Title: Follow Through by Applying God's Word to Our Anger and Our Tongue 1

Sermon Summary

This message deals with the very important topic of anger and the resulting negative use of our tongue in saying things that hurt others. Even gossip finds it’s roots in our anger over something someone did to us or our dissatisfaction with something in our own life that causes us to lash out with words that hurt. The book of James has much to say about this topic and how anger does not achieve the righteous life God desires! Learning how to control the temper and the tongue is of utmost importance for all followers of Christ!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Some of us have a harder time with anger than others for many reasons. It may be the way you were raised. Maybe you had a good example or maybe you had a bad example of how to deal with anger. What role did others play in your life when it comes to the topic of anger?

2. What are some reasons God’s Word says we should be quick to listen but slow to speak? Maybe this question will help you answer this. Have you ever gotten angry with someone, only to discover later, when you got additional information,  that you were wrong?

James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

3. Read the following passage and discuss some of the causes and remedies for anger that are found in these verses.

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

4. The tongue can be used for good or it can be used for evil! Why do you think it is so hard to control and what can be done about it?

James 3:3-12 “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Full Sermon Notes

Follow Through by Applying God's Word to Our Anger and Our Tongue.  

James 1:19-20, 1:26, 3:3-12, 3:13-18, 4:1-2

l know there are those here today and it is not well with your soul! You are in the midst of storms in life and for some of you it has nothing to do with anything you've done, but just circumstances you find yourself a part of. However, there are others whose actions may have played a part in creating the storm which is whirling around them. Either way, what you do in response will either help you survive the storm or cause you to become its victim! And this is especially true when it comes to the emotion of anger and the impact it can have on your emotional, physical, and spiritual well being. Not to mention the way it can cause your tongue to say things that fuel the flames of evil. God's Word speaks to us concerning this issue and if we will listen and then follow through by applying God's Word to our temper and our tongue, we can change so much in our lives. Let's pray and ask God to speak to our hearts and minds in a powerful way today! 

"Father God, we are so desperate to hear from You! We desire to apply the principles of Your precious Word to all that we face in this life and we know, You know, how especially hard it becomes when our emotions get involved. We need Your help, we need Your power, and Your precious Holy Spirit to fill us and to help us control the emotions that can be so hard for us to handle. Teach through me as I share things you've taught me. May You be glorified through our transformed lives, in Jesus' precious name I pray and believe! Amen!!

Ok, today we're going to talk about our temper and our tongue! Some of you may be thinking, "I wonder if I can just sneak out a side door and maybe nobody will even notice!" Please don't. I hope what we're going to learn today will help you do better. And some of you may not even think you have a problem with your temper or your tongue. That could mean you're in denial! You may not fly into a rage, but there's subtle ways to be angry as well. There's such a thing as passive aggressive! You know, doing or saying little things that might seem complimentary, but are really put downs. Like when you excitedly show someone a picture of your new house and they say "well that's a good little starter home!” That may be a putdown.  And here's something to think about…It's easy to spot passive-aggressive behavior when it's being done to you, but it's not so easy to realize when you're doing it to someone else. 

And then there's the folks who make no attempt to be subtle with their anger. They fly off the handle, speak their mind, and hold nothing back. You know, the folks who quickly escalate to outburst of anger. Raised voices, foul language, saying mean things, becoming physically aggressive, or other outward expressions of their disapproval of the situation at hand. Before I read our Scripture, I want to ask you a few questions. 

How many of you make your best decisions when you're angry?

How many of you say just the right thing when you're angry?

How many of you find the situation to be much better after an anger episode?

Anybody find their relationships to be better after you've let your temper run the show?

Ok, maybe it's time to read our first Scripture. Remember, the book of James is an informal gathering of wisdom sayings. They are not in a precise order. I guess you could say the book of James is like a New Testament book of Proverbs! Let's look at the first of five sets of verses in James. James 1:19-20... 

James 1:19-20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

There are four applications of God's Word to consider in these two verses. The first is to...

Be Quick to Listen!

Listen to who?

Well for starters, listen to the person who's talking to you and give them a chance to talk and share their thoughts before you cut them off. You might just learn something from their perspective if you really listen. And then, listen to The Holy Spirit. He will help you remember God's wisdom for the situation.

Proverbs 8:32-36 puts it well...

Proverbs 8:32-36 “Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.”

"Wait a minute Pastor Larry! Just because I don't always listen to the Holy Spirit and sometimes get really angry, doesn't mean I love death!" 

Well, let me remind you of some modern day science that backs up this verse. Did you know various medical studies have shown that being a consistently angry person doubles your chance of a heart attack, increases stroke risk, weakens your immune system, causes anxiety, can lead to depression and may even lessen lung capacity? 

Maybe that's why God's Word says this in Ephesians 4:26... 

Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

The second application here is...

Be Slow to Speak!

You may listen to the other person and hear them out and still totally disagree with them. Just because you listen to someone doesn't mean you will agree with them. However, you should still be slow to speak! You need time to formulate what your response should be. You need time to allow God to lead you in your response! You may need time to deal with your hurt and disappointment so you don't speak out of your emotions! You may have cause to be angry, and maybe you have a right to be angry, but you don't have the right to make everyone else hurt because you've been hurt! That's just wrong. Someone once made a powerful observation…"Hurt people hurt people!" 

But it shouldn't be that way with a follower of Christ! When we're hurt we don't retaliate! We  follow the example of Christ…1 Peter 2:21ff 

1 Peter 2:21-23 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

So James told us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry!

Be Slow to Become Angry!

So if we are quick to listen and slow to speak, then we can be slow to become angry because we've given God a chance to speak to our heart. I love the way the writer of Proverbs put it...

Proverbs 19:11 “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

Maybe when we take the time to realize that we're not perfect either, we might just give others a little more room to be human and understand they need a little grace when they mess up! Maybe it's all about perspective! Maybe it's more about my attitude than it is the actions of others. I'm not saying that we just let anything go, or that we tolerate abuse in our life, but let's be honest...how many times is our temper, anger, and rage ignited by abuse? Sadly that does exist in our world, but most of the time a person that is the recipient of abuse is not the angry person. They are many times victimized by an angry person. And if you are given to fits of rage then you could be the aggressor and while you may feel like you have every right to be angry here's a fact...

Unless your anger is a righteous anger that comes from God stirring your heart to be so moved by injustice and wrong doing that you take steps to change the circumstances for a victim even if it cost you personally, unless your anger is that kind of righteous anger then it has no place in your life. The forth application James gave us in these first two verses was this...

James 1:20 “For man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires!”

Unless the anger is put in your heart by God himself it cannot bring about the righteous life God desires for you! It cannot. It is unspiritual! How do I know this? How can I be so sure? God's Word right here in James 3:13-18...

James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Did you see the stark comparison between these two lifestyles? Anger is an outgrowth of bitter envy and selfish ambition which are both unspiritual and of the devil. These things result in disorder and every evil practice! In fact James goes on to tell us in Chapter four the root cause of this kind of evil anger...

James 4:1-2a “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight…"

I know this is hard to swallow, but unless God puts righteous anger in your heart over the mistreatment of someone else, or unless you are the person being abused, then anger is the result of selfish, ambitious, envious, unspiritual and even devilish attitudes! But did you see what your life could be? A good life, filled with deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom! 

Look at verses 17 and 18 again...

James 3:17-18 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

But you say, Pastor Larry you just don't know my circumstances. That's an impossible life for me. Is it? I want to share a powerful true story with you that is found in Max Lucado's book "Facing Your Giants!" Listen... 

"Earnest Gordon groans in the Death House of Chungkai, Burma. He listens to the moans of the dying and smells the stench of the dead. Pitiless jungle heat bakes his skin and parches his throat. Had he the strength, he could wrap- one hand around his bony thigh. But he has neither the energy nor the interest. Diphtheria has drained both; he can't walk; he can't even feel his body. He shares a cot with flies and bedbugs and awaits a lonely death in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. How harsh the war has been on him. He entered World War II in his early twenties, a robust Highlander in Scotland's Argyle and Sutherland Brigade. but then came the capture by the Japanese, months of backbreaking labor in the jungle, daily beatings, and slow starvation. Scotland seems forever away. Civility, even farther. The allied soldiers behave like barbarians, stealing from each other, robbing dying colleagues, fighting for food scraps. Servers shortchange rations so they can have extra for themselves. The low of the jungle has become the law of the camp. Gordon is happy to bid it adieu. Death by disease trumps life in Chungkai. 

But then something wonderful happens. Two new prisoners, in whom hope still stirs, are transferred to the camp. Though also sick and frail, they heed a higher code. They share their meager meals and volunteer for extra work. They cleanse Gordon's ulcerated sores and massage his atrophied legs. they give him his first bath in six weeks. His strength slowly returns and, with it, his dignity. Their goodness proves contagious, and Gordon contracts a case. He begins to treat the sick and share his rations. He even gives away his few belongings. Other soldiers do likewise. Over time, the tone of the camp softens and brightens. Sacrifice replaces selfishness. Soldiers hold worship services and Bible studies. Twenty years later, when Gordon served as chaplain of Princeton University, he described the transformation with these words:

'Death was still with us--no doubt about that. But we were slowly being freed from its destructive grip...Selfishness, hatred…and pride were all anti-life. Love…self-sacrifice…and faith, on the other hand, were the essence of life…gifts of God to men…Death no longer had the last word at Chungkai.'"

Max Lucado then makes this powerful statement...

"Selfishness, hatred, and pride--you don't have to go to a POW camp to find them."

Is Max right? Unfortunately yes! Right here in the midst of our peace and prosperity in America, selfishness, hatred, pride, and anger abound! It's in our families, our schools, our workplaces and our politics! I'm going to say this because you would never know who I talked with this week, but I had to make this disclaimer three times this week. "Oh by the way, I was already planning on preaching on this subject Sunday, so don't think it was because of our conversation!"

Folks, if we're going to have good follow through in our application of God's Truth in our lives, we cannot ignore what His Word says about our temperament, our attitude, and our motivation for everything we say and do. Oh, that's right, I almost forgot. What we say and do! Temper and tongue go together like salt and pepper, like biscuits and gravy, like sweet and tea, but there's nothing sweet about it when these two team up. Can I get a witness on this one? James puts it this way in chapter 3:3-12

 James 3:3-12 “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

And someone might be tempted to try and minimize and rationalize their propensity to say harsh things, to gossip, to speak out in anger. I've had people say to me, "Well, I'm just brutally honest! I don't mince words! I call it like I see it! If the truth, hurts just get over it!"

Well, I'm going to counter this line of reasoning with God's truth, but I'm promise, I'm going to do so out of love! I'm going to read this next nugget of wisdom from James because I care about you and you need to realize how important what you do with your temper and your tongue really is from God's perspective...

James 1:26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

Why did God tell James to write such a harsh statement? Because the harsh reality is this...

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

"Wait a minute Pastor Larry! Are you saying that if I've ever lost my temper and said mean things or gossiped about somebody that I'm not saved?"

No I'm not saying that nor is James saying that. But when you don't keep a tight rein on your tongue and if you don't allow the Holy Spirit to help you control your temper... When you lose it with your spouse, your child, your co-worker, sibling, neighbor, or whoever, then you've just destroyed the effectiveness of your witness to them. At that point in time all they can think is, "Well I guess all that religious talk was just that, talk!"

"Wow, Pastor Larry, I've done that! What can I do?" 

Well, I can tell you what you can do because I've unfortunately been there. Yes, I've lost my temper and said things I regretted. I'll close with a confession and a Scripture. I’ve shared this in many counseling sessions and maybe up here before.

Years ago, when one of my kids was a young teenager, they began developing an attitude. Now I know no one in this room has ever had to deal with that, but I did. And it's funny how, at that moment, I seemed to forget all about what I put my parents through. We were driving and having a very intense discussion. This kid pushed every button I had, and all of a sudden I pulled over on the side of the road and pointed my finger in her face and raised my voice and said my piece. There was dead silence the rest of the way home.  She was thinking, "What just happened?" And I was thinking, "What just happened?" When we got home, I went to my study and got on my knees to talk to God about my situation. It was at that moment that I faced one of the most powerful times of conviction in my whole Christian experience. Here's what God spoke to my heart... 

"Larry you would never speak to one of the youth in the youth group the way you just spoke to your own daughter!" He was right! I cried and asked for forgiveness and then went straight to my teenager and humbly asked for her forgiveness. I think I asked her for forgiveness about 20 times!  I don't even remember what she had done, but I'll never forget what I did that day! I learned from that experience that even preachers and maybe especially preachers who are trying to live for Jesus every day must depend on The Holy Spirit for everything! Especially when it comes to controlling the temper and the tongue! 

The good news is… I can tell you that God's Spirit has truly helped me down through the years to grow less and less vulnerable to the whims of temper and the loose tongue and as for the times I've stumbled, 1 John 1:8...

1 John 1:8 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

 

Let's pray!