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Growing up, it was always a curious experience to meet my friends' parents. Some were easy going. Some were rather distant and uninvolved. Some were entertaining. Several were eccentric.
One of my friends had a very opinionated father. He had an answer for every dilemma and, of course, his opinion might as well have been cast in stone because there was no moving him once he got something in his head.
I happened to be at my friend's house one evening during a news broadcast. This prompted a discussion with his father regarding diplomacy and international policy. His father had a solution for every international disagreement and his solution always involved bombs. If another country was too aggressive with ours we should just “bomb them.” If they spoke ill of us, “bomb them.” If they provoked us in any way, “bomb them.” It was quite a deep discussion.
I often wondered why his father seemed so angry. Was it just his natural temperament? Did he hate his job? Was he going through a personal crisis of some sort? Basically, we tolerated him, but we didn't really enjoy being around someone who was so easily irritated and ready for revenge.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we read, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:8-9
You and I are sinful people and we are surrounded by other sinful people. In every context of life, our time is spent with people who have the potential to get under our skin and irritate us to the point that we may be tempted to retaliate or “bomb them.”
But God's Word encourages us to put aside our pride and embrace patience. I believe the Lord wants us to bear with one another and actively seek to show love to people who may come across as irritable and unappreciative.
There are probably a few things that test your patience and stir you to anger rather quickly. God's Word implores you to hold back when you're provoked. Don't let retaliation be your first choice as you respond. Respond to provocation with the patient tact only the Holy Spirit can supply.
The advice we're given in Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 tells us that it is better to end quarrels rather than provoke them. It is better to be patient with people that provoke you rather than rushing toward pride and a defensive posture. Since “anger resides in the lap of fools,” we are challenged to be slow to allow an issue to provoke our anger.
In Matthew 5:22, Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Just prior to making that statement, Jesus began illustrating that anger is the very root of murder. Jesus made it clear that unrighteous, uncontrolled, uninhibited anger invites not only the chastisement and disrespect of others, but also the judgment of God.
God desires that we live a redeemed and righteous life. The mindset of this world encourages us to respond with anger whenever we are provoked. But God's Word tells us, “... man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20).
If we desire to honor the Lord with our lives, we must submit our pride and our desire for vengeance over to Him. We should ask Him to calm our hearts when we are stirred to wrath and remain confident that He is fighting our battles for us in more ways that we can perceive.
What provokes you to anger? Do you consider yourself to be a “proud” man? How do you typically respond when you are provoked? How do you believe the Lord would want you to respond? How did Jesus respond to the insults of those who opposed Him?
Lord, when I am provoked and become angry, please help me to submit my heart over to your control. Help me not to seek revenge. Please help me to avoid fostering a spirit of hatred. By your grace and power, please help me to glorify You. In Jesus name, Amen.