Summary: It's not anger that is the problem for Christians, it's how we deal with anger that causes problems - learn what the Bible teaches us to do in anger from Ephesians 4:26-27.
Not long ago there was a golfer who was having a really bad day. He was having such a hard time that when his ball went into the water on the 13th hole he picked up his bag – spun it like a discus – and threw it in the lake and stormed off the course. The rest of the golfers chuckled to themselves when just a few minutes later he was wading back into the water after his clubs. They saw that he was coming to his senses. So when he finally found his bag, he fished through the side pocket found the car keys, picked up the bag and threw it even farther into the lake before going home.
We all get angry – that is normal (especially if you’ve ever golfed). But what do you do with anger when it arises? As we turn to scripture, we see that how we deal with anger when it boils over is crucial because it can do great damage. What does this verse tell us about our anger? To deal with it or else we give an “opportunity” to the devil.
Actually, in many of our translations the word is “foothold” which is much more accurate. It comes from the word meaning “place” as in building, room, location – a space in which people live and inhabit. In other words, when you don’t properly deal with anger when it crops up, you give the devil a place on which to make camp. Where is that place? Your heart!
Picture your life like a fortified medieval city. That city is ruled by God’s Holy Spirit and therefore it is very strong with gates and walls. You are safe! But something happens to endanger that security. Someone does something cruel to you – you are treated unfairly. Or you see injustice done. You are angry. What happens if that anger is not dealt with properly? It’s the same as if you open the gate of your life, of your heart, to allow the enemy, Satan, to come inside your life and take up a place in your heart. You are allowing him to get inside.
Now, understand that this is not talking about possession. But simply the influence and power of the enemy in your life. There are many different ways we can open the door of the enemy into our lives: through activity in the occult, through open sin, through sexual immorality, through rebellion. But this morning we are looking only at one of those dangers – that of anger.
Don’t open the gate!
Yes, there ARE moments when we ought to be angry. Jesus was angry in Mark 3:5 “and after looking around at them with anger, …” In fact, our text commands us: “BE ANGRY.” When? When the enemy destroys God’s work, when people are deceived, when injustice is done, when people are abused. The list can go on and on. Then when is anger an open door for the devil?
The answer to that question is found in how we react to anger. There are two ways we react to anger that leads to an opportunity for the devil.
1. Clamming up
The first reaction is simply clamming up. Our text warns us: “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Why? Because stewing and holding it in gives the devil and opportunity.
You’re in dangerous territory to say “I must never get angry. I’m always peaceful and kind and smiling and nice.” As Christians we can easily give in to this thinking that we should be always happy. But then when we’re hurt, we just cover it up with smiles, words, and silence. Burying hurts doesn’t heal them but just makes them stew and get worse and sooner or later there will be bad fruit coming from that. Time does not heal!
What are the resulting sins?
Bitterness. Hebrews 12:13-14 “root of bitterness.” A small weed is easy to pull up. But the longer you wait, the more difficult. Later you will need to dig with a trowel. Later you will need a hoe. Then a shovel. Then finally you have a tree that will take a chain and tractor. The same goes with anger – if you hold it in, it will not make it go away but it merely removes the outward evidence on the surface and allows the roots to grow deeper.
The other resulting sin when we hold in our anger is worry. How is justice to be done? When will right be established? How long will this go on without resolution? What should I do to resolve it? All you have to do today is watch the news and two things will happen – anger and then worry. Worry is simply the fear that God is not in control.