By Chip Henderson
Samson’s life proves that he didn’t have a good handle on his emotions. He could have benefitted from the wise words of the apostle Paul, who talked about laying aside the “old self” and putting on a “new self” in Jesus (Ephesians 4). While it’s too late for Samson, it’s not too late for us to model godly self-control in the face of difficult times and circumstances. Paul’s insight into overcoming anger is priceless for those of us who struggle in this area. Let’s be honest: We all do at some point.￼
1. Refuse to Stew.
The Bible tells us that anger is not only OK, it’s expected. But we are to have control of our tempers, to get mad when anger is warranted: “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger … ” (Ephesians 4:26).
Paul recognized that we all experience situations that spark the emotion of anger. Believers who became incensed or irritated with other Christians were to resolve the conflict before the sun set. That is, they were to deal with the issue squarely and quickly rather than let it simmer and become divisive. Unresolved differences destroy relationships. We mustn’t wait to settle a dispute with another Christian.
A lot of times anger grows in the absence of information. You aren’t communicating with the people you are at odds with, so you start making up the story in your mind. Don’t do that. Go talk to the person you’re angry with and ask for clarification. Refuse to stew. Have a conversation with God, with yourself, and with others.
2. Recognize Anger as a Spiritual Attack.
Anger is a spiritual attack. When we allow anger to enter our hearts and minds, we no longer have complete control. The Devil can get a foothold in our lives and in our relationships. “ … and don’t give the Devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27).
When the Devil gets a foothold, he will cause a root of bitterness to grow up, poisoning your whole life. He wants to sabotage your actions and purpose, your efforts to live obediently and wholeheartedly to God.
But what about the flip side — righteous wrath? All believers should be opposed to evil but it’s problematic when we assume justification for our response to that evil. Righteous wrath can degenerate into resentment or frustration to the point that it becomes sin. If we don’t control wrath, it can take the form of flashes of temper toward others. What should be constructive anger can easily flame out of control. When that happens, believers give the Devil an opportunity, and evil gains a foothold in individual believers and in the Christian community.
3. Rely on the Holy Spirit.
Paul strongly urged believers not to grieve the Holy Spirit. His injunction reminded Christians of God’s presence: “And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
You have a secret weapon: prayer! When you’re struggling to control your anger — or any emotional or physical response for that matter — ask the Spirit to help you and to rule you. When you see a bad situation coming or feel stressed, call on the Holy Spirit to help. Draw near to God and Satan has to flee (see James 4:7-8).
4. Remember the Costs of Your Actions.
The most common way we harm others as a result of our anger is through the poor use of our speech: “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Take time to calm down before you choose how to respond. Seek to be compassionate, patient, and gentle with others. We all mess up and anger others. React to those who make you mad in the way you want those you make mad to react to you. Rotten words are destructive, hurtful, and they cannot be taken back. Life and death are found in the power of your tongue, so set a guard over your mouth.
5. Realign Your Heart to God.
We’re called to be kind in our interactions with others. To be kind is to consider others’ good as important as our own. We’re to be compassionate — to extend heart-felt empathy concerning others’ needs. We’re to feel with others in their distress and help if possible. Even Christians sometimes wrong one another, but as God graciously provided forgiveness through Christ’s atoning death, we are to keep on forgiving one another.
“All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
The Greek word behind forgiving is not the usual word for forgive. It has the idea of graciousness toward others and includes pardoning wrongs. God’s gracious forgiveness is to be the model and motive for believers’ extending forgiveness. Because God has forgiven us, we must forgive others. The revenge cycle can only be halted by forgiveness.
When just one believer lives by Paul’s commands in these verses, that person has a positive impact on the church’s life and can move others to live by these principles. Will you be that person? The world is watching your reaction to frustrations and inconveniences. How will you respond?
Dr. Chip Henderson is the senior pastor of Pinelake Church in Brandon, Mississippi. Under Chip’s leadership, Pinelake has grown from 700 people to more than 9,000 on five campuses. His passion for seeing Jesus Christ bring about powerful life-change is clear through his church and his writing. Chip holds a Ph.D. in New Testament studies and serves on the Board of Directors for the Launch Church Planting Network. He and his wife, Christy, have three children.