Angry? God says: ‘Rule Over it’

by Steven Chan
2 November 2008

In Gen 4:6-7, ‘the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”’

Anger as an emotion was recorded in the Bible as among the earliest factor leading man to commit sin against his fellow man and against God. Hence, we need to be careful with our temper. Self-control is an integral part of the fruit of the Spirit that ought to characterise the Christian (Gal. 5:23)

When anger appears, we need to be aware of it and to be in control of it – otherwise, God says, ‘sin lies at the door – and its desire so for you’.  God says, ‘you should rule over it!’ Unfortunately in the case of Cain and in the case of many of others, failure to rule over anger, has led to much grief.

In James 1:19-20, the Bible concludes a discourse on the trials and temptations facing Christians with this exhortation: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Firstly, one ought to be slow to speak and slow to wrath. There are some who are like fully loaded volcanoes waiting for the occasion to erupt at the slightest provocation. Brethren, we need to be aware of that tendency that may exist in some of us and learn to ‘rule over anger’ lest we suffer the same fate as Cain. The second point to note from James 1:20 is that the ‘wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God’. In other words, being angry would not lead to achieving the righteousness of God. On James 1:20, one Bible student observed thus: ‘A man is never sure of doing right under the influence of excited feelings (or feeling of anger); he may do that which is in the highest sense wrong, and which he will regret all his life. The particular meaning of this passage is, that wrath in the mind of man will not have any tendency to make him righteous.”

In order to be able to rule over the emotion of anger one needs to be able to forgive. The teaching on the need for us to learn to forgive is central to the teachings of Christ: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25-26). Jesus Himself practised this when He was hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Some are oft to contend that those who caused Him to be crucified on the cross ought not to be forgiven because they had not repented – but Jesus nonetheless prayed that the Father may forgive them. Ultimately forgiveness would come from God when they repent and confess their faults (Mark 2:10; Luke 17:3; I John 1:9) but our attitude towards those who have wronged us is not to bear grudges against them but to be ready to forgive. Our inability to rule over our anger is probably due to our unwillingness to overlook or forgive others for their wrong-doings. Brethren, we need to know that IF we fail to forgive others their sins or wrong-doings, neither will our Father forgive us of our sins (Mark 11:26). Hence, this is a significant element in our walk with God. It is not a small thing. We need to work hard to rule over our anger!

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor 2:10-11: “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

In the afore-stated passage, Paul alluded to the fact that our failure to forgive may lead to Satan taking advantage of us through his many devices/strategies. In other words, when we are angry and when we do not possess the attitude and demeanour of forgiveness, Satan may take advantage of that and lead us into sin.

‘Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall’ (1 Cor 10:12) – is a warning that we would do well to take heed of.  As the apostle Peter warned in 1 Peter 5:8-10: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

Those of us who desire to do the Lord’s work ought to be well aware that our adversary is actively and aggressively targeting us as was also the case with the apostle Peter – perhaps that’s why the apostle Peter can testify later in I Pet. 5:8-10 that the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. In Luke 22:31-34, ‘the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”  The Lord knew that Satan was targeting Peter and He said that He would pray for him that his faith may not fail. Brethren, when we are overcome with anger, let’s remember to pray that God may strengthen us in our faith so that we may be able to resist the devil.

God’s promise does not fail as testified by the Psalmist in Ps 37:24-25: “Though he (the righteous) falls, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,”

No one can prise us away from God unless we of our own accord choose to leave Him: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29). We need to ‘keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ (Jude 21)

Thus, we can be assured that ‘no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’ (1 Cor 10:13).

Brethren, when we feel angry because of a wrong done to us or because someone disappointed us, do not be quick to speak or quick to anger, rather, pray and be ready to forgive, and be strong in our faith in God who delivers, lest Satan tempts us and lead us into sin. For many have not been able to ‘escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.’ (2 Tim 2:26). Have you escaped the snare of the devil or are you still held captive by him to do his will?