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The Problem of Anger

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This week in our continuing study of 1 Samuel, we will see David fall into one of mankind’s most deadly traps–anger. In fact, we see the deadly nature of anger almost immediately after the fall when Cain’s anger toward his brother Abel causes Cain to kill his brother (Genesis 4). Like Cain, David’s anger in 1 Samuel 25 causes him to take 400 men and set out to kill the man who caused David’s anger to flash, a wealthy farmer named Nabal. Fortunately for David, Nabal’s godly and wise wife interceded on behalf of Nabal and gave David the opportunity to cool down, and he did. 

As we know from the Bible, there are two kinds of anger: sinless anger and anger that causes us to sin. The Apostle Paul notes in Ephesians 4:26 that we can be angry yet not sin. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? After all, In Galatians 5:19, Paul identifies anger as a work of the flesh. Perhaps the simplest line of demarcation between sinful anger and righteous anger is the root cause. Sinful anger is always rooted in self-serving motives; righteous anger is that which seeks either God’s good or God’s will.

As much as we might like to think that our anger is righteous anger, it’s usually not. Attempting to walk that fine line is equal to trying to light a candle in a room filled with natural gas hoping not to ignite the gas. To complicate matters even more, those of us who try and act from a righteous anger position find ourselves stepping into God’s shoes, which also is sinful. It is not our place to seek vengeance for the Lord; vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). Anger, like the sin of lust/adultery, is a sin of passion. Once ignited, it takes on a life of its own. It quickly leads us to sin. Proverbs 6 is describing the danger of adultery, but I believe the same reasoning applies to anger when Solomon asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). 

How Can We Learn to Control Anger?

Anger is not something you can hope to rid yourself of and be free from for the remainder of your life. As we see in this week’s text and the example of David, anger ignites in the most godly people. So, while we can’t rid ourselves of anger, we can learn to control anger and not let it become a sinful, destructive pattern in our life. 

  1. Recognize the spark that ignites anger. As we observed above, the spark that leads to anger is almost always rooted in a strong sense of injustice, and the focus is always on either ourselves or those we love. We have a strong inner sense of what is right and wrong for us, and when someone crosses that line, it sparks anger within us. Learn to spot the small spark landing in your heart and quickly extinguish it. Don’t let it simmer until it becomes an uncontrollable flame.

  2. Watch for the physical signs of anger. You may not think you have them, but if you ask your family or those close to you, they can tell without question when you are getting angry. The signs may be subtle (e.g. your face or ears get red), or they may be obvious (e.g. you start to pace or your voice gets louder). Whatever are your signs of anger, learn to detect them and observe the warning.

  3. Learn to trust those who love you and know your patterns. Just as Abigail rushed to derail David’s anger in this week’s text, learn to trust those around you who attempt to derail your anger before you sin. Understand, however, that depending on your past history, this may take a lot of time. If you have vented your anger at your family and others close to you over the course of many years, they have likely learned to retreat from your presence rather than walk toward you when you are angry. Few things can sow more mistrust and relationship destruction than anger. Solomon warned, "Make no friendship with a man given to anger” (Proverbs 22:24). If you have subjected those in your family and circle of influence to the heat of your anger, you will need to walk in humble repentance for a long time as you re-earn their trust.

  4. Guard your physical and emotional health. As we noted above, anger is an emotion of passion, and we tend to be most vulnerable when we are physically and emotionally depleted. In our text this week, David and his men have been out on patrol, protecting the flocks of Nabal while running for their lives from Saul. They were tired and hungry. When Nabal refused to give his men food David felt they had earned, his anger sparked and he was off to the races to kill Nabal. We are no different. We are most vulnerable to sinful anger when we are tired, hungry, or lonely. In fact, a key tool used in 12-step programs is summarized by the acronym H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Those are triggers that make us vulnerable to sin. It’s important be extra cautious with our emotions when we know we are vulnerable, because it’s at moments like this when anger can go from 0 to 100 in seconds.

 

Bible Verses Concerning Anger 

As you wrestle with the problem of anger, here are some helpful bible verses to meditate on:

  • Proverbs 14:29–Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
  • Proverbs 15:1–A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:18–A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
  • Proverbs 16:32–Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  • Proverbs 19:11–Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
  • Proverbs 22:24–Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,
  • Proverbs 29:22–A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
  • Ephesians 4:26–Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
  • James 1:19–20–Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 

Free Downloadable Bible Study

Do you need help getting control of anger in your life? We are offering a free 44-page Bible study titled “Anger: Facing the Fire Within” by June Hunt. You can pick up a copy of the Bible study at the info wall or download a digital copy at http://myffc.co/2pCISVe.

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How Can Anyone Know About Life After Death?

How Much of You Does God Get?

5 Ways Not To Return From a Mission Trip

Mission trips can be exhilarating. If it weren’t the case, so many wouldn’t be signing up and going out. More Christians than ever seem to be serving abroad in some capacity, whether constructing buildings, or prayer walking, providing a VBS, or doing disaster relief.

While voices have begun to question the necessity, viability, and even benefit of embarking on these trips in the first place, I’d like to address the manner in which we return. We make mistakes not only in the way we go on mission trips, but also in the way we come back from them. Here are five such ways.

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What is Gospel Truth?

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Are you tired of merely existing? Does your heart yearn to be a part of something meaningful? Wouldn't it be great if you could start living today like a champion?

The Devil wants you to suffer, but God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants all of his children to experience peace and happiness. At this moment, you are just getting by, but God wants more for you than minimum wage. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Did I forgot to mention that this life of prosperity is absolutely free? All you need to do is believe. What are you waiting for? With nothing to lose and the world to gain, trust in God today and watch Him turn your relationships, health, wealth, and life around!

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” The above is an example of an almost-right gospel. In our day and throughout the record of human history, nothing has been more distorted than the saving message of Jesus Christ. Many people with good intentions buy into the pack lies that I just fed to you. Even in our churches today, there are people who would unwittingly entangle themselves in a web of deceit such as the one weaved in the previous paragraph. My aim today is to show you from the scriptures a clear picture of Christ's salvation so that we might not fall for its pathetic counterfeits.

The first masterpiece in the gallery of gospel truths that we must consider is God Himself.

You see, although the gospel floods our life with blessings, it is primarily not about us. Understanding God's character in relation to the gospel that's sort of right versus the gospel that's actually right is the dividing line between heaven and hell. Often times God is treated as a divine butler who's total reason for being is to make you happy, but Santa Clause is not synonymous with Yahweh. Isaiah writes: “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11 NASB)

God does not restrain his wrath because His people deserve it. He does so ultimately for the glorification of His name. However, why is God even angry with people in the first place? An equally forgotten truth about God is His goodness.

God is good. Let that sink in.

The LORD of glory is impeccably righteous, absolutely just, and incapable of doing evil. David writes, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” (Psalms 7:11). Being the unchanging standard of good, God won't sweep your iniquity under the rug. His sleepless eyes witness the exhaustive extent of human activity and it invokes His wrath daily.

Why?

Here's the simple answer: God is good, and you are not.

All men are born wicked. This is the bad news of the good news. Contrary to the popular idea that says there's something good in everybody, the Bible says that there isn't anything good in anybody. I think its hard to misunderstand Paul when He is so clear: “As it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.'” (Romans 3:10-18)

Notice that this condemnation of our race is universal. It does not say that some or even most have sinned. It says that no one is righteous and that all have turned aside, becoming worthless.

Thus far, the question becomes not "how can I have my best life now", but rather "how can I stand before a just and holy God?" If God is just, then He can't forgive you, for that would be unjust. All men have sinned and therefore they ought to be paid the wages of their work: death (Romans 6:26).

However, look at this seemingly contradictory description of God: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.' And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” (Exodus 34:6-8 ESV)

God forgives all types and kinds of sin, yet He will not leave the guilty unpunished. How on earth can this be? How can God uphold His justice while at the same time justifying those who deserved to be punished?

The answer to this critical conundrum is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Before the world was made, the Father planned to redeem a people for Himself from every language, tribe, and nation. However, His wrath towards sinners would not be abated unless the demands of justice were first met. Thus, the Son is sent into the world. Taking on humanity, this Divine person lived righteously under the law so that He might redeem those who could not live up to its standards. On the cross, all of God's righteous indignation towards His people was poured out on His Son, His only Son, whom He loved. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). His death was the payment, and His bodily ressurection was it's vindication. This is why Paul was able to say that God is just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).

Lastly, we must consider our response to such good news. Notice that Paul says that God justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Christ accomplished a great salvation, but it is only those who exercise trust in His redemptive work that benefit from all that was bought in Calvary. By the way, did I forget to mention that it's free? However, this free gift will cost you dearly. Unlike the gospel counterfeits of our day, Jesus doesn't promise health and wealth. Jesus is not a means to an end.

The awesome reward of the gospel is God Himself.

Paul writes, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8).

What is the gospel? “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

This is the one and only message of salvation. Let us, by God's grace, labor to protect it from it's man-centered imposters. After all, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36).

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My Front Row Seat to Gospel Transformation

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Life transformation can come in all different shapes and sizes. 

There’s superficial, shallow, and trivial life transformation. Like when I sink my teeth into one of Patisserie Justina’s fresh out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls on a Thursday morning, the icing making my fingers a sticky mess, and the comforting warmth of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon melting in my mouth. Those moments make me sigh in contentment and think, “My life will never be the same again.”

Then there’s actual, substantive, and legitimate life transformation. Like when I receive a diploma for years of study that open endless doors of possibility to me. Or like moving to a new country, a new home, a new people group. Those moments make me flinch and think, “My life will never be the same again.”

But then there’s deep, profound, and lasting life transformation. Like when the Creator of the cosmos breathes life into my heart of stone, draws me out of the pit, and gives my life purpose. That moment, dwelt on again and again, makes my heart cry out, “My life will never be the same again!”

Last week was full of life transformation. Some moments were inconsequential (like eating one of those cinnamon rolls for the first time), but the majority of the days were filled with moments that have the capacity to reshape lives. Through the local church in Haiti, deaf families were given goats, which provide them with a source of food. Deaf families received solar lights, giving them safety and the ability to communicate after the sun goes down. Deaf families received water filters, giving them access to clean, safe drinking water.

But the weightiest transformation took place in a dimly lit room with drapes askew and knick-knack porcelain figures scattered on a shelf. A chaos of colorful paintings clothed the table and the medley of colors melted into an odd assortment of pots and pans stacked under the table. Yoyo (the man on the left in the image above), a deaf man from the village of Leveque, stood leaning against his doorframe, his relaxed body language belying the intense focus and attention he was giving Mike, a deaf man from Canada. In one hand Mike was holding a small slip of white paper, three small tears defacing its otherwise smooth surface. In the other hand, Mike held a small slip of white paper, whole and unmarked. One hand held a life broken and marred by sin. The other hand held a life of righteousness to be freely accepted. I sat back and watched as Mike laid out the gospel, giving visual representation to what Christ had done for the world He so greatly loved. My eyes flitted back and forth between Mike’s face, intent and joyful in the truth of the gospel, and Yoyo’s face, intent and pensive in the decision that was laid before him. Mike’s hands stilled as he came to the end of the gospel story and Yoyo stood, unmoved for several beats. And then a broad smile stretched across his face. “I have heard people talk about the Bible, but I have never clearly understood what Jesus did for me. I want that. I want His righteousness and forgiveness.” And in the space of that tiny room, with only the buzz of mosquitos breaking the silence, Yoyo’s life was transformed by the power and love of a great and gracious Savior. 

That gospel life transformation doesn’t stop in that moment of belief; not for Yoyo, not for me, and not for you. Our journey of life transformation will not be over anytime soon. The good work that was started when Yoyo humbly placed his faith and trust in Christ is only just beginning (Philippians 1:6). What hope there is in that promise! The reshaping of my heart when I bowed at the foot of the cross is continuing degree by degree, from glory to glory (1 Corinthians 3:18). What assurance there is in that truth. The bruises and hurts your heart has sustained since that joy-filled salvation moment are all being turned to God’s gospel purposes to grow in you hope, perseverance, and the character of Christ (Romans 5:1-5, 8:28-29). What a blessed assurance. And, Believer, we were not drawn out of the mire of sin to stay safely within boundaries of comfort. No, we were created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10). We were saved to be sent, to be stewards and ambassadors of a message replete with reconciliation and hope (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). 

Having a front row seat to life transformation this week made my heart pause in thanksgiving and reflection. What beautiful, simple truth the gospel is. And how powerful it is to transform lives. Be encouraged that it has transformed yours. Be challenged to continue that transformation through the Spirit. Be willing to be used by the Spirit in the transformation of others. And be overwhelmed by the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice. Let it transform your life.

Laying Aside Your Past

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It's a new year, so naturally, everyone is talking about new year’s resolutions! I know, I know, some of you are saying “I made a resolution last year to not make anymore resolutions,” but I’ve got great news for you. Since resolutions are “never kept,” you can make some this year! What can I say, I like lists, so I can’t resists writing down a few things I want to try to accomplish in the new year. If it makes you feel better, you can call them goals (it does make me feel a little better).

As I was reading, I came across a verse that I thought would help me not be discouraged about things I had not yet accomplished because of one difficulty or another.  

I’m sure many of us have heard the encouragement given by Paul in Philippians 3:13: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it [the goal = fully knowing Him]. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

It's considered that that part about “forgetting what is behind” is the idea of forgetting hardships and moving past them, but interestingly enough, the context of this passage can also imply Paul not wanting to allow his past accomplishments to hold him back. He didn’t want to live in the past. He didn’t want to allow himself to use his past successes as excuses for why he didn’t need to continue striving toward knowing Christ fully.

I find that quite fascinating. Quite opposite of what I would think. However, if I consider the times I’ve talked myself out of listening to the extra sermon material because “I already went to the service. We go every week.”, or explained away the idea of doing a short-term mission trip because “I’ve already done missions overseas,” or skipped being involved in a Bible study because, “I’ve already studied that book of the Bible,” I can start to identify with Paul a little. It can be easy to let past “good things” get in the way of future ones that would help us toward the goal of knowing Christ more fully.  

Paul seems to have a way of shedding new light on things (or maybe I should credit the Holy Spirit). Here I was wanting a verse that patted me on the back and said not to worry about past hardships or broken resolutions and keep pressing onward. Instead, my opinion would be that Paul is speaking to the mature in the faith and saying “Hey! Stay active! Be on the move. God has done great things through us, but He isn’t done with us yet.”

So, as you consider some of the things you would like to do this coming year, try not to rule out things that would help you know Christ more fully just because you’ve already done it. Sifting through our past successes can give us perspective, but we don’t have to let it stall us in our walk with Christ.

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