We began this journey of exploring ANGER 3 weeks. We are now moving toward the end of that journey. Therefore, what I hope to do today is give us a roadmap. We have spent 3 weeks looking at the destination and today is when we begin to map it out. Whenever we travel one of the most unhelpful things is when get disoriented and have no idea where we are. We don’t know which way is east, west, north or south. Some people will say to us, “It is not about the destination but about the journey,” but in the words of David Powlison that is a bunch of nonsense. The destination is where we want to be, not lost in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, this is our encouragement today…
Theme: The journey toward good anger needs some regular habits of grace.
Today friends I want to consider a foundational text that I think will help guide us through some habits of grace as we unpack our anger. These habits should help us reshape our anger to be an instrument for God’s namesake. The first habit will be to dismantle our anger, particular our BAD anger. And the second habit will help us reconstruct our anger as an instrument for GOOD. Each habit will have 4 questions we can ask ourselves to journey toward GOOD anger.
1. Dismantling Our Anger—READ James 4.1-3.
What these verses immediately reveal to us is the source of our anger is ourselves, particularly our expectations. The majority of our anger struggles comes from our “passions” within. We long to see things happen the way we want. The center of our anger is ourselves. Simply put we are PRIDEFUL. Dr. David Powlison puts it this way:
“’Anger problems’ are obvious. Countless people have sought counseling or been sent to counseling because their anger was destructive. But I’ve never known anyone who sought counseling for a ‘happiness problem’…We rejoice when we get what our hearts crave, however misguided or even evil our desires.”—Powlision, p. 156
This is what James mean—READ James 4.2-3. In many senses the sources of our anger is this disoriented mantra that is functioning in our hearts, “My kingdom come! My will be done!”
Therefore, let me offer you FOUR questions that can be extremely helpful in dismantling our anger. The purpose of these questions is for us to really explore the true source or motives of our anger. We want to uncover our motives, ruling passions, those deep seated, hard to spot, evil desires.
QUESTION 1 is “What is the situation?” The purpose of this question is to try to recreate the situation or circumstances of our anger. Remember during this phase that you are rehearsing the way YOU saw the situation. During this step you want to resist the temptation to project how others see the situation. The point is to describe the situation, but remember you are NOT describing you or someone else, but the situation.
QUESTION 2 is, “How did I respond?” During this question you want to really track your thoughts, emotions, actions, and even physiology. Your physiology will be things like your muscles tightening up, elevated heart rate, and the like. Consider what you said, what you were thinking about others, what emotions were you feeling. Keep in mind no response is a response.
QUESTION 3 is the money question, “What are my motives?” The first two questions will slow down your anger, so the hope is by this time, by the power of the Spirit, you may be able to start to unpack the motives behind your anger. Your answers to this question will cause us to stay mad, practice a false peace, or move us toward a Christlike constructive response to our anger. We have said all throughout this series that anger comes from your desires or passions. We don’t get upset about something we don’t really care about. No one likes to think of themselves as prideful, but usually the source of our anger is our own PRIDE. We are deviating away from the foundation of our faith—God’s GLORY—by allowing this situation to be about our OWN glory. This is truly DEVIANT faith. We are asleep to our own sin and need to be WOKE. The challenging thing is only the Spirit of God can do this. We must do these exercises in HUMBLE FAITH.
Question 4 is, “What are the consequences?” Bad attitudes or bad motives spread like gangrene. It is not hard to imagine a work environment, apartment, family, party or a host of other circumstances where one irritable person opens a floodgate of irritable people. Bad attitudes are HIGHLY contagious. Consequences can be subtle or overt. Anger can be a silent, invisible virus. Friends, anger is something we should NEVER take lightly.
2. Reconstructing Our Anger—READ James 4.6-10.
The hope James reveals to us is if we can really learn to listen to God’s dismantling evaluations of our anger He can reassemble them into something constructive. So, I want you to imagine these verses in James we have just looked at are like a MIRROR for our anger, and we have seen our ANGER BEAST. But, now it is time to look again and remember that BEAST can be transformed into something glorious. The only way we are going to be able to do that is by letting God repaint the picture of our anger. We will need to HUMBLE ourselves before the LORD, and let Him reshape our anger. These next 4 questions will do that.
QUESTION 5 is, “What is true?” Let me illustrate how this question can work from Psalm 23. We know throughout David’s life he faced many frustrating situations. We know he saved the king, the father of his best friend, many times yet the king made many attempts to murder him. In one case he throw a SPEAR at him while he was playing him some music to soothe his soul. David lost loved ones to death, he committed some egregious sins, and attempted to hold a country together when civil war was happening. I am sure many times David got angry with himself, others, and his situations. But David spoke truth over himself in the midst of these situations. According to Psalm 23 David reminded himself God can satisfy his wants. God can lead him on a path where all these wrongs will be made right—the path of righteousness. David faced REAL dangers through dark valleys, but God’s rod can protect himself from himself or other external dangers. Can you see how these truths would be foundational for David’s anger to be an instrument for good? The point of this TRUTH question is pull us back into reality. How easily we forget God in the midst of our anger. We want to look into the MIRROR of our anger and see our need for Jesus. That can be both convicting and comforting.
QUESTION 6 is, “How do I turn to God for help?” This is the beginning of action—things we will need to do. One of the things you can do is talk to God FIRST. Many times we talk to ourselves first. For those types we end up sowing seeds of bitterness and pride. Others talk to others first planting seeds of gossip, slander, discord, and etc. Our first responder to our anger should ALWAYS be God.
QUESTION 7 is, “How does God want me to constructively respond to this situation?” It is important in this question that you remember you cannot change someone else. That is NOT your role. Remember what Paul tells us—READ Galatians 6.3-5. All you can do is carry your own load, your sin, not the sin of others. Determine your impure motives, your sinful actions, and repent. You can warn someone else, you can give them truth, but only God can change a heart.
Finally, QUESTION 8 is, “What are the consequences of faith and obedience?” As I said earlier the primary source of our anger problems is DEVIANT faith. The purpose of this step is to renew our minds with promises and truth from God’s word. When we do that it will always call for active obedience. Once again Paul can be helpful here—READ Ephesians 2.10. What are those “GOOD WORKS” God is calling us to walk in this situation with our anger? Once you know them seek out wise ways to walk in them.
Let me offer a few closing suggestions. FIRST, as you work through these 8 QUESTIONS journal. Whether you write or type I would highly encourage this. I have found physically writing helps slow down my thoughts and allows me to really get to the truth quicker. SECOND, do not rush into “getting” what you discovered off your chest. Sometimes the Spirit has more to reveal to you, especially about your own sin and the role you played in the situation. FINALLY, avoid being evasive with your anger. If you never address it over time it will morph into deep-seeded bitterness. At that point you will have a hard time remembering the source or motives behind your anger. At that point we usually end up being blind toward our own sin.