GOOD ‘N’ ANGRY
The “A” Factor
February 11-12, 2006
This past Sunday afternoon I took my daughter to the opening day of soccer practice. She’s 11 years old and she’s playing soccer in a Little League. The coaches did a really great job during their three-hour practice, and right before the whole action started, they brought all the parents together and had this parents’ meeting.
They really talked about some good stuff regarding soccer, some of the rules and things like that. And then the coach said, “Now, this year we will have field monitors. And these field monitors,” the coach said, “will control the anger of the parents. If parents lose it,” the coach said, “they will be escorted out of the facility, off of the field. They’ll be banned.”
I thought to myself, “What is that all about? Field monitors for the parents who lose it!”
“I’m angry.” “I’m mad.” “I’m chapped.” Or as my uncle from Laurel, Mississippi says, “I’ve got the reds.” Those expressions and others I can’t mention from this stage describe an emotion that we all deal with—anger.
Today’s talk is entitled “The A Factor” because anger is a major part of the equation of life. Today, though, I want us to look at anger in a unique way. The classical definition of anger is an emotional response in the face of wrong-doing. That’s this classical definition. But we’re going to look at anger in a kind of a different angle.
So this side of the room, I want you to say this with me, “It’s not about the anger.” One, two, three, “It’s not about the anger.” Give yourselves a round of applause. That was great.
Okay, over here, I want you to say, “It is about the anger.” One, two, three, “It is about the anger.”
Now the center section say, “Grrrrrrrr!”
That’s right, anger. We’re going to find out over the next several weeks that anger is not the primary emotion. It’s something that we all process. Not all of us have an anger problem, but we have a problem with anger. We have this problem by the way we view and the way we see anger. So it is about anger and it’s not about anger.
Anger is usually the secondary emotion. It’s not the first thing that we feel. And that’s where we get whacked about it. If I asked you think back in your mind, to think back to the first time that you actually experienced anger; even though I don’t bet, I would bet you cash money that your first experience with anger is one of negative anger.
When I think back to anger, my first experience centers around a ping pong table. My father bought my brother and I a ping pong table and we began to play ping pong a lot. And we had these incredible matches. I would beat Ben the first four or five games. But as we played more and more, he would beat me and beat me and just embarrass me. I lost my temper many times and whacked the paddle on the table.
We moved the table outside so I could have more room to smash the ball and we would really get into it! We’d play sometimes 10 games a day and I’d get so angry that I’d take the paddles and throw them into the woods. I’ve often wondered if hundreds of years later, as archeologists looked through the woods in South Carolina, would they find those paddles and think, “That’s interesting. Ping pong paddles in the woods? That’s fascinating!”
My father, though, became angry at me and he banned me for life from the ping pong table. He said, “You’ll never play again!” But this past Christmas I did buy my kids a ping pong table, and guess who showed up last week at my house? My brother! And we went upstairs and we locked eyes, but we didn’t play. I don’t know what it is about Ben. I don’t get mad if anyone else beats me, but Ben? I don’t know. It must be that whole brother thing.
Well, think about your situation. Maybe you’re dealing with a toxic spouse. May you’re dealing with someone who spews molten lava all over you at work. Maybe you’re dealing with a coach who messes you around. Maybe you’re dealing with a teacher or a friend and they have this anger problem.
There is a good side to anger and a bad side to anger. Anger basically is neutral, you could say. But from our perspective, which is God’s view, anger is a gift from God. Say that with me. Anger is a gift from God. The Bible says this about anger. Turn to Ephesians 4:26 and 27. I’m going to warn you—these verses are dangerous for your emotional health. “Be angry…” Don’t you like that? The Bible says that. “Be angry, and yet do not sin.”
Go throughout the Bible and see how often God got angry. Jesus got angry. [Ephesians 4:26-27] “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.”
So there’s a helpful way to deal with anger and a harmful way, a good way and a bad way, a saintly way and a sinful way.
If I allow myself to get involved in sinful anger, the Bible says, I give Satan an opportunity. In some translations, it means that I actually help him into my life. I give him a boost. And I don’t want to do that. You don’t either.
But it’s really amazing, because we live in the age of rage. We live in a seething society, a very angry culture. Just drive on the freeway. Just go to a soccer game. Pull into Fellowship Church parking lot! We have a lot of anger.
Anger, though, is not the primary emotion. It is about anger; it’s not about anger. And over the next few sessions I’m going to talk about the importance of anger in relationships. Did you hear that? Anger is the key to deeper intimacy in marriage.
All these people are running around saying, “Man, I want to meet somebody, and when we hook up and get married, we’ll never have any fights. It’ll always be peaceful and it’ll be like Valentine’s Day, every day.” Yeah, right!
We’re gong to discover how important anger is. Anger is an indicator in your life and mine that we need to change. You show me your anger and I’ll show you your passion. You show me your anger and I’ll show you your purpose for living. Anger is a good thing. It’s your friend and mine.
What happens when someone explodes on you? How do you deal with an angry person in your home? At the office? On the team? Around the neighborhood? How do you deal with that? We’re going to talk about that. How do you confront someone who’s angry? We’re going to talk about that too. So this is going to be an exciting series, a life changing experience. It’s been my prayer that we get a true angle on anger.
Today, we’re going to put our floaties on and sort of splash around in the shallow end. But it’s critical that we understand some of the principles and precepts I’m going to talk about today, because every session builds upon the next.
You have constructive anger and destructive anger. Let’s talk about the bad anger first. Let’s talk about destructive anger.
How many people in here like to watch The Weather Channel? You’re into weather? Weather is fascinating isn’t it? One of our twin daughters loves to watch The Weather Channel. The other day she walked in and said, “Mom, Dad, are we very close to Philadelphia?”
And we said, “No.”
She said, “There’s this huge snow storm coming in to Philadelphia.”
She was very worried. She thought Philadelphia was somewhere near North Dallas or something.
Some of us, though, handle anger like a snow storm. Some of us just ice people out. We’re cold hearted.
Last week I was in Boston speaking to some pastors, and I had a day where I walked the streets and a snow storm hit. After a while, my face became numb just being pelted by this frozen rain and snow. Everything was slippery. Everything was hard.
Do you process anger that way? Do you kind of sulk and moan and get all by yourself? “No, I’m not mad.”
Maybe your spouse asks, “What’s wrong, baby?”
Jeremiah in the Bible did the same thing. I don’t have time to unpack all of this, but if you have your Bibles, turn over to the Old Testament. Jeremiah 15:17-18. Jeremiah handled anger like a snow storm.
He said in Verse 17, “I stayed by myself…” That’s bad, Jeremiah. You get by yourself and you get all funky. “I stayed by myself and was filled with anger. Why do I keep on suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal?”
He’s going off on God and getting all angry. He was by himself. He iced everybody out. He got alone and he was a snow storm guy.
Well, maybe you don’t handle anger like a snow storm. Maybe you handle anger like a tornado. All of a sudden—boom!—you’re a tornado. A tornado strikes out of no where. Then you look back, and the wake of a tornado is utterly devastating.
“Man, I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to do that. Will you forgive me?”
“Well, yeah, we will, but look what you’ve done.”
The hair trigger temper. All of a sudden I just go off on you, man. Whoa! Do you handle anger that way? It’s difficult to live with someone that way. I think about Cain and Abel. Cain, the Bible says, was angry at Abel. And if you read Genesis Chapter 4, Cain committed the first homicide. He was jealous and envious of Abel, his other brother (and no, they weren’t playing ping pong). He killed him. Do you handle anger like a tornado? That’s a pretty good thought.
How about a thunderstorm? A thunderstorm’s coming. That ominous black cloud. Lighting. Thunder. Rain. Call the ambulance—you whine and moan. You’re the victim. Poor, pitiful you. A lot of people handle anger that way. Always wearing a tuxedo because you’re going to a black tie pity party.
I think about Jonah. I don’t have time to get into the whole thing with Jonah, but basically, Jonah preached this amazing sermon to a bunch of people he did not like, the Ninevites. He was a racist. God came down and did amazing work through Jonah. Half a million people repented and turned to the Lord; I’m talking about the Ninevites who were negative and they became positive because of their encounter with God. And then after that, after this revival, Jonah has a pity party. Starts moaning and groaning and crying. And this dark ominous rain cloud just followed him around.
Do you handle anger like that? Maybe you handle anger, though, like a hurricane. A Doppler radar, you know, can show you if the hurricane is coming, it’s building. Hurricanes suck in all the wind and the water. They’re into retaliation. “I’m gonna get you back.” “I’ll keep score.” You can’t tell. You don’t know what they’re doing. And then all of a sudden, the hurricane comes to shore and you are in serious, serious trouble.
How many people in here watch 24? Man, that show is awesome, isn’t it? My boy, Jack Bauer! I love him! Jack Bauer handles anger like a hurricane. I like the way Jack talks. Ed begins speaking in a quiet voice] He talks very soft, like this. Very soft. His cell phone always works. He talks very soft, but you can tell its building and building and building and then one day he begins, [Ed begins yelling unintelligible words]. Movies, novels, television shows, they handle anger like hurricanes. They build and build and build and—boom!
Whenever I’ve tried to get someone back, whenever I’ve tried to retaliate, it doesn’t get me where I want to go. That is a destructive, destructive weather pattern. And maybe you’re living with someone like that. Maybe you know someone like that. Maybe you work for someone like that. How do you handle anger?
Paul told young Timothy this, “Examine yourself,” he said. Study yourself. In other words, unravel those complex emotions. We have to understand the weather patterns in our lives. How do we process, how do we deal with anger?
Anger is a learned response. We learn it. Well, man, I’m just that way. Man, my father had a hair trigger temper. Or my mother, she iced people out. My uncle, man, he was a hurricane. That’s just the way I handle anger. Ah, don’t be lying to yourself, because how many times have you been in an argument with your spouse or in the family, and you’re going “Blah, blah, *#&*#!” The phone rings, “Hello. [Said in a calm, happy voice.] Yes. She’s right here.” It’s a learned response.
There’s destructive anger. Also, there’s constructive anger. How do we process anger? How do we channel anger? That’s a good one to think about. How do you do it?
Well, God wants us to leverage anger. In another words, we should get angry at what angers God. Because when we get angry at what angers God, we can change the world. So that’s something we’ve got to think about and pray about and receive this week. “God, I want to get angry at what angers you because when I do that, I can change the world.”
Well, what does God get angry at? What should I get angry at? Good question. We should get angry when God’s word is maligned.
David showed up on the battlefield. He saw Goliath abusing the word of God, trashing his people. Saul should have been the one fighting Goliath. David, though, a Hebrew hick, a shepherd boy stepped up and killed Goliath. He channeled his anger in a positive way.
You remember when Jesus was in the temple and the people were turning the temple courtyard into a casino? The Bible says in the book of John that Jesus made a whip. Say that with me, “Made a whip.” That’s you and me, “Made a whip.” Now I don’t have time to get into that, I’m gonna talk about that in the later weeks, but that is a huge statement. Anyway, Jesus cleaned out the temple. Jesus got angry in a perfect way.
We think anger is all negative. Anger is positive. It’s a good thing. Anger so often can drive people without Christ to Christ.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a number of 20-somethings. And I think there’s more anger in young people today than ever before. I really believe that and here’s why. I think due to advances, due to technology, due to many other things, our fast and furious culture, these young people have experienced stuff that most of us have never experienced—and we’re much, much older than 20-something. And they try this and they’ve tried that, they smoke that, they’ve slept there, they’ve bought that. And they have this low-grade anger boiling up in their spirit, “Something is wrong. Nothing is giving me satisfaction. Nothing is clicking. Nothing is working.” And basically, it’s not happening for you.
Maybe you’re a 20-something here today and you know deep down it’s not happening for you. Your anger is gonna drive you—God will use it—to the cross. Because the cross is all about the anger of God. God poured out his wrath on Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, the perfect sacrifice. And if we turn from our sin and turn to Christ and receive Jesus, he places the person of the Holy Spirit in the depth of our being. And the Holy Spirit redecorates our lives and transforms us into people who can channel anger.
Here’s something else anger does. Anger’s a great motivator. You get back the test and you made a 68. “Man! 68!” You get angry and you study harder for the next test. You concentrate better for the next test and you ace the next exam. Yeah! That’s good. That’s anger.
Someone beats you off the team. You take that anger, you channel, you work harder, faster, quicker, stronger, and you make the team the next year.
Someone takes your best account. You go, “Man, that’s my best account!” You’re angry because you became lackadaisical. You didn’t do as many emails, as many calls, as many appointments. And you say, “Okay, it’s gonna be different. I’m gonna be a different person.” And you get motivated and stimulated to get out there and do it. That’s the good part of anger.
People ask me often, “Well, Ed, do you get angry? You’re a preacher man. You’re a man of the cloth.” Yes. I’ll tell you what makes me angry, and this is good anger for me because a lot of what I do is based on anger. Anger’s my friend. It’s your friend too. Embrace anger. Love anger. I get angry when people don’t serve within the context of the local church. It makes me angry. I don’t cuss and yell and throw things and go “#*&!” I’m not talking about that. But it makes me angry and it drives me to scripture. It drives me to creativity. It drives me to teach and preach about that because I know people are missing it when they’re not serving in the local church. Their wasting their lives!
I get angry when people are not consistently involved in attending Fellowship Church. It never ceases to amaze me. I know so many people and they skip out and they miss. And you watch, when someone’s income goes up, their attendance will drop. Their income goes down, oh, they’re in church, “I love you Lord.” It’s amazing how that happens. And that makes me angry because I want people to experience the beauty of the body of Christ.
I get angry when people rob God and don’t bring the tithe. We don’t need your money. God doesn’t need your money. I’ve told churches in Boston the same thing I’m telling you. But I hate for you to miss living in the blessed ways. God wants to bless you and bless me. But he’s not gonna do it until we obey him with the first 10%, as we bring it in to the local church.
Those things motivate me to teach and to preach and to vision cast. We should get angry when someone is mistreated, when someone is taken advantage of because of the color of their skin or because they’re poor. That anger should boil up inside us and cause us to do great things and beautiful things and wonderful things to serve others, to help one another. So anger is good. It’s not all bad.
Well, why do we get angry? Think for a second about…just for a second in your minds think about the surface of the water. The surface of the water. And now see anger floating on the surface, your anger and mine. You got that picture? Surface of the water, a little bit of waves. Not huge swells to make you seasick, just pretty calm—but there’s anger. What I do, I’ll see anger and I’ll go “Okay, I’m angry.” Here’s the question: What pushed the anger to the surface? We never go there. What pushed you to the surface? Why am I getting angry?
As I said, anger is usually your secondary emotion. Here’s anger. We like anger. Anger’s our friend. I can go off on you. I can yell at you. I can vent. I can spew that hot lava all over you. I can tornado you and torch you and hurricane you and snow storm you and all that stuff; and then strike lightning, the thunderstorm. I can do all that. That’s easy.
But what is driving the anger? How about fear? Could fear be driving your anger? Fear. I don’t wanna feel the fear. I don’t wanna face the fear, so I’ll jump to something that is more comfortable. Anger. Anger. Anger.
For example, one time several years ago, one of our twins, after like 300 hundred Easter services or something like that, she became very, very sick. And when I got home Lisa and I were talking and she was there on the couch with us and we were talking. And I said, “Lisa, man she’s not breathing right. Something is wrong.” And she said, “I don’t know. I just called the doctor.” And I said, “Let’s just take her to the emergency room,” and we did.
We got there, and you know your child is sick when the emergency room doctor says, “We need to life flight her to somewhere else.” So we did that. Instead of feeling the fear, instead of experiencing that, you know what I did? I jumped over fear to anger towards Lisa. That’s wrong. Sinful. Toxic. Tornado-ish. Surely, you’ve never done that. I’m just talking to these people right here.
Frustration. Instead of feeling the frustration, what do we do? “Grrrrrrrrr,” jump to anger, the secondary emotion. I’m frustrated. I have someone that I was frustrated with recently. And this situation happened several months ago and when it happened, I was very tempted to call this person on the phone and talk to them. But the Holy Spirit quieted me, calmed me down and just told me to wait. Not in an audible way, I just knew I should wait. I talked to some people that I am accountable to and with and I waited and waited and waited. And recently, I contacted this individual. And as I began to talk to him—he does not go to Fellowship Church—I could feel my anger. I could also feel the Holy Spirit calming me, and I handled it supernaturally, through God’s grace and mercy, in a good way. I felt the frustration, I felt a little of the fear, and I dealt with the situation. Now that’s how God is taking a self-centered man, like me, a man who has a tendency to get angry at the wrong things, like we all do, and that’s how the Holy Spirit is changing me and molding me and making me into a better believer. But I still have my moments.
Insecurity is something else. Instead of feeling insecure, what do we do? We jump over to anger. And see students, if we get our props, our primary props, from others, here’s what’s gonna happen. When they say something bad about us, when they diss us, when they give us that look or whatever, we freak out! “Oh, I can’t believe it!” We get all angry and hot and all this. What’s the problem? We need to get our primary props from God, not from others. I’m not saying others are not important, but the right “they” will speak truth into your life and point you to God.
So again, ladies and gentlemen, feel the fear. Feel the frustration. Feel the insecurity. There’s many, many more. But basically, instead of feeling it, instead of feeling this stuff, we just take and we swing over to anger. We do that all the time. [Ed swings on a rope from one side of the stage to the other.] We swing from what we should experience, what we should feel all the way to anger.
Think about that. Marinate on that. Pray about that this week. When you’re tempted to swing over fear, over insecurity, over frustration, don’t do it. Here’s some homework right quick. Write a thank you note. Thank you notes, sadly, are old school. Their passé. But that’s a joke. Email is great, and I’m just now experimenting with email, but make sure that you write thank you notes to people to encourage them, to help them. “Hey, thank you.” Dear so and so, huge thanks for blah, blah, blah. Love, blah, blah, blah. Thank you notes—that means a lot. Write the thank you note.
Write a thank you note to God. “God, thank you for my anger. I want to be angry at what makes you angry so I can change the world.” Thank God for your anger.
Also, stop and think. Stop in the name of love [Ed sings]. Stop and think. When you feel the weather patterns hitting you, stop and think, “Okay, what am I really feeling? Fear and insecurity? Frustration?” Just feel it. Just face it. Scripture says in Proverbs 13, “Wise people think before they act. Fools don’t and even brag about it.” Stop and think.
Then also learn to relax. It’s hard to relax. Go to the Gospels and see how often Jesus relaxed, how he drew away. The Bible says we should work six days and rest one day. Cut off all the technology and listen to God.
Laugh. Laugh. So many times I get angry at ridiculous and stupid stuff. Anger. It’s a secondary emotion. It’s not the primary emotion. So when you feel anger, when you really feel anger, think about this rope. Think about fear, think about insecurity, think about frustration and think about facing it, because we need to again swing back. [Ed swings out on the rope] To swing back to the original emotion. Are you doing that? Are you gonna pray about that?
I’m telling you, God wants to do an incredible work in your life and mine. And next time we’re gonna talk deeper about anger and yes, I’ll bring the rope back—no more swinging—and we’ll talk about this “A” factor.
Now, at this moment, I’m gonna have a prayer, and please do not leave. That will get me very angry. You know what gets me angry? When people leave early. That gets me angry in a good way. You know if the Cowboys were in the Super Bowl, and they were behind by two, on the 30-yard line and getting ready to kick a field goal, would you turn the television off? Ah, man. No, no, they’re gonna win it. The Super Bowl! You know. The same way it is in church, because after this prayer we’re gonna meditate and think about this whole worship experience. And I want you to process this stuff.
Don’t leave until we say you’re dismissed, please, unless it’s an emergency. All right? Because you are disturbing the business that God wants to do in people’s lives. That’s what I get angry at that. Not that, no, no. You’re disturbing God doing a work, doing transactions in people’s lives when you get up in your selfishness and walk out of these doors early. So please don’t do that. Let’s pray together.