This morning we are back in the Book of James. We are still in the First Chapter, in verses 13-21. We have talked about:
1. Acknowledge The Danger of Temptation (1:13-15)
2. Appreciate The Goodness of God (1:16-18)
Now we are ready to see that James tells us to:
3. Avoid the Appeal of Anger (1:19-20)
James says, "But everyone…" It's important to note that these three guidelines in this verse apply to every person. Isn't our tendency to come up with reasons why we are the exception? Don't we tend to expect more of others, relationally? Don't we tend to focus on the shortcomings of others in relationships rather than our own? But God, through James says "everyone".
The first thing James tells us to do to avoid anger is:
The second thing James tells us is to:
It's interesting that James particularly highlighted anger as a bad habit that we need to break. The context here is relationships. There are few attitudes that will cause more problems in relationships than uncontrolled anger.
You're less likely to get angry if you realize there's always a cost to anger. Any time you loose your temper there's a price tag. Every time you get angry there is a cost.... The point is this, you always lose when you lose your temper. You lose the respect of other people. You may lose the love of people you love most. You may lose the love of your children if you get angry at them too often. You may lose your job due to an uncontrolled temper."
There are over 500 references to anger and its synonyms (angry, wrath, rage, fury) in the Bible. A great source of teaching in the Bible on anger is the book of Proverbs. Read through chapters 14-31 and underline every reference you can find on this subject.
There are 3 great verses about anger in Ephesians. Maybe you will recall these verses from our last study.
One writer told a story on herself that illustrates this. She said: "I have found that if I don't have my quiet time each morning, I tend to lose my temper over insignificant things. Recently, my son, Andrew, reminded me of the need for daily prayer. He had accidentally spilled his drink and I went into a tirade. Andrew ended my harsh words when he quietly asked, "Mom, did you forget to ask Jesus to help you be nice today?"
Who makes you angry?
Situations and other people cannot make you angry. No matter what anyone around you does, they cannot make you angry. You create your own anger...You and I have 3 choices for our anger:
We need to recognize that anger is our enemy and to be managed and avoided.
Then James tells us to:
4. Abandon the Rest of Sin
But sometimes there are "little", hidden areas of sin in our lives that we've never really dealt with. The sense of this verse seems to be to root out these sinful practices.
There's a great little booklet called My Heart, Christ's Home. This is an excerpt from a devotional classic which compares the human heart to a home, with different rooms representing various parts of our life - e.g. the kitchen represents our fleshly appetites, the study represents our mind, and so on. This section concerns "The Hall Closet". The writer has invited Jesus to live in her house (really her life.)
The Hall Closet:
As soon as he said this I knew what he was talking about. Indeed there was a small closet up there on the hall landing, just a few feet square. In that closet behind lock and key I had one or two little personal things I did not want anybody to know about. Certainly I did not want Christ to see them. They were dead and rotting things leftover from the old life--not wicked, but not right and good to have in a Christian life. Yet I loved them. I wanted them so much for myself I was really afraid to admit they were there. Reluctantly I went up the stairs with him and as we mounted, the odor became stronger and stronger. He pointed at the door and said, "It's in there! Some dead thing!"
It made me angry! That's the only way I can put it. I had given him access to the study, the dining room, the living room, the workroom, the rec room, the bedroom and now he was asking me about a little two-by-four closet. I said to myself, "This is too much! I am not going to give him the key."
"Well," he responded, reading my thoughts, "if you think I am going to stay up here on the second floor with this smell, you are mistaken. I will take my bed out on the back porch or somewhere else. I'm certainly not going to stay around that." And I saw him start down the stairs.
When you have come to know and love Jesus Christ, one of the worst things that can happen is to sense him withdrawing his face and fellowship. I had to give in. "I'll give you the key," I said sadly, "but you'll have to open the closet and clean it out. I haven't the strength to do it."
"I know," he said. "I know you haven't. Just give me the key. Just authorize me to handle that closet and I will." So, with trembling fingers, I passed the key over to him. He took it from my hand, walked over to the door, opened it, entered it, took out the putrefying stuff that was rotting there and threw it all away. Then he cleansed the closet, painted it and fixed it up all in a moment's time. Immediately a fresh, fragrant breeze swept through the house. The whole atmosphere changed. What release and victory to have that dead thing out of my life! No matter what sin or what pain there might be in my past, Jesus is ready to forgive, to heal and to make whole.
This is the second reference to the Word of God in this passage. Listen to what each of these phrases tell us about God's Word?
This passage has taught us much about the work God is doing within us to help us become more and more like Jesus. It's important for us to understand that this is God's purpose and plan for us, that we be like Jesus. Our desire is for our comfort; His desire is for us to behave like Jesus.
This fits with the context of these verses. Remember, James started by talking about the trials and adversity we will all experience.
Author and speaker Tony Campolo tells this story:
I was in a church in Oregon not too long ago, and I prayed for a man who had cancer. In the middle of the week, I got a telephone call from his wife. She said, "You prayed for my husband. He had cancer." I said, "Had?" Whoa, I thought, it's happened.
"He died," she said, and I felt terrible.
She continued, "Don't feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn't take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence. After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We've sung. We've laughed. We've read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they've been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.
And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, "He wasn't cured, but he was healed."
That's a great principle for all of us to remember. God may not "cure" the difficulties of our lives but, if we let Him, He will "heal" us of all our ungodly attitudes.
...we will be studying James 1:22-27, looking at the attributes of a disciple of Jesus.
So read James 1:22-27, to see what James says about what we should be like as a representative of Jesus.