Teakettles, Sundown, and
A Second Hand
A lawyer is not a
lawyer because he goes to law school. Law school equips him to be a lawyer, but
until he goes out and practices law, he is not really a lawyer. Likewise,
Sunday school classes, sermons, seminars, radio broadcasts, tape recordings,
quiet times, study groups, even Scripture memory will not make you a wise
Christian. All of that may give you knowledge. Some of that may even give you
understanding. But wisdom is choosing to act on what you know.
To this point we have
accumulated knowledge about the subject of anger and have begun to examine
methods of dealing with it. In the previous chapter we came to see that the
first step is to yield up our “rights” to their proper owner. In this chapter
we will look at more suggestions that help us tame the temper once and for all.
KEEPING AN EMPTY
When I worked through
the project at the end of the last chapter, which was designed to surface
patterns of anger, it was personally very revealing. I found that I am
basically a “teakettle” person.
Most of my bouts with
anger center around my right to my time and my privacy I concluded that
somewhere along the way,
I had repossessed from
God that right and had come to consider interruptions as intrusions. The result
was resentment-more fuel to the fire under the teakettle.
Looking at how Jesus
handled his interruptions changed my perspective. He planned his time and
executed his plan, but he never seemed resentful when the plan gave way to
people. They interrupted his quiet time and his days alone with the Father.
They interrupted his sermons, his rest, his traveling. They touched him, called
him, sent for him, confronted him. They demanded his time, his energy, his
attention, and his love.
Yet he was never too
busy to stop to heal a blind man, help a stranger, or teach a multitude. He had
the whole world as his mission field; eternity was hanging in the balance. He
had only three years to form a team, train his men, and implement his plan, but
he stopped to love a little child, stopped to dry the tears of those who
grieved, stopped to meet the needs of a concerned centurion, stopped even to
listen to a searching Gentile woman. He was operating on God’s clock and
interruptions were adventures, not intrusions. He knew his Father was
In the Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus gave us most of the foundational principles for attitudes and
relationships necessary to live this revolutionary Christ-controlled life.
Matthew recorded some guidelines from Jesus concerning anger.
“You have heard that
it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will
be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his
brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother,
‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will
be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at
the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave
your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your
brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:21-24).
The principle in this
passage is that, from God’s perspective, ungodly anger is murder—murder of the
heart. The damage done by such anger is both brutal and eternal. Thus the
consequences are so severe that God says that when you go to him in prayer and
remember an offense or a residue of resentment caused by uncontrolled anger,
you must do immediately whatever it takes to settle the account and settle your
heart. Left to fester, the resentment will begin to boil. It will eventually
erupt in some form of ungodly anger and destroy not only your spiritual health,
but that of the body of Christ.
Even our power in
prayer will be affected by whether or not our teakettles are emptied of
resentment and bitterness. That’s why Paul warned Timothy to pray “with holy
hands lifted up to God free from sin and anger and resentment” (1 Timothy 2:8,
In other words, if you
let unresolved anger boil inside of you, your spiritual life will falter. Is
your teakettle empty? Or is it still full of resentment toward others, toward
circumstances, or toward God himself? You will never get victory over anger until
you empty the teakettle.
You must deal with
your resentments as you did with your rights. Every time the enemy resurrects
those angry responses and whispers in your ear, stop immediately and say,
“Sorry, Satan, I gave that matter to my Lord.” That is what God wants us to do
with our resentment—catch it immediately, and call it sin. Consciously give it
to him. Pour it out. Next, fill the kettle with the word of love, the word of
joy, and the word of peace.
OBSERVING THE SUNDOWN
Another vital solution
to anger is learning to apply the “sundown principle,” as found in Ephesians.
Paul said, “In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are
still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26, 27).
The Living Bible translates it, “When
you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil.”
This passage says that
anger gives Satan a dramatic inroad into your life, so God’s division of time
into days gives you a checkpoint for your anger. When you have learned to check
out your anger every night and make things right without fail before nightfall,
you have discovered part of the reason for the sundown principle. There are a
number of reasons why God divided life into twenty-four-hour days.
To glorify himself
through creation. In
Genesis 1 and 2 God divided time into days and nights (using as his picture
book darkness and light) to demonstrate his total control over time.
To remind us of his
faithfulness and to give us a series of fresh starts. “It is of the Lord’s
mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are
new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23). Man need
not feel trapped in an endless sea of time with no hope for forgiveness.
To keep us dependent. Exodus 16 tells the
story of manna and the children of Israel. Every day God met their needs with
the manna, but every day they had to make use of what they had gathered. If
they tried to save it and hoard it, it spoiled. In this way, their faith was
tested one day at a time. In other words, twenty-four-hour periods are time
capsules man can handle which create maximum glory to God by creating maximum
dependence on God.
To keep us from
worrying about the future Jesus reminded us: “So don’t worry at all about having
enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all
these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father
already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you
if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. So don’t
be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one
day at a time” (Matthew 6:31-34, TLB).
In other words, God
has given us life in faith-sized chunks. He knows we cannot handle long periods
without fear of the future, so he divides life into twenty-four-hour segments
and says, “Here, just trust me for one day. Then tomorrow we’ll start over.”
To give us a logical
place to check our spiritual progress. Most of God’s commandments and promises for
spiritual growth are couched in the vernacular of days. For example, Paul said,
“I die daily” (1 Corinthians 5:31). Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily”
(Luke 9:23). Paul wrote, “The inner man is being renewed daily” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
God has given us twenty-four-hour days to give us logical places to check out
our faithfulness and to remind us of his!
To dramatize the
conflict between Satan and God. Since the fall, Satan’s kingdom became the
kingdom of darkness. God’s kingdom is the kingdom of light. Paul said, “And
what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The “light
(Jesus) is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light
because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).Jesus said, “I am the light.... he
that followeth me shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12). Paul wrote, “We
wrestle. . . against the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians
6:12). Again and again the Scriptures use night and day, light and darkness to
dramatize the conflict between Satan and God and remind us that they cannot
God has also divided
the days with darkness to remind us that we live in two worlds, and that only
when we walk in the light does the darkness of sin become obliterated.
To give us a
checkpoint for our anger. God knows the deadliness of anger, and our propensity to
store it up in life’s teakettle until it explodes, so he divided life into
days. He is saying to us, “Mother, father, don’t carry that anger with you
through the night. Husband, wife, don’t carry that grudge with you through the
night. Don’t bury that resentment and carry it through the night.”
Every time you see the
sun go down, God is saying, “Stop! Empty the teakettle. Make your wrongs right.
Pour out your resentments to the Master. Lay down your rights again, and lay
your head on your pillow with not a trace of anger lingering in your spirit.”
If Christians would obey that one principle, what a difference in
relationships! What a demonstration of God’s mercy! What a dramatization of
God’s love! And what a doorway to freedom!
USING THE SECOND HAND
Another step in
resolving anger is learning to use the “second hand of choice.” The second hand
on the clock is the one that monitors the seconds. It breaks time down into
tiny fragments, and if you can control the seconds, the minutes take care of
manifests itself in two stages. The first is a once-for-all determination to do
the will of God in a given area. But that must be followed by minute-by-minute
choices of obedience.
It is true that we
first must decide to put away certain sins. Paul said to cast off, throw away,
once and for all-as a deliberate choice of your will-anger rage, and bitter
feelings (Colossians 3:8).
Having made a
decision, drive a stake in the ground and consider your decision final. Then
comes the second hand of choice. Now that you have put off the filthy garment
of anger, once and for all, you must choose to monitor your yielding to anger
second by second. As the enemy approaches you, he will use the deep grooves in
your mind where you have preprogrammed an angry response, and it is not enough
to have prayed, “Lord, don’t let me get angry today!” God doesn’t “let” you get
angry. You choose it! The problem is that we drive a stake in the ground or
hold up our hand at a seminar and say, “I choose to give up being angry.” But
then we walk away as though the battle were over.
When you say to God,
“I want to stop being angry,” the real battle has just begun. The enemy calls a
meeting, garners his forces, and looks at the game plan of your life under the
listing “vulnerability to anger.” He finds your weaknesses, and he comes at you
with all he’s got. Why? It is because you are saying to God, “Satan has a stronghold
in the area of anger in my life, and I want to bring every thought captive to
your Spirit. I want Jesus to occupy that stronghold.”
Do you think Satan is
going to pull out and give up without a fight? Sure he will, like the Russians
would if the U. S. said they would like to take over Moscow. Satan will fight
you for every inch of the territory. The renewed activity in your life in that
area, the increase of anger, is only proof that you made the right decision.
The devil will leave you alone when you are not attacking anything worthwhile,
but if you get close to a stronghold, he will fight you with everything he has.
If you do it God’s
way, though, everything Satan has is not enough to stop you. Suppose you decide
to tackle the stronghold of anger and the problem gets worse. Should you be
No. That only means
you are getting close to pay dirt. Next you begin to bury your anger at sundown
every day and you appropriate God’s faithfulness at sunup every day. Things go
OK until about nine o’clock in the morning. Then the commitment wears thin and
you begin to yield. Or you see a situation coming that you know could generate
ungodly anger. You stop and pray, “Lord, help!” Ten minutes pass. Here it
comes, and you are confronted with the very situation you just prayed about.
But still you get
Then you really get
discouraged and moan, “It didn’t work.” That is what Satan wants. He wants you
to give up! Well, what went wrong?
What went wrong was
that you did not monitor the second hand of choice. You made your decision once
and for all. You renewed your decision that morning. Then you prayed again when
you saw the enemy approaching. But as the second hand began to tick and the
moment of choice grew closer, instead of stopping once more and invoking the
power of God to resist anger at the precise second of the attack, you let your
guard down and took off your armor and lost the battle.
It is not God’s fault.
He honored his Word. He was waiting for you to resist the devil so he would
flee from you. Don’t blame Satan, either. He was just doing what he does
best—tempting the saints. You simply did not continue to choose to reject the
spirit of anger until the attack was over. You listened to the voice of the
Paul pleaded, “And
grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of
redemption. Let all . . . anger . . . be put away from you... And be ye kind
one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:30-32). Do
you want to stop grieving God’s Spirit where anger is concerned? Then put away
anger as a deliberate choice. Embark on the process of becoming, minute by
minute, second by second, God’s man or woman.
The second hand of
choice is one of the most important principles we will ever learn. It is
important not only in overcoming anger, but also in dealing with every
besetting problem of self-control that you and I face.
We must give up sin
once and for all. We must yield it up daily We must renew our vow as the enemy
approaches. Then as the split second of choice looms on the horizon, at that
second we must choose not to get angry, and God in us will respond accordingly.
Try it for yourself and see if Satan has not been needlessly robbing you of
Victory will not come
overnight. It may take days, months, and for some, years. But one day you will
awaken to find an ebbing of the old urge to retaliate, a softening taking place
in your spirit. No lingering bitterness beckons to be defended. The sudden
impulse to rage has given way to patience. Your day in court has become a
lifetime of giving as Christ gave, and your rights are ceasing to be even
distinguishable. Now people enjoy being with you. Your friendships have
deepened, and your testimony falls on ears that want to know where your kind of
self-controlled life comes from.
What happened? God has
been making you over. It is not the old you with more theology. It is a new you
growing in ever-increasing splendor into his likeness. On that day you may say
to yourself, “Praise God, it all started when I really began to seek the mind
of Christ in controlling my anger.” God means business. He wants to change us.
The question is, do we want to change?
List the three solutions to anger discussed in
1. Empty the
__________________________________________ (Matthew 5:21-24)
2. Observe the
______________________________Principle. (Ephesians 4:26, 27)
3. Use the
___________________________________of choice. (Ephesians 4:30-32
Which of these three
solutions to anger is most needed in your life? Why?
1. For the next two
weeks, make a covenant with God not to let the sun go down on your wrath. See
that every wrong has been made right, every offense forgiven by sundown. Empty
the teakettle every night. Get up every morning, praising God that “his
compassions fail not, they are new every morning” and a new day—increasingly
free from anger—is awaiting you. 2. (optional) Ask the person closest to you to
help you to honestly discover the roots of your anger and the results of your
anger. Become vulnerable to correction, particularly where you are assuming
rights you do not realize you are assuming.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Considering the life
of Christ, do a study of how Jesus used time, and from that study determine the
order of his priorities in life. Next, consider his response to interruptions,
and see if they confirm those priorities. Give specific examples when you can.