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."
Complex - because anger can and will surface at the strangest times - brought forth for the strangest of reasons - and exhibited in the strangest ways.
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.
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 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."
James 1:19, gives some sound advice to "the ragers", "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."
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."
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
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.
- is used to describe an anger that stems from a grievance. It is an anger
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Repress 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.
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.
The effects of repressed anger eventually flows
over into our body.
3. Express it
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.
Knowing when and how to release anger is important. Sensitivity is a trait that an angry person needs to hold on to.
Three thing to remember in expressing anger.
tells us that God is at work in
us to work out all those spots, wrinkles and blemishes out of us.
We are going to resemble Jesus when He comes again:
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.
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
As a believer, I am learning that as I give heed to the Word of God's instruction and the Holy Spirit's guidance--
|1 Illustration from Malcolm Smith|