Jesus has some pointed comments for us on anger. We dug into this as part of our Sermon on the Mount series in a message at The Surge on 11 October 2015. The video of that message is on The Surge website, www.thesurge.cc. (Of course, if you're reading this after 15 November 2015, just click on the archive button and scroll down to Sermon on the Mount--the message will appear as part 6 of that series.) I would recommend taking in that video--it should help you grab on to why you would want to tackle anger as well as provide the backdrop for the comments below.
The goal of this blog is to assist The Surge body--and other readers--with some practical steps to cooperate with God and His Spirit to make killing anger a reality. Hope this encourages you!!
Five practical steps Christians can take to help diminish the anger issues that all too often burst forth, because, after all, life can be frustrating.
Number 1: Ponder, don't react. We act like it sometimes, but we are not simple beasts of the field. We are not my daughter's mutt that goes ape every time the mailman shows up. We do not have to react every time anger bubbles up. In fact, you have already learned to control your anger to some extent Proof, you say? Ok, how about at work? Yeah, that boss or that co-worker. You can feel anger rising up, but you don't always scream or rant or stomp or throw things when things happen at work. If you do, you won't have a job there long. No, you've learned to hold it at least until you can get to a restroom or take a walk, some place you can scream bloody murder and not get fired.
So, all we're talking about is extending the practice you use at work to other arenas of your life. Use the anger welling up as a tipoff that something is wrong. Get yourself some "be still" time--time to figure out what's really going on. Now, this is definitely hard for we extroverts, but even we can be trained. The minute you walk in and your spouse tells you she wrecked the car, or your child tells you he failed the class, or your parents tell you to clean up your room--the minute you feel the anger begin to boil, just purpose to be still. Having accomplished that, you have to have something to ponder, right? That's step number 2.
Number 2: Ask yourself what it is that you really are wanting. What is being threatened that has you angry? Are you wanting approval? Is what you really want in this situation respect? Is it to control the outcome of the situation? What is it that your heart is after here? And the reason you have to get to the bottom of this question is something James says in chapter 4:
James 4:1-3 - What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
When you are angry, it's because there is something you want, and you are being thwarted in your attempt to get it. So, force yourself to answer the question: What is it that I am really wanting here, in this moment? Approval? Control? Acceptance? Respect? Comfort? What is it you are wanting? Dig in and get to the bottom of you. Something's happened, and it has made you angry. That something has triggered something inside of you. So, focus right now is off the situation, off the other person. It's on you. What in you is reacting to the what's outside of you? Anger is just the tip of the iceberg. Look below the surface for the real story.
Once you find the answer, you are ready for step number 3.
Number 3: Repent for how you are trying to get what you really want. Ok, so you've calmed yourself down enough to ponder and ask. In that calmness, you can actually talk to yourself and hear from the God. I'm angry. I get it. What is it that I want that was being denied me, at least I think it was? Anger just shows me that I want something and I was willing to use anger to try to get it. So, we need to repent of unrighteous anger to try to get it. James also goes on to say that anger does not achieve the righteousness of God. Anger doesn't bring about righteous results. So, we need to remind ourselves that we're not going to obtain what we really want, those passions of our hearts, through anger. I need instead to repent of how I'm trying to obtain them.
Once God has us seeing our hearts the way He sees them, we're ready to move to something healthier. Step number 4.
Number 4: Preach the gospel to yourself. Ok, you don't have to look like this guy. But maybe what I'm really after, what I feel is being denied me, is respect. And the reason I want respect is because I have this need for approval and love. Well, that's only fully and ultimately met in the gospel. So, God, I'm just going to look to you now. I'm going to remind myself of who you are. I'm going to remind myself of who you say I am in Christ. I'm going to remind myself of your love for me, your approval of me, and your acceptance of me. I'm going to ask You to rule over my life with those truths. Everything I really want is actually handed to me as a follower of Christ. Why, when the Creator of all things loves me and has given me everything I need for life and happiness, do I insist on demanding it from mere people God has made, who, like me, are not perfect.
Ok, we're in a healthier place, with a saner view of reality. Time for step number 5
Number 5: Reconcile quickly. If you have, in a moment of anger, exploded, then you still need to get away to ponder, to determine what you really want, to repent of how you're trying to use anger to get it, to preach the gospel to yourself. But then you need to go back to the one you have resented or blown up at or hurt and make things right. Can you imagine what it would be like if an entire group of people actually chose to live their lives together like this? Would this community not shine like a light on a hill? Would everyone around take notice of it?
You might ask, "Dwaine, is this even possible? Is this realistic?" Well, not really, at least all by ourselves. If Jesus is not in your life, ruling and reigning over your heart, then it isn't going to happen. But, if He is, then it is realistic. Because that's the way Jesus lived, isn't it? I mean, in 1 Peter 2, we're told that Jesus is being crucified at the hands of angry men. And it says this:
1 Peter 2:21-23 - For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
Amazingly, the whole message I preached is summarized in that passage right there. Because here's what Jesus is saying: "I'm being mistreated by men, threatened by men, crucified by men, hated by men, spoken evil of by men." But, according to this passage, Jesus was enduring it, knowing that He was precious to his Father, knowing that he was loved by Him, knowing that he was pleasing to Him, even as He suffered the consequence of all of mankind's sin. And it was his trust in God that ruled his heart. He trusted God for the ultimate outcome. Jesus knew that God, the Father, would be taking care of the outcome, and so he entrusted himself to God's care. He opted not to demand the respect and approval of everyone else because He knew where He stood with the Father. He chose not to retaliate because he was secure in that relationship. As Christians, this is also true of us, if we just took the time to ponder before we react.
So, in the end, the practice of Jesus, the one we've declared is not only our savior, but our king, provides an example of the pattern He seeks to make a reality as His Spirit governs our daily lives. It is possible if Jesus is your King and His Spirit is in you. What a hope we have. I'm praying that anyone who reads this might get to experience the dwindling of anger and the emergence of a peace that even we find stunning. And may we, as Christians, live out the truth of the good news we've received in such a way that others are drawn to this magnificent God we serve.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.