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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Patience? Or Quick Tempered Folly?
Text:Proverbs 14:29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:08/17/2014
Added:2014-08-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


                                                                 
Pastor Ted Gray
08/17/14 – a.m.


“Patience? Or Quick Tempered Folly?”
Proverbs 14:16

Most of us are familiar with Beauty and the Beast. The children’s storybook has been around for many decades. And also for the last couple of decades Beauty and the Beast has been presented in a best-selling movie.  But did you know that in the Bible a writer has also written a story that could be, I suppose, be entitled Beauty and the Beast?

The story is about two biblical characters, one a beauty and the other a real beast. They lived way out in the country and owned an extensive farm. Can you guess who the author of this account of the Beauty and the Beast is?  It is the author, who by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the account of Nabal and Abigail, as recorded in 1 Samuel 25.

Nabal, you remember, had a violent temper, a temper that showed him to be in reality, not a successful farmer, but a true fool. Pick up the story with me as it's recorded it 1 Samuel 25:2-12:

A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.

While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep.  So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name.  Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!

“‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing.  Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”

When David's men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.  Nabal answered David's servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days.  Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”

David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word.

As you can imagine, this got David and his men just a little bit upset. David and his men had helped out Nabal’s shepherds in the past. They had kept their protective eye on them and their flocks.  But now, after hearing Nabal’s response, 400 of them put on their swords to head over to Nabal’s, while 200 stayed with what little supplies they had. They were going to deal with the beast, the angry fool Nabal. But who did they encounter on the way? They encountered Nabal’s wife, Abigail, who having heard what was going on quickly put together some provisions to bring to David and his men.  In fact, Abigail put together an impressive amount of food in short order: She had 200 loaves of bread, five sheep, skinned and dressed, ready to roast. She also had 100 cakes of raisins, 200 cakes of  pressed figs, along with a bushel of roasted grain. Pick up the story with me in 1 Samuel 25:32-35, as David met Abigail:

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.  May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.  Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

Those of you who treasure the unique historical accounts of the Old Testament undoubtedly remember what happened to Nabal. David never put him to the sword, but the Lord took his life. 1 Samuel 25:36-42:

When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone.  About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.

 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”

She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David's messengers and became his wife. 

There ends the reading of 1 Samuel 25.

Uncontrolled Anger’s Devastating Effects

This biblical account of beauty and the beast – Nabal and Abigail – provides for us an example of how uncontrolled sinful anger, as opposed to righteous wrath, has devastating effects.

First, it is the mark of a fool.  Do you recall what Abigail said to David in 1 Samuel 25:25?  She said, “Pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name, – his name is fool, and folly goes with him.”  Nabal’s temper is what got him in trouble. His temper was part of the mean and surly character that he is described as having (v 3).

No matter how well educated one is, no matter how much knowledge one may have, no matter how big their farm or their wealth, if they cannot control their anger, if it always boils to the surface, it shows that beneath the veneer of wisdom and success, there is the heart of a true fool.  Proverbs 14:16 says,  A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless.  Hot headed.  Reckless.  A fool.  Those words describe Nabal, and all those who follow his ways.

A second effect of uncontrolled, sinful anger is that it keeps one from making godly friends. Nabal lived in a remote area. He was in Maon, by Carmel. If he had not responded in anger when David asked for provisions and for help he would’ve made a friendship that would last a lifetime. Consider what a blessing it would have been for Nabal to have David as his friend!

However, an uncontrolled temper will keep us from having the friends that we desire to have,  and need to have, for a well-rounded life. And it is not just because most people don’t want to be around a hothead. That is only part of it. The other part is there in Proverbs 22:24-25 where we read, Do not make friends with a hot tempered man. Do not associate with one who is easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.

If you help out a hot-headed person, you will find that before you know it even though they might profusely apologize, you will be helping them out of other situations that have resulted from their angry outbursts. Proverbs 19:19 warns: A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.

That doesn’t mean, incidentally, that you never try to help an angry person deal with their anger.  You help them, just as you would help anyone else. But if they continue in a pattern of anger, there is a time to let them go down their angry pathway by themselves.

Third, the Proverbs, and Scripture as a whole, teach us that uncontrolled sinful anger will lead to many other sins. An uncontrolled  temper carries with it the domino effect. When you line up dominoes in a row, and turn them so that they twist and turn, you can then knock down the first domino, and all the rest go down in turn. Proverbs 29:22 says: An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot tempered one commits many sins.

Those hot tempered sins, if not repented of and cleansed by faith in Christ, lead not only to many other sins but also to eternal destruction and damnation, just as they did for Nabal.

Patient Understanding

While Nabal provides a tragic example of the results of an uncontrolled temper, we see in Abigail, and also with David to some degree, that the ability to control anger is, first of all, a sign of true understanding.  Proverbs 14:29 says, A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

Abigail could’ve allowed her anger with Nabal to escalate into what we would call a true “domestic dispute” today.  Had that happened David and his 400 men would have found them arguing away. It surely would’ve been the end of both of them with David and his men guilty of bloodshed. But instead, the Lord led Abigail to take the wise course of understanding. As the Proverb says, a patient man - or in this case a patient woman - has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

Likewise, David, already angry, could’ve said, “What type of man allows his wife to intercede and speak up for him?”  He could’ve  berated Nabal and gone on with his 400 armed soldiers to put him to the sword. But instead he saw that the Lord had sent Abigail to quell his anger and keep him from bloodshed.  In 1 Samuel 25:32-33 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.”

When someone is able to control their temper, as David and Abigail did in this situation, we see, secondly, that it is a sign of spiritual strength.  Proverbs 16:32 says, Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Do you see what it is saying? David was a great warrior. But all his strength in battle was miniscule compared to the strength of self-control regarding his anger.

Even secular philosophers realize the great value of controlling one’s temper. It has been said of Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world of his day before the age of 30, and died at age 32, that “he could conquer everyone else’s house, but he never could control his own.”

Which leads to a third point: The ability to control our anger is necessary so that we are not overwhelmed by it. Proverbs 27:4 tackles the power of jealousy, which is a close cousin to anger. Proverbs 27:4 also speaks about how overwhelming anger is. It says, Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Anger will consume you. Anger, if not controlled, leads to a fury that is absolutely destructive,  destructive to the person overwhelmed by it, even more than those around them. Anger consumes a person and takes over their thoughts. If the anger is not properly controlled and confessed, it destroys the person that it is consuming, just as we saw in Nabal’s tragic life.

Controlling Anger

We see then the importance of controlling one of the most volatile of all of our emotions – anger. But how do we go about doing that? The Proverbs, as well as other Scriptures, lay down these guidelines:

First, choose your words with care. James 1:19-20 are classic verses: …Take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

When that initial spark of anger ignites that searing fire within us, how important to slow down! Cicero would recite the alphabet before giving a reply in anger. Apparently he knew that whenever you fly off the handle you are going to make a bad landing. Apparently he knew that it is better to swallow angry words beforehand than to have to eat them afterwards.
 
In any volatile situation you and I need to be so careful in choosing which words we will speak. because a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).  Your words and mine, in  a volatile situation, will either act like the foam of a fire extinguisher, putting out the blaze of anger.  Or they will act like lighter fluid on glowing embers and spark the embers into a roaring fire again.
  
A second way to control anger is to not allow it to seethe within you. Ephesians 4:26 is especially instructive in telling us how not to let anger seethe within. It begins by saying, In your anger do not sin. From that phrase we see that it is possible to be angry and not to sin. Jesus certainly expressed anger at the money changers in the Temple, but He, of course, did not sin in doing so.  During His life on earth Jesus expressed a righteous, godly wrath at all types of sin. 

All of us should have that type of proper controlled anger against sin, whether it is abortion, pornography, exploitation, obvious corruption in politics and business, or the rampant use of taking God’s name in vain. There is a whole long list of things that should make us angry, not with a sinful anger, but with a proper, righteous anger such as God Himself has toward sin. It is proper, indeed necessary, to give vent with a controlled anger directed against specific sin.

However, Ephesians 4:26 goes on to tell us not to let the sun go down on our anger, because to do so, – to let the anger remain within and seethe and boil, – is to give the devil a foothold. Can you imagine how delighted the devil was when Moses struck the rock in anger? (Numbers 20:1-13). The devil was undoubtedly overjoyed. The same is true when you and I allow anger to seethe within us until it explodes, rather than dealing with it in a proper biblical way.

Other passages give us more methods to keep our anger from festering within us. For instance,  in Matthew 18:15 Jesus tells us to go to the one who has sinned against us and to speak to them one on one.  If they will not listen to us, Jesus tells us to bring “one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by two or three witnesses.’”  If they still will not listen, then we are to tell it to the church, that is, to the elders of the church so that it can be handled as a disciplinary matter.

That is the proper way to deal with any serious sin that has been committed against you by someone in the church. Instead of letting anger rip you apart, go and properly confront the person who has sinned against you.

However, before you go to confront someone, remember the truth of Proverbs 19:11, The discretion of a man defers his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.  Have you ever noticed that sometimes it’s the little, trivial things that anger us the most?  Often it is best to let what you hear in one ear and out the other. And often it is best to overlook an infraction that could lead to anger.

Perhaps you are in a situation where you need to “consider the source.” There are some people who will always say foolish things that you could get angry about but you are better off to let it go. As the Proverb says it is to your glory - that is, it is a complement to your nature, to pass over a transgression, - especially when it is done  by a foolish person who shows their foolishness by what they say.

Another way to prevent anger from tearing you apart is to leave the judgment of others with the Lord.  So often in our anger we want to take matters into our own hands but that’s not at all what Scripture tells us to do. Romans 12:17-21:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Unfortunately, even with these biblical guidelines, sometimes we act more like Nabal then Abigail. Sometimes we act and speak more like the beast than the beauty that we are called to be in Christ. When that happens we must confess our sins of anger knowing that they are covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Even wise Christian people lose their tempers. Moses is a tragic example. Some personalities are simply given over to hotheaded temperaments. Peter was like that. So were James and John, nicknamed “sons of thunder.”  But that doesn’t give an excuse to lose one’s temper.  But it does give comfort to know that there is forgiveness for every sin, including uncontrolled sinful anger.

Romans 3:23 is just one of many Scriptures which remind us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  But thankfully all sins are forgiven when repented of and confessed with faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

And then, when we confess our sins of uncontrolled anger, we can – and are – to leave those sinful burdens with the Lord. He alone can calm every storm, including the horrific storm of uncontrolled, sinful anger. Unfortunately, so often when we confess our sin to the Lord and cast on Him the burdens of our sinful anger, which we are told to do, we then, instead of leaving the burden with the Lord, take it back by rehashing it in our mind a million times over. When we keep mulling over the hurtful actions and words spoken against us we will soon find ourselves overwhelmed with anger once again.   

Instead, use the biblical steps God has given and leave the situation that infuriates you in the sovereign, almighty hands of God. Then you will find that He who calmed the great storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:26) can also calm whatever storm of uncontrolled anger is in your life. Amen.

 

- Bulletin Outline -

 

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. - Proverbs 14:29
 
“Patience? Or Quick Tempered Folly?”
Proverbs 14:29


I.  There is a righteous and proper anger, but sinful uncontrolled anger:
     1) Is a mark of a fool (Proverbs 14:16, 17)


 
     2) Keeps one from making godly friends (Proverbs 19:19, 22:24-25)

 


     3) Leads to many sins and ultimate destruction (Proverbs 29:22, 30:33)
          


II. The ability to control anger is:
      1) A sign of true understanding (Proverbs 14:29)

 


      2) A mark of spiritual strength (Proverbs 16:32)

 


      3) Necessary so that we are not overwhelmed by anger (Proverbs 27:4)

 


III. How to deal with anger:
      1) Be quick to listen, slow to speak, choosing words with care (Proverbs 15:1); be slow to
           become angry (James 1:19-20)

 


      2) Don’t let anger seethe within (Proverbs 12:16, 19:11; Ephesians 4:26-27), instead confront
           those who have sinned against you in a biblical way (Matthew 18:15-17) and leave
           revenge and judgment with the Lord (Romans 12:17-21)

 


      3) Confess sinful anger, knowing it is covered by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:9) who alone
           can calm every storm (Matthew 8:26)   

 

08/17/2014 - a.m.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 08/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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