Scripture Text: James 1 Title: Anger–Major Setback!
Question of the Day: What is it that holds us back from knowing God and His Word—perhaps the main thing that holds man back?
Christians are painfully aware that much of the curse of God for man’s sin rests on our lives, we struggle with many effects of the fall of man, and then we are reminded again and again of the ways in which we are held back from knowing God and seeking Him through His Word. By contrast, as we study the life of Jesus of Nazareth, we are very impressed with His handling of the Scriptures, His knowledge of the condition of man and his sinfulness, His way of touching the lives and bodies of people He met, and the way that He discovered His purpose for being here on earth and perfectly fulfilled that purpose. We struggle with the trials and temptations of life, and through them we find a number of things that hold us back from responding fully to what we read in the Scriptures.
In James 1, he gives us a list of the things that set us back from getting the most out of our trials and emphasizes how we must respond to the Word by becoming “doers of the Word, and not hearers only”. Here he covers our attitude in facing trials (“Count it all joy”), the fact that our faith is being tested to give us steadfastness and endurance, our lack of wisdom in knowing what to ask for, the humility that is needed to take in the Word, the blessing that comes from standing firm under a trial, the ability to know when we are being tempted by sin and how to successfully stand, and the way that we, during our trials, must keep our eyes on the “Father of lights.”
It is then that James pauses and tells us in verses 19-21 what it is that keeps us back from “receiving with meekness the implanted Word—that which transforms our souls.” We must do three things: We must be quick to hear. Israel was rebuked by God for being “dull of hearing”, and in the book of the Law many times they were told to “listen carefully to the voice of God and obey Him.” We must be so sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to what He is trying to teach us through the times when we read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scriptures. They are absolute truth, and His is the great Communicator and Illuminator—but we must be listening.
We must be slow to speak. Our tongues have the potential of getting us into a lot of trouble and causing a lot of damage in the world around us. We must learn to use our tongue to bring healing and restoration and love and hope to the dying world around us. When we learn wisdom and maturity, we learn to talk must less and listen a lot more.
The final thing that holds back our response to the Word is anger. We must learn to be slow to get angry.
It is here that we want to pause. The first child born on earth, Cain, got angry and killed his brother, and since then anger has been one of the most destructive forces in homes, schools, churches, and in society in general. Moses became angry a number of times throughout his life and it ended up costing this great man of God, a prophet of God, his trip into the “Promised Land”. Anger hits all of us: for some it just smolders like the embers of a fire, and then one day it bursts into flames and brings great destruction. So we must ask ourselves, what does it take to make you mad? The people around us in traffic? Some family member or co-worker who sets us off? When we see injustice done to others? When someone in authority tells us what to do? When we get ripped off by aggressive sales people? You make your list and I will make mine!
The sad thing is that uncontrolled anger (wrath) puts an end to spiritual growth until we learn to deal with it. Take inventory of your life? What makes you mad? Does that anger put you in a rage? Then you must deal with it! In the true nature of the Scriptures we are given help and the answer to our anger. Here are some of the answers: (by the way, this author faced a time of anger that was close to wrath, it is scared him and drove him to find The Answer!)
We need to discover what makes us mad. Job’s accuser wanted to find a way to get to him so that he would curse God, and it is the same for us today. Many people down through the centuries have seen how Job learned perseverance and endurance instead of getting mad. Satan was looking for something, anything to get Job to get angry and curse God. The point: we must know what it is that makes us mad and deal with it. Job did! We must!
Psalm 37:8 says, “Stop getting angry, and stay clear away from wrath!” I decided to get angry about ______, and I must decide not to get angry and to steer clear away from uncontrolled anger—wrath! I must, or it will destroy my life!
Ephesians 4:26 tells us “to be angry, but not let that anger turn to sin.” Sin happens when we allow anger to control us; sin happens when we allow anger to stop up our free flowing relationship between us and our God; and sin happens when we allow anger and the resulting anxiety to diminish our faith. Jesus instructed us several time to “be anxious about nothing”, and it is that anxiety that turns to anger and stops up the Holy Spirit’s ability to do the surgery in our hearts that is needed and bring health and growth to us again.
Prayer: Lord, help me to deal with anxiety with much more prayer so that I will not become an angry person and inch toward letting that anger deteriorate to wrath. I bring the concerns and trials of my life to You in constant prayer with a thankful heart as You point out in Philippians 4:6-7. Dear Lord, keep me away from anger so that my heart will be in constant peace as You rule in my heart. Amen!
David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.” It is available by calling 615-945-0611.