Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20
God Showed Me the Ugliness of My Sin
I walked around the field behind our apartment for nearly an hour, crying out to God: “Lord, how could I have done that? That’s the way I used to be. I don’t want to be like that anymore.”
I couldn’t feel God’s presence or feel Him ministering to me. Then, finally, God spoke to me. “My grace is all that keeps you,” He said quietly. “For one brief moment I lifted the power of My grace from you. I did not leave you or forsake you, but I lifted the power of My grace just to show you that without My keeping grace, you would become seven times worse than you were or than you’ve ever dreamed you could be. I want you to realize that only My grace keeps you.”
God’s words hit me so hard that I dropped to my knees. “Please, Lord,” I cried, “don’t ever let me trample Your grace again. Please don’t ever let me become controlled by this monster called anger.”
Consecration to the Lord is Required
That day I learned that anger is my enemy—not my friend—and if I don’t walk with the Lord, anger will take control of me. I’m still tempted to blow up from time to time, but I now find the strength of God on the inside because I hate anger. Occasionally I even feel rage, but I also feel the reins of God. It’s like His hand just takes hold of me.
When I consider the direction in which our world is going today, I do feel an anger inside. But it’s different now. That ball of fury is no longer there. God has tamed my anger. He’s harnessed it and transformed it into a passion for helping people experience the life-changing power of God.
Looking at my life, I am convinced that it’s not the temper or passion God seeks to remove from us, but the self-centeredness—the habit of loving oneself at the expense of other’s rights and feelings. Once self is abased, God can harness the “wild horses” within us and channel our passions in directions that are pleasing to Him.
God Hand-Picks Hot Tempered People
That’s what I see in the disciples. Most of them were hot-tempered people. Certainly, God humbled them until they learned to yield to Him, but He never changed their basic personalities. The religion of Jesus is no opiate. It will not put you to sleep or take the fight out of you. Look at the record. Jesus picked rough and profane men to follow Him—the sinners, the disinherited, the volatile. In His mind, they all made good prospects for Christian discipleship.
They were stormy men with turbulent, yet misdirected passions. But Jesus didn’t fear their enthusiasm, or even their fanaticism. He knew that torrents in men, like torrents in rivers, can be converted and harnessed, their power made to serve righteousness.
Would you have chosen Matthew? He was a cheat, a gambler, a tax-collector for Rome. But Jesus knew that in every weed lies a potential flower when transformed by His glorious power. So Jesus laid His hand on Matthew’s powerful impulses, like anger, and harnessed them, transforming them from expressions of selfishness into spiritual devotion of the deepest kind.
Peter was no shrinking violet, either. Like James and John, the “Sons of Thunder”, he had a strong fighting instinct. Did Jesus take the fight out of any of them? No, He redirected it. Did He command them to get rid of their anger? No, but He encouraged self-examination. When Jesus predicted His horrible death, Peter became defiant, if not angry.
“Get behind Me, Satan!” Jesus told Peter. No doubt this command had some shock value. Jesus was really questioning Peter’s motives. Who has control of your emotions, Peter, God or Satan? (Matthew 16:23).
Saul of Tarsus was also a man of temper—a born fighter. Until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul persecuted and killed Christians. After this humbling experience, he became Paul. Still a fighter, but now a soldier in God’s army. At the end of his spiritual journey, Paul spoke of fighting a good fight. Always a warrior, he had allowed God to harness his temper for the purpose of taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
Come back next week to read more of this classic series on anger