Be Angry and Do Not Sin; But How?

“Be angry and do not sin;” Paul wrote, “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

I did not realize the importance of this passage until relatively recently. It’s only been within the past few years that I’ve recognized how many of my sins came about because I was angry. I didn’t see it because I often didn’t view myself as angry unless I was yelling or absolutely incensed. However, I’ve come to recognize that if I’m not careful I carry a controlled anger around with me. We might call it resentment or bitterness.

I’ve often overlooked that because I didn’t think there could possibly be any harm. I was keeping myself under control (as far as the yelling goes) so I was all right; or so I thought. However, when I let that seemingly low-level of anger linger it opens the door for many sins. It does, as Paul wrote, give the devil opportunity.

When do I gossip? When I begin to resent someone or am angry with them. When do I clamor? When I’m angry. I’ve found it is easier to lust when I’m angry because I want to get into a fantasy world instead of deal with the reality of whatever has angered me. When do I display my arrogance? When I resent someone and want to try to be better than they are.

Do you get the picture? I’m frankly amazed at how often sin follows on the heals of anger that I don’t deal with in a healthy way.

As amazing as that discovery is, one of the things I learn from it is if I want to avoid a good number of the sins with which I struggle, I need to handle anger appropriately.

5 Ways to Become Slower to Anger

First, I need to learn not to be so easily angered. As James 1:19 says, I must work on being slow to anger. Those who are slow to anger have wisdom, but the easily provoked exalt folly (Proverbs 14:29). Those who are slow to anger and rule their spirits are stronger than mighty conquerors (Proverbs 16:32).

I’d like to share five keys that are increasingly helping me develop slowness to anger (though I’m by no means a master of this):

  1. Sense of reality: People make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they are worse than me. It doesn’t mean they are ignorant or malicious. It means they are people. When I’m anchored in that reality, I am not as easily angered when I recognize people acting like people will.
  2. Humility: When I recognize my own mistakes, I’m not so easily angered by the mistakes of others. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I can remember the number of times I’ve made the same mistake and have patience with those others.
  3. More concerned for others souls than for my own defense: When I’m focused on defending my honor or demanding my rights, I get easily angered. However, when I’m more concerned for the souls of others, I don’t get angry as easily. Rather, their sins sadden me, not because of how it impacts me, but because I know what it means for their souls.
  4. Examine personal involvement: Sometimes someone has angered me but I’m actually the root cause. For instance, I may have started some sarcastic banter but the other person took it to a level I wasn’t expecting. They probably did that because my sarcasm hurt them. If I can see my own involvement, I can defuse my anger by apologizing for what I did wrong. Sometimes someone has angered me because they hurt my pride. They may not have even done anything wrong, but because of my arrogance I’m angry. When I see my own pride and arrogance, I can defuse my anger by understanding that the other is not really to blame, I am.
  5. Proper sense of importance: Sometimes I get absolutely enraged and then come down off the emotion to realize what I was so angry about was really not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Does it really matter that Tessa drank my last root beer? Is it really all that important that Marita is five minutes late to our dinner appointment? In ten years, will this thing I’m enraged about matter? What about in ten days?

If I work on these five keys, it will be increasingly hard to anger me.

7 Ways to Deal with Anger Once It Has Started

However, Ephesians 4:26-27 doesn’t say that anger is a sin. It simply assumes that sometimes we will be angered. Anger is just an emotion, neither good nor bad. It simply is. The question is what will we do with it when it happens. Thus, no matter how well we learn to be slow to anger, there will be things that anger us. In fact, I think there are some things so bad that if we weren’t angered it would mean we were abnormal. If we’re not angered when someone abuses our spouses, parents, or children verbally, emotionally, or physically, there is something wrong with us. If we’re not angry when someone attacks our Lord, His church, or our brethren, there is something wrong with us. However, even healthy anger can lead to sin if we don’t respond correctly. What should we do when we’re angered? How can we keep the sun from going down on it?

  1. Sit in the feeling: Don’t try to escape the feeling. Don’t make yourself feel guilty about having the feeling. Simply understand that is the feeling you have and be honest with yourself about it.
  2. Determine the cause: Why are you angry? At whom are you angry? What did they do?
  3. Consider the impact: How did their action impact you? Did it injure your pride? Did it affect your pocketbook? Did it hurt your feelings? Did it tarnish your reputation? Did it cause you inconvenience? Did it cause you to fear? How did their actions actually affect you in a practical way?
  4. Be honest about your own sins: Sometimes you’re carrying this low-level anger because of your own sinfulness. Perhaps you’re carrying a grudge. Perhaps you’re seeking revenge. I can give you a personal example. I get angry when Marita asks me things like, “Did you brush Trina’s teeth when you put her to bed?” My first thought is, “How stupid does she think I am? How dare she question me on this basic thing?” But then I remember, there have been times when she asked and I had to say, “No, I forgot.” It was my own untrustworthiness that prompted her question. How can I be mad at her about that?
  5. Talk to the person: When someone has sinned against you, you need to go to them with gentleness and let them know how they hurt you. Many times when we get those feelings in the open there will be a very quick apology and reconciliation. When there’s not, at least you can have the peace knowing that as much as depends on you, you are at peace with them.
  6. Pray about it: Take your anger to God. He can handle it, even if you are angry with Him. Let Him know it is there and seek His help in dealing with it. Read the psalms, they are filled with the anger of men turning their emotions over to God for deliverance.
  7. Cast it out to others: Sometimes you are angry and you can’t talk to the person who caused the problem. Perhaps you are carrying a long time resentment against someone who is dead, moved away, or that you don’t even know. Perhaps you are angry at someone because they died. Perhaps you are angry at someone who hurt you and then was gone (thief, hit and run, rapist). Perhaps you are angry at someone you did try to talk to and they rejected your efforts. Perhaps you are angry at someone but your fear of them is too great to talk to them directly just yet. Find someone you can talk to about your anger, not as a cathartic dump, but as a means to find reality in the situation. Don’t talk to them to gossip about the person at whom you are angry but as a means to help you find peace in the situation, focusing on your side of the issue. Sometimes, just letting out the secret anger defuses it and makes it lose its power. Of course, be careful with this. It can easily turn into slander sessions and it can easily turn into conversations that feed the anger instead of defusing it.

Anger really does give the devil opportunity. Deal with it quickly. Deal with it healthfully. Don’t let it master you. Don’t justify it. Don’t soft sell it to yourself just because you think you have it under control. Remember, Cain killed Abel because of his anger. Anger caused Cain’s own demise. If we don’t deal with our anger quickly, it will kill us eventually.

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The Sect Spoken Against Everywhere

When Paul finally arrived in Rome as a prisoner, he called together the local leaders of the Jews. He wanted to speak to them about why he had been sent to Rome in chains. As he introduced his desire, they responded by saying, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (Acts 28:21-22).

How sad. The sect that upholds the truth that can set us free is spoken against everywhere (I Timothy 3:15; John 8:32). If you are like me, you tend to think that such a great thing when presented properly will be accepted by all. Even if they decide not to agree at least they ought to appreciate what we believe and be tolerant of our goals. Yet, that is simply not the case. 

No matter what we do, if we are faithful to God and His word, some will simply not like us. Jesus Himself said that some would speak against us and believe they are speaking in the name of God (John 15:21). That means some who even believe they are acting as Christians will persecute and speak out against those who are truly practicing the truth. 

When others speak against us, instead of softening what Jesus taught or hiding in our church buildings, we need to rely on God. We can pray as the psalmist that God not allow our enemies to exult over us or put us to shame (Psalm 25:2). We can ask God to lead us on level paths and not give us up to the will of our adversaries (Psalm 27:11). False witnesses abound against us, but God can provide us with faith and victory. We can take refuge in God and seek His deliverance (Psalm 31:1-2). 

We do not retaliate with vengeance. We do not try to put our enemies in their place. When we are wise, we will respond as Jesus did while on trial, simply allowing the enemies to speak. We do not have to provide a defense against our attackers. God will defend in His time. Rather, we treat those who would attack us with kindness, patience, love (Romans 12:20-21). We need to overcome evil with good, not rise to the evil and return it upon them. It is so easy to seek vengeance, to seek retaliation, to try to provide tit for tat. That is not how Christ would have us act. 

Lean on Christ. Do the right thing. Be at peace with others as much as depends on you. Let our enemies beat their heads against the wall trying to get us to move away from Christ. We can take refuge in God and find deliverance. As we live by these means, some of our enemies will even be softened and repent, becoming able to glorify God on the day of visitation (I Peter 2:12).

No matter what we do, someone won’t like us. No matter what we do, some will speak against us. That will hurt us. However, we can lean on God and He will provide deliverance in His time. Let’s just do the right thing today no matter what anyone else says about us.

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Negate Negativity

In our country, we seem to be in the grasp of a culture of negativity. We are discontented about nearly everything. We have two major political parties who seem to be more interested in opposing the other’s agenda than doing what is right for the country. If they are for it, I have to be against it. In the sports world, if a team has one bad season, the boosters begin to complain and seek a quick dismissal of the coach. They do this by grumbling among themselves then to the management or school administrators until the negativity grows, and the program has no choice but to make a change. We feel we must find and expose all the errors a person has made before we examine if there has been any correction of those errors. We must be right on every issue. The media seems to delight in tearing down the image of anyone in the public eye.

I fear this same culture of negativity has infected the church. It is not something new. God’s people, like most people throughout history, have fallen prey to this type thinking. The children of Israel had not been out of Egypt very long before they started murmuring. Moses was a target of the people, yet God told him that it was He they were murmuring against, not Moses. Of the twelve spies, only two had the confidence that God’s people would prevail in taking the Promised Land. The others only saw the negative.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warned the church not to participate in grumbling or murmuring, but seek the good of others and not merely look out for their own interests. Nothing can destroy the unity of a congregation quicker than discontented brethren who seek to find fault in everything done in a congregation. It can be the simplest things. The song leader is not very good, the preacher is too firm in his presentation or the prayers are too long. I have even heard people complain that there are too many prayers and too many songs. How can praising God through song and approaching Him in prayer be laborious? It seems to be a major catastrophe if the worship assembly goes five minutes too long. Some might say, “The elders actually made a decision without consulting me first.” So, if there is something we disagree with or dislike, we simply start talking to our closest friends in the congregation about our discontent. Then, the seeds of discontent are planted and the growth of disunity will surely bloom. If we have a complaint about someone, we will not go to them. We treat an eldership or the preacher as the congregation’s “complaint department.” We complain to the elders or preacher about someone else and are essentially saying, “I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so, I am telling you so you can hurt his feelings.”

Christ gave the principle regarding disunity in Matthew 12:25; a house divided will be brought to desolation. Paul wrote about brethren biting and devouring one another in Galatians 5:15. In the same context he goes on in verse 20, while listing the works of the flesh, to list rivalries, dissension and divisions as it is described in the English Standard Version. Those who sow discord among the brethren is listed in Proverbs 6 as an abomination to God along with pride, lying, shedding innocent blood, wicked planning, running to evil, and false witnessing. This is no small matter to our God. In dealing with the many problems facing the Corinthian church, Paul wrote first about their division in chapter one. Unless they were unified, they could not correct their other problems. He chastised them for their party spirit.

If there is someone in a congregation with whom we have a complaint, go to them and resolve the complaint. If there is a spiritual problem, go to them. In doing so, you may save a soul. Take no delight in their frailties. Do not adopt the attitude of being the sole source of truth. Even in dealing with an errant brother, we must do so with humility. Listen to the warning of I Corinthians 10:12 and not think too highly of ourselves, lest we fall. And, do not let your knowledge inflate your ego and cause you to sin as we are told in I Corinthians 8:1. If your complaint is he never polishes his shoes, either talk to him or keep it to yourself. If your complaint is based on your personal opinion, I suggest you remain quiet. Avoid discord and avoid something God hates.

-Ron Adams

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6 Things God Hates

Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)  “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
 
I’m going to key in on the “heart that devises wicked plans”.   This is a total self serving attitude with evil motives toward splitting up a church or trying to get their way over matters of judgement and doing and/or saying about anything, in order to reach their goal.  When someone looks for things to complain about and criticize constantly over matters of opinon, then they have a heart that is not pleasing to God.  It’s one thing to criticize in a construtive manner, but when the Bible talks about building each other up and looking for the good in others including giving people the benefit of the doubt over things, we should look for ways to strengthen the body of Christ every way possible.  I Thess. 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”.   Paul said in Phil. 2:1-2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”.  Let’s quit pushing our own agenda, and think about what’s good for the whole body of Christ and that which is pleasing to God.  People as a whole, avoid the troublemakers at congregations, and for good reason, negativity is contagious, and the troublemakers seem to gravitate to each other because nobody else wants to be a part of their heart that devises evil plans.  What kind of reputation do you want to exhibit among God and Christians?
 

–Phil Barnes

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Let God Manage the Outcomes

I don’t know how many times over the past few years I’ve had to correct one of my kids by saying, “Hey, it’s not your job to _______________. I’m the dad. That’s my job.” I’m beginning to realize that my Father in heaven has been saying the exact same thing to me for years.

Romans 8:28 is becoming an increasingly important verse to me. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Whose job is it to make sure all things work together for good? That is God’s job. It is not my job. For years I’ve spiraled in out-of-control stress, fear, and doubt about nearly every decision because I wondered where they were going to lead in 5, 10, 20 years. I paralyzed myself with questions about how it would impact my children, my family, my congregation, my job. I would think through and analyze every decision trying to manipulate the outcome to be what I wanted it to be. When I finally became overwhelmed with the stress of trying to manipulate the outcomes, I would give up, throw caution to the wind, and not give my decisions any thought at all. Then I made some real bone-headed mistakes. My life has usually been a pendulum swinging between these two opposites.

What was the real problem here? I hadn’t learned the two greatest lessons. 1) There is a God. 2) I’m not Him. Oh, don’t get me wrong; in my head I knew I wasn’t God. I couldn’t create the world as God did. I couldn’t keep it running as God does. But in my life, I kept trying to do God’s job. It’s God’s job to deal with the outcomes. He’ll take care of those. What is my job? My job is to love God. If I love God, I’ll seek His will today (I John 5:3).

Another passage that brings out this point is Matthew 6:33. If I seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, He’ll take care of me. He’ll provide everything else I need. It’s God’s job to provide for me. What’s my job? My job is to seek God’s will and do what is right.

When I begin to worry about and try to manipulate the outcomes, I’m trying to do God’s job. In Romans 8:28, He’s saying, “Edwin, it’s not your job to make everything work together for good. I’m the Father, that’s my job.”

Of course, another problem for me is that I think I know what all the good outcomes are. I’ve decided that what is best is for my kids to turn out a certain way, the church to go a certain direction, my family to accomplish a certain goal, me to achieve a certain status. One of the reasons I take up the mantle of controlling outcomes is because I’m just not sure God is going to bring about the outcome I want. When that fear starts to set in, usually subconsciously, then I start getting stressed.

But what did Romans 8:28 say? It said God will work all things out for good for me if I love Him. That doesn’t say that everything that ever happens to me will be good. Some of it will seem pretty bad. I’ll experience rejection. Loved ones will die. Friends will betray me. Family will annoy me. Churches may struggle. Brethren may hurt me. I’ll get sick. I’ll go through financial straits. I may become jobless, homeless, friendless. When I fear those things are coming, I may pick up the reins and start trying to manipulate and control the outcomes again.

This passage teaches me that whatever path God leads me on, the end will be good. If the path goes through hardship, I shouldn’t start trying to do God’s job. I should trust Him to manage the outcomes for me.

I guess I should offer one caveat. God will cause good outcomes for me if I love Him. Sometimes the outcomes I’m worried about revolve around other people. I want my kids to go to heaven. I want members of the congregation to stay faithful. If other people don’t love God, their outcomes will not be good. The struggle is, I can’t control other people. I can’t make anyone love God and do what is right today. When I try doing that, I’m not doing my job. I’m trying to do theirs and I just can’t do that. I might offer positive influence, give good advice, provide a proper example, but in the end it is their job to love God and let Him govern their outcomes.

This will certainly cause me some sadness, but it doesn’t change the fact that today, my job is to love God and do what is right. I have to surrender any thought of controlling others or controlling the outcomes of my life to the God who has promised to make it all work together for good if I’ll just keep loving Him.

So, for today, I’m going to hand the outcomes over to God and just strive to do the next right thing. You know what, the days are a whole lot easier when I’m not trying to do God’s job.

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Don’t Let Tomorrow Trash Today

Matthew 6:33-34 says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I don’t know an actual percentage, but I know the great majority of my worries are not about today, but about tomorrow. Or perhaps they are about next week, next month, next year, or even farther away. Perhaps I’m worried about how my kids are going to turn out. Perhaps I’m worried about making the house payments next year. Perhaps I’m worried about having a job next month or a pay cut. Perhaps I’m worried about having enough money for my wife and I to eat when I retire.

Today, I have clothes, food, and a car. I have a job. My kids are all doing fine. My cars are working. I’m still breathing in and out. Everything really is good today.

However, despite how good today is, I’m filled with anxiety. My anxiety is not doing one bit of good to help with any of my potentials problems. In fact, my anxiety is probably contributing. When I get anxious and afraid, I start to procrastinate. Then I don’t get work done, I’m behind, and I neglect responsibilities. When that happens, I’m contributing to possibly losing my job.

When I’m filled with anxiety, I often want to medicate those awful feelings. I often medicate by eating, spending, or both. That keeps me from saving properly to be ready for retirement.

Additionally, with all these anxieties about tomorrow, instead of living by faith, I try to play God and protect tomorrow myself. I arrogantly believe there is some choice I can make that will relieve me of or protect me through all potential problems. When I’m thinking like this, I’m trusting me and not trusting God.

Am I the only one that does this? I doubt it.

When this whole insane scenario is playing out in our minds, we need to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33-34. Don’t let tomorrow trash today. Instead, we need to be grateful for the blessings God has given us today. Instead of trying to play God and protect ourselves from every potential problem, we need to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. We need to simply figure out the next right thing and do it. When we do that, God says He’ll take care of us. We may not be able to see how, but we can trust Him. We may lose our jobs. Our kids may go off the deep end. We may be hungry. In those days, we should do the same thing—seek God’s kingdom and righteousness. He’ll take care of us.

The fact is, if we want to protect our tomorrows, the best thing we can do is quit trying to do so. Don’t let tomorrow trash today. Use today to pursue God’s rule and righteousness. He’ll protect our tomorrows.

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Are You Sowing Discord or the Seed?

The Apostle Paul instructed the church at Corinth to “not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking, be mature” (I Corinthians 14:20, NASB). As Christians, we should not have evil desires or wrong motives, but be wise and unselfish. 

In my 51 years on this earth, I’ve seen too much discord, often born out of selfish ambition, sown in the church by so called Christians. There are people who have become spiritually arrogant, thinking they are more “spiritually minded” than others. They often place men’s writings ahead of and/or in place of God’s inspired word. I have many excellent books written by human beings, but they need to be read in the proper perspective, as written by men who are uninspired and have flaws. 

Paul said in I Corinthians 1:20 (NASB), “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than man” (I Corinthians 1:25, NASB).  Humanly devised philosophical systems are meaningless because they many times have the wrong concept of God and His revelation. This has caused many a man’s downfall and leads to sin, especially discord generated in the church. 

God lists 7 things that he hates in Proverbs 6:16-19; the last is “one who spreads strife among brothers.”  I’ve seen more division in the church caused by contentious people who want to control a congregation than caused by false doctrine.  Paul warned the Ephesian Elders about this in Acts 20:27-30 when he told them that in their own congregation, “men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.”

This is sad, but so true because you see groups of people following men, starting other congregations where sound congregations already exist, in order to have control and do things their way. This might not be sinful in and of itself, but their motives in changing things because it becomes their idea is wrong. 

The church at Corinth had more problems than any congregation on earth; they were told to work out their problems God’s way.  Paul describes the attributes of Love in I Corinthians 13, which should be our standard of conduct in every situation in life.  Let our lives be filled with the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23 and crucify the flesh with its passions and desires as the peerless Apostle Paul stated.  Only then will we live a productive life in the service for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and be the “salt of the earth.”

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