wrath, or resentment must be immediately challenged for it is destructive anger. Anger that comes as a result of righteous indignation must be cultivated, because it is a constructive anger that God  does not condemn.

Let's label indignation as a sanctified anger that must be  channeled.

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Point 2:
Three ways people handle anger

1.  Repress it
Repression, we are told, is a form of denial. Their thinking runs like this. (If I deny that I am angry, then I won't have to deal with it. If I just ignore it, it will go away. I'll just work real hard at pretending it's not there.) Most usually, repressors have seen or felt the destructive power of anger and being "gun shy" of it, they try to avoid it. They just paint anger invisible and they think it's gone. But is it?

Repression is not the healthiest way to handle anger. It's not an emotion that can be dealt with properly by simply "forgetting it."

If the anger energy is not brought out in the open and taken care of in a safe way, it will be directed through other channels until it is  heard from. It will not be ignored. Usually, it is the physical body that feels the effects of repressed anger. I list several of those effects.

  • The blood system - producing heart attacks.

  • Stomach muscles - enhancing strokes

  • Muscles tense up - elevating blood pressure

  • Digestive tract - producing ulcers.

By repressing anger, we think we bury it dead. Actually, we are burying it alive. It sooner or later rises from its grave in another form.

Nothing can take place in the body without it affecting everything else about us. Anger affects our state of mind and our state of mind affects, in many ways, our body.

2.  Suppress it

In suppressing anger, we are very much aware that we are angry, but for one reason or other, we choose to stifle expressing it and simply hold it inside of us. By doing this, we think we are neutralizing our feelings of anger, but actually we silently nurture it within and allow it to simmer on the back burner of our mind.

I grant you there are times when suppressing our anger is the wisest thing to do, but eventually that swallowed anger must be drained off and gotten out of our emotional system or it will build up until it blows up. Suppressed anger is usually drained off on a less threatening, unsuspecting person, usually that person is another family member.

Let me give you an illustration of how this works.

  • An employer calls a worker in and confronts him angrily over some work problem

  • The employee feels the employer is wrong and anger rises up in him.

  • The employee is afraid of losing his job so he suppresses his anger and "stuffs" it down inside of him and goes home.

  • The wife (unaware of what has happened) greets him at the door with a smile, but the man, still angry, only snarls at her.

  • The wife now has two options open to her. She can snarl back or she can "stuff it." She chooses to "stuff it."

  • Just then the teenage son comes in and mom unloads her "stuffed anger" on him by finding something to yell about.

  • The son in turns "stuff it" until later when he unloads on his younger brother who unloads on his little sister who unloads on her doll she was playing with by breaking its head off in anger.

The effects of repressed anger eventually flows over into our body.
The effects of suppressed anger eventually flows over into our body and our relationship with others.
Repressing and suppressing anger is not the best way to deal with anger.

3. Express it
Since the 1970's we've become a nation that has been told to get our feelings out in the open - "if it feels good, do it" and this included expressing our anger. Now expressing anger can be an alright thing to do providing it is released in the correct way, and that means it's under control and is corrective or constructive, never destructive.

When people get angry their thinking process usually gets short circuited, reactionary impulses race through their mind in a disjointed fashion and they are not likely to think things through in a rational way. This is why most people blow it when releasing anger. They put their mouth in gear before  they engage their mind.

Proverbs 16:23 (GN) "Intelligent people think before they speak."

Knowing when and how to release anger is important. Sensitivity is a trait that an angry person needs to hold on to.

  • A crowded elevator is not the best place to "let it all out" when you're angry with someone.

  • A wise wife knows it's better to unload the frustrations of her day onto the husband after he has had time to sit down and unwind from a long days work.

Three thing to remember in expressing anger.
      1. Remember the results of an unbridled anger.
          Ask yourself if you want to go through that again.
      2. Reflect before responding.
          When you start to get angry, delay your response.
          Stop and think before reacting.
      3. Restrain you remarks.
          Proverbs 21:23, (GN) "If you want to stay out of trouble, be careful what you say."
          Use sweet words because you may have to eat them.

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Point 3:
God wants us free from anger that would hinder our Christian testimony
One day the Lord is going to present to Himself a glorious church (made up of people like you and me) not having spot or wrinkle and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27. That church is going to display the characteristics of Jesus in their life. As members of that church, you and I,  as believers,  are day by day brought into conformity to the pattern of Jesus. God has committed Himself to the task of working out of us everything that would hinder the fulfillment of that purpose.

Philippians 2:13 tells us that God is at work in us to work out all those spots, wrinkles and blemishes out of us.
Philippians 1:6 informs us that He will continue to do this in us until Jesus comes.

We are going to resemble Jesus when He comes again:

  • in our attitude

  • in our character

  • in our thought life

  • In our speech

  • in our actions.

God is working out of us the elements that would hinder our Christian walk and at the same time He is working into us His character and nature. As believers,  it is important that we know and understand that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that God will find in any of us as He works in us, that will come as a surprise or shock to Him. He already knew it was there and He still loved us. He knew the worst about us and He still saved us. Whatever God's work in us may reveal might come as a shock to us, but God says, "It didn't shock me. I knew it was there all the time. But I wanted you to know it was there. Now co-operate with me and we'll get rid of it."

God is removing the grave clothes of the old life from us. When we got saved, He introduced us to a new life, but He knows that as long as the grave clothes of our dead past still cling to us, we'll experience frustration and failure trying to express our new life. He wants to remove those grave clothes of the past.

How are grave clothes removed? They are removed one garment at a time as God working in us uncovers them for us to see and deal with. Unhealthy anger is one of those grave clothes.

God wants to take our anger emotion and do to it what He did to Moses' rod that had become a snake as Moses cast it to the ground before Him on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 4) When God told Moses to pick the rod back up, He had taken the snake out of it and it could now be used safely by Moses. The Lord wants to take the snake out of our anger. He wants us to know that the only way for us to express anger in a healthy way is to allow Him to take charge of it.

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Point 4:
Letting God handle your anger
My dealing with anger before Christ came into my life was not that great of an experience. When an angry situation developed in my life and a course of action had to be decided upon, I would call together the governing committee that had always been my advisors in decision making and together we formulated what my response would be to the problem at hand. Down through the years I had become totally dependant upon them and was compliant and obedient to their decisions. At our meetings, even though I sat at the head of the table, I felt I really didn't have any power or say in the matters that were voted on. Once the meeting started, they took over and I became a spectator watching a "three ringed circus."

1To my immediate right sat Emotion, and oh what an excitable board member he was. Once the meeting had started, Emotion couldn't sit still for one minute. You never knew how he was going to react to the business at hand.

Next to him sat Feelings. He and Emotion had developed a real close friendship and had become inseparable. Feeling's decisions always seemed to be based on  how he felt at the time. He was so changeable from one moment to the next during the meeting.

Next to Feeling sat Memory. He had a bad habit of always bringing up the past and trying to associate it with the current problem at hand. Memory was good at bringing past calamities to our attention. Memory's favorite saying was, "Don't you remember....?"

Next to Memory sat Imagination, and what a fascinating member he was. Nobody could paint a scenario like he could. What wild ideas he presented at every meeting. He never really dealt with the facts at hand, but mostly in "what might happen." His "might happen" descriptions really affected Emotion and Feeling. Memory brought pictures of past calamities to our attention, but Imagination painted pictures of possible calamities in the future. Memory and Imagination seemed to buddy as friends. That had a lot in common.

Next to Imagination sat Reason. He seemed to be a real loner in the group and always hung out by himself. He was always analyzing, weighing things, considering the pro's and con's of every decision. Although he seemed to contribute input into the meeting, he never really came up with a solution to the problem that was acceptable to the others. Reason wasn't as excitable as Emotion or Feeling, nor as colorful as Memory and Imagination.

At the meeting, Anger has the floor explaining the crisis at hand. The next door neighbor's dog has done it again. It has messed in my yard for the second time this week. Anger is calling for a response to the situation. The first time was bad enough, but this time is the final straw. It is time to act.

As Anger speaks, the advisory board comes  to life. Emotion  begins to get really excited, pounding his fist upon the table, shouting for action. Feelings has left his seat and starts to run around the table in a frenzy. He has really lost it. Imagination is heard to cry out, "I can see it now." Memory  can only mummer, "Oh boy, I remember the last time something like this happened." Reason just sits there saying, "Something surely must be done, but first let's look at every angle. Let's make a study of this. Let's take a look at both sides."

Pandemonium reigns. It always does when  Anger is involved in the problem. "Shoot the dog!" "Shoot the owner!" Let them know just how angry you really are about this situation. Anger shouts, "Get even - I want satisfaction." The cry from the board is re-act ----re-act.

Before Christ came into my life, I would have followed my advisory board's cry to re-act to this situation. I would have vented my anger with rage and wrath. But now that I'm a Christian, I respond differently to anger. As a believer, I have added a new member to the advisory board that governs my decisions. This new member has shown me that God's desire is not that I should be a re-actor to angers petty whims, but that I should be an acting person who can control my actions and initiate the proper response to every angry situation.

So, before I respond in any manner to anger's demand for retaliation for what the neighbor's dog did, I introduce the Holy Spirit to the board in session. What a difference His presence makes when those crisis of anger pop-up. When He is asked to address the problems I've noticed

  • Emotion no longer gets excited.

  • Feelings doesn't psyche out.

  • Memory doesn't call up the past.

  • Imagination doesn't paint calamity scenes about the future.

  • Reason now sighs with relief saying, "At last something sensible is going to be done."

  • Angers charges are now ready to be dealt with.

As a believer, I am learning that as I give heed to the Word of God's instruction and the Holy Spirit's guidance--

  • I am gaining control of anger and it no longer controls me.

  • I am no longer afraid of anger and my response to it.

  • Like Christ, I choose to do what is right to do regardless of what my feelings and emotions urge me to do and regardless of what others push me to do.

  • I am learning to "Be angry and sin not."

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Conclusion
Thing to remember about anger.

  1. Just one moment of uncontrolled anger before others can ruin your testimony.

  2. Anger is too unpredictable to allow it to be in control

  3. The anger ledger needs to be balanced at the end of every day. Don't carry it overnight.

  4. According to Ephesians 4:31 anger keeps company with a pretty rough crowd: bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander and malice. These ugly traits are always ready to "tag along" with anger trying to influence it.

  5. Galatians 5:22, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace and patience." You can't have your life filled with those four things and be angry at the same time with wrong anger.

  6. Anger is contagious. What you sow is what you will reap. Consider the consequences of your words spoken in anger.

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1 Illustration from Malcolm Smith

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