Robert Jeffress - Keep Your Cool When Things Get Hot
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. In today's culture, people feel entitled to express their rage. They fire off an angry email. They post venomous comments on Twitter or Facebook. They even participate in violent protests. If you know someone who's got a short fuse, you know what it's like to walk in fear waiting for the bomb to go off. So today, we're going to study Solomon's wisdom for controlling tempers in my message titled "Keep Your Cool When Things Get Hot" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
Is it just me or do you find that people seem to be getting angrier every day? I mean, open up a newspaper and you're likely to read a story about an employee who's been terminated, who returns back to his workplace and opens fire on his fellow employees. Or a story about a driver who gets cut off by another motorist and catches up with him and pulls him out of the car and beats him senseless. Or a story about a mother tired of the incessant crying of her infant daughter who drowns her. Not long ago I read in the newspaper a story, true story about a guy who was ordered by a judge to attend an anger management workshop for assaulting his girlfriend. He arrived at the workshop drunk and that so infuriated the leader of the anger management workshop that the leader began to punch him and beat him senseless, he ended up dying as a result of it.
Let's be honest, anger is difficult to control even for the so-called management experts. And yet the Bible says that controlling our anger is just as important to success in life as containing our lust or controlling our speech. In fact we see that over and over again in the Book of Proverbs, the premium that Solomon places on controlling our anger. Listen to Proverbs 14:29, "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly". Or Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger". Proverbs 16:32, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, is better than he who captures a city".
Did you catch that last sentence? A wise person, Solomon says, who really wants to be intent on success in life learns how to turn away from his anger. And yet turning away from anger is not the norm today. In fact it goes against conventional wisdom. All these people are out there dumping their anger on one another. But remember in the Book of Proverbs Solomon gives us ten pieces of uncommon sense. The world says express your anger. Not Solomon. He says if you want to be successful in life, control your anger. Or as I'm saying this morning: keep your cool when things get hot. Now how do you do that? How do you control the anger that we all feel from time to time? Well first of all, it's important to define what anger is. What are we talking about when we're talking about anger?
Some of you may say: Why, I don't need a definition of anger. You may be kind of like a Justice Potter Stewart, the supreme court Justice, who was once asked: how do you define pornography? And Justice Stewart said, "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it". You may feel that way about anger. I don't know how to define it, but I sure know it when I feel it. Perhaps you're driving down the toll-way minding your own business, thinking about your pastor, and church and everything, and as you're driving suddenly you see somebody in your rearview mirror come up right behind you, pull out around you, cut in front of you: and you think: this idiot's going to cause an accident. Your adrenaline begins to pump, and your heart begins to pound, and you put your foot on the accelerator, and you speed up in order to give that guy the holy salute if you know what I mean. And what you're feeling there - that's anger. That's what anger is.
Or wives maybe you can identify with this: you decide that your friends invite you to go out for a joint birthday celebration with several other friends. And at first you're reluctant to do so. It's a school night, your kids need to be fed, they need to do their homework. You really don't think you can do it, but your husband says: honey go on out for couple of hours, I'll take care of everything. Couple of hours later you return home, the kids are running wild, the kitchen looks like a nuclear explosion has been detonated in it: you walk into the den, the television is blaring with a football game, and your husband is sprawled out on the couch asleep. He awakens and he sees you and he says: home so early dear? That emotion you're feeling inside - it's called anger. We all feel it from time to time.
Let me give you this definition of anger that may help you. It's going to be the guide for our study today. Anger is a natural, physical and emotional response to perceived injustice. Let me say it again: anger is a natural physical and emotional response to perceived injustice. Now there are three ingredients to this definition important to understand. First of all, anger is a natural response. Stay with me on this. In Genesis 1:27 we find these words, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them". Man was originally created in God's image, and even though the sin of Adam and Eve marred that image, and even blurred that image, sin did not eradicate God's image from man. Every human being who walks the face of the planet today, whether they are Christian or not is made in the image of God. And every person, Christian or not, bears some remnant of God's image in him or her.
What I'm saying to you is the reason you and I get angry is because we're made in the image of a God who gets angry. That's why I say it is a natural response. God has certain attributes, and anything that is in opposition of those attributes makes God angry. For example, God is a God of justice. He is angry about injustice. God is a God of love. That means he hates anything that is unloving. God is a God of holiness. It means he hates anything that is unholy or sinful. The reason you and I get angry is because we're made in the image of God.
Secondly, anger's a matter of perception. Remember I said it's a natural and emotional response to perceived injustice. Sometimes we jump to conclusions. We assume that something is wrong and we get angry. For example, go back to my example: let's say you speed up and you catch that motorist who almost caused the accident on the toll-way. You pull him off to the side of the road: you discover he has a child in the backseat that he's trying to rush to the hospital for an emergency. That would change your perspective, wouldn't it? Or ladies, let's just imagine you get home, your husband's sprawled out on the couch and you find out he's sick, he said he had a cold and he took some cold medicine, and that's what made him pass out. That'd change your perspective, wouldn't it? No, probably not, but anyway just play like it would - come on, play along with me here for just a moment. I mean, the reason we get angry a lot of times is because we have incomplete information.
Thirdly, anger results in a response. Remember I said: anger is a natural, physical and emotional response. Mark it down, remember this, anger will always express itself. We can't stop that. In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity". Did you know nowhere else in the Bible does it say: be greedy, but don't sin? Or: be lustful, but don't sin. It doesn't say that. But here it says you can go ahead and be angry. Why he says that is that's a natural response. You're not going to stop feeling angry: the question is how do you express that anger. In Colossians 3:8, Paul says, "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech from your mouth". Notice he didn't say: quit feeling anger. He said: instead know how to put it aside.
Now this word "Anger" is a general term. But these next two phrases, look at Colossians 3:8, wrath and malice refer to two different responses to anger. Wrath, write this down, wrath is anger expressed. Wrath is anger expressed. That word "Wrath" in the New Testament is the Greek word "Thymon", and literally it means rage. That's what wrath is, it is an outward volcanic explosion of anger. We talk about sometimes people who go into a blind rage. People will go temporarily insane: it's said, in time of blind rage. That is, they are so overcome by their anger they lose control of their speech and actions.
And many times when we give full vent to our rage, we say words that can never be retrieved: we make decisions that are absolutely irreversible: and that's why Solomon said in Proverbs 14:17, "A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated". Wrath is anger expressed, but malice - that's the other word Paul uses in Colossians 3:8 - that is anger suppressed. Wrath is anger expressed. Malice is anger suppressed. Sometimes when we get angry good sense prevails and instead of unleashing a torrent of negative words against the person, we decided it'd be in our best interest not to. Especially if that other person is our employer, or our mate, or somebody we care about. So instead of expressing our anger, we turn it inwardly.
But remember malice, malice - anger suppressed - is just as dangerous as wrath, which is anger expressed. Whenever we turn our anger inward, what happens is that anger turns into bitterness that becomes a corrosive agent that eventually destroys the container in which it's stored. Dr. Frank Minirth, the Christian psychiatrist says, "Pent up anger is probably the leading cause of death in America today". The other problem with suppressed anger is that it rarely stays suppressed. Eventually, and sometimes unexpectedly that anger explodes. And that's why Solomon said we need to deal with anger that is suppressed, and deal with that just like anger that is expressed.
In Proverbs 30:33 Solomon warned, "For the churning of milk produces butter and pressing the nose brings forth blood: so the churning of anger produces strife". Well, if we're not to express our anger in a rage: if we're not to suppress it, and keep turning it over in our hearts: how do we effectively deal with anger?
I want you to notice in the Book of Proverbs Solomon gives us five simple principles for dealing with the anger that we feel toward others. Principle number one: whenever you feel angry call an emotional time-out. If you're in a conversation with somebody, and you feel yourself getting more and more angry - ask for a time-out. If you're arguing with your mate, remove yourself and go to the other room. If you're arguing with your boss, just ask if you can go back to your office and reconvene the meeting again. If you're in a telephone conversation, ask if you can call the person back, so you can collect your thoughts. By the way, removing yourself from a volatile situation is not a sign of weakness: it's the sign of wisdom. Listen to Proverbs 19:11 - you know we think anger's a sign of strength - not the Bible. Solomon says, "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory", not his weakness, "it is his glory to overlook a transgression". Call an emotional time-out so you are slow to get angry.
Number two: Analyze the cause of your anger. You know the purpose of an emotional time-out is not to avoid your angry feelings, but to analyze them so you can deal with them appropriately. During that time-out ask yourself two questions. Number one, what is the real cause of my anger? Why am I feeling this way? Is it because of a right I expect has been violated? Is it because I really feel angry over an injustice toward somebody else? Exactly why do I feel this way? And second question to ask yourself is: do I have complete and accurate information? Remember, a lot of the times we feel angry is because we don't have all the facts. Proverbs 18:13 says, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him".
Number three: Learn to overlook minor offenses. Learn to overlook minor offenses. You know you can't go through life every day without suffering minor emotional bruises from other people. Maybe an unreturned telephone call, or a forgotten birthday, or some other slight like somebody being late for an appointment. Those injustices are real, they're painful, but they're also temporary. And a wise person learns to overlook those minor offenses. When somebody wrongs you in a minor way, go ahead and acknowledge it, but then get over it. That's the way we ought to deal with minor transgressions that we all experience every day.
Number four: Learn to forgive major offenses. No, some of the offenses that we endure, some of the bruises we take can't be easily overlooked. The unfaithfulness of a mate, the abuse of a parent, the unfair dismissal by an employer - we just can't get over that immediately. Healing needs to take place. And fortunately God has given us a surgical procedure to deal with the major hurts in our life. It's called forgiveness. All of us have people we need to forgive. Of course the reason we're to forgive is because of the great forgiveness that God has extended to us. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you". Forgiveness isn't optional. It's essential for anyone who wants God's forgiveness.
Number five, how do you deal with anger in your life? How do you keep from allowing anger to get out of control either though wrath or malice? Number five: Don't associate with angry people. Now remember this, anger is a learned response. If you associate with angry people - you're going to become angry as well. I'm going to give you the best piece of advice you're going to hear this week, ok. If you are single and thinking about getting married at some point in your life don't date and certainly don't marry someone who is habitually angry. Don't marry or even date somebody who has a problem with his or her temper. That's what Solomon said in Proverbs 22:24-25, "Do not associate with a man given to anger: or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself". Now, if it's somebody who acknowledges he has an anger problem, and he or she is dealing with it positively, that's one thing. But a person who is continually blowing up all the time, if you marry that person, you're going to be miserable and you're going to be the object of his or her anger at some point.
Now, we've talked about how to handle the anger that we feel: but how do you deal with anger that is directed toward you? Well again, Solomon gives us some very great advice for how to deal with angry people that come into our life. How many of you this week have had to deal with an angry person in your life, ok. Don't look at the person next to you if it's your mate. We all deal with angry people. Listen to what Solomon says about how to handle angry people in your life. First of all, listen carefully to an angry person. Gary Chapman wrote a great book on anger called "The Other Side of Love" and he said there are seven steps for dealing with an angry person. Step one, listen. Step two, listen. Step three, listen. When somebody comes at you and they're angry - resist the impulse to argue with them. Just listen, listen, listen.
Number two, how do you handle angry people? Try to identify with the other person's anger. Instead of criticizing their emotion, instead of invalidating them, try to identify with it. You might say something like: I understand how disappointed you are. Or you might say: you know if I were you and thought that's the way it happened I'd be just as angry as you are as well. Proverbs 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions". One practical way we demonstrate love toward an adversary is by understanding rather than invalidating our adversary's feelings.
Number three: answer softly and slowly. Answer softly and slowly. Whenever somebody is spewing incendiary words towards us, just imagine in one hand you have a bucket of water, in the other hand you have a bucket of gasoline - and you get to decide which bucket you're going to throw on those angry sparks. Solomon said that in Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger".
Number four, in dealing with an angry person ask forgiveness if necessary. Nothing will take the wind out of an angry person's sails any quicker than your responding: I'm sorry for what I did. Would you forgive me? You know over and over again in the New Testament the Bible talks about having a clear conscience that it's essential to living the Christian life. Do you know what a clear conscience is? It's the knowledge that there is no one who can accuse me of a wrong I've not attempted to make right.
I know I'm revealing my age when I talk about Amos and Andy, but there was an episode in which Andy was walking around with a little bottle tied around his neck. And his friend Amos said: what is that bottle around your neck? And Andy says: oh, it's a bottle of nitroglycerin. And Amos says: why would you be carrying a bottle of nitroglycerin around your neck? And Andy says: why I've got this friend and every time he talks to me he pokes me in the chest and it bothers me, so I decided to put this nitroglycerin around my neck: the next time he pokes me he's going to get his finger blown off. Well that's not all that's going to get blown off, is it?
Listen to me. Whenever we have anger that is undealt with in our heart, it's like walking around with a bottle of nitroglycerin around our neck. And whenever we deal angrily with somebody who is angry, it's just like punching old Andy right in the chest there and exploding that bottle of nitroglycerin. You see Solomon has another way, other advice for handling anger. You know what Solomon says about anger? He says get as far away from it as possible. Whatever you do don't wear it around your neck or in your heart. Don't associate with it. And most of all when confronted with it make sure you handle with care. Solomon said it this way in Ecclesiastes 7:9, "Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools". Keep your cool when things get hot.