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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.

Seeing Gospel Opportunities in the Unexpected

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What if?

What if you won a million dollars? What would you do with it?

What if your car is stolen? What’s your immediate response? The next day? One week later?

What if a government official walks into your church and asks you what you believe?

Would any of these questions be easy?

For me, the million dollar question is way too easy. Why, I can spend 100 million dollars fairly quickly. Yes, mission work would be the main beneficiary, and the need is great.

The stolen car question was asked in three parts, because the three timelines can have three different responses. Shock? Disappointment? Anger? I think it was The Simpsons that taught me the chain of responses in a crisis situation is known by the acronym DAFBA: denial, anger (D’OH!), fear, bargaining, and acceptance. There’s no right answer. For me, the stolen car question has other implications. Some neighbors of ours in France had their car stolen recently, when someone broke into the house to find the keys, hanging on a hook by the door, and off he went with a free car. That could happen to us, although our car is not the most attractive. The real issue for me is if one doesn’t find our keys sitting out waiting to be taken. What happens when someone doesn’t get a “free” car?

Finally, the government official question. Or it may be a news team. Or in the office, or a co-worker. Or on the street... anyone that you don’t expect, as if the question startles you: what do you believe?  Or “who are you?”

Unexpected circumstances can yield gospel opportunities.

1 Peter 3:15 says “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Who would ever ask me? Maybe we should expect that more. Maybe we should interpret someone’s comment as his way of asking that question: “I don’t know what to believe anymore...” Is that not a wide-open door, begging you to walk through and share your faith?

Maybe the reason no one asks us about the hope we have is because no one knows we have this hope?

Lord, help us to keep our ears open, and especially our hearts open, for neighbors, co-workers, kids knocking at our doors during Halloween, suffering people around us, and help us to love. Help us to be ready to give a response for the hope you give us. Protect all those in areas where crime rears its ugly head, so that your children will rise up and be witnesses for your glory. Amen.

 


Gary, along with his wife and children, minister to the people of Lille, France.

The Christian Life is Not a DIY Project

I'm around people and talking to them literally all day when I am at work, and although I would classify myself as more of an introvert, I crave and look forward to simply being around other believers even when I am exhausted after work. Our world is not easy to live in as followers of Christ. In these days when Bedside Baptist is a fast growing “church” due to either the cramming in of additional activities or laziness, what we need is quality fellowship. We need to “get down to the nitty gritty” as Nacho Libre would say. We need to share life, pray, study, worship, and serve together. 

As a side note, yet on topic, I’m thankful for our lighthouses and the women’s ministry where we can sharpen one another and bear burdens together. If you aren’t involved in one of these groups, I strongly encourage you to join a lighthouse and/or Bible study. 

A few years back when I was in college, I began to understand the importance true fellowship has on being steadfast in faith and spiritual growth. I went to a Christian college, in fact, but even with requirements of daily chapel attendance, weekly church attendance, and a Bible minor, spiritual dryness remained a threat to the Christian bubble we lived in. One could still get involved with the wrong crowds of students, isolate themselves within their studies, or have the prideful idea that they don’t need accountability or discipleship. 

Not knowing anybody but my roommate going into my freshman year, I didn’t know what to expect when it came to finding a good solid group of friends. God used the friends he placed in my life to teach me more about Himself. A group of us who were in brother-sister halls formed a bond that has lasted beyond graduation. 

Towards the end of sophomore year through graduation day, we met every Sunday night to pray, sing, and read scripture. This was the first time I truly remember feeling unconditionally loved by people other than my family. Along with the laughing and goofing off, we shared trials, encouraged & prayed for each other, and some of us cried. And I can say, when you have 21 year old girls comfortable enough to cry through their struggles in front of 21 year old guys, and those guys respond with compassion and prayer, you know you are among some quality people. There was no judgement, and we all sought to serve and love each other. We weren’t perfect at this at all times, but God sustained our unity through forgiveness, selflessness, and focusing us on Christ. 

Now out of college, I have taken the lesson of necessity of church fellowship. One way God made us in His image was in our relational ability, as the Trinity is in constant unified fellowship. God uses biblical fellowship to show and give us His unconditional love, truth through the study of Scripture, refreshment of our souls, and the unity of the Church. Let us not take for granted our brothers and sisters in our lives who love and intercede in prayer for us.

God is glorified through the unity of His children (John 17:20–26).

"But I Can't Forgive"

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“You don’t understand. I simply can’t forgive him.”

There have been multiple times while working with people who have been hurt deeply that I have been told this exact thing. The person would insist that forgiveness was not possible. 

As I have explored the why behind someone making this bold statement, I realized there is more than just resentment and bitterness behind the words. At first, I often thought the person was just choosing to be hateful instead of embracing what was best for them and mandated by our understanding Lord. I thought I was seeing the results of a cold heart and unloving spirit showing its ugly head, despite the reminders of God’s forgiveness toward us for every sin we have or will ever commit. 

However, what I discovered, in many cases, was that these dear people didn’t understand what forgiveness really meant.

Many of us have heard the catchy phrase, “forgive and forget.” So much so, that people have started to equivocate the two words, thinking that forgetting is the same as forgiving. They aren’t the same! 

I realized that some people were saying they couldn’t forgive because they knew they couldn’t forget what was done to them, at least not anytime soon, and perhaps never. They were being honest in admitting that they couldn’t commit to forgetting something they knew they weren’t going to; and they were totally right. Unless you have brain surgery or something of the sort, you aren’t going to be able to simply forget a memory you have stored away. 

One reason I was forced to explore their reasoning further was because God promises that when we face temptation to sin, He will always give us a way out so that we don’t have to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). If that is true, then it couldn’t be true that these people couldn’t forgive, since God has commanded us to forgive others.

The problem was the fact that they thought they had to forget in order to forgive.

It was so freeing to them when they realized that forgetting had nothing to do with it. Our goal is to be like Christ, who is God incarnate. Does God forget our sin? No. He is God. God is omniscient (knows all). He doesn’t all of the sudden just “forget” our sin. He chooses not to recall it (Isaiah 43:25).

So if forgiveness isn’t forgetting, what exactly is it? Well, what does God do with our sin if He doesn’t forget it? He no longer holds it against us. He doesn’t bring it back to us and shove it in our faces (Psalms 103:12). Forgiveness is committing never to bring that sin up again for that person’s harm. That includes not bringing it back up to that person, others, or yourself. That is still quite a lot to swallow. Clarifying forgiveness doesn’t make it easy, but definitely doable. 

On a practical level, that means that when you forgive someone, you are not allowed to remind them of it again. You are not allowed to talk about what they did with other people in a way that would be harmful to them. You are not allowed to dwell on it yourself.

Now this is where the difference between forgetting and dwelling on it comes in. It isn’t wrong to remember it (you can’t help it), but you aren’t allowed to continue thinking about it when you remember it. You can’t replay it over and over, and remember how angry it made you feel, and consider the best ways of revenge, etc. When the memory returns, strive to remember that you’ve committed to forgive them just like God has forgiven you, and then move on to a new topic of thought. Not always easy, but right and best.

There can be times to bring that sin up to that person again, if there is a recurring pattern, but that would be an example of bringing it up not for their harm, but in order to help them see a pattern of sin in their life that needs to be addressed. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to forgive it, but we could rightly bring it up in order to help them be more like Christ by changing that pattern in their life.      

Thank the One who not only gives us commands that are best for us and show His beautiful character, but also gives us the ability to follow them. Committing not to bring up a sin to someone, others, or yourself in order to harm the offender is one of the ways God brings peace to us that is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Theology Leads to Missions

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INTRO to THEOLOGY

Growing up not loving theology, I learned that it ruined my understanding of Global Missions. When I was a young Christian, I was never motivated to do missions because I had a poor understanding of who God is and what He has done for me through the cross of Christ. But God was so gracious to me, that He used my close friends who introduced to me a God-centered theology that leads not only to doxology (praise/worship) but also to missiology (study of missions). At that moment, I fell in love with it.

It changed my thinking and motives toward missions. I give thanks and glory to God for it!

THEOLOGY MATTERS

I've come to find out that many Christians believe that theology is only for seminary students or for pastors, but not for normal Christians who do not attend seminary or are not pastors at the local church. I believe that that is a wrong approach to and understanding of theology. I believe every true and genuine Christian must study theology for the sake of their growth in Christ and Christian discipline.

I believe that that is why so many Christians do not want to do missions, or they do poorly in the mission field, because of the way they approach theology.

They need to see why theology matters.

Theology matters because it helps us to see who God is and what He wants to accomplish through us for His glory and for our joy.

Theology matters because people are dying and going to hell.

Theology matters because God loves the nations.

Theology matters because God loves His own glory!

THEOLOGY DRIVES MISSIONS

By God's grace, I've learned and am continuing to learn more about theology, because I want to be effective in my mission work that Sovereign God has called me to do. God-centered theology showed me the need for missions and God's passion for the nations.

That is why I am doing missions.

I know that I cannot do missions well if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot preach the good news of Christ if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot love people well if I ignore theology. And I know that I cannot plant healthy churches if I ignore theology.

Dear friends, we need theology for the sake of missions, because God honors, loves, and blesses missions when it is driven by God-centered theology.

BOOKS on THEOLOGY

Theology books that helped me to understand theology:

1. Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem

2. Institutes of Christian Religion (2-Volumes), by John Calvin

3. A Theology Of Lordship (3-Volumes), by John Frame

4. Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof

5. Desiring God, by John Piper

ADVICE

Go read good theology books, and obey, because Theology leads to Missions!

 

Timur