Humility is key.
I see it come up again and again. Humility is the answer to most things. I read this morning in Proverbs 11 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Moreover, when it comes to blessing one’s enemies, humility again leads the way. In order to carry out Christ’s command to bless, it takes humility. I must judge myself first! I’ve got to consider how much God has forgiven me and not make the mistake of the unjust steward (Matthew 18:23–35). Humility is key. Humility makes it possible to bless all people.
Humility is key.
I am learning that when God blesses you so very much and you understand it, that it is only right to surprise even your enemies with the Holy Spirit; that means bless your enemies! Surprise them with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control! I never really thought about blessings as surprises of the Spirit of God, but they are. When someone expects you to be one way, E.g. angry with them. Be kind to them. Why? Because Jesus is worthy of such actions. God has been so good to me. He has blessed me. He has loved me. He has done these things when I was at my worst; when I was an enemy. And when you are full with the goodness of the Lord, and the sense of his goodness, it is only right to be surprising people with the Spirit. Stay filled with the Spirit by being in the Word, prayer, and conversation with godly Christians. Grow, grow, grow, so you can surprise the world with kindness, for the glory of God.
God’s anger is different than ours, it is holy. For example, Edward T. Welch points out that in Exodus 33:1–3 God has his people’s best interests in mind. In his anger, God still keeps his word. His anger is patient still. Moreover, his revelation of his anger is an invitation to respond. Thus, Moses seeks God’s presence in response in Exodus 33:12-17.
God is unique in his anger, in that God can be angry but still have the people’s best interest in mind. Welch says that this is possible to imitate, though hard. It must be by God’s Spirit alone. And in my estimation, I am very suspicious of myself (to use the words of Christopher Ash in a talk he gave on anger) concerning human anger.
God’s holy anger is indeed holy. There is no anger like it that remains faithfully controlled, patiently guided, and lovingly interested in people who have wronged him. For this we have at least to admire him; rather go further, worship him.
I watch UNC basketball. It’s perhaps the only area I think that I compartmentalize my faith for a season by watching a sport that becomes literally mad through the month of march; hence the name “March Madness.” Nevertheless, I don’t think I get mad about the whole thing. I am excited to see the UNC Tarheels win. Nevertheless, there is an interesting thing that happens in sports, you see others emotions very clearly. I remember watching a game(s) where Grayson Allen from Duke got furious at times. He became the most hated of players by many. So, basically he was mad and people were angry with him; people that didn’t even know him. I guess that is how March Madness works.
I wonder where Grayson Allen or any of us get our anger. Well, according to Edward T. Welch who does plenty of counseling on this matter (or has), it is often an imitation of those we have been around, family or friends. Welch described his own Grayson Allen type friend, who was a racquetball player, or in his words—a racquet smasher. The racquet smasher came from a line of racquet smashers. He described his friends family as: “They loved each other, but competition was war. When you lost, you smashed things.”
Welch goes on to encourage his readers to listen to the anger around you. It may be in your home. You may hear your children at play. It may look cute the first time your child gets frustrated, but beloved, if that continues and grows, it will not be cute anymore. In fact, most Christian parents will admit it is a very humbling thing to see the mirror their children hold up to them of their own behaviors.
We must not excuse anger in ourselves or others. “Decide that the culture of anger will stop with your generation” (Welch).
This week in my sermon preparation, I studied Job chapter 1. There’s a sentence in verse 5 that is difficult to translate. It says that Job sacrificed for his children in case they “cursed God in their hearts.” Calvin comments on this verse, that it is that they “did not bless God in their hearts.” That is in a Romans 1 sense, they didn’t honor God or give thanks to Him. Nevertheless, opposites are often admissions of guilt. And the heart produces what it first conceives. But for my point here, it comes to mind that where there is not a culture of blessing others, there is often something of anger perpetuated.
We may say to ourselves: “Well, I am not that bad. I am no Grayson Allen. Our family doesn’t get angry, etc.” Well that may be very true, but do you pray for people like Grayson Allen? And do you bless each other in your homes? Etc.
Jealousy is related to anger.
“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4)
“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” (Proverbs 14:30)
“Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple.” (Job 5:2)
Jealousy, according to Edward T. Welch, is built on one’s desire, what what thinks he or she deserves, as well as what he or she thinks the other person does not deserve; all three. I want. I deserve. They don’t deserve it. It is really an awful trilogy.
Welch also quotes a well-known novelist who said, “Every time a friend succeeds, something in me dies” (Gore Vidal). That is a very striking quote. How do we look at the success of our friends or enemies for that matter. Are we angry that they are blessed?
These things go deep in our hearts. That is why it takes God, the Creator of our lives to heal the awful sinfulness in our hearts. He alone can do it. We need him. Jealousy is a wretched evil in our hearts.
Memorize. Psalm 42:11
Prayer Part 1. Be greatly encouraged as you consider the merit and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rely completely on the virtues of his life and death as the basis of your righteous standing before God despite your sinfulness.
Prayer Part 2. Pray for the desire of inner beauty and godly character and daily Christ-like growth; and purity both before and after marriage for yourself, family, church, association, denomination, nation, God’s people throughout the world, etc. Pray through Ephesians 5:1–11; Psalm 119:9; 1 Timothy 2:9–10; 1 Peter 3:3–4; 1 Corinthians 6:18–20; Hebrews 13:4.
Gospel Holiness. Examine your heart for jealousy. Jealousy is related to anger in that one feels death at the success of another. Only God can handle such awful sins in our hearts. Seek the Lord.
Gospel Hope. Read Proverbs 6–7. Also examine your heart for a love for the teaching of God’s Word. We are told to keep it as the apple of our eye. That means to protect it and consider it precious. Sin is battled against best when we love the teaching of Scripture most. There is hope for any who will love the Lord who first loved them. Sin is defeated by the greater of two loves. Rather than falling for the road to adultery spiritually or otherwise, the complete dedication and love for God’s Word can guard you from failure. Be sure you stop and meditate on how the teaching of Scripture is to be protected in your life (Romans 15:4).