“I believe in God.”
These are four simple words that seemingly say much. When we hear someone make a statement like this, we might even conclude that person is a Christian. But if there’s one thing the Bible teaches about human beings it’s this: our true nature is often more complicated than the words we speak (SEE Proverbs 20:5!).
So here’s the deal, you can say you believe in God but still trust something else for your significance and meaning in life. And whatever that thing is you look to for your significance and meaning in life is functioning as your real god.
How do you know what that thing is? I would suggest that 99% of the time we don’t know what or who our true god is. It’s only when our god is threatened or taken from us we’re able to identify it.
There’s an easy way to do this. There are usually excessive emotions that are attached to the things we make the functional trust of our hearts. If you find yourself inordinately shaken by anger, anxiety, or despondency, excessive emotions are pointers that lead you to the true functional trust of your heart. In other words, our nerves get touched when our false gods are threatened or taken away.
Our good and loving God uses situations like these redemptively. When we find our nerves have been touched because a false god has been lost, that’s God’s way of saying, “Hey, my child, remember Me? I’m your refuge, your comfort, your security, your significance, your true meaning. Come to Me and I will give you rest."
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. So how did we get one in English? Answer: translation committees. The below video illustrates the labor of love involved in translating the Bible from the original languages. Keep in mind, this video is only a snapshot of the discussion surrounding just one word!
“Do not fear” is the most frequent command in Scripture. But if fear is the most common emotional struggle Scripture discusses, anger is the most dangerous. Why? Behind anger is tremendous emotional energy. In my own life and in ministry, I have witnessed and experienced the ferocity of anger’s destructiveness. It has the potential to unleash a torrent of collateral damage. So below is a list of “anger observations” I’ve collected over the years. It’s hodge-podgy, but hopefully you’ll find it helpful.
1) Anger and love go together
All human emotions are inextricably linked with love. When one is angry they are in essence saying, “Something I love is being treated unjustly.” Whether or not that anger (and handling of it!) is righteous depends on what we, in that moment, love.
2) Righteous anger and righteous love go together
The best way to cultivate righteous anger is to thoroughly know what God loves and then truly love what God loves. This is always an uphill climb because we don’t naturally love what God loves. That has to be formed in us. A good question to ask is: “What upsets God?” Or in the moment, “Does this thing that is upsetting me, upset God?"
3) Righteous anger manifests itself righteously
We might be able to answer the above question with a “yes”, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. This is actually where it gets tricky. We might be able to say “my anger is righteous”, but many times we don’t handle or exercise our righteous anger righteously. At this point, there’s a follow-up question we need to ask: "Is my world or the world of those I care about getting better as a result of my anger? Or is my anger hurting me and others?”
4) Anger and impatience are connected
I have always found James 1:19 to be a weird, but profound verse. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Why does James link listening, speaking, and anger together? Anger wants results fast and often times the quickest way to get results is to speak first and often. Beware of the person who is quick to speak.
5) Sinful anger’s root is pride
If we’re being honest, most of our anger is sinful. It’s fed by a motto most of us unnoticeably live by: “My kingdom come.” In James 4, we’re told anger arises from personal desires. And when you read the word “desire” hear also the word “love.” When my desires, my wants, my loves aren’t being attended to, it bubbles over. Therefore, righteous anger flourishes only in a greenhouse of humility.