At Gateway Church in Austin, Carlos Ortiz shared week one in a four part series Fast and Furious: Overcoming Anger and Impatience.
How many times have you wanted something and wanted it NOW? Impatience and anger are often just under the surface waiting for us to explode. But we don’t have to submit to that negative pressure. Through the power of God, we can develop the character to tame our Fast and Furious impulses.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
We are beginning a series today called Fast and Furious: Overcoming Anger and Impatience. We had this planned months ago before the pandemic, before the debate about lockdowns and wearing masks and before the racial injustice that was seen in shocking videos, the protests, and the unrest in our country.
More people are dealing with depression, anxiety, loneliness, economic stress, and our nation suffers from a lack of peace for all.
- Right now our nation is stirred.
- Right now our work places can be tense.
- Right now our homes may be on edge.
- Right now our churches want to love and progress…but how…it can breed frustration and anger.
Anger is both a feeling and an action (both noun and verb)…but something Anger is not, is the root of the issue.
Anger is an expression of a root, deebly embedded, issue that is making its way out.
Impatience and anger often remain just under the surface until finally we explode, and if we aren’t careful we’ll see the anger/the frustration and judge a person for their public display of emotion, and forget that there is a root to that anger.
There is a difference between righteous anger vs. unrighteous anger.
My mom showed that we do not have to fall into our worst impulses or give into negative peer pressure. She could have turned the tables, she could have sought out for justice in a way that actually distracted her from the goal…setting up her son to succeed.
We can have access to the power of God and develop the character to handle that kind of power. The key is staying connected to God’s Spirit and perspective over the desires of others or our own hidden desires.
The Bible is filled with case studies. Some are good examples. Some are bad examples. We can learn from all of them.
What’s remarkable about the Bible is that you can apply the principles to your life and experience a difference whether you are following Jesus wholeheartedly or still not sure about God yet.
Today we are looking at one of those who made bad choices.
Context for King Saul
Let me give you some of the context: the people of Israel were blessed to be a blessing to all nations. They were to be set apart as a holy nation so that others would see the difference in them and discover their God.
At one point in slavery in Egypt, but then freed in the Exodus and led by Moses. Then wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, but then entered the Promised Land with Joshua. Sadly then they became more and more like the others around them and in the time of Judges there was chaos and evil.
Samuel becomes a messenger on behalf of God replacing the evil priests who had just been going through the religious motions. The people of Israel wanted to be like everyone else around them – even if that meant rejecting their covenant relationship with God.
Often times we want to shift responsibilities to others rather than live an accountable life.
We were born into a world with governments in place and leaders in our lives – some of whom are good at what they do and some of whom are not. If we aren’t careful, we will blame leaders for things that we can actually do for ourselves.
Which leads to the first point.
1. Take personal responsibility
Hal Elrod who lives here in Austin wrote: “The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.”
We are all under a great deal of stress – even if we won’t admit it. We are far more easily triggered.
John 4:2 – we are called to be slow to anger and abounding (rich) in love.
It never says we won’t be angry…we just need to be slow in getting there.
Which is quite similar to what Jesus said long before: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” – Luke 12:48
The people of Israel had decided having God guide them and prophets speaking on his behalf were not enough. They wanted a king to fight their battles for them.
Notice what happens after this moment when the people insisted on a king:
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” – 1 Samuel 8:19-22
The people of Israel wanted a king to be like all the other nations around them. God wanted them to be different than all the other nations.
You see, God had made a covenant with Israel and blessed Israel to be a blessing to all nations, and now they wanted a person to follow and fight their battles rather than depending on God.
God gives them what they want – which is sometimes the “punishment” we deserve.
Garth Brooks “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.”
The natural consequences of our foolish choices could be avoided if we trusted God.
This leads to the 2nd principle we can draw from this story.
2. Learn from the struggle
The people of Israel ended up with a series of good kings and bad kings. As their leaders went, so did they. It was like one generation completely ignored the lessons that should have been learned from the previous generation.
Story: Riots in 1968 similar to riots in 1992 (Rodney King beaten by LA police) which can be similar to now unless we can learn.
There is a difference between peaceful protestors and people wanting to do damage. We shouldn’t dismiss the message for the end to racial injustice because of the actions of those who are not peaceful.
There is a difference between police officers who protect and those who use their power to abuse. We should not forget about the good ones even as we ask for change so that those who are not using their powers for good are held accountable.
We can be the generation that actually insists on these kinds of changes! We can learn from hundreds of years of struggle, and make lasting change.
So as the story goes, Saul is named King and he has some early successes, but there are character flaws apparent in his life. He is dishonest, lacks integrity, and proud.
Things aren’t all bad with Saul. God really did bless him and move powerfully. Many miraculous signs took place when Samuel anointed Saul to be the king of Israel.
9 As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. – 1 Samuel 10:9-10
“The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive, and Godlike. It teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller
Each of us have access to God through Jesus. When we say “yes” to Jesus we receive the Spirit of God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Spirit would come and go from people as we will see happens with Saul. For those of us following Jesus, the Spirit is within us! We need to remember that. Live like that! Stay close to Him.
3. Ask for wisdom and guidance
At one point in his journey, Saul faced off with the Philistines, and his army was losing confidence. They were hiding in caves or even escaping across the Jordan River. Saul begins to panic. Samuel was supposed to come and lead them in a time of worship and sacrifice, but he was late! Saul took matters into his own hands just like the people of Israel did in demanding a king.
8 Saul waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart…- 1 Samuel 13:6-10, 13-14a
We can lose out on opportunities from God when we try to do things our own way and not according to His Word.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5
If you keep doing the same thing you did in the past, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get the same bad results!
4. Choose the right way
Saul’s character had enough cracks in them at the beginning of his reign as king that as he gained more and more power, his kingdom came crashing down.
We need to shore up the foundation of our hearts. We need to have the humility to ask God and others for help. We need to develop the discipline to fight the battle towards good and overcoming the temptations in our mind.
For Saul, he was so insecure that he desperately needed affirmation from others. He would seek to please people rather than God.
Rather than learning from this mistake in the past, he kept making that mistake.
When you and I fail, we need to start again and go longer between failures.
In recovery language, we refer to this as a relapse. You may lose your temper and then begin to feel defeated like you will never overcome this issue in your life. In reality, you need to compare where you are now to where you used to be rather than comparing yourself to others. Compare you to you.
Saul wanted the connection with God that Samuel had, but he wasn’t willing to put in the time to grow in that.
Once David was the heir apparent, he became increasingly jealous, chasing after him, and even trying to kill him. His demise continued to spiral when his anger distracted him.
Remember: It is not a sin to be tempted. It is how we respond when we are tempted that determines the kind of person we will be.
Saul (and us) grow into people who lack character, one flaw, one outburst, does not make the person, we grow into that person.
- People lacking character don’t take personal responsibility.
- They don’t learn from their mistakes.
- They don’t ask others for help.
- They believe that they will never change.
Saul had believed that narrative which led to one final devastating moment.
The final moment for Saul came when he had a difficult assignment. He was to defeat the Amalekites and he had specific instructions on how to do it…so he won, but didn’t follow the instructions. Samuel confronts Saul for not following God’s command to him.
17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” – 1 Samuel 15:17-19
Here’s Saul’s moment! He can repent. He can take personal responsibility. He can learn from his past mistakes. He can ask for help and wisdom. He can start anew.
Instead he falls into the same pattern of dishonesty. He says:
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 1 Samuel 15:20-21
He even lies about his intentions and tries to spiritualize his bad decision.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever tried to convince yourself that what you were doing was good even though it clearly is not.
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” – I Samuel 15:22-23
Saul’s greatest fear of being rejected was a self-fulfilling prophecy…he self sabotaged by allowing his anger and impatience to rule his daily decisions. And THIS…this is what we are wanting to drive home today…that you and I have access to the power of God’s spirit to live out the characteristics of God that are beyond our natural abilities. When we own our mess, learn from them, ask for guidance and then do what’s right…it gives God the opportunity to work on our behalf.