Tag Archives: anger

God wants me to be happy, not angry, and never to doubt? [False ideas Christians believe about…God’s desires for Christians. Part 4]

28 Mar
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

In 1 Timothy 3:12 we read that “all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Woah.  Maybe God doesn’t want us to be happy, and only cares about us becoming godly or holy, even if it takes us being persecuted? How are we to understand this?

Does God want us to be happy?  It sure seems like he would, right?

In this series of posts we’re fact-checking common phrases Christians believe, and in this post there are two phrase: “God isn’t interested in making you happy; he’s interested in making you holy.”  VERSUS “God always wants me to be happy.” Which is it? This takes some explaining.

First of all, God is most interested in our character, in our heart.  And sometimes going through trials is the way to get to our heart.  But as we have seen in previous posts in this series, the trials we go through are not necessarily from God.  The world is broken and fallen, and we will have troubles in this world.  God can redeem those struggles, though, as we strive to follow him in middle of our troubles.  And he promises that he will be with us always.  The result is that we do often grow in godliness during difficult times. 

But can we grow in holiness through joy and plenty and comfort?  Yes.  That’s why a life of spiritual practices and habits is so important.  God calls us to pursue practices like prayer, biblical meditation, silent listening, generosity, and disciple-making all the time, not matter if life is going great or if it is really difficult. 

So the phrase “God isn’t interested in making you happy” is wrong.  God DOES want us to be happy!

Remember the festivals in Deuteronomy?  God embedded happiness and celebration in the life of the nation of Israel.  Ecclesiastes talks about enjoying life.  Philippians says “Rejoice in the Lord always!”  And James 1:2-4, says “Consider it joy when you face trials of many kinds.”

It is very hard to feel joy in the middle of the pain. 

Is there a difference between happiness and joy?  Can we be joyful while being unhappy? 

Happiness is fleeting.  Joy is a choice.  It can be hard to distinguish the two.  Especially for those who struggle with anxiety.  “Consider it joy?”  This means that you can use your mind to control your emotions.   Happiness is an emotion, and emotions do not always tell you the truth.

So we need to remember verses like Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” 

The song “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns speaks to this when it envisions God saying to us, “if your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still, but if your eyes on the cross, you’ll know I always have and always will.”   

Isn’t that so similar to the lamenters in Psalms?  In the pain they turned and ran to the Lord rather than running away from him.  And when they ran to him, they brought all their pain and doubt and anger to him.

And that is a great lead-in to the next phrase we’re fact-checking:God is not OK with doubt and anger.

We’ve referred to James 1 already.  Take a look at verse 6.   “When he asks he must believe and not doubt”?  Wait, is doubt wrong?  And later in verse 19, “be slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.”  So doubt and anger are wrong?  Or are they?

Read the psalms, the laments.  In them you’ll find gut-wrenching doubt and anger.  Raw pain. 

That means we can also declare that this is a false idea.  God is absolutely okay with doubt and anger. 

Saying that God is not okay with doubt is potentially dangerous, making it seem like a good Christian should never struggle with doubt. There is a sense in which God doesn’t want us to doubt.  He wants us to trust in him.   We should have faith in him.  But even then, we have to remember the promise of 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, he is faithful for he cannot disown himself.”

In Mark 9:17, we read a fascinating story that relates to doubt.  The disciples were trying to cast a demon out of a boy, but to no avail.  The father of the boy brought him to Jesus to help.

Notice the father’s response to Jesus: “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” We all doubt, and we all get angry.  Remember that there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God.  But God’s gracious love for us should also not be an excuse to just stay in our doubt or anger.  Instead, God’s grace should motivate us, make us grateful, to trust in him and allow our anger to subside.  If you have an anger problem that keeps popping up, and you can’t control it, I urge you to get professional help.  It’s not okay to be angry and damage people. 

How to defeat temptation and discontentment – Luke 4:1-14

28 Jan

temptationIs there a certain area of your life where you regularly feel discontent?

Consider doing what Jesus did. Create a game plan to attack the temptation of discontent when it arises:

  • Step 1 – Choose a small portion that addresses the temptation.
  • Step 2 – Memorize it.
  • Step 3 – Review it over and over. Have it at the ready.
  • Step 4 – When you feel tempted or discontent, recite the verse.

This is exactly what Jesus did when he was tempted!

Let me give you a couple examples about how this might work in life:

Have a struggle with speaking out of attacking anger? Hurt others with your words? What are some scripture verses you could memorize that specifically address anger? When you are feeling that desire, that temptation within you to be angry, you can go back to that Scripture, quote it, and fight temptation! How about 1 Peter 3:8?: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Maybe your struggle is lust? Pornography? You could memorize Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Do you gossip? Slander? Talking about other people makes us feel better about ourselves…temporarily maybe, but it is so damaging to relationships. Proverbs has a bunch of verses that might strengthen you. Take a look at Proverbs 11:13: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

How about jealousy? Or discontentment that manifests itself with overspending? Hebrews 13:5 is a great one: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.”

But know this, quoting Scripture like Jesus did is not a Harry Potter magic spell that wipes out the temptation and makes life easy.

It can take practice. You might fail. The temptation could feel strong. The temptation might be within you, (as John reminds us: the flesh, pride of life, lust of eyes). You may be fighting yourself. It could be a tough battle that may go on and on multiple times over multiple days, months and years.

But keep fighting.

At the end of How Much Land Does a Man Need, Pahom, like I said, has made it back to his start post by sundown. But he had gone so far out, though, that after a long day of walking many miles, he needed to run the last few miles to make it back in time. He had to overexert himself.

As he made it back to the starting stake, with the sun going down, he reached his hand out, touched the stake, and fell on ground. Not just from exhaustion. He fell on the ground not in joy, not in relief, not in excitement. He fell dead of a heart attack.

In the end the only land he received was that space needed to bury him.

But Pahom’s fate does not have to be our fate.  Jesus shows us his way.  We can fight temptation with the Word of God, and we can fight it by depending on the Spirit to fill that emptiness. Unlike Pahom, we can learn to be content in the Spirit.

Though he is the son of God, Jesus is content to depend on the Spirit. Jesus is knowing and employing the Word of God. He could have used his own power, but instead he is an example for us. If we defeat temptation, it will not be on our own power. Depend on Spirit, employ the Bible.

Flipping out, Losing it, Going off, and other generally mean things

17 Aug

Sometimes people are hard to deal with.

Six or seven years ago we had an outdoor concert in the grass field behind our church.  Featuring our praise band playing on a flatbed trailer, it was something we had not done in recent years, and we were excited about it.

A few days before the concert, I was out one afternoon distributing door hangers in neighborhoods near the church.  One of those neighborhoods is sandwiched between rental communities.  Interestingly, the homes in the neighborhood look very similar to the homes in the rental community, and it can be hard to tell where one starts and the other stops.  This is a key distinction because while it is legal to put up door hangers in the neighborhood, the rental community has a no solicitation rule.

From the direction I was walking, I did not see the rental community sign that mentioned this rule.  I got about 20-30 door hangers out illegally before a man came rushing out of his house yelling at me from across the parking lot: “You’re not allowed to do that!  Didn’t you see the sign?  No solicitation here!”

You know how your body can heat up very fast when someone confronts you harshly?  Yeah…

Why did he have to be so mean?  He wasn’t wrong about holding me to the law.  He correctly interpreted and applied the law.  He was also right about bringing it to my attention.  But did that give him the right to be unkind and mean?

I wonder what was going on in his life, in his history, that led him to react that way?

Have you ever been mean like that?  I have.  Way too often.  My guess is that many of you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve lost it.  Or people have been very unkind to you.  The stories abound.

We can unload on Facebook.  We can go off on persistent telemarketers or customer service reps from another country who have accents that are difficult to understand.  We scream at the TV.  We yell at family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

As we prepare to study the next few characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit, gentleness, kindness, and goodness, I wonder if you might think through why we can be so unkind, so mean, so hurtful?  And if you’d like, let’s discuss it a bit here before the sermon tomorrow.  I’ll also share how my story with the angry man ended!