Summary: While all biblical principles are true & relate to how we are to live, usually there are a handful we make as a foundation to our lives so that rarely a week or even a day goes by where 1 or more of them are not influencing how we live. They are the guiding principles of your life.

How to Conquer Anger by Yielding Rights

Philippians 2:5-7

As you read the Bible & have had it taught to you over the years, you, like me, have encountered numerous Biblical principles to live by. I calculated this week that in the 30 years I’ve been here, I have preached over 2,100 sermons & obviously through them shared many, many Biblical principles. But if you are like me, there are a handful of truths/principles that you have adopted into the very fabric of your being. While all biblical principles are true & relate to how we are to live, usually there are a handful we make as a foundation to our lives so that rarely a week or even a day goes by where 1 or more of them are not influencing how we live. Your might refer to them as the guiding principles of your life. It would be insightful if we had the time to go around the room & have you share 1 or 2 of those foundational principles in your life. Well, today I want to share with you 1 of those principles in my life. And this was on the forefront of my mind again b/c I was sharing it with Phillip & Monica in our pre-marital counseling time this week.

I have shared before how it was shocking revelation to me to discover after I was married how much of a selfish, self-centered person I was. When you are put in situations where caring for yourself & your likes & wants are no longer the focal point (even though you weren’t tuned into that fact about yourself) – but now you are to lay down your life daily to meet the needs of your mate – well, needless to say, you have some fertile ground for anger.

Now please understand anger can manifest itself in many ways. It is not just the loud outburst that we typically think of. That wasn’t the way I expressed it - but frustration, moodiness, sulking, depression, & manipulation can all flow from being angry – angry you’re not getting what you want or angry things aren’t happening the way you want them too or when you want them too. So as I said, I discovered after I was married that I had many opportunities to learn how to deal with anger & its various manifestations. Well, I started making progress & thought I was getting a handle on it but then 5 years later children started coming along & I discovered a whole new layer of selfishness. The Lord kept peeling off more layers, like an onion. And here I am 41 years into marriage & the Lord’s still pulling back layers. How much is there, Lord? And He’s been very kind by not saying, “You don’t want to know.”

I want to share with you today a principle that when I came to understand it, radically changed the way I lived & responded to such situations. And I will tell you that every time, w/o fail, I have practiced this principle, I have conquered anger & its offspring – every time! I’m not saying I’ve practiced it every time (I wish I could) but every time I HAVE applied it, I have been victorious over anger.

So what I want to share with you works. I’ve tested & proved it. Those of you who have been here awhile may remember it b/c it is 1 of those 2100 sermons I preached. It’s not the most glamorous, flashy truth you will ever hear. In fact, it requires a tough choice to live by it b/c the natural reaction is to think that if you apply it, you will come out on the short end of the stick. But I will also testify to you, that that is not true. It’s what the enemy wants you to think, but it is a lie, a very effective lie, but nevertheless a lie. Now before I tell you the principle, there are some other things we need to cover first.

We must first ask a very crucial question – why do we get angry? What is it that leads you to respond with anger? Now just keep in mind when I say “respond with anger” again, we’re not just talking about the typical angry outburst but all those other manifestations too. What is it that leads us to respond in these ways? And the answer is really very simple & straight-forward. I respond or am tempted to respond in anger b/c I believe someone (that person – whoever it happens to be at that moment) has violated 1 of my rights! I believe it is possible to trace anger back to the violation of some personal right or perceived right you believe you have. In fact, I would challenge you to do an experiment this afternoon – sit down & remember the last time you were tempted or actually did get angry & the circumstances that were involved – and see if you cannot trace it back to some right or perceived right that from your perspective was violated, was not met. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be able to come up with at least 1.

So if this premise is true (and I believe it is), if we could find a way to deal with our rights, we could then conquer anger & all of its manifestations.

Now I said we can trace anger back to a violation of our rights or perceived rights. Don’t miss that b/c many times what we think/call a right is not a right but merely an expectation we have of someone, an expectation that we very likely have turned into a right in our thinking. In light of that, let me define 3 words:

? Rights – a right is a legal demand which a person can make of another person & expect to receive. In our country we hear the expression “God-given rights.” Well, that’s a true statement, there are rights which are truly God-given.

For example:

-as a husband, I have the God-given right for my wife to show respect to me & submit to me – that is a God-given right.

-a wife has a God-given right to have her husband demonstrate Christ-like love to her. That is her right from God Himself.

-as a parent, I have a God-given right to have my children honor & obey me. It has nothing to do with my ego or being selfish, but it is something God has commanded of children in regards to their parents.

-and guess what children, you have a God-given right to not have your parents, particularly your father, provoke you to anger or exasperate you as Eph.6 & Col.3 talks about. Now you need to study those passages & understand what God means by that. Don’t think just b/c your parent made you angry they disobeyed this command & violated your right.

-as a pastor, I have the God-given right that you should honor & pray for me & thank you for doing that.

-your employer has the right that you should do your work heartily as unto the Lord.

-here’s 1 you might not have thought of – in regards to someone who has deeply hurt you & now comes to ask for forgiveness, yet b/c of what they have done you might be tempted to think, “You have no right to ask or expect me to forgive you.” Well, yes, they do for God commands us to forgive one another just as He has forgiven us.

So all through the Bible we find places where God grants certain rights to us.

? Responsibilities – are the obligations God places on us in order to fulfill the God-given rights of others. We could take the examples of rights I just mention & turn them around.

-husbands have a resp. to unselfishly love their wives.

-wives have a resp. to respect & submit to their husbands

-children have a resp. to honor & obey their parents

-I have a resp. to forgive you when you wrong me

Now what is important to comprehend is that as I concentrate on MY responsibilities to others, I allow them to experience & enjoy the rights given to them by God AND I make it easier for them to want to fulfill their responsibilities to me so that I am able to experience & enjoy my God-given rights.

But if I turn around & concentrate (and this is where so many people live) on getting my rights met & getting angry when they are not, then I will not be inclined to fulfill my responsibilities to that person which means their rights will not be met which will make it harder for them to want to fulfill their responsibilities to me. So it becomes a big circle of blessing or a vicious circle of anger, frustration & selfishness.

So when I fulfill my responsibilities, your rights are met & as you fulfill your responsibilities my rights are met. See how it all fits together? It also enables us to see the incredible damage sin did when it entered our hearts & made us self-centered & selfish b/c now the focus is on our rights instead of our responsibilities.

? Expectations – How do rights differ from expectations? An expectation is a mental obligation which I assign to another person. IOW, it’s a benefit which I believe is owed to me, based on an assumption I have drawn from what that person has said or their relationship to me or even from their responsibilities to me. Expectations are thoughts I have of how some-thing will be done or how I will be treated. They are like pictures in our minds of what we assume will take place or should take place.

This is critical b/c expectations may do more damage to relationships than any other single cause. Can you remember back to some event where you had a particular expectation & it was not met? Remember the feelings?

Expectations frequently involve actions which we mentally assume others will perform. Relationships become damaged b/c, in our minds, that person is obligated, expected to meet our expectation. But 1 huge problem is frequently the other person is completely unaware of our expectation. And we often don’t verbalize them or if we do, it’s only after we have been hurt or become angry. So obviously communication is a real key in discovering & dealing with expectations. One of the 1st things I do in pre-marital counseling is ask questions to draw out of the couple expectations they will be bringing into their marriage that they, themselves, may not even be aware they have b/c it’s how they’ve grown up, what they seen modeled in their parents. And it’s important to realize we generally have more & higher expectations towards those closer to us which explains why it seems we are able to get along better with people we aren’t that close too – reason being, we don’t expect as much from them.

One other thing to be aware of about expectations – when that person fulfills our expectation, we can fail to express gratitude & thanks – why? B/c they only did what was expected of them, something that was “owed” to me, so why should they be thanked for that? On the other hand, if an expectation is not fulfilled, we tend to become angry, resentful, even bitter. Expectations – wow, as I said, they probably do more damage to relationships than any other single thing.

Here’s a problem: we confuse rights & expectations. Here in America, we have elevated expectations to the same level as rights. Let me give you some examples of some perceived rights yet in reality they are expectations:

-a father relaxing after work w/o interruptions. Is that a right? Many think so, but it’s an expectation – no Bible verse giving you that right.

-how about the issue of abortion for we hear, “I have a right to my own body!” Well, no you don’t for our bodies are to be dedicated to the Lord & if you are a Christian, your body is a temple of the HS who lives in you & you are specifically told you are not your own & to honor God in your body. This truth could also be applied in a lot of areas from how one dresses & other areas.

-how about the child who says they have a right to choose which friends they have or the music they listen too. Is that a right? No, they have a responsibility to sing & make melody to the Lord & the music needs to be not what pleases me but the Lord. In terms of friends, God has commanded we should pursue righteous-ness, faith, love & peace WITH THOSE who call on the Lord from pure heart (2 T.2:22). That is who we are to choose for friends & there are other verses that have bearing on this issue.

-of course, husbands & wives often get confused over what is a right vs an expectation.

It would be helpful next time you are tempted to get angry to stop & discern whether the situation which is prompting you to respond in anger is really the violation of some God-given right or is merely an expectation you have. But you know what – in the end, it really doesn’t make that much difference b/c it requires the same action if we are to conquer anger.

So with all of as background, here the principle I’ve learned in conquering anger in my life. How do I conquer anger: by yielding my rights or expectations to the Lord & then focusing on my responsibilities to that person. Prayer: “Father, this right or this expectation that is not being met, I yield (or give it up) to You. I trust You to take care of whether it is met or not. I leave it in Your hands. I simply ask for Your grace to focus now on fulfilling my responsibility(s) to this person or in this situation.”

Do you think that is a prayer God will delight in answering? Absolutely yes! And you know why He will delight in answering it? B/c you will be choosing to imitate His Son & the way He lived. As I’ve shared with you in 1 of those 2100 sermons, Christ lived the way He commands us to live. He doesn’t command 1 thing for us & not practice it Himself. Let me quickly show you this from Philippians 2:5-7 which tells us to – “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…”

Here are 5 rights (not expectations) Christ yielded up to His Father in order to come & die in our place so forgiveness of sins could be offered:

1. He yield His right to wealth. He set aside all the splendor & riches of heaven in order to come to earth poor & dependent.

2. He yielded His right to a good reputation. In Heaven Christ was & is continually worshiped & His name highly honored & exalted. But when He came into this world, He “made Himself of no reputation.” In our study of Mark, we have been seeing & will continue to the dishonor the religious leaders poured on Christ, to the extent that in our next section they will accuse Him to being possessed by the Devil.

We’ve just observed Christmas & the incarnation, well the whole manner in which He was conceived also cast suspicion on His reputation. In the leaders’ mind, He was an illegitimate child. At the end of His life, He was arrested & put to death as a blasphemer of God & a fraud.

3. He yielded His right to be served. Christ is the creator of every living thing. As such, He has the right to have others serve Him. Yet He chose to yield this right & come & serve His creatures. One of the most demeaning tasks in Christ’s day was washing the dirty, dusty feet of guests. This was delegated to the lowest slave, yet Christ used this to demonstrate a servant-spirit to His disciples.

4. He yielded His right to physical comfort. Although Christ did occasionally avail Himself of the pleasures of hospitality offered to Him, He habitually denied Himself many of life’s basic comforts. He traveled by foot the dusty trails of the wilderness, preached in the open air, slept on the ground. He went w/o a house.

5. He yielded His right to make His own decisions. Perhaps the most difficult right to yield is that of making our own decisions. When Jesus was 12 years old, He understood His calling & expressed His desire to be about His Father’s business. However, He yielded to God’s direction through His fallible parents & waited until around 30 to begin His public ministry. During His ministry years, He made no decisions on His own but did only that which was directed by His Father through the HS. His attitude was continually “not My will, but Thine be done.”

So Christ laid down the example for us. If I could put it this way: He practiced what He preached. He lived out the way He commands us to live. He yielded up His right to His Heavenly Father & focused on His God-given responsibilities. And that is the way to conquer anger.

Anger is a warning signal to your soul, just like pain is to your body. Thus, anger indicates some right or expectation that is not, in that moment, yielded to the Lord.

Do you struggle with anger or 1 of its manifestations? At work, with your children, your mate, children with your parents or siblings? Today would you be willing to build an altar & lay those rights & expectations upon it & offer them up to the Lord telling Him you will trust Him to fulfill your needs in His way & time & then ask Him for the grace to focus on your God-given responsibilities? Will you do this? If you do, know that there will be situations that will come up to test you on this – but again when it happens pray: “Father, I give up this right/expectation to You – now enable me, through Your grace, to focus on my God-given responsibilities instead of fighting for my rights. In the name & power of Jesus, amen.”

I pray this will become 1 of the governing principles in your life.