April 18, 2014

Avoiding The Flashpoint II: Self-Immolation or Salvation?

I find in instances where anger and frustration are about to rear their ugly heads, I need to learn to breathe in these situations. I need to learn to breathe in and blow out the kindled anger within me that has been lit. If I dwell on it or circle it mentally it turns into a fire tornado or fiery whirlwind that spins out of control and damages things that it touches. It doesn’t always work out this way but my head has to at least be in the right place to get a positive outcome.

I need to learn how to be wronged in a meek or humbling manner and learn to walk away even if I feel I've been slighted because sometimes it is just my perception of what has happened. Others may have meant no offense. Yet the sinful man in me resists and a spark is struck. So I pray right then and there hoping to alleviate the sin before it reaches flash-point and bursts into an earth-scorching flame and peppering firestorm. Sometimes...it feels as if, in my anger, I actually unleash some of the flames of Hell in my misappropriated  sinful emotion. I feel like an arsonist that catches himself on fire. I burn myself with my own sin. To continue and allow anger to reign in my life could be an indicator that I may be in jeopardy of Hell's flame anyway as a non-believer...

Enter long-suffering again which starts with a single step. It is the hardest to recognize and most difficult to implement. I need to practice restraint and do nothing. Yes, do nothing. This idea murders me every time. It is at this exact point, I fail. My will wishes to do otherwise and this is where the battle engages for me. I suppose this is where is engages for most men. I should be doing nothing other than turning away from myself. It is not my will I should be seeking in these instances, it is God’s. I must engage the God controlled portions of my mind or at least get out of God's way so that He can. I then will then have a much better chance to act biblically. It seems so simple until it comes time to actually implement this process. If I react instead of thinking, the first thing that comes out is usually incendiary or caustic. The end result is disaster every time. I sabotage my own life. 

Proverbs 15:1 ~ “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Far too often I am more interested in winning the argument rather than fixing or repairing relationships. I am more interested in burning things down to the ground in a viking's pillage and burn mentality rather than protecting them. So instead of praying, I argue and pick at subtleties. I nitpick things to death that I didn’t like rather than find the things I do like in another person. I continue to circle mentally around something I should have just let go of and dropped long ago. I am like a sinful satellite orbiting my own fiery orb of anger and resent. I should be finding other ways to dampen flames. I should be finding ways to build people up not finding ways to tear them down. If I do see flaws or shortcomings I should be graceful and willing to help when I can. To do any less is to be hateful.

The times I have been able to do this (which are few and far between), I have only been able to do this with God’s help. I am just incapable of doing this alone. Fire is dangerous unless regulated or contained so I try desperately to submit to God (but usually fail). Impatience is just another name for a short fuse or short temper. Good intentions are great but if the heat rises too fast for me to be able to adapt to it, I am in a precarious situation and at high risk of a flash-over which is when the emotion escalates so quickly that anger discharges so fast that I don’t even have time to properly prepare. This is sin pure and simple. So what do I do? I need an emergency plan in these situations. I need to have an emergency exit with a panic bar close at hand. I need to have a plan long in advance so not to ever get into the situation where I am cornered by fire. 

Sometimes it feels like self-immolation. It feels like I burn down my own life.

This is where the whole concept of long-suffering come full-circle. I should’ve never gotten this close to flash-point. I should’ve diluted the flammable mix to make it less combustible. I must become flame-resistant. I must be impregnated with flame retardant. What is the flame retardant and where is it found? Ironically He is portrayed in the Bible as a flame when it descends upon the Apostles and disciple at Pentecost. I am speaking of the Holy Spirit...Jesus...God. As I said before, the Fruits of the Spirit work together to bolster and strengthen one another. If I wish to be impervious to outbursts of anger I must also be kind, faithful to God and have self-control. There must be love, joy, peace, and gentleness in my life. I have found when these are missing so is God in my personal life. I am severely off kilter. As soon as one of these things goes AWOL from my life I should be scrambling looking for where it went and why.

Part of maintaining these fruits stems from good godly interpersonal relationships. The first and most important relationship is the one I have with God. Without this relationship there is no Holy Spirit in my life and my sin attempts to squeeze him out of my life. Without this primary pivotal relationship, all other relationships in my life will suffer. It is like being cut from the vine if this relationship is not in my life. When cut from the vine…I wither and die as do all my other relationships…even my marriage. I will produce no fruit if severed from the Vine. I will die if cut from the source of my sustenance...if cut from the source of my life. 

To be a true Christian and true son of God I must be led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).

The Epistle of Colossians and Ephesians go into even more detail about a person truly guided by the Holy Spirit. The character of the new person in Christ (the elect) are to…

“…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” Colossians 3:12-13

Ephesians 4:1-3 ~ “worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So hear me when I make this next statement...our anger and outbursts are not solely our problem. They are the problem of my brethren too. We are to “bear with one another in love”. I need seek out my brethren to help me fight some of my battles with sin. Church is community. Church is Kingdom. God never expected me to be a one man army and mercenary in my own solitary war with temptation and Satan. No, we are to be in the unity of Christ through the work of the Spirit. Yes, I will be held accountable for my own actions but God has given me the Body of the Church to help me out when it comes time to battle some of the fires in my life. 

If there is no one in your church willing to help you, you’re in the wrong church. If you are not willing to go for help when it is obvious you need it…you are too proud or not Christian at all. The bottom-line is this…get help if you need it because it should be available to you in the true Body of Christ. This push to seek the help of others does not divest the angry man of the need to pray fervently with God and build a fireproof relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship so flame-retardant that it will withstand the infernal flames of Hell when Satan launches an all-out frontal attack on you.

So the last question I must ask is this? How does all of this play into the big picture? Where does eternity and eternal life fit into all of this? Well obviously it is as simple as those indwelt with the Holy Spirit are saved since the Spirit is down payment or a seal on a believer’s salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14).

In this life…I am going to suffer. I will often need to wait for long periods of time or indefinite periods for things. Sometimes these waits and stretches of time will be extraordinarily painful and seem impossible to endure and that is exactly the point: They are impossible by my own will and works. The great thing is that they are not impossible to endure with God. Through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). 

The relationships we have with others will often be the source of waiting. The waiting for others will be a test of my patience and an opportunity to build patience. Many will fail as I often do. We will need to wait on God’s timing. This requires that we understand our timing is not God’s timing but God’s timing is perfect in accordance with His perfect will and perfect plans. For me, the problem is that I want all my problems solved right now. I want things perfect…right now. I have now learned that this is usually not God’s plan for me and nor will it be for you.

So hear comes the big ironic punchline. Our long-suffering, patience and trust that things will go well…start in the beginning with faith/trust in God and His plans. A trust in God’s sovereignty. A believer will have no ability to suffer over the long haul without a hope that there will be a reprieve or end to the suffering. It is a trust that God will make it worth it in the end that allows us to endure. If we believe in a just and righteous God…He will. Is this the God you believe in or is it some other god?

He will ultimately return in His second coming. More immediately for each Christian He offers individual salvation and blessing to those who obey Him now. Only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). The word endure in Matthew 10:22 is ὑπομείνας /hupomeinas or under remaining. At the heart of hupomeinas is the idea that we are to endure and the person enduring has to see the tribulation they are going through to its meaningful end. The inclusion of the word οὗτος /this one (he that endures) in this clause points out both the absolute necessity of endurance and the certainty of blessing to him who will endure.  In other words…there is blessing in the end for those who persevere through tribulation…for those who are long-suffering and maintain their obedience to God. For those that do not explode in wrath and unjustified anger!

Lastly, James tells us repeatedly to be patient for different things. 

James 5:7-8 ~ “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

He tells us to be patient for the return of the Lord which is both a spiritual and physical thing. He then mentions the farmer with his crops and the rain which is purely and earthly physical thing dictated by the sovereign plans of God. He tells his readers to be patient by strengthening their heart because the coming of the Lord is near. What does he mean? James is referring here to those that have been unjustly oppressed (mostly by the rich in this context). He is talking to those that have been wronged or suffered (in some cases for a long time). Those that have been long-suffering have reason to be patient because God will be the a judge and the wrath itself towards the wrongdoers and He is the reward for those that have suffered. Salvation folks, salvation!

In the end I must trust that God will set things right. In the end God will restore all things. If I trust, the long-suffering won’t be endless, only temporary. As I can see from the word long-suffering itself, it says long…not endless. It is my reward at the end of my perseverance that is to be endless...or my punishment will be endless for not believing. 

What do you believe?


Shawn said...

Awesome subject. Exactly what I am going through now. No one can be as cruel as mw when I'm angry....
How my wife puts up with me I have no idea...
I must get this out of my life.

I loved the reminder of the proverbs from the first part.

Andy Pierson said...

If you do this and your wife tolerates it, she is long-suffering because she loves. This should stop us men in our tracks when we feel it is okay to exhaust our anger on the one person we chose to love unconditionally. Anger is indeed a choice, not just an emotion. We have other choices in situations other than anger. The ability to reconcile those moments means we need to hav ejsut enough patience to think before acting. We need to mentally choose not to get angry. Not because it is the easy thing but it is the hard thing. We are men and we pride ourselves on strength. It takes a godly STRONG man to walk back his anger. It takes a weak man to release it and then an even weaker man to try and justify it or blame others. I've done it all and none of it was justified. I call on Him everyday to do the right thing. I know I've put my wife through hell at times and it is just not what she deserves. I needed to see God in my wife to see what real love is. Love is giving with no expectation of reciprocation. Love is loving in the face of a withering storm of vile anger being spit in your face. Love is being spit on, whipped and crucified. But you already know this brother. ;) I will pray for your anger as I pray for mine tonight. My God give you the victory in this task. Remember, we are strong in Christ. Be strong brother and love.

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