Brethren--Let Us Deal with Anger in a God-Pleasing Manner!
Dear heavenly Father, we come this day to worship in Your presence. Please bless us by instructing us with the truths of Your Word. Help us to control our emotions, especially our anger, so that the words we speak and the actions we undertake are spoken and done in love to your glory and our mutual blessing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Moses became angry with the children of Israel at Meribah when they accused him of bringing them into the wilderness to die. He failed to hallow God by what he said to the people. Because Moses vented his anger in an ungodly way, he was not permitted to enter the promised land. May God grant us the grace to deal with our anger in a proper and godly way!
Jesus was filled with righteous anger when he saw people buying and selling animals and exchanging money in the temple. He vented His anger in a godly way by cleansing the temple. Afterward he testified to God’s truth pointing out that the temple of his body would be raised in three days for the salvation of our souls.
Text: Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)
"‘If you are angry do not sin’; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."
In Christ Jesus, Who has freed us from Satan’s control and Who does not want us to give Satan an opportunity to regain a foothold in our lives through uncontrolled anger, dear fellow redeemed:
Anger is an emotion common to mankind. Some people obviously get angrier than others, while some people hardly ever seem to get angry at all. Anger, as an emotion, is neither right nor wrong in and of itself. God gets angry at times and justifiably so. He never sins, however, in connection with His anger. In our New Testament lesson we heard how Jesus became angry because the priests of His day had made the temple into a marketplace. He was angry, but He used that anger to proclaim the truths of His Father’s will and His Father’s plan for our salvation! We human beings, on the other hand, often sin in connection with our anger. Moses, as our Old Testament lesson reveals, sinned in his anger by failing to hallow God’s name in Israel’s presence. The consequences for Moses included not being allowed to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Satan, who is determined to destroy our bodies and our souls, wants us to misuse this emotion—to sin against our God and against one another. We cannot always prevent ourselves from becoming angry, but we certainly can with the help of the Holy Spirit learn to control our anger. BRETHREN—LET US DEAL WITH ANGER IN A GOD-PLEASING MANNER!
In order to do that Paul encourages us, first of all, do not sin by word or deed when you are angry! In this fourth chapter of Ephesians, Paul speaks of the unity we believers enjoy as part of the body of Christ. Jesus died to remove our sins and so to make us a part of His body. God’s plan was entirely a matter of His grace—His undeserved love for us sinners, and it is effected within us individually by faith. The Holy Spirit creates that faith in our hearts and dwells therein, so that we might by faith and through the instruction of God’s word build each other up in our faith and hope. Having established these blessed truths, Paul goes on to warn us Christians of certain things, which can do damage both to ourselves and to others, thus bringing harm to the body of Christ. Among those things is uncontrolled anger.
Paul writes, “If you are angry do not sin.” He is actually quoting David when he says this to the Ephesians. David had written this to the people of his day in Psalm 4:4. Whether one lived at David’s time one thousand years before Christ, or thirty years after Christ ascended into heaven as did Paul and the Ephesians, or even two thousand years later as we do today—this admonition applies! Human emotions have not changed, nor has human nature! People get angry. The question is, "Will they deal with anger in a God-pleasing manner?" The answer unfortunately often is, "No!" People get angry and they sin. They lash out at others around them with hurtful words and actions. God tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), to “be kind to one another” (Ephesians 5:32), and to “bear with one another…forgiving one another” (Colossians 3:13), yet we choose to say things and do things, which hurt others and destroy our relationships with them. When we do such things, we need humbly to repent of our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. He will grant us that forgiveness and help us then restore our relationships.
In order to help us deal with anger in a God-pleasing manner, it is helpful to understand the source of anger. Anger is in general the natural result of one of three things—fear, frustration, or hurt feelings. The truths of Scripture can help us address each of these issues appropriately. If we are tempted in anger to sin because of our fears, let us remember that that the most frequent promise of God in Scripture is, "I am with you!" Tied to that promise many, many times are the words, "Fear not!" My dear friends, we need not fear when we remember that our all-powerful Lord and Savior Jesus is standing by our side each and every day. He will either prevent evil from entering our lives, or cause that evil to work together for good! What does He tell us through Paul in the book of Romans? “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose….If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:28,31). If we are tempted in anger to sin because of our frustrations, let us think first of God’s grace and mercy towards us as poor sinners. If anyone has a right to be frustrated, is it not our beloved God and Savior, who has delivered us from sin only to find us falling in to sin time and time again. Yet He remains a God of compassion and forgiveness. Ought we not follow His beloved example as we deal with one another. In this same chapter of Ephesians, Paul writes, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32). Did not Jesus in response to Peter’s question concerning forgiveness tell us to forgive our brother not just “seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22)? If we are tempted in anger to sin because of our hurt feelings, let us consider who and what we are in Christ. We are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). We are God’s heirs, destined to inherit the gift of eternal life (cf. Galatians 3:29). If someone says something to us that is hurtful, does it change our status before God? Certainly not! Does it endanger our hope of eternal life? Of course not! Consequently, when our feelings are hurt, rather than lashing out in return, let us strive with the help of God’s Spirit to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Let us pray that God grant us attitudes shaped and adjusted, if necessary, by the truths of His holy Word, for then we will successfully resist the sins to which anger can so easily lead. Yes,BRETHREN—LET US DEAL WITH ANGER IN A GOD-PLEASING MANNER! Do not sin by word or deed when you are angry!
Secondly, deal with your anger quickly to avoid giving the devil a foothold in your heart and life! Paul writes, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” How do you deal with anger? When you are angry do you try to settle things as quickly as possible, or do you tend to sweep matters under the rug, trying to forget about them and just hoping they will go away. If you do the latter you are not dealing with anger in a God-pleasing manner, and it will hurt you and your personal relationships in the long run.
All too often people try to suppress their anger, which is not healthy for an individual or that individual’s relationships. In such situations, angry individuals often become moody and distance, subjecting their spouses, or family members, or other acquaintances to the silent treatment, which increases tension within relationships and does nothing to remove the cause of the anger. Individuals can at times believe that such a suppression of anger is really the "Christian" thing to do, but that is not the case. While venting anger in sinful ways is certainly an "unchristian" thing to do, to suppress anger and to harbor it in one’s heart can and often does lead to resentment and bitterness, which are hardly Christian emotions.
At other times people will explode and vent their anger in sinful ways, which are destructive to any relationship. However, all too often after the explosion when things calm down, the situation is often left unresolved, because people do not know what to do about it or are afraid to deal with it lest further explosions occur. The result is that all too often the situations leading to the angry explosions are left unresolved, everything is swept under the rug until the next explosive situation. My dear friends, these are not good situations!
What is a God-pleasing manner for dealing with anger? Paul urges us to do with it in a timely manner. In fact he says, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath!” I recall years ago an interview that I heard when I was a child living in West Columbia, South Carolina. General Westmoreland, the commander of American troops in Vietnam, retired and returned home to Columbia. He was received with a city-wide parade and was interviewed afterward by the local television station. General Westmoreland had been successfully married for many years and the individual interviewing him asked him the secret of his successful marriage. He responded that he and his wife decided early on in their marriage never to go to bed angry with each other. I do not know whether General Westmoreland and his wife were Christians, although I would suspect they were. Nevertheless, their decision was a Scriptural one.
My dear friends, let us deal with anger quickly—the very same day we experience it, if at all possible. Let us do so remembering, first of all, our status as sinners forgiven by a gracious God. There is no need for any of us to get up on a high horse, as if we are never in the wrong. Rather, let us be careful that as we deal with our anger, we are not tempted to sin (cf. Galatians 6:1). Let us do so in prayer, asking God to guide us so that we say and do the right thing to resolve the problem confronting us, whether that problem be with our spouse, or a member of our family, a neighbor, or a fellow Christian. Let us always “speak the truth in love” as our Savior commands us (cf. Ephesians 4:15), knowing that each person with whom we deal is precious in the Lord’s sight and there are much bigger issues at hand than our fears, frustrations, or hurt feelings. God, after all, “would have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Would we ever want to get in the way of God’s saving purpose in the lives of those around us by handling our anger in a sinful way? God forbid! No let us speak the truth—laying out the problems as we perceive them, but let us do so in love, recognizing that we could easily have erred in these matters as well. Let us, therefore, proceed in any such situation, recognizing that we may well be at fault, at least in part in any situation, and may well need to ask for or bestow upon others forgiveness. If spouses, or family members, or neighbors and acquaintances deal with each other accordingly when they experience the emotions of anger, most situations can and should be resolved peaceably and with profitable results.
Why is it so important to deal with anger quickly and in a God-pleasing manner? It is so important because as Paul so aptly points out we do not want to “give the devil a foothold” in our hearts and lives. Jesus has overcome the devil and freed us from his control (cf. Hebrews 2:14). He has not redeemed us and made us His own, so that we might once again come under the devil’s control! The devil is still very powerful—much more powerful than are we. He is as “a roaring lion” walking about and “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He can be resisted, however, as we remain steadfast in the faith, clinging to our Savior and using His Word! My dear friends, if anger is a problem in your lives—if it is causing difficulties in your relationships, then take note of it immediately and do something about it, for you do not want to give the devil a chance to undermine your faith and life. Repent of any past sins with regard to your anger; strive with humility to resolve any problems than exist because of your anger; and rejoice that our Savior God is indeed patient and slow to anger when dealing with us (cf. Psalm 103:8). By His grace and with His blessing we can learn to control our anger. BRETHREN—LET US DEAL WITH ANGER IN A GOD-PLEASING MANNER! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting