In the middle of a busy day, I found myself having a mental “conversation” in which I was telling off a member of our congregation. Can you relate? I was angry, defensive and offended over a comment he made. This member was bothered that our pastors were allowed to wolf down a meal at our Wednesday night fellowship supper without paying (before running on to complete a 16-hour day of ministry). He even tried to “Jesus” up his criticism by equating our pastors to the sons of Eli the Bible says cheated God’s people. It was eating me up. A situation that did not even concern me was rattling around in my brain, creating all kinds of unwholesome emotions and distracting me from what was my actual responsibility.
Imagine how costly a lifetime of allowing this kind of mess to accumulate and take root could be.
Over the course of a life devoted to ministry, there are bound to be more than a few perceived offenses. But I’ve learned that allowing them to build up in our hearts can render us bitter, paranoid and ineffective. In the middle of this moment of growing resentment, I was reminded of a proverb that spoke directly to my heart.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
The inner part of us—not our eternal spirit, but our inner individuality of mind, will and emotions—can have a huge impact on both our physical and spiritual wellbeing. Emotions are powerful. They are not sinful in and of themselves. They are merely a response to stimuli. But it’s never good to just let them run wild. This proverb reminds us that this three-fold inner world (mind, will and emotions) can be regulated. This allows us to be able to use our will to rule our emotions and not the other way around. It’s done by surrendering our will to the truth.
The problem is that we don’t always have the truth in file folder number one in our minds. Instead, we keep this relative, subjective, emotional information in the top drawer ready to be perused and mulled over all day, every day. These patterns of dwelling on the negative can become ingrained. The result is weakness, instability and loss of self-control. In other words, it either consumes us from within or propels us into an outburst. Both are counterproductive to our calling.
What is called for is a daily renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We need to recognize these mental patterns and immediately take them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We need to reload file folder number one with information that is true and worthy of our meditations (Philippians 4:8). In other words, take your mental focus off that one knuckle-headed remark, and set it firmly on the truth of God’s Word and what He is doing all around us.
This proverb speaks of “taking a city.” Plowing over a city or a person, even if it is just in your mind, is far inferior to ruling your spirit so that you remain Spirit-filled and accomplish what God has for you. Let’s be reminded of the spiritual discipline of ruling our spirits through renewal of our minds. It will make you more mighty than an army!
How do you fight to become slow to anger?
Published October 17, 2016