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The Power to Make It Right

Galatians 6:1-10

Jim Davis

I saw a child in the Target store the other day that was pitching a fit. He was angry. He was crying and screaming for his mom to buy him a toy that he was trying to put into the shopping cart. She told him that he couldn’t have it. There was no end to his anger, so his mom told him he could buy it. But he didn’t stop screaming and crying. The mom pleaded with him saying, "I let you have it, won’t you stop crying." He didn’t. He was lying on the floor holding his new acquired toy, but he was still screaming. This is also how many grown ups live.

A Christian counselor told about a man who came to counseling because he was having trouble controlling his anger. He had these outbursts, and it was affecting his work and his family life. So he finally decided to get some help.

The counselor wanted to find out if this man could conceive of a different way of living. She asked him, "What would your life look like if you got rid of your anger?"

It was quiet for a long time.

Then the man said, "But if I get rid of my anger, what will I have left?"

Anger is becoming the dominant emotion. We live in an angry nation of short-tempered people. Angry behavior has entered every facet of our world. We see road rage, airport rage, grocery store rage, violence at sporting events.

James Garbarino, human development professor at Cornell University, reports a major social shift: There is a general breakdown of social conventions, of manners, of social controls. This gives a validation, a permission, to be aggressive. Kids used to be guided by a social convention that said, "Keep the lid on." Today they are guided more in the direction of taking it off.

A Philosophy that Generates Anger

The philosophy of our world is a self-centered philosophy that generates anger toward the actions of others. C. Leslie Charles condensed the basic philosophy of our world in a few short lines.

  • I am entitled to what I want when I want it.
  • My time is important and I should not have to be inconvenienced by others.
  • I have a right to be impatient or rude when other people are behaving stupidly.
  • I am entitled to special privileges because I am who I am.
  • I’m a taxpayer; I own part of this road and I have the right to drive as fast as I want.
  • I’m too busy to mince around with false politeness and should be able to tell people exactly what I think without having to worry about their feelings.
  • I must be more in the know than everyone else so I can stay "one up" on them; otherwise they may take advantage of me.
  • I deserve the newest, the biggest, the best, and the most. It’s my right.
  • So what if I’m being rude—I never have to see this person again, so what difference does it make?
  • My opinions and views are more valid than anyone else’s.
  • This world is unfair and opportunities are limited, so I may as well get all I can while I can, regardless of who or what stands in my way."

  • This belief system gives rise to the anger we see in our world. From these insights we can begin to see why our world is a very angry world. It is a philosophy that pits the inhabitants of earth against each other.

    In our scramble to seek its fulfillment the American dream has become a nightmare. It has pitted us against each other with a kind of competitiveness that can only bring pain and suffering. The philosophy "The one with the most toys wins," leaves all but the one with the most toys losers because only one can have the most toys.

    We only victimize ourselves when we accept this philosophy of life. Throughout the Bible we observe that those who fail--fail because they allow a false perception of how they think things ought to be control their response.

    The Dangers of a Warped Perspective

    Nothing in life is more important than developing a proper perspective toward the circumstances that surround us. Nothing would empower God to get a grip on our lives more than developing a proper perspective of what happens to us.

    You have heard the old saying, "What you see is what you get." Too often what I see is what I have made up my mind to see. We usually aim our lives toward what we see. If my view of what I see is distorted my life will be distorted, for what I see will the controlling factor of my life. This is why I think we need to be careful about what we see.

    Salvation history recorded in the Scriptures is replete with examples of how warped perspectives mess up our lives.

    Eve surrendered control of her life to Satan when she reacted to the bad feelings she allowed Satan to bring to fruition in her own heart. She was thoroughly convinced that she had more coming to her than what she was getting. She was going to make it right, and she plucked the juiciest piece of fruit on the Tree of Life. She was just like most of the people I know. When she got what she wanted—she didn’t want it any more.

    We may even end up living our lives based upon resentment generated by the goodness of others. We may allow the good others do create bad feelings within our own heart as we fail to measure up in our personal struggle at being good.

    Genesis 4:3-7

    3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

    6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." NIV

    Cain murdered Abel because of Abel’s goodness—he resented Abel’s goodness. He allowed the goodness of Cain to generate bad feelings in his own life about himself that came to fruition in the murder of Abel.

    There is a monster standing at the door of every life seeking to devour it. God told Cain, "But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." That monster desires to have you. It devoured Cain, for immediately after he heard these words, he killed his brother Abel.

    We Say Life Is Unfair

    Most of the evil in our world is predicated by a feeling that life isn’t fair. I may feel that life is unfair because I haven’t gotten the acceptance, security, approval, respect, and rewards that I think I deserve. Sadly many are seeking to get what they feel is due them.

    How I respond when I believe life isn’t fair is crucial for me. What controls my life when I feel an overwhelming sense of desperation? Do I blame the cause on others? This is the crucial issue in managing my personal life. If my life is defined solely by over reaction to the actions of others, I am in trouble. I am in trouble because reactionary living surrenders control of my life to others.

    Responding in anger surrenders my life to the control of my circumstances. Have you spent your life seeking to get what is due you? Have you spent your life with a low-grade fever of frustration because you feel that you haven’t got what was due you? Have you spent your life with a low-grade fever of frustration because you feel others haven’t got what was coming to them?

    The world is full of people crying out in anger seeking to make things right. There is nothing wrong with seeking to make things right. Its how we go about seeking to make things right that creates a problem. We usually want to make our own rules to make things right for me, and we end up with a self-centered philosophy such as the one we previously described. Self-preservation usually becomes our goal.

    When you listen to the devil, he does two things:

  • He makes you question God’s Word.
  • He makes God look harsher than He is.

  • The popular novelist Vince Rause (Handy As I Want To Be, 1999) is not a believer, but he writes in the Los Angeles Times Magazine about a time when he was going through hardships in life and was blaming God for them. One night he reflected in bed, and he realized something significant about his anger and his disbelief. He remembers that night: "As I lay in bed with the empty, hostile cosmos pressing down, a thought popped into my head: I am angry at a God I don't believe in."

    Anger the Misplaced Emotion

    We can’t busy ourselves doing things that repress or suppress our anger thinking it will pass without any effort on our part. I read this article that said the typical symptoms of stress are: eating too much, impulse buying, and driving too fast. Someone asked, "Are they kidding? That is my idea of a perfect day." If this is how we deal with stress and anxiety, we haven’t dealt with it.

    Anger is a God given emotion that few ever learn to process God’s way.

    The Bible admonishes us to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26). God gives us a right to get angry. Paul says, "Be angry, but don’t sin." Therefore, anger has a good side that must be discovered. God is not asking us to repress or suppress the anger over the wrong, but deal with it properly.

    John Ortberg talks about having anger with no sin: it's not easy, but it's possible. He says:

    "Lots of people have the power to hurt or frustrate me. Only one has the power to make me angry.

    "Me.

    "If it is true that no one else can make me angry, it is even more true that no one else can make me respond aggressively or inappropriately when I feel anger. It often seems that way because my response to feeling anger has become so routine that it seems ‘automatic.’ It feels as if the person or event triggered my anger and caused my response.

    "The truth is my response is learned behavior. I learned it long ago, from people I grew up around, learned it so informally that I was not aware that I was learning anything.

    "The good news is what can be learned can be unlearned. It is possible for me to manage my anger in a God-honoring way: to "be angry and sin not." Anger is an inescapable fact of life. But the experience of anger is different from the expression of anger. What I do with that anger, how I express and manage it, is another matter." (Citation is from Preaching Today, John Ortberg, Having Anger with No Sin. It Is Not Easy, But It Is Possible.)

    The Bible is written to give us a different perspective on life as it admonishes us to deal with a negative world in a positive way. Misplaced anger cannot change our world for the better.

    In a 1994 article, "Wars' Lethal Leftovers Threaten Europeans," Associated Press reporter Christopher Burns writes: "The bombs of World War II are still killing in Europe. They turn up--and sometimes blow up--at construction sites, in fishing nets, or on beaches fifty years after the guns fell silent.

    "Hundreds of tons of explosives are recovered every year in France alone. Thirteen old bombs exploded in France last year, killing twelve people and wounding eleven, the Interior Ministry said.

    "'I've lost two of my colleagues,' said Yvon Bouvet, who heads a government team in the Champagne-Ardennes region that defuses explosives from both World War I and II. ...

    "Unexploded bombs become more dangerous with time, Bouvet said. 'With the corrosion inside, the weapon becomes more unstable, the detonator can be exposed.'" What is true of lingering bombs is also true of lingering anger. Buried anger will explode when we least expect it.

    Lingering anger breeds bitterness and resentment.

    Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

    A Christian’s Response to Anger

    The world’s way of dealing with anger is fighting back, getting what you deserve, and getting even. We must allow God to renew our minds in order to transform our world rather than conform to the world’s way of thinking.

    A reactionary seeks to change what has already happened. It is like trying to go back and change the past. It doesn’t work. We may learn from past experiences how to revolutionize our future, but we can’t change the past. The mistake we make is that our anger holds on to what has happened to us in the past; if it isn’t dealt with we will be forever chained to the past.

    Christians must help the world bear its burden of anger. We must use our anger against sin to motivate us to help the world bear its burden in a positive way. The following verses penned by the apostle Paul give us insight in how to go about building a better world. They are written to Christians to help them in their relationships, but universal application needed.

    Galatians 6:1-10
    6:1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.

    6 Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

    7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. NIV

    Here we discover the basic rules for building a better world. Paul is writing to the church but he reminds us of our responsibility to a world bearing the burden of sin as he admonishes "us to do good to all people."
     

  • Don’t overact to the failures of others. Instead, restore or seek to instruct those who are wrong in gentleness. Paul says, "if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." Remember when someone sins against you or anyone remember it is their burden. Try not to be offended when they seek to dump it on you. I try to do this by seeking to gain an understanding of where a person is coming from. This helps me understand the person.
  • Remember there are different stages of life that bring on problems. Try to understand where a person is coming from. When I reach their stage in life I might find myself acting the same way they are acting. When I reach that stage I hope someone helps me carry my burden.
     
  • We must watch ourselves lest we become tempted through the sin of another. Paul writes, "But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." The key to managing our lives is learning how not to fall into the same trap we are trying to get others out of by over reacting. It is important for us to keep a tight lid on our lives as we seek to guide the misbehaving person back to the right way. This may not be easy. This is especially true if the sin committed is against me.

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  • We must understand the need to bear the burden of others wrong doing against us in a Christ like manner. Paul writes, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." I shouldn’t try to dump the load back on another to see how they like it, but I must carry the load they dumped on me to fulfill Christ’s law. The burden of sin is too heavy for a person to bear alone. We need each other’s help to bear our burdens. The reason a person dumps his/her load on you is because it got too heavy for them to bear. Help them bear it! It will do you good. It will save their soul.
  • We must maintain the attitude of Christ’s forgiveness toward those who sin against us. Christ makes our burden light by his willingness to bear our burden of sin. This is true whether we are doing what is right or what is wrong. He bears our burden regardless. Our attitude must be the same as his.

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  • Don’t allow another’s burden to obscure your own burden. Paul writes, "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." We are only deceiving ourselves when we allow the sin of others to blind us to the sin in our own lives. Don’t allow their troubles make us feel superior. We might have a tendency to look down upon those who are failing. We may begin to think that we don’t deserve the abuse. But their failures and actions toward me do not enhance or diminish who we are. Paul writes, "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." I think this is Paul’s way of saying that we must remain level headed.
  • There is no need for us to develop a vengeful attitude because of the unfair treatment from others. There is nothing wrong with protecting ourselves, but vengeance belongs to God. Paul writes, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." In the vernacular Paul says, "Contrary to popular belief, life really is fair, God will see to it if we will only trust in his timing." God’s judgment against the person who does us wrong is sure, but it is measured out in such a way so as to bring the person to repentance due time. God has designed life in such a way to give each of us a chance to make our lives right. What could be fairer? So don’t spend your time trying to get even, bear the burden they have dumped on you and in God’s timing everything will be fine. God will see to it.
  • Remember it is easier to become angry if we allow ourselves to become weary in doing what is right. We may become weary as we wait upon God’s timing. Paul admonishes, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
  • To properly focus your anxious energy you must focus intently on your need to return good for evil. "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." This will lighten your burden and theirs and it will help to keep you from sinning. This will help God reach his goal in bringing the person to repentance. When that person comes to repentance everybody’s burden will be lifted.

  • Conclusion:

    The only way to change the past is to change the present.

    Channeling our anger in a godly direction will allow me to experience the power of God in my circumstances rather than becoming a victim of my circumstances.

    Remember that true change depends upon experiencing the character of God.

     

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