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Joyce Meyer - Fight Like A Christian

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I sometimes think maybe the less attention we paid to all the feelings we have in the flesh, maybe the more we would feel what we should feel in the spirit. We can't let our emotions, our fleshly emotions, dictate to us our behavior. See, when I was not nearly as strong in God, even though I was a Christian, I still did a lot of what I felt like doing. And if somebody made me mad, then I was mad, and if I felt like telling 'em off, I told 'em off, and if I felt like talking about 'em, I talked about 'em, and if I felt like putting a wall up and shutting 'em out of my life for 3 weeks, I did that too. But the more I've grown in Christ and the more I've come to understand his word, the more I've learned that I don't have the luxury of acting on all of my feelings.

And I really wish the feelings would go away, but they don't always, so it's not necessarily my feelings that God's going to change, it's me he's going to change so I can be stronger than they are. If there's anything that we need as children of God, we need to stop praying for all of our opposition to go away. Paul never prayed for people's problems to go away. You cannot find a place in the Bible where Paul prayed for their problems to go away. He prayed for them to endure whatever came with good temper. He prayed for them to have self-control, and discipline, and no matter what was going on in their life to behave the same as if it wasn't going on.

And so this is a big challenge for us because we just so love to tell people how we feel. I feel, I don't feel, I feel, I feel, I don't feel, I don't feel, I feel, I feel. Can I tell you how I feel? Well yes, I mean, I think we need to be in touch with our feelings and I think we need to own our feelings, but we also need to deny them the right to control us.

Now, you might need to think this over a little bit 'cause this is a huge problem in people's lives. And you know, if you get pretty proficient at not letting your feelings control you, then they will get weaker and weaker, because anything only lives if you feed it. And so the way to kill things is to just stop feeding 'em, stop giving into them, and then they start losing their power over you, and what once was extremely hard is no longer as hard as it once was. So, we all have feelings, can't always do anything about that, but we have to choose not to act on the feelings if we know it's against the Word of God. And believe me, you do have a free will and you can make a choice. I said you do have a free will and you can make a choice. You do have a free will and you can make a choice.

Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit given to us so we can control, guess who? See how smart you are? At least this section over here is. Shall we do it again? Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit that's given to us to help us control who? All right, you all passed the test. So we have to get rid of the, "I can't help it. It's just too hard". Now, I admit that if you let your feelings, especially anger, if you let it get into a rage, then you may be at the point of not being able to control yourself. That's why we need to learn how to recognize things when they're first beginning to happen, how to take every thought captive before they become a stronghold in our mind, how to resist the devil at his onset. At the very beginning when the enemy first begins to tempt you, that's when you get away from sin.

Come on, you don't flirt with it for 3 weeks hoping that you're not gonna be the one that's gonna get caught. Don't be like the little girl that was walking down the mountain path, and she saw this serpent laying in the road, and it was very cold, and he begged her to pick, "Will you pick me up and put me inside your coat? I'm very cold". And she said, "Well no, I'm not gonna do that". And he said, "Oh please pick me up. I'm very cold. Will you just put me inside your coat"? So she picked him up, put him inside of her coat, and a little bit later, he bit her, and she said, "Why did you bite me"? He said, "You knew what I was when you picked me up".

We can go slow, that's okay. You know, you don't all of a sudden get into an adulterous affair. It starts with flirting, it starts with thinking the person that you're married to isn't... You're not, you're not, you're not, you're not. It goes from one thing to the next, from a coffee, to a doughnut, to a lunch, to telling this person now all of your problems about your pitiful, pathetic, bad marriage. Well anyway, that's not on the program either, but... See, if we would just, I mean, you know, you've heard the saying around, you know, "You need to nip it in the bud early". Well, that's really, I mean, we need, the sooner the better. The sooner we take action, the better it is. And when you feel yourself getting angry, the sooner you say, "No, not gonna live like this".

You see, anger, if it's not controlled, is poison to your soul. And this phrase came to me today, so I hope it's not too far out there, but I think when we allow ourselves to get bitter and resentful, and we have deep-seated, rooted anger in us, I think it's like committing spiritual suicide. That doesn't mean you lose your salvation, but it just kills everything that God wants to do in your life. What does anger solve? Well, I learned a great lesson that morning as God took me to Ephesians 4:26-27. "Be angry, and sin not". So, I realized that God must be saying that there was a way to be angry and not to sin, and that is, is to make a decision about what you're gonna do with the anger before it's managing you. Then he goes on to say...

How many of you ever get angry? Just wanted to see if I had the right group. Didn't know if maybe I need to change my message or not. "When you're angry, do not sin". Verse 26, "Do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or your indignation) last until the sun goes down". You know, if you happen to get mad in the morning, you got all day, but if it happens on your way to bed, you're in trouble. All joking aside, it's obvious that he's saying here that when you get angry, you will get angry when there's injustice, that's not a sin, but God's saying, "I've got a better way for you to fight your battles. I'm gonna teach you how to fight like a Christian".

Instead of doing what you would have done before you were saved and just let that anger control you and start spitting all kinds of poisonous things out of your mouth, you can say, "God help me. Help me. I know that this is not gonna get me anywhere. I know this is wrong, but I'm not gonna act on this. I'm control myself and I'm gonna trust you to take care of this situation". We have an option. Thank God we don't have to take care of ourselves. Come on, some of you need to retire from self-care and just throw a big retirement party.

Is there anybody in this place that's tired of trying to protect yourself all the time and trying to make everybody pay you back for what they did to you or what they didn't give you. Surely there's gotta be somebody in this building tonight or somebody watching by television that you have been angry long enough and you're ready to say, "I'm not willing to live angry anymore". I had a lot of anger for a lot of valid reasons. Anger can be very valid. You can have a real reason to be angry, but still Jesus is saying, "You don't really have any right to, because that's not the way I want you to live. I've got a better plan. I'm gonna teach you how to fight like a Christian". Amen? "When you're angry, don't sin: don't ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or your indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no such room or foothold for the devil give him no such opportunity".

When we stay angry, it's an open invitation for the devil to come in and wreak havoc in our lives. God's got a better plan. Anger is only one letter away from danger. You stick a "D" on the front of it and you got danger. And let me tell you that we are living in an angry world today. I am astonished really at the violence and how the violence in the world is escalating. I mean, even just the things that we've heard on the news in just in this one week: stabbings, and shootings, and young people going wild on the beaches and having to be arrested, and young people after ball games that they've won going out and doing all kinds of violent acts. And we just go, "What is going on"? And I believe that one of the things that God has showed me is, of course, we know that, you know, there's a great decline of morality in our society.

Well let's just put it like this, the less morality we have, the more anarchy we're gonna have, the more violence, the more crime, the more people that are just going wild. And so this whole nonsense that's going on in the world today about trying to get God out of everything is absolutely, I mean, it's not even just ungodly, it is just very dangerous. Extremely dangerous. People have to have something good to hope for. They have to have hope of change, and if you believe there's no God, then there's no hope. There's none. You know what I think? This just came to me this week, but I really believe that a lot of these people that are perpetrating all these horrible acts of violence, I think they're angry people that are without hope. They don't know how to win their battles. They don't have anybody to help them. They don't know anybody to talk to, and they just know that things are wrong and they're mad about it.

And many of them have probably had things happen to them, but because they don't know God and they don't know how to let God fight their battles, then they get angrier, and angrier, and angrier, and that anger turns into resentment, and bitterness, and unforgiveness, and then it turns into rage. And then we have it. The enemies of Israel, several times it says in the Bible that their enemies were afraid of them because they saw the hand of God on them. And so we need to make sure that we just don't have a little dab of religion every now and then, we need to have a full on, on-fire, stirred up relationship with God. And that means we have to stop playing games and kind of dabbling around as a Christian, and we need to get serious about doing things God's way.

And I just wanna share with you tonight that it is not acceptable, being an angry Christian is an oxymoron. It just does not go together at all. You say, "Well, I'm not mad about anything". Well, if you're not, you're one of the blessed few, let me tell you. You say, "Well, how do you know that? You don't know if I'm angry". Listen, I've been doing this a long time. I mean, this is not my first go-around here. And I have never, never, not one time ever preached on anger, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, strife, not one time ever, and at the end of the session ask how many people were having problems with that right now, and they needed prayer, and they were ready to turn away from it, I've never had less than 70% to 80% of everybody, everybody in the entire building, stand up.

So, we have got a lot of angry Christians. And you have to understand, where there's no peace, there's no power. Where there's no peace, there's no power. Jesus had power over the storm because he didn't let the storm get in him. So we got a lot of things to talk about tonight and tomorrow morning about dealing with anger instead of letting it deal with us. Anger is one letter away from danger. James 1:19-20, "Understand this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear a ready listener, slow to speak, slow to take offense and slow to get angry".

The Bible says that God is slow to anger. "For man's anger", now I want you to get this, "Man's anger does not promote the righteousness that God desires". In other words, anger is not the right way to behave, and listen to what I'm going to say, anger is not the right way to solve your problems. There's nobody in here that has ever solved your problems through being angry. It never makes anything better. You get two angry people yelling at each other and now you got a real problem. Be slow to speak, quick to hear, slow to anger, slow to take offense. Let's be the kind of people that it's almost impossible to make us mad. Yes, no, maybe?

And I know it's possible, because I mean, I had a quick temper. I was angry more than I wasn't. Sometimes I was verbal about it and sometimes it was just something seething on the inside of me. When we get angry, if we have unresolved anger, we either explode or we implode. We either fall apart inside or we're blowing up at somebody. And a lot of times, you're taking it out on people that had nothing to do with what you're angry about. You know, if we'd understand this kind of stuff and we don't resolve these issues, a man can get mad at work because he didn't get the raise he thought he'd deserve, and go home and take it out on his kids and his wife. And that goes on all the time, and a lot of it is because we don't own our anger.

We don't admit, "I'm angry about this, and I'm angry because it wasn't right, it wasn't just, I did deserve that raise. But God, right now, I'm gonna release this to you". I mean, do you really think that you can get yourself a raise any quicker than God can? Oh listen, we have no idea what God would do for us if we'd just let him. I said we have no idea what God would do for us if we would just let him. But we're so afraid that we're not gonna get what we want. Listen, if God can't give me what I want, then I have no business wanting it. I said if God can't give you what you want, you have no business wanting it. Just because I want it doesn't mean it's right for me to have it, so the deeper you get into relationship with God, the more you can trust him to do what's right for you, and you learn that nobody on this planet, not the devil and no person, can take anything away from you that God wants you to have. Now that's the way to fight like a Christian.

Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger appeases contention". Proverbs 16:32, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his own spirit is better than he who takes an entire city". You know what it means to rule your own spirit? It's this whole thing that I'm talking about about self-control and not just going with every feeling that we have. Come on, let's get honest tonight. How much are you ruling your spirit? How much are you ruling your fleshly feelings and your emotions, your words, your thoughts, your feelings, and how much are they ruling you?

This is the place that we're at. This is like the next thing on the blackboard to grow in. Don't think you came here for no reason. You didn't come just to see what I look like in person. Well maybe you did, but whatever God uses to get you in, that's fine with me. We gotta get ready for the war that's coming. We gotta get ready. The Bible says that in the day the Lord returns, people will just be going about their business just like everything is just as normal as it can be, and suddenly like a thief in the night, Christ is gonna come. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. We don't wanna keep putting stuff off.

I'm not gonna be perfect when Jesus comes back, but I'll tell you what, I wanna be further along than where I am right now. I don't think it matters to God that we're perfected or not. He already knew what he was getting when he got us, but I'll tell you one thing, God wants to see us pressing on and he wants to see us serious about growing up in him and doing things God's way. Jesus says he's given us a new life and he says you gotta put off the old man and put on the new man. And you can do it, but you need to want to. You need to really want to. You need to want to enough to pay the price.

Proverbs 22:24-25 even say, "Don't associate with somebody that's angry lest you learn their ways". So this is a pretty serious thing. There are many angry people in the world today. Now, some people've been angry so long, they don't even really know that they're angry anymore. They've just become bitter, cynical, negative, critical. A lot of angry people are depressed. That's the root of their depression. Not all, but some people just have all these unresolved issues in their life. Do you know how long I was mad that I was sexually abused by my father? And I didn't go around really consciously aware that I was mad about that, but any time that you've had something taken from you that you have a right to have, if you didn't have a father, if you didn't have a mother, or if one of your parents was an alcoholic, or there was a problem and you were cheated out of something, there's a part of you that says, "That's not right".

And I fought the world's way for a long time. I was angry, and harsh, and hard. Nobody was gonna push me around, and nobody was gonna tell me what to do. And I was trying to be a Christian like that. I loved God, but I had not gotten serious enough with God to say, "I wanna do it your way". And I think maybe if there's any benefit that I might hope to be to the body of Christ, it's in helping believers mature and grow up. It's time to get rid of our diapers, our pacifiers, and our baby bottles. Babies can act however they feel, but it's not very attractive on a 40-year-old man. Whoo!

It's a good thing we had a good time with God before I started this. The Bible even says in Hebrews 12 that we should watch out for one another lest any root of bitterness and resentment get in among us. So, let's help each other. When somebody's telling you their sad story about how mad they are, encourage them to let that go and give it over to God. Tell 'em what a waste of time it's gonna be, and just encourage people. "I know it's not right and I understand why you feel the way you do, but you know, can we pray together and turn that over to God? Would you be willing to give it over to God and let God be God"?

You see, God didn't like what happened to me when I was a child either. I wasn't the only one who didn't like it. He didn't like it, and actually it made him angry. Now, God is not an angry God, but he can get angry. And he gets angry at injustice, but he knows how to fight the right way. Ooh! Gotta learn how to fight like a Christian.

Let's look at Mark chapter 3. "Again Jesus went into a synagogue, and a man was there who had one withered hand as the result of accident or disease. And the pharisees", you know, the pharisees really annoyed Jesus and they actually did make him angry. It was a righteous anger. It wasn't a wrong anger. There is anger that's wrong, but there's also a righteous anger. "And the pharisees kept watching Jesus closely to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might get a charge to bring against him formally. And he said to the man who had the withered hand".

Now I love this, 'cause see, this goes back to what we were preaching last night. Jesus knew that he was about to make 'em mad, and I think he kind of arranged to do it on purpose. "So he said to the man with the withered hand, get up and come and stand here". He didn't even do it in private. He said, "Come here and stand here right in the middle". Whoo, I love it. "Come on, just get out here. If we're gonna do this, let's just really show the dumb people". I mean, if Jesus didn't wanna make a ruckus, he could've just kinda took the man off to the side and not stirred up the pharisees. But he wasn't gonna be controlled by them.

Verse 4, "And he said to them, is it lawful and right on the sabbath to do good or to do evil, to have life or to take it? But they kept silent. And he glanced around at them with vexation and anger, grieved at the hardness of their hearts". And now I hope you can make this jump with me here. So what did Jesus do next? "And said to the man, hold out your hand. He held it out, and his hand was completely restored". So now...

Boy, if we can get this tonight we can learn how to fight like God would fight. We can learn how to fight like a Christian. These people made him mad, and instead of turning away from his assignment from God and arguing with the pharisees and trying to convince them they were wrong, Jesus' response to the anger that he felt was to heal a sick man. Come on, we'll sneak up on you, but you'll get it. The only way to fight like a Christian, the only way to fight like God, is to overcome evil with good. From the beginning of time, we have been in a battle. The earth has been in a battle between good and evil. It has always been raging. It started in the garden and it has never stopped, but it is escalating today, especially in the western world.

Now, a lot of these things, I mean, the rest of the world has been so bad for so long that we can't even imagine. And we need a great return of morality, but in the meantime, those of us that do represent God, that are what he calls the light of the world, we have to press in like never before to represent Jesus, to be Christ-like in our behavior. And we have to learn how to fight like God would fight, and that is, is you don't return evil for evil. You don't return anger for anger. But when somebody does you wrong, you go out and help somebody else.

Now, this is really a spiritual secret and a lot of people never get it. They just never get it, but I hope that you can get it and I hope all the people watching by TV can get this. If you can learn how to fight like this, you will win every battle. You know, when I share these things, I can see the looks on some people. It's almost like you're disgusted by my whole message because you're just thinking, "Don't even try to tell me that I'm supposed to go home and be nice to this jerk".

Listen, I didn't say you need to let people abuse you. I think that there are times when we need to exercise what I would like to refer to as controlled anger. And that's the kind of thing where somebody's not treating you right, and you know that for their sake you need to confront them. You pray about it, you ask for God's perfect timing, and then you go, not in a rant, and a rave, and a rage, and you calmly tell them, "You are mistreating me. You are disrespecting me. It's not right and I don't intend to live like this". And can I tell you this? Sometimes the less you say, the greater effect it has. Too many words means nobody remembers anything. Boy, that was good.

You know, I just did not act good for the first several years of our marriage, and just angry. You know, people that are angry down deep inside, you just don't behave well. And Dave was a very patient, long-suffering man, a very godly man, and he had no intention of not trying to see things through to the finish. But I'll never forget, one day we were in the back bedroom of the first house that we owned, and we had a mirrored closet, like a double door closet, and the whole thing was mirrored. And he was standing in front of part of it, and I was standing kind of back over here. And he turned around, and he looked at me, and he said, "You know what? If I depend on how you treat me to tell me what kind of a man I am, I'd be in bad shape". And he said, "If this continues, I'm just letting you know right now, I don't know what I'll end up doing".

Didn't say nothing else. Wasn't angry, didn't shout, didn't yell, but it was God's time for him to confront me. Now, did anybody hear what I said? You know, you're not gonna get anywhere if somebody's yelling at you and you're like, "You're not gonna treat me that way! And let me tell you about". And then they go, and you're like... And then the kids come in the room and they're like... Then after about a half an hour of that, you don't even know what you were fighting about. All you know is you're mad. Is anybody understanding me? I know what I'm talking about.

God revealed, thankfully, that secret to me in the word, and I can show it to you in ten scriptures where the proper response to being mistreated, to being abused, is to pray, bless, and do good to overcome evil. It is a secret that the devil cannot understand, mean people cannot understand it. Only a believer in Jesus Christ can understand it. It is the only way for a Christian to fight and ever win their battles.

Now, I know that, that's irritating to your flesh. I get it, because we're so mad. "I'm so mad"! Do I look mad? I'm really trying. "I'm so mad! And if you think that you're gonna treat me that way..." And God is saying, "Really? I mean, really? Has that ever worked"? Is anybody in the building ready to try God's plan? Now, it will be hard on your flesh because you may not get instantaneous results.

Let me tell you a secret that I've learned. Sometimes you have to do what's right a long time before you get a right result. So if you're only gonna try this once to see if it works, you know, I'm not offering you a magic charm tonight, you know? Somebody mistreats you and you go help some little old lady across the street and all your problems are solved. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about lifestyle here. I'm talking about, "Devil, you've got enough of my life. You're not getting any more of it".

I mean, listen, as long as we keep buying into the enemy's system, he can make us mad 50 times a week. We're mad 'cause somebody cut us off in traffic and we're mad 'cause somebody took our parking place. I don't have no time for that anymore. If I'm waiting for a parking place and some goofball comes and... Whoosh! I just, "Bless you! Hope you enjoy that. Well, that's not right that they did that, and I'm not gonna put up with that, and I'm gonna tell them off"!

Okay. See you when I come back in a couple of years and we can talk about it again. It's up to you. You know I'm right. There's always gonna be somebody out there to annoy you. Getting mad about it's not gonna make 'em go away. God uses them. For all you know, God arranged for that guy to be there to get that parking place just to pull out of you the very thing that he wanted to pull out of you so hopefully you would finally see it and deal with it. 'cause if it's in you, it's gonna sneak out.

Romans 12:17, "Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest and proper and noble aiming to be above reproach in the sight of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God's wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord".

I think we needed to be reminded of this. "But if your enemy's hungry, feed him: if he's thirsty, give him something to drink: for by doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (and master) evil with good". Psalm 37:1 through 8. Verse 1, "Fret not yourself because of evildoers". One day I read that scripture and a lady out in the audience yelled out, "That's me, sister fret". "Fret not yourself because of evildoers, neither be envious against those who work unrighteousness (that which is not right or in right standing with God). For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good".

"Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good" - Here's the way to fight like a Christian. When there's an evildoer that has done wrong, don't fret yourself, but instead, lean on, rely on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord. And while you're trusting God, do good. You know, if you can learn to understand this, the devil'll finally get smart enough to go bug somebody besides you. I mean, if every time he attacks you you're gonna go bless somebody else, why bother?

I started talking to you last night about anger and we started in Ephesians 4 that says, "When you're angry, do not sin. Don't ever let the sun go down on your anger". So it doesn't say that "If you get angry, when you get angry". We all experience anger at different times in our life. The feeling of anger is not a sin, it's what we do with that anger that can become a sin. You don't want to repress it. You don't want to express it wrongly. We need to control ourselves, that's why God has given us self-control.

I want to encourage you to teach your children properly about anger. Don't make them think that every time they get angry, that they're doing something wrong, but teach them to control their anger and not get violent and do things that don't make any sense. If you want your children to not be angry children, then you need to not be an angry parent because if they're living in a house full of anger, they're gonna pick up your habits. That's exactly what I did from my father. And so we started learning last night how to fight like a Christian when somebody mistreats us or abuses us. The answer to it is not to try to get them back. It's not to return evil for evil, but it's to trust God and do good. Put our trust in God. "God, you're our vindicator. I trust you to deal in the proper way with people who've mistreated me and I'm gonna continue to do good".

I'm not gonna turn away from my God-given assignment to deal with all the mean people in the world. I'm gonna stay focused on what God has called me to do. I'm gonna keep helping people and when I help people, I'm sowing a seed then for my breakthrough in life. We can easily understand, let's just say that there's a hundred people called to do different things in the kingdom, to help the poor, to be missionaries, preach the Gospel, worship leaders, whatever. So let's just say a hundred little demons are sent out from hell every day, one assigned to each one of those called, anointed Christians and all that demon's job is is to set them up to get them upset, to offend them, to put people in their way that will mistreat them, to hurt them.

And so if these hundred Christians don't understand what I'm talking about today or what God teaches in his word then they're gonna spend all their time fighting these battles. They're gonna stay angry all the time. They're gonna complain all the time. They're gonna get bitter and resentful and they're not gonna accomplish what God has called them to do. It's very easy to understand that we war not with flesh and blood but with principalities, and powers, and wickedness in high places.

And we are in a war and we do need to fight, but we have to learn how to fight like a Christian. The only way that you can overcome evil is with good. You cannot fight evil with evil. You cannot fight anger with anger, the only way, understand me today, the only way, the only way to overcome evil is with good. God does not stop being good because the world is full of evil. Did you hear me? God does not stop being good because the world is evil. Now, we do have to fight a fight. We are in a war. The body of Christ is said to be an army, the army of God, and there's places in the Bible where we're referred to as soldiers in the army of God.

And so in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verse 12, Paul said to Timothy that he was to fight the good fight of faith. So when you're being attacked, one of the ways to fight is just to stay in faith and to keep saying, and keep saying, and keep saying, "God, no matter what's going on in my life, I trust you". "Fight the good fight of the faith: lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summonsed and for which you confessed the great confession of faith before many witnesses". So he's saying, "Don't just tell people, but fight that good fight of faith".

Do you realize that when you've got a problem and instead of getting upset about it, you open your mouth and say, "God, I trust you," that you're fighting like a Christian? Come on, let's say it again. When you have a problem, when you find out that somebody lied about you, when somebody didn't invite you to the party, when somebody rejected you, when somebody ignored you, those are minor things. Let's go deeper. When somebody abuses you, when somebody misuses you, when you don't get the raise that you justly deserved at work, when somebody else gets the promotion that you should of had, anger is not the way to solve the problem.

Now you're gonna feel anger. The first response is you're gonna feel anger and I would too, but that's not my clue to just go ahead and get angry and have a fit just because I feel anger. What I need to do is say, "Uh, oh, the devil's trying to steal from me again. God, thank you for the fruit of self-control. By your grace and mercy I'm gonna just calm down, calm down". And you have a hard time calming down, you need to try what we had here earlier when we were worshiping God and Jacque was singing that song about the Holy Spirit. Get yourself some good worship music and if you're on the verge of having a fit, turn it on, get in your room by yourself and just go...

"Okay now, Lord, I feel like but thankfully I don't have to because I'm a new creature. So here's my response," and I would speak it out of my mouth, "Here is my response to the attack against me. God, I trust you. I trust you". "I will say of the Lord," Psalm 91:1 and 2, verse 2, "I will say of the Lord, I will put my trust in him. He is my refuge. I will say of the Lord". "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty whose power no foe can come against".

If you don't want to be defeated by the devil, just hang out in the presence of God, keep saying, "God, I trust you, God, I trust you, God, I trust you". I need to stay another week and teach some of you how to talk out loud. And I mean to do something besides murmur about all your circumstances. And then I would follow that up by saying, "Now, God, I've learned how to fight like a Christian so I'm asking you to show me somebody that I can bless". Come on, I know this is new. Let's just go ahead and go through the gate this morning, okay? You're being attacked.

Let's just make up a story. Pastor's been faithful, he's had an associate pastor. He's loved, and blessed, and he pays him well, and he respects him, and he honors him, and the guy gets good vacation. And so the guy gets it in his head that he should have his own ministry. So instead of doing it right, and going to the pastor, and telling him what's in his heart, and asking him to help him and how's the right way to go about this, he begins to cause dissension by finding things wrong with the pastor and talking about the pastor among the other people that he knows in the congregation.

"I don't know, you know, pastor seems to me like he's kind of losing his anointing. And did you see that new car he bought, I bet, you know I'm not giving my money for him to drive some big, fancy car. And did you see that Jewelry his wife wears? I mean that's a little much, don't you think? And, you know, their kids are quite unruly. They don't make their kids mind at all". So he stirs up enough other stupid people. Excuse me, but that's what they are. It's bad enough for somebody to do that but we're just as dumb as they are if we listen to 'em.

When somebody comes to you finding fault with somebody, especially somebody that you have loved and admired that's working hard to help you, you need to come back with, "Well, you know, I don't know about that, but I do know that they've helped me a lot. My life has changed. They're faithful. They're dedicated. They're diligent". Listen to me, it's a trap. It's a demonic trap. Offense comes from a Greek word called "Scandalon" which means the bait that was hung on a trap that lured an animal into the trap for destruction. So when the devil stirs up strife and tries to get us offended, he's baiting us.

John Bevere wrote a great book called "The Bait of Satan" and literally offense and strife is the bait of satan to lure us into a life that's gonna have no power, no victory. We're gonna miss the call on our life, we're gonna miss what God wants us to do and what he has for us. Okay, so associate pastor gathers up a few not so wise people and the more they talk, the madder they get, the more they find wrong. And so they decide that they're just gonna leave and go start their own church. And I can tell you there's very few churches that this hasn't happened in. It's called, "Church splits".

And so now let's just say the congregation is about 400 people, and he takes a hundred of 'em and goes a mile down the street and starts his own church. Now, pastor has a decision to make. Is he gonna get mad? Is he gonna lose his peace? Is he gonna get angry? Is he gonna start worrying and being afraid that oh, he's losing his people and now he's gonna go down the drain? First thing he needs to say is, "Well, God, we know that this is not being handled right and it hurts me and I think it's terrible, but I put my trust in you. And anybody that leaves, you can give me three more in each person's place".

Can I just tell you this? Anything that's not of God is not gonna prosper so we don't really have to worry about it too much. And then if he's really wise, what he should do is go buy the guy a sound system. "Well, why would I want to do that"? Because that's the way a Christian fights. That's the way you win your battles, that's the way you win your wars. Now I know this is a like a totally like sounds like crazy kind of thinking, but what do we think the Bible means when it says, "Bless your enemies"? Is that just a little floaty, spiritual sounding, "Oh yes, bless your enemies".

There's too many things in the Bible that we never turn into practicality. We just sing about them and we confess them and we think they're cute little scriptures, and we think somebody else ought to do it. But when it needs to be applied to our life, "Well, why would I want to bless my enemies"? Nobody said you want to. What makes you think you have to want to to do it? Jesus didn't want to go to the cross. He made that plain, "Father, if you can remove this cup from me, please do, however your will be done and not mine".

I don't have to feel like doing everything to do it. What if somebody would have showed up here this morning and said, "Oh guys, sorry, Joyce didn't feel like coming today so she just wanted to fly out early". You don't have to feel like being friendly with somebody to be friendly. You don't have to feel like smiling at them to smile, and that pastor doesn't have to feel like buying that guy a sound system to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit if that's what God leads him to do. Is anybody seeing what I'm saying here about the power of being a blessing? Because what happens when he does that? When he trusts God and he does good, he puts himself right clearly in a position for a miracle from God and that's what we need.

2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 5 through 7, "As for you", this is Paul's instruction to Timothy, but let's don't read it like it's just for Timothy. Let's take this in like it's for us. "As for you be calm and cool and steady. Calm and cool and steady. Accept and suffer," uh-oh, "Unflinchingly". Whoa. "You mean I can't even make a face? Every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully perform all the duties of your ministry". So he doesn't get out of fulfilling his responsibility and his duty just because he's having a hardship. Hmm... Let's just say that you sign up to work in the nursery one Sunday a month at church and your Sunday rolls around and you didn't have a very good Saturday.

It's a character test. What are you gonna do? You gonna just not show up and not even tell anybody? Which that's what a lot of Christians do. They sign up but don't show up. "Oh, nobody will miss me, I'm just one person". Or maybe you even do let somebody know that you're not coming but the whole reason why you didn't come is because you're not in the humor. You don't want to. You had a bad day. Let me tell ya something, the only time we grow spiritually is when we do what's right when it doesn't feel right.

Come on. I mean if I feel like doing it, that's no test. But man, if everything in me wants to tell you off and instead I pray for you, now I'm growing. If everything in me wants to bail on my commitment but because I want to be a person of excellence and integrity, I go ahead and ask God for the grace to do it anyway and I do it with a smile on my face without complaining, now I'm growing. Come on, it's easy to say. If I said how many of you want to grow in God, there would not be one hand in here that wouldn't go up? Everybody would lift their hand. Well, you're not gonna grow without something that makes you grow. I can't get more muscle unless I lift a heavier weight. Amen? We have to stop being afraid of hard things. We have to stop backing down for the fight.

We're gonna read verse 5 again and then go through verse 7, "As for you, be calm and cool and steady, accept and suffer unflinchingly every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully perform all the duties of your ministry. For I am already about to be sacrificed my life is about to be poured out as a drink offering: the time of my spirit's release from the body is at hand and I will soon go free". Now watch this, "I have fought the good (worthy, honorable, and noble) fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith".

Wow, wow, wow. You see I made a decision about 20 years ago that I was gonna finish. I was reading John 17, came across verse 4 where Jesus said, "Father, glorify me now for I have completed the work that you have given me to do". And I had a touch from God when I read that and I began to weep, and weep, and weep. And I made a commitment to God right there, "I'm gonna finish my race. With your grace and your help, I want to stand before you and be able to say, I did all of what you wanted me to do. I didn't do 10% of it, I didn't do half of it, I didn't do 90% of it. I didn't quit somewhere along the way because it got hard. I didn't give up because I got old".

I didn't quit because I wasn't being appreciated. I didn't quit because I was being attacked. I want to finish my race. And let me tell ya something, I don't think anything is gonna feel better than that. Make your mind up today that you're gonna finish, that you're gonna learn how to fight the good fight of faith, you're gonna learn how to fight like God would fight, fight like a Christian and you're gonna go all the way through to victory.

There's all kinds of scriptures about the importance of peace. The Bible says we have to pursue peace. If you wanna have peace in your life you're gonna have to really want to have peace, and you're gonna have to want it enough to be willing to make changes in order to have it. But, let's talk about some of the anger that's in the world today, and, you know, it's one thing if somebody hurts your feelings, and you get angry, and you deal with it and get over it. But, you know, there are people that have deep-seated anger in them, and can I just say that if you are blowin' up all the time over petty stuff and things that don't make much sense, there's something wrong, and it's something that you may have buried and forgotten about a long time ago, but let me tell you it's our secrets that make us sick. It's the things that we need to deal with and get out in the light. Invite God into those dark places of your life, and get to the root of things.

I was angry and blowin' up all the time, and, you know, an anger-aholic. Their theme in life is you made me mad. Well, Dave made me mad because he played too much golf, and Dave made me mad because he watched too many sports. And my kids made me mad because they were messy, and somebody else made me mad because they didn't make me feel right, and somebody else made me mad because of this and this. And if you would just stop makin' me mad. Anybody know what I'm talkin' about? You know, I saw a movie about a guy that was a wife abuser, and he beat his wife all the time. And every time he'd beat her up he's say, "Now look what you made me do". "If you continue in my word you will know the truth. The truth will make you free". "The truth will make you free".

We need to ask God to come and mess in all the dark, deep, secret places of our life, and we need to be ready to get to the root of our behavior. I was angry and blowin' up all the time, and, to be honest, I was just very hard to keep happy. I was a high-maintenance individual. Now I know none of you are like this, so and I didn't realize that it was still from my childhood, that I was angry. I had deep-seated anger in me because I'd been abused as a child. My childhood had been stolen. I never really got to be a kid. And not only because of the abuse, but I had a shame-based nature. I was operating from a basis of shame.

I'm sure at some point I started out being ashamed of what my dad was doing to me, and then somehow or another I internalized that and became ashamed of myself and thought, "Well, there's something wrong with me because he's doing this to me. It must be my fault". And I had a record playin' in my head for years, "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me"? And I thought because I left home and got away from the problem that I didn't have the problem anymore, but I had it in me. And there is value in letting God and the counselor of the Holy Spirit show you the root of your problems.

It's amazing what understanding does for us. You don't have to go on a digging expedition and, you know, but ask God to show you. Ask God to show you. And there was something wrong with me, and I didn't know what it was. I loved God, and I went to church, and I wanted to be nice. I wanted to be better, but I didn't know what my problem was. For example, I had a very difficult time showin' mercy to people. I was just harsh and hard, and I had my rules and guidelines, and if you didn't follow 'em I was gonna be upset. Don't I sound like I was rough to live with? But just for my benefit is there anybody that's trackin' with me, and you kinda know what I'm talkin' about? And maybe if you're not like that you're livin' with somebody who is.

I think my congregations are split in half. You're either like me, or you're like DaveDave. And I can help you on either end. And so God showed me after I started asking, "God, why am I so hard hearted"? Well, one thing, I was afraid to be tender and soft because I thought if I didn't, that I'd get walked all over, mistreated. I was afraid to really trust God to be my vindicator because in case he didn't come through I wanted to let these people know that nobody was gonna push me around again, 'cause you know when we do things on our timetable, then we don't have to worry about whether God's gonna come through or not.

But let me ask you a question. Is what you're doin' workin'? No, I can answer it for you. No, it's not working. You're diggin' a deeper hole every day. So here I'm full of shame. I didn't like myself, so how could I like anybody else? You can't give away what you don't have. I couldn't love Dave properly. I didn't love me. I couldn't love people. I found something wrong with everybody because I was constantly findin' something wrong with me. I couldn't be merciful to other people because I didn't know how to receive mercy from God. I was hard on myself.

Every time I didn't do the right thing that I thought I should do as a Christian, then I went through my pattern of guilt and condemnation and punishing myself and refusing to enjoy life, and then I'd finally get over it. And then I'd sin again, and I lived in that pattern for years and years. And I'm here to tell ya that it has taken 37 years, but you are lookin' at a free woman. Amen? I'm talkin' I am changed. I mean, you gotta really push me now to make me mad, and even if you're successful I won't stay mad very long because I know the danger, and I open my mouth and say, "God, this hurts so bad I feel like my guts are gonna fall out, but I trust you. And you show me what I can do to be a blessing for somebody," because I've fought my way for a lot of years, and it about killed me.

Now I'm learnin' how to fight like a Christian. I'm learnin' how to fight like God fights. Amen? So but what we normally do when there's something wrong with our life, we just kinda cover it up some way. We don't wanna deal with it. If God starts to mess in our problems and we get a little bit too close and he starts, then we're just, like, no, we don't have no time for that. Well, I don't know if you've ever had this happen to you or not, but I can remember several occasions when I would open my refrigerator and smell like, "Whew", close the door, and hope the next time it's gone.

So go back, open the refrigerator. Rotten broccoli's the worst. It is just like the worst. And so then maybe I'd move a few things around, and then I can't find it, you know? Oh, I know what I'll do... Ah, that'll take care of the problem. Some of you have been sprayin' perfume on your stink long enough. And, you know, I didn't want to take the refrigerator apart. I didn't wanna have to get everything out and set it on the table and take out the vegetable drawers and take out the fruit drawers. And there was a drain in the bottom of the refrigerator under all those drawers.

I don't think refrigerators are even like that today, but the old kind were. And, man, it was messy, especially if you hadn't been in there in, like, 5 years. And you know what we do? We dress it up. We take it to church. Praise the Lord. "This is the way we go to church, this is the way we go to church, this is the way we go to church, every Sunday morning. This is the way we go back home, this is the way we go back home, this is the way we go back home, no different than when we went".

Come on! And God's sayin', "It's time for deep cleaning". Throw away your odor spray. Invite the Holy Ghost into the deepest, darkest places of your life, and say, "God, I don't care how bad it hurts. I refuse to live in deception. I am gonna take responsibility for my behavior, and I want you to show me what the root of my problem is". Amen? Do you know what would happen if our politicians would pray a prayer like that about our country? If they'd have one good prayer meeting, "God, show us what the root of the problem is with the violence in the world today. Show us what's wrong in our schools, God". "Oh, oh, yeah, hmm, the Ten Commandments, hmm. Oh, yeah, we did take those out of the schools. We didn't want anybody to be offended when they saw them".

You know what? We have a panel for this problem, and a panel for that problem, and a study group for this problem, and another group of experts for that problem, and the problems just keep gettin' worse and worse and worse and worse. The answer to everything is find out what God wants you to do, and do it! Just do it. What is wrong with anybody that would forbid a child to pray or to bring their Bible to school? You know what? I'm determined to be a happy Christian, and I can't be a happy Christian and I can't influence anybody else if all I'm doin' is sprayin' odor spray all over my own messes. We don't need a world full of wounded healers. We need people that were hurt that get healed, and then they're ready to help somebody else. How can the blind lead the blind?

Now I'm gonna tell you something. My message is fun, but you pray that prayer and you go home, and God starts rippin' things apart, you better find something to hold onto 'cause it's not gonna feel good, but it will later, later on, later on. And you know what? Later on's gonna come, so let me ask you a question. A year from now do you wanna be the same as you are right now? Okay, then let's use this year to go through. Come on, is anybody home today? Let's use this year to go through. Let's get to the bottom and the root of our messes. Let's get rid of all the odor spray.

We often spend our whole life just dealing with bad behavior in ourselves, and yet we never take the time to get to the root of it. Go ahead. I just challenge you to start asking God, "God, why do I lose my temper so easy? Why do I gossip so much? Why am I jealous of that person? Why did I get mad when they got promoted? If I'm insecure, why am I insecure? Not just expect everybody to keep me fixed all my life, but what's wrong in me that makes me react that way all the time? If I'm jealous of others who have more than me, why am I jealous"?

You know, every once in a while I'll feel jealousy towards someone, and I have to talk to myself. I have a meeting with myself, and you know what I say? "Joyce, that is, like, super stupid. I mean, how could you possibly, Joyce, be jealous of anybody? How could you possibly be jealous of anybody"? So then I have to remind myself that God has an individual plan for each one of us, and it's none of my business what he does for somebody else, that the only thing I'm responsible for is what he does for me.

Learn to talk back to the devil. When he's puttin' lies in your head, "Oh, they're gettin' ahead of you," then you open your mouth and say, "No, God's in charge of promotion. He lifts one up, and he brings another down". "Let him who has my word, speak my word faithfully," the Bible says. Learn how to talk out loud and get the Word of God in your mouth. And I know a lot, I mean, I was in church for years. I would've thought it would've been stupid to walk around my house talkin' to myself. I talked to myself, but it was like, "I'm so sick and tired of my life, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's me. I'm always wrong about everything. I'm just so stupid. I'm so dumb. Everybody".

Let me ask you a question. Has your mouth got saved yet? Come on. Has your salvation reached your mouth? I can only say that to you because I remember when God said it to me. He said, "You know, Joyce, you need to get your mouth saved. Your salvation hasn't reached your mouth". I don't give out anything I haven't had to eat. If I feel like I have to be in control all the time to be happy, why? If I have to feel like I have to have my own way all the time or I can't be happy, why? I need to begin to own my problems, and so do you. If you're angry you need to say, "You know what? I'm angry, and I get mad way too often. And it's not right, and it's not what God wants. And, God, I need you to show me the root of it. I wanna change. I wanna change".

You know, we can't just keep the old nature and stick a few religious labels on it. "Well, I go to church". I mean, don't we realize that the greatest problem we have in the world today is so many people claiming to be Christians but not acting like one at all. I mean, there's some mean Christians in the world, man. Luke chapter 5 says that, "You cannot put a new patch on an old garment". "You cannot put new wine into old wineskins". And that's what we're trying to do when nothing changes inside, and we're just slappin' all this religious behavior all over us. You gotta put off the old man and put on the new man. Put off anger. Put on love.

And let me clearly say we can't do any of this without the help, the grace, the mercy of God. Don't ever try to do anything, don't even try to go home and change unless you're gonna start by sayin', "Now, God, clearly let me say that I know that I can do nothing without you". There is no amount of self-control. There's no amount of willpower. Nothing is gonna help me but God. And when you ask God to help you, you may go through a period of time where you don't feel like he's doin' anything, and you may have to stand steadfast and say, "I'm not getting into works of the flesh. I am asking you to show me what this problem is, and I'm asking you to do the work in me that needs to be done".

I teach on grace a lot, and grace is not opposed to effort. It's opposed to earning. We make an effort, but we don't earn the love of God. You see, God loves me and you just the way we are. I don't need to change to get his love. I wanna change because I love him, and I wanna represent him better. I might even stay angry a lot, blow up two, three, four times a week, still go to heaven, but I want something more than that. I don't wanna just squeak in the back door of heaven and still be in kindergarten when I get there. Amen?

Can I tell you something? And a lot of you are really serious about God. You wouldn't be out here on a Saturday morning if you weren't, so, you know, in a way I guess I'm probably just maybe reaffirming a lot of things that you already know, but I'm not just preaching to you today. There's millions of people that are gonna watch this by TV in 70 languages all over the world, and that's kind of overwhelming when you think about, but what I'm trying to say is if you're not a believer in Christ, then please accept him and become one because there's no hope without him.

And if you are a Christian, then be a serious Christian. Be a committed Christian. Be a Christian who walks in the Fruit of the Spirit. Get to the root of the problems in your life, and stop just blaming them on everybody else. Take responsibility for your behavior. Cry out to God to help you and to change you, and let him do a work in your life.
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