We’re not talking about a little grumpiness before your morning coffee. Problematic anger steals your happiness, robs you of good health, and makes you more destructive than productive.
In the last four posts we’ve learned to search for the true cause of our anger, to identify it as a good or a bad thing in each instance, and to turn anger to our advantage. We’ve seen how a Christian can dispel that anger by being obedient to Christ. And more.
Today, let’s focus on a malevolent trick our minds can play on us, using anger destructively.
When Mister or Missus “pain-in-my-backside” has me really steamed, I can’t seem to think about anything, except for what he or she has done to bring my ire to the boiling point. I rehearse it over and over in my mind, and become more upset by the minute, building that negative force until it blows a blood vessel, or, I do or say something stupid. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. The more I dwell on it, the worse it gets. Sound familiar?
We know forgiveness is the cure for this malady. But who wants to think about forgiving, when we’re relishing angry thoughts? Oh, we can have some real criminal strategies play out in our vengeful fantasies. It may begin with thinking of something witty we’d like to have said, which would've really put Mr. Blankety-blank right in his place! Then it escalates to something worse, and before long a devilish grin spreads across our face. Doesn’t sound very Christ-like, does it? Of course not.
However, we can fool ourselves into thinking this type of mental rehearsal is making us feel better, when actually, it merely serves to exacerbate the problem and further addict us to irrational anger. Both bad and good habits are easy to form, so we need to train ourselves to do the right thing. Every action we take, begins in our thoughts. Study the following verse well.
Philippians 4:8 NLT “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Training our minds to remain focused all that is good and positive takes diligent effort. So once we begin to address the issue, it’s best to pray for supernatural assistance. God will help. We can dump every negative thought that vies for space in our consciousness. The Holy Spirit will help us remember what we’ve set out to accomplish, and He will empower us to do it well. This includes forgiving offenders, and treating them with love. Suddenly, you’ll begin to catch yourself when you start heading down the wrong thought paths. Then, you can deliberately change the course of those thoughts, by replacing them with good ones.
Health and happiness are restored to our lives when we surrender our thought-life to Christ, and when we allow Him to bring us into His wisdom, and into His peaceful and glorious serenity.
1. Trust that Jesus’ way is the best way.
2. Honestly talk to God about it, and commit to putting forth every effort to think only good thoughts. Ask for His help.
3. Forgive everyone and treat them with love, including yourself.
4. Be deliberate about controlling your thoughts, and have good thoughts ready to replace the bad ones.
P.S. I had promised a summary and easy to use list for overcoming anger after post #4. It's still on the way and will be the final post an anger.
Problem Anger or a Theocentric Life
It's a choice.
There’s a boat load of scriptures that speak of God’s righteous wrath and of His anger, so naturally we can surmise that anger has a divine purpose to it. Yet scripture also tells us to get rid of anger. Is this a do as I say, and not as I do situation? By no means!
Studying these scriptures on anger more fully, we find that God commands us to turn away from several “types” of anger, all of which are based in satisfying ourselves, in pride, arrogance and disobedience to God. We should be angry at evil and at sin. We need to hate it just as God does.
Problem anger stems from an egocentric outlook. It’s a self-centered attitude and mind-set. But when we come to faith in Christ, we leave self behind. We gain a theocentric perspective (God centered).
Luke 9:23, “Then he (Jesus) said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
We die to ourselves so that we may life for Christ. It is virtually impossible to simultaneously live a life of self-denial and have problem anger and rage.
It’s a tough problem to have. How can we be rescued from a life that is constantly being robbed of happiness and contentment, because of anger over all the unfair things in the world? Or anger over another person’s idiocy and insensitivity? What can we do—what’s the solution?
The first thing we do is to surrender our rights to Christ. That’s the first step in denying self. We are not actually losing our rights when we give them up. We are merely trusting them to Christ Jesus. When we relinquish control of our lives to God, were saying that he is now responsible for those rights. And there’s nobody better to trust with your rights than God!
Yes, there will still be irritants, but now we won’t have to allow them to get under our skin so much. We know that God sees all and will work everything out for our good.
If someone steps on your right to anything, whether it be your right to privacy, to peace and quiet, or simply your right to be treated with respect, they haven’t taken the right from you, they’ve taken it from God. Because He now holds your rights, and you are a part of Him now.
The well-known serenity prayer helps us combat our anger issues. It refocuses our attention on God instead of trying to demand control of the situation. You remember it right?
“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Next time we'll condense the practical steps to overcome anger into an easy to use list. And we'll discuss dangerously rehearsing in your mind, that situation which stirred your anger.
On August 24th 2014 in Texas, two young boys were helping push a pick-up truck off the roadway when a drunk driver plowed into both of them. Understandably, their father was enraged. He has now been cleared of murdering the drunk driver who struck his boys. However, most people thought he had done it. Why? Because we are all familiar with what rage can do to us!
Whether our anger is a righteous and good anger or an irrational destructive anger, we can use it in the wrong way. Naturally that means there’s a right way to utilize anger as well. What did Jesus do with His rage at the vendors in the temple? (John 2:14-16)
First, He did not act immediately. He sat down and braided a whip, a scourge of cords. That had to take a little time to do. Obviously, Jesus had time to think over the correct course of action. In this instance he revealed His authority by driving the uncouth merchants from the temple, who were turning a place of worship into a profitable enterprise.
Remember the old tactic for controlling anger: “First count to one-hundred”. That’s a good idea, but while were counting we need to be considering what our anger is really all about and if in fact it is a righteous or an irrational anger.
If I had a child killed by a drunk driver I’d be angry too, and with good cause. What about the mothers who’ve lost children to drunk drivers? Some of them got together and formed an organization which has done a lot of good. “Mothers against Drunk Drivers” or MADD, has brought the problem of drinking and driving to the attention of the entire world. And as a result, many laws have been passed to help fight the problem. They used that angry energy to do something about the problem.
Anger creates within us a surge of energy. We can harness and then channel that concentrated force into a productive power. We can use it for something good, instead of for destruction.
1. Stop and think
2. Assess the true cause of your anger
3. Pray about it
4. Harness the energy of anger
5. Form a plan
What can I do about recurring, problem anger? Too bad we can’t simply take an anti-anger pill and let all that negative force just melt into peace and happiness. But the good news is: There is a cure! Don’t forget Jesus came so that we could have peace and joy—sublime happiness!
When we surrender to God’s will by obeying His word and following His Spirit within, we find a cure all. A panacea for all our rage, hostility and frustration.
Okay I agree, that sounds too much like a pat, spiritually correct answer and not enough how-to help. So let’s break it down in a way we can apply it to real world difficulties. But first we have to see what the Lord’s word says.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
Forgiveness is the cure. We need to forgive others. But how can a mere mortal accomplish things that only Jesus was able to do? Are you a mere mortal? Doesn’t the Spirit of the living God reside within you? As a baptized believer, fully surrendered to Christ, isn’t He a part of you now? This is where faith does its most supernatural work!
If you’ve followed me for long, you’ll know I often describe faith as “Belief in action”. Faith is acting upon what we believe, or at least believing with the implication that action based upon that belief will follow.
Jesus preached that if we hope to be forgiven we are to forgive each other. I can’t forgive an enemy all by my lonesome, but in God’s power I can. I must believe in His power, and in His willingness to exert that power in my behalf.
Here’s what it looks like in action. I’m irritated, frustrated and steaming hot towards this one guy. He’s just so smug about it all! I can’t even look at him without blowing a fuse. So I go to the Lord and first ask Him to forgive me for my anger. It doesn’t matter that the other guy is in the wrong. I must seek the Lord in each individual situation that angers me.
“Lord I don’t want to be angry but I am. Please forgive me, take this anger away. I know I’m supposed to forgive so-and-so. I don’t feel forgiveness towards him, but I’m willing. So right now I’m going to speak it. I forgive Mister so-and-so. Now help me treat him in the right way, with love, just as you have commanded.”
Is that it? Are we done yet? Not quite. We have to follow up on what we said we were going to do. Here’s where we become amazed, because the Holy Spirit will enable us (give us the power) to be obedient. The next time I see so-and-so, I deliberately treat him just as if I felt love for him.
You know that old Christian expression, “Watch God work”? Well too many folks think that means we do nothing and God does it all. That’s dead wrong. We step out in faith and treat that guy with love. True, God is the one who is doing it through us. And we are going to be absolutely joyful, exuberant and bursting with happiness over the results.
Now let’s take it up a notch and really tap into the power of God! Start praying for Mister so-and-so. Prepare to have goose pimples, because God is going to pour His Spirit into that situation and change it, heal it and turn everything around for good. And you will be healed of your anger, because you acted in faith and obeyed God.
There is a whole lot more to discuss and some great tools to use in combatting anger. But we want to take small bites and digest it well. More next time.
One of the most common complaints among people I’ve counselled is difficulty controlling anger. Or, irrational anger.
Anger has been touted as the path to destruction, as well as a powerful force for good and righteousness. So what’s the determining factors in whether it’s a good anger or a bad anger in each particular episode?
Obviously the results of our anger is a good place to start. Did something good come from it, or was it simply a terrible experience we’d prefer to forget about? What did we do with that anger? But even more importantly, what was the real reason we became angry?
Delineating the cause of personal anger is the first step in discovering if it is a healthy and good thing in each instance, or if we are simply digging our own grave. Why are we angry? Not simply the obvious problem, person or circumstance that brought anger to the surface, but the true underlying causes, are what we hope to unmask.
Self-awareness is vital for discovering causes for anger, resulting in gaining control over that anger. Yet, many times it’s from a sub-conscious level that anger springs. Have you ever verbally snapped at someone or answered them harshly for no apparent reason? Then we get down on ourselves and bear a load of guilt for doing so. You see, many times anger is born of other emotions we have felt and stored away as a result of how someone made us feel in the past. Perhaps that person is much better at a particular thing than we are, and that made us feel “less-than”. Now in the present when that person shines, we react in anger. And we just can’t understand why that other person’s success irritates us so much. Understanding what we are angry about is key to controlling whether or not we become angry in the first place.
We realize that anger is a powerful emotion which must be controlled. Uncontrolled anger is irrational anger. If we find ourselves unable to control what we say and do when we are angry, that is a good indication that this anger goes on the negative side of the ledger.
Yet also important is what anger is doing inside us. It increases blood pressure and exacerbates stress levels, creating all sorts of health maladies. So even if not acted upon (what I call semi-controlled), anger can be a life killing monster on the inside of our bodies and souls. And it steals off with our happiness. Just because nobody knows about our anger but us, does not negate its destructive capabilities.
1. Study what happened as a result of your anger, each time, and see if good or bad things came.
2. Study your past experiences with each person/circumstance etc. which draws out your anger. Think of how you felt and why you felt that way.
3. Ask God to show you the truth about yourself, and pray for His peace to settle you.
In the next post we’ll dig a little deeper into the causes for anger, only, from a spiritual and biblical perspective. And we’ll discover some tools to help us grow in this area of life.
Like a lot of Christians I’ve asked the same question. “Why me Lord?” God’s answer is amazing and wonderful.
“Because you are special to me!”
For I reckon that sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Roman 8:18 KJV)
Is life getting tough? Sometimes we’re tempted to question why God would allow His loved ones to go through such difficulty. But of this we can be absolutely certain: He loves you very much and He has His reasons.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1st Peter 4:12 NIV)
God doesn’t want us to be confused over this. That’s why we are forewarned that suffering will come. Hardships are necessary, or God would not permit them. Several of His reasons are cited in scripture. And those indicated purposes are multiple. First is the growth of our faith. And the strengthening and shaping of our Christ-like character. He tests and proves our faith so that one day all others will see His work in us. Also, hardships teach us to depend on the Lord and trust Him implicitly through every circumstance.
Yet we can take joy in knowing that one day there will be no more tears, no pain, and no sorrow. And the difficulties we endure in the here-and-now will seem as nothing someday. “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” (2nd Cor. 4:17 Holman CSB) We will shine with a glory unrealized in any earthly realm today! God is creating beauty and splendor in us. One day he will lift you up to showcase you before all of creation. “Look what I have created in this glorious soul!”
“…You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. (21) A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (22) So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20b-22 NIV)
For now, there’s great comfort in God’s promises. We know that He’s already explained as much as we are able to understand. Sure, there’s a lot more to God’s reasoning. But His mind dwarfs the greatest genius minds of all the ages. If the Lord were to explain any further than what He already has, we’d be completely incapable of comprehending it. Sufficient is our knowledge of His great love for all mankind, His omniscient wisdom, and His omnipotent ability to carry out His divine plan. Add to that our faith in God's trustworthiness to keep His promises, and we can face anything. Christ in us continues to suffer with us. He is with us every step of the way.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28 NIV)
After one of our often spirited debates, a certain relative by marriage asked me to write an article on how someone can be a good person regardless of their faith, or lack thereof. As an agnostic with atheistic leanings I believe he, like many folks today, feel that they are good people. And by the world’s standard of what is good, he is correct.
As I pondered covering such a topic, I was rather loathe to do so, having had my own heart revealed to me in the light of God’s glory. I’m fully persuaded that every person on earth is quite flawed. However, after checking with the big boss upstairs, He’s disclosed the door to enlightenment which such a discussion can present.
As humans it would be quite offensive to say, “You are not a good person”. It goes against what we believe. And of course the prospect that we are not good people is repulsive. It just down right makes us feel bad. In fact if you tell a person they are not good, their response might reveal the truth of the statement.
I don’t like to see Christians acting unwisely and unkindly towards those who disagree with them. It is necessary for me to acknowledge that atheists and agnostics can be very nice people, charitable, and have a good sense of morality. There is no denying mankind’s capacity for doing good works separate from a belief and trust in God. That is a result of an innate awareness of good and evil (God consciousness), an inherent knowledge of good and evil which mankind received in the Garden of Eden. But to me that’s never really been an issue. By my fleshly perceptions atheists can be very good people.
Christians are not better than non-Christians based on their own merit. We understand that we are in need of God’s grace like all other people. But God views those who are saved differently than those who are not. Because the righteousness of Christ covers the redeemed. Note that it’s Jesus’ righteousness that makes me good in God’s eyes. Yet God loves all people regardless of their lack of faith. Christ died for my sins before I even committed them. Faith in and obedience to the Lord has to do with the restoration of mankind’s relationship with God, not His love for mankind. God loves you very much! But He must remain true to His nature of holiness and justice, because He is the epitome of good.
I do believe that a Christian’s motivation to do what is good becomes greater because of their love for God. They receive joy by pleasing Him. Their capacity for goodness is aided by the power of God sanctifying the individual. Therefore the Christian has a distinct advantage over the non-Christian for doing good, because they are following the one who is perfectly good.
I do however, feel that when a non-believer comes to faith in Christ, that their capacity for love, and ability to perform good works becomes exponentially greater than before. They would then have the capability to be a better person than they ever thought possible. This, due to the enlightenment they’d receive by contrasting their goodness with that of the pure holiness they’d see in God. But mostly by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who would then dwell within them. We must remember, it is God’s power at work within believers that makes them different. Therefore no Christian can boast of being good and doing good. It is God who does it.
However, let’s look at the difficulty with our perceptions of goodness from an earthly viewpoint.
Though I’m only five foot eight, God has blessed me with a great deal of physical strength. Pound for pound, I felt as though I was one of the strongest men around. Back then, my schedule allowed me to hit the gym in the middle of the day on weekdays. It was the time of day when the place was sparsely populated. Then I started coming in on Saturdays too, and the place would be packed. Making some friends, I found several guys who all weighed the same as me (within about five pounds). Was I ever in for an education!
A lot of them were stronger than me—most by just a little. But Jack was extraordinary.
My eyes must have been bugging out of my head when I first witnessed his strength. After each three repetition set on the bench press, he jumped up and added two more forty-five pound plates, clanging the steel disks together. On his last set, he pressed five hundred fifty pounds for eight repetitions! Back then my one rep maximum was about 300 pounds.
On every exercise, including dead lifts, squats and curls, he could lift twice the amount that I could lift. And do more repetitions. Compared to Jack I was not very strong at all, and he was the same size as me. What amazed me even more was what he said.
“I’m not very strong compared to some other guys I know. They’re about the same size as us, and they can put me to shame!” I went home a humbled man that day.
But this story as an analogy can’t hold a candle to the vast expanse between the goodness of Homo-sapiens and the perfect paradigm of God’s goodness. The best person in the world pales in contrast with God’s purity and holiness.
It’s not all that difficult to be good enough for the world. The world’s standard is much lower than God’s standard. I think we’ve all heard, “Nobody’s perfect”. There’s lots of faithless humanitarians and do-gooders out there who spend themselves for the sake of others. And they accomplish countless good things. Only an idiot would say that you have to have faith to do good things and be considered a good person by the rest of the world. But that’s only the physical or natural world, which many times cannot even perceive its own corruption. Yes deeply egregious evils we recognize, but to God, the slightest flaw is egregious, because it introduces impurity. Though housed in a physical body we are also spiritual beings, we do not cease to exist once fleshly life ends.
God will hold us up in comparison to His righteousness. If there is the slightest flaw in us, then we are not fit to be in His holy presence. That’s why we need a Savior. As a Christian, I believe God when He says to trust in Christ Jesus alone to make me fit to be in His presence. There is not a perfect person on earth. And if we are not perfect then we won’t make the cut.
All the good works in the world won’t make a shred of difference in our admittance to eternal life in God’s loving presence. The kindest, the nicest and the most loving person on earth is not good enough. There is no way to earn salvation. The only escape from God’s wrath against sin is the way He has provided for us. It is by faith in the sacrifice He has made of His Son Jesus, to pay our fine for us.
God’s law states that the penalty for sin (being less than perfect) is death. But God can legally dismiss our case because He’s paid the penalty in our behalf.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Notice the severity of God’s judgment. Directly followed by His loving provision to negate the harshness of such judgment. The escape from being judged by the standard of His perfection is a gift. It is received by accepting His gift in faith that God will honor His word. He then imputes the righteousness of His Son Jesus to us. In a sense, we borrow Christ’s perfection to gain acceptance. When our Savior returns He shall complete and perfect us so that we may dwell with Him forever.
By God’s standard none of us are good. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23) Yet, He wants to be with us, because He is a God not only of law and justice, but also of mercy and love. The next verse (24) completes the sentence of Romans 3:23, and reveals the other side of God’s nature.
“(23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
He has redeemed us from the death penalty that is upon all people. And because none are perfect by God’s standard, His love demanded He provide a way to save us. Then, when Christ returns, the redeemed will receive a new spiritual body, an eternal body which is no longer prone to sin and imperfection. We will be truly good as God created us in the first place, before disobedience, or sin entered the picture. Perfect and good—God’s kind of good.
By all means, to the best of your ability, continue to be good and to do what is good. Be a nice person and a kind, charitable and loving person. But don’t depend on your own goodness to save your soul from damnation. Accept the gift.
The more a person comes to discern spiritual truth the more they realize how far off the mark they actually are. Each year, God progressively reveals more things in me that need to change, as I strive for His standard of perfection.
I’d like to say I’m a good man. But I cannot do so in good conscience, because I know God.
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
(Scripture References are from the New International Version)
It was the kind of problem that would cause a man a great deal of embarrassment if the church he attended were to find out. But it’s actually a common problem for many Christians today.
He’d always been a nice guy, and kind to people. So, Marty was completely on-board with the love-your-neighbor thing. It was his weakness for beautiful women that was too powerful of an attraction. And he knew that lusting for their bodies was not love. Yet it was so deeply ingrained within his soul that it proved to be a powerful adversary.
Ten years after becoming a Christian he’d catch himself looking and lusting. Each time, he’d repent and confess and God forgave him. But the problem persisted.
One day after reading Romans chapter seven, Marty learned that being saved doesn’t mean we’ll no longer have problems with the flesh. Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, has made provision for all that we need to live the kind of lives that are pleasing to Him. The gift of His Holy Spirit living inside every believer exerts the power of God for that purpose, as the eighth chapter of Romans revealed to Marty.
“Lord please forgive me. I need your help to overcome this. I want to be obedient, but I need your power to do it. Show me what to do.”
Mining deeper, he pulled exemplary tools for success from God’s word.
Marty had been fighting in his own strength; attempting to conger up enough will-power to quit his habit, but the flesh has no power in spiritual matters.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 NIV)
Finally, he put his faith to work in this dilemma. Christ is our champion. Our determined friend realized that it’s our faith in Jesus’ power to overcome, which applies His might to our struggles.
Secondly, he’d never fully “set” his affections on Christ and on righteousness. Sure, Marty loved God, but he also still loved the things of the world. He loved sex.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1 NIV)
Focusing on godliness as his ultimate objective, he began to love Jesus above all else. Which became a compelling force, driving him to obedience.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”—Jesus
Turning the radio to a Christian station one day, a preacher was talking about “The Battlefield of the Mind”.
God revealed to our struggling friend that these battles with lust were being waged in his mind. And he must protect it from evil influence. There were many television shows Marty had to quit watching, and pictures to stop looking at, and stories and jokes to stop listening to. They were bombarding his eyes and ears with sexual stimuli.
“…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.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
He began filling his mind with all the good things of God.
The Lord then led a Christian friend to talk to Marty. Whenever a beautiful woman came around, Marty was to try and view her through God’s eyes, as God sees her. Suddenly, he found himself praying for nearly every woman he saw. He became concerned for their eternal salvation. Jesus’ love flowed through him.
In doing these things, the habit of sexual lust was squashed. It had no more power over him.
Today, Marty leads a Christian recovery group for those who are battling sexual addictions.
So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.—Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:25)
Solomon had asked God for wisdom and became wiser than any other king on earth. There’s no disputing the vast stores of wisdom he amassed, much of which is recorded in the bible. But Solomon did not always act wisely.
Going against God’s design for monogamous marriage is certainly not wise. Did Solomon actually think he could marry 300 women and have 700 more hot babes on the side and there would be no negative consequences? No strife and no difficulties? He knew the danger of being led astray by courting foreign women. God had warned against this. Yet the playboy King had lots of lovers of various descent. He was playing with fire and he knew it. The allure of using that kingly power for indulging in sexual escapades with beautiful women was too great to resist. He sowed unto the flesh and reaped a whirlwind of heartache because of it.
The canonical book of Proverbs stands as a strong warning against foolishness and wickedness and folly. It poignantly proclaims the riches of godliness and wisdom. Keeping a diary, recording the lessons we learn as we go through life is profoundly profitable. And once a person suffers the consequences of a bad decision in one of those life-events, nobody can rightly say that he is not qualified to speak on the issue, whatever it may be.
I’m picturing Solomon recording life-happenings as a very young fellow, learning through sundry experiences—sometimes the hard way.
Maybe one of his journal entries read something like this. “Note to self: ‘Don’t pull on a dog’s ears unless you want to get bit. It is foolish to do so.”
Perhaps somewhere along the line Solomon meddled in someone else’s arguments and difficulties, which had nothing to do with him. Ending up embroiled in a mess he could have avoided by minding his own business, he would have learned another valuable lesson. So he uses both incidents to write one of my favorites.
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” Proverbs 26:17 (NIV)
Whichever way Solomon learned these two pearls of wisdom, I’m glad he records those warnings for us. So that we can heed his counsel and learn the easy way, not having to make those mistakes ourselves. I’m certain that Thomas Edison was scoffed at and ridiculed for goofing around trying to invent the light bulb after thousands of failures. But through a process of elimination he was finally successful. Now, we don’t have to try all those things that don’t work to make a light bulb, because he’s already found out for us what does not work.
I remember a certain pastor who scoffed at another minister for counselling a young married couple in marital affairs. He said the man was not qualified to give counsel on marriage because he’d been through a divorce. Of course that was long before he’d been called to the ministry. Who in their right mind would go to a divorcee for marital advice? I would. Why? Because that man has made the mistakes and knows what to not do! Besides, if he is a spirit-led minister, God would be directing him on how to counsel others. And God knows all things.
So how do we gain wisdom? What does the bible have to say about it?
James 1:4 lays the ground work for verse 5, which speaks of wisdom.
“And let endurance (patience) have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.…”
Notice the element of time in gaining wisdom. That time, accounts for good decisions which bring favorable outcomes, as well poor choices resulting in bad happenings. The words endurance in the NIV and patience in the KJV, both require the element of time to be perfected. And whether one learns them through mistakes or otherwise, the important thing is that we have learned them.
Patient endurance while trusting God is the road to wisdom.
Remaining steadfast in faith while patiently enduring all that life throws at us, in conjunction with seeking the Lord’s mind on every issue, is the path to godly wisdom.
I think each of us probably has a regret or two and have learned a few things the hard way, whether it was rushing into a bad marriage, discovering that fire will burn you, or any number of things. So, let’s not discount others because of past mistakes or failures. They may have experiences which we can benefit from, just as Solomon made his share of bad choices. Yet we learn much from his writings.
Gaining wisdom is a process—one in which we can be proactively engaged. Let’s review what we’ve discussed and latch ahold of the keys to wisdom. But this is not an exhaustive list!
1. Ask God for wisdom and heed His counsel. ie: Obey Him.
2. Keep a journal of things you’ve learned and how you’ve come to understand them.
3. Study God’s word, the bible.
4. Maintain humility: Have a teachable spirit.
5. Be patient and understand that it takes the element of time.
6. Learn from your mistakes.
7. Every person in your life has something to contribute to your wisdom.
Lord willing, next time we'll ask and answer the question: What is it that I am supposed to endure?
A True Account
The witch doctor shrieked like a wild banshee, throwing his head around in circles as the beads on his ornamented headdress rattled. Then looked again into Tafadzwa’s eyes to confirm his diagnoses of the 30 year-old patient.
“What do you see great one?” Tafadzwa asked in a shaky voice.
“Death. There is death in your eyes. You will surely die!”
The poor Shona tribesman’s entire body went limp with shock. Fear gripped his heart like a living fire, beginning in his stomach and consuming every vital organ. All strength ebbed from his body. His words were but a whisper.
“How long do I have?”
“It is up to the ngozi. He is the evil spirit of the one you have offended. The ngozi is very angry and has come to exact retribution.”
The Shaman or “n’anga” wielded a mighty influence over the Shona tribes of Zimbabwe. And was believed to be gifted with supernatural abilities to heal, to tell the future or to curse a person. But the Christian missionaries sent to preach the gospel to the Shona people, and to offer them medical assistance, knew this to be nonsense.
The two missionaries, Jim and Jeanne, examined Tafadzwa, who now lay on a mat in his shabby hut. Trained in nursing, Jeanne gave him a clean bill of health. Physically, there was nothing wrong with the man. But he believed he was dying.
The next morning the couple went to check on the distraught native. They found him sitting on the ground with his back pressed against a huge baobab tree. He was dead. But his eyes remained wide open, as if in terror.
It was a year later when Jim and Jeanne spoke with doctors who confirmed the possibility of actually dying, simply on the belief that death was imminent. In fact, three other cases of death by a person’s own mind had been documented.
“The mind is a powerful thing.” They were told.
These two Christian missionaries related the story to me. They are my parents.
As Christians, it is vitally important to guard our thoughts, and to diligently protect what goes into our minds. Stimulus, suggestion, and callousing are constant threats against our fortresses of thought. The mind is much more impressionable than any of us would care to admit. Especially when we think it is not.
It is our mind’s belief in Jesus which saves us, and ushers us into eternal life. A healthy thought life is a nurturing spring of vibrant spiritual health. Thoughts that are uplifting, loving and grateful are like rich nutrients to the soul. Whereas negative, bitter or lustful thoughts poison the mind, and ultimately lead to death.