In James 1:19-20 we read: Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness.
Anger is a natural emotional response to situations around us. Normally, anger happens when we believe that we have been wronged: someone manipulates the truth, or mocks us, or verbally attacks us, or one of many other things that happen to us.
However, more than once I have felt anger welling up within me only to realize later that I had misunderstood the situation, or that the person making the comments had misunderstood the situation.
James reminds us that we need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Our emotions can alert us to the fact we think something is wrong – but our emotions are not the voice of God. We need to carefully examine and understand what it is that we have heard and what the situation is before we make judgments or respond.
Often we are concerned about justice, especially justice on our behalf. But as James points out, our anger is not going to make things right in God’s eyes. It does not produce God’s righteousness.
Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us: Be angry without sinning. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil.
Anger and feeling injustice is a natural part of life. How we deal with it reveals the depth of our maturity. Notice with me that neither James or Paul tells us not to ever get angry and neither encourages us to just bury it. We need to deal with it but in a rational way once we have carefully understood what is going on. If we just bury it (don’t deal with it) and we become bitter, we give the devil an opportunity to influence our lives – and that never leads anywhere good.
I was thinking this week about what a blessed people we are.
Often it is easy to think of all the problems we have and issues we are trying to work through. For example, I don’t really like Windows 8 at all and I’m not used to it. I think it tries to do too much and make too many decisions for me. It also puts too much junk on my computer and I have less control—but what that also means is that I have a relatively new computer since Windows 8 is on it. The fact that new technology frustrates me also points out that I have new technology available to me!
I have things I need to fix at the house: there are dishes to wash, messes to clean up, and grass that really needs to be mowed. Of course what that means is—that I have a house, I have food, and it has rained enough for things to grow. I have a van to get smogged and registered—that means I own a van. There are issues with kids and siblings, plans and futures—but that means we have kids and they have futures. Right now I am sore from working out and trying to get in shape and lose some weight—that means that I still have good enough health to walk and run and I have plenty of food in my life.
It is easy to get frustrated about issues, about people, about plans and ideas. I am finding that if I stop and reflect on the things that I consider to be problems, they typically reflect what a blessed person I am.
When we get frustrated with the details of life, let us remind ourselves that we are blessed enough to be frustrated by them!
In 2 Timothy 4.7, 8 we read, “I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He’s giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance.” Paul is able to make a positive statement at the end of his life that he had completed the work that God had for him. He is looking forward to a champion’s wreath.
He goes on to state that this wreath is will not only be given to him to all “who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance.” Several translations state to all who have loved his appearance. The idea is that this something they are eagerly looking forward to and they have set their affection on Jesus’s coming. What does that mean? Does that mean that those who sell everything and go sit on a mountain top longing for his coming are the ones who gain this wreath? It can’t mean that for the apostle Paul never did that in his lifetime.
To love something or to have our heart set on something means that we are constantly looking forward to it, that we are continually evaluating our actions in light of it, that it is ever on the forefront of our thinking. Basically, that we orient our life around Jesus’s coming.As we set our hearts on the coming of Jesus Christ there is a purifying effect that it has on our lives. There is a champion’s wreath awarded for righteousness that awaits us (see also 1 John 3.1-3).
– Pastor Stephen