The key to these studies is not to just identify there is an anger problem among believers.
The key is to identify ways whereby we can be free from the control, habit, and destructiveness of anger.
Someone might make the statement, "Pastor, you just don't understand, I have a right to be angry."
Let me share a testimony about anger and getting freed from it.
I was raised in a small town of 250 people in Virginia. My home life was filled with alcohol, verbal abuse, fighting and constant negative condemnation. When I left home in 1972 for the military my driving force for running away to the military was my anger, hatred, and unforgiving broken relationship towards my dad. Although I ran away from home, I could not run away from my anger, therefore I carried these strong, destructive feelings in the service with me.
Before long I was becoming like my dad in drinking every day and getting into fights weekly. I hated myself and blamed all of my choices and actions on my past home life. It was easy for me to be a victim to the way I was raised then to take personal responsibility for my rebellious hate-filled life.
Then Sept. 4, 1974 I was wonderfully and gloriously saved. I knew I was a child of God, I knew my sins had been forgiven, and I knew that I had a home in eternity with the Father. However, I still had an anger and unforgiveness issue with my dad. Now to move forward eight years to 1982. I had been a believer for eight years and had been Pastoring for five years before realizing that I was attempting to transfer my personal heart issues upon my dad and the way I was raised.
I was married and had my two sons. My wife had never seen me angry but anytime I was placed in a situation were a person under the influence of alcohol was getting loud and obnoxious something rose up from deep within me that made me want to hit the guy. My wife could not see what was going on in my heart and mind but she could tell that I was different when around someone under the influence of alcohol.
In 1982 I had me a serious forgiveness time with the Lord that caused me to put my past in the past. I drove 2,200 miles from California to Virginia to ask my dad to forgive me. Something happened in my heart and in my dad's heart that day. Dad stopped his physical violence towards mom and I had a release of the anger and unforgiveness in my heart. I stopped living as a victim to my past and started living with joy aiming for the goal the heavenly Father had set for me. Now I could capture what I was captured for.
I was born and raised in the small town of 250 people in Augusta Springs, Virginia. We were a poor family and I did not see indoor plumbing in a home until I was 13 years old. Since we had wood stoves my dad, my grandfather and I went to the mountains every Saturday to cut down trees for our wood. I was handling a chainsaw and axe by the age of 8 years old. This taught me to have a strong work ethic.
I have one older brother and 2 younger sisters. We grew up hard and under extreme circumstances. My dad was a hard worker as a carpenter, but he was also addicted to alcohol. Many times our home was like a war zone with fighting and cussing causing me to grow up with a lot of hatred and resentment towards my dad.
Starting at the age of six I started attending a small Methodist church down the road from our house. I was not seeking God, but I wanted a place of peace away from the fighting in our home. From age 6 to 18 I attended three different churches using them as my temporary safe places. I graduated from Buffalo Gap High School in Swoope, Va. in June 6th, 1972 and immediately went into the U.S. Air Force. I no longer attended any church.
I had already been drinking for a couple of years and through the influences of some military guys, I was introduced to a lifestyle of drugs. I found myself with the same excessive addictive behavior as my dad and became what I hated. I had a serious alcohol and drug problem. My life was headed downward quickly. I loved the Air Force and my job, but I could not shake the alcohol and drug addictions.
I was a leader, well liked, and sought after. I look back now and realize that most of my popularity was because I controlled a large portion of the drug market on base and on many occasions, I gave my “so-called” friends free drugs. I felt so empty and so aimless inside. I excelled in everything I did with the military, but nothing satisfied the longing in my heart. The more emotionally distraught I became the more I looked for ways to medicate my pain.
Then it happened. I wasn’t looking for it, but it happened. It was Sept.4th 1974 at 1:00am. I was lying in bed heavy on drugs with my mind going through my life and realizing how empty I felt and how much I needed to find a way to take control of my life. Then out of the blue I felt this overwhelming sense of conviction of the fact that I was a sinner, and if I died, I would go to hell. I suddenly knew that Jesus Christ was God and He was the Savior of mankind. These three things were all I could think about: My condition as a sinner, my judgment of hell and that my only help could be found in Jesus Christ.
Then I had a sensation that I was going to die. I never feared death before, but this time it was different. Before when I had faced death, I believed that once you die that was it, it was all over. Now I was facing death and I realized that I was going to spend eternity in hell. I remember getting out of my bed, falling to my knees, and starting to pray. I remember that prayer as though I just prayed it. I said, “God, I am not afraid to die but I don’t want to go to hell. Lord Jesus I believe that You are God and that You died on a cross for me and for my sins. Come into my life and save me and make me a new person. Thank you for forgiving me and for saving me.”
Immediately I knew something was different. I felt such peace and joy flooding my heart. I did not own a Bible, but I knew that I knew that God had just saved me and given me His life and eternal life in heaven. I immediately took my alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs and flushed them all down the commode. I sat on the edge of my bed from 1:00am to 7:00am praising God for saving a wicked man like myself. One of the greatest joys of salvation was the ability to forgive my dad for all the physical and emotional abuse that a violent alcoholic brings into a home.
Then came my first test. My best friend John came to my room at 7:00am to smoke dope. I told him that I no longer did drugs because I had given my life to Jesus Christ and was a changed man. He left the room laughing at me, mocking me and went through the barracks telling everyone not to come to my room to party anymore because I had become a Jesus freak. It was okay to be accepted as an alcohol freak. It was okay to be accepted as a drug freak. But now I was rejected because I was a lover of God or Jesus freak.
At 10:00am two more of my drug friends came to my room. This time it was not for the purpose of getting high. They were seeking truth. They looked at me earnestly and asked, “Charles, what has happened to you?” I told them my testimony of what happened that night. To my surprise they both started crying and said, “We want what you have, how can we be saved?” I was scared to death. I knew what I had done but I did not know how to share it with others.
Suddenly, the Bible verse John 3:16 came to my memory. I had to memorize it when I was 6 years old for a Christmas play in the Methodist church. I had not read it or heard it for 14 years and here it was on the tip of my tongue like I was the one who wrote it.
(John 3:16 ESV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
When I quoted that Bible verse, they both prayed and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. We immediately went down town to the book store and all three of us purchased Bibles. We went back on base and went into the Mess Hall and started preaching about Jesus Christ and His love for us. I immediately knew that I was called to preach and Pastor and set out to read everything I could about the Christian life. I stayed in the Air Force for 14 years and had the joy of leading over 800 military GIs to the Lord Jesus Christ and the joy of leading so far over 8,000 souls to our Savior. To God be the glory and my I be found faithful to the end.
Life is about making choices. Some we make are good and some are bad. However, whether we make good or bad choices we need to guard our heart from being a victim or martyr to those choices and the struggles that come as a result of those choices. Some of the struggles from bad choices last years and years, long after the choices we have made. Such as a Christian woman marrying an unsaved man and then finds herself struggling with the decisions and lifestyle of her lost husband.
What can happen is our struggles, trials, and emotional depressions from our bad choices make us a victim or martyr and thus it becomes our identity. It is no longer what we chose or did, it is who we are.
Example: Debby and I have moved a lot and have lived in a lot of different States. Some of those choices were made by the jobs I had and some made by me. Some of the places we can say was definitely the will of God and some was the will of man. Debby and I must choose each day to live in the present with the presence of God and look forward to the future by His grace as overcomers. Otherwise we could use the current struggles generated from our past decisions as an excuse to be a martyr or victim, instead of the spiritual overcomers the Word of God calls us. We must not allow our struggles and trials from our past choices to become our identity.
The martyr or victim syndrome is based on if my current decisions or choices are made based on my unhealed past. Too many believers justify their current emotional, mental and spiritual condition on what decisions were made years ago. Over and over in our minds we struggle with the "What if" or "Only if" statements. Having been raised in a physical and verbal abusive alcoholic home, I went through this. What if I were born to different parents? Only if so and so had not happened to me? It took me over 8 years as a believer to deal with my past so that I no longer lived in it and used it to make excuses for my current emotional, mental and spiritual failures.
If I am currently struggling from my bad decisions or choices or the bad decisions and choices of others that affected me, then I can excuse my words, deeds, and thoughts as a victim to my past. If I am currently struggling from my past decisions or choices, or those of others that affected me, I can excuse my current words, deeds, and thoughts as me being a martyr to my past.
What would be the final outcome if I made the choice of walking as a martyr or victim of my past? FAITH starts being affected. Walking as a martyr or victim goes against the Word of God, therefore the Father will seek to correct us because we are His children. The correction process, which is in Heb.12, if not embraced and acted upon with a repentant heart will cause the heart to grow colder and callous.
Then there comes a drifting farther away. Then there comes a justification as to the spiritual condition. Then comes a moving away from or repositioning of one's self from those that maintain the integrity of God's Word and their Christian walk. Then there comes a deepening of the love for the world and the ways of the world and justifying it by calling it Christian liberty. Then there comes spiritual idolatry and adultery by going after the pagan ways of pagan gods. All of this because of us allowing the past to still drive the school bus of our thoughts and emotions.
Whatever our past, God's Word is true and heals. It took me 8 years to see the truth of it. We can roll those struggles of our past on the Lord Jesus Christ, place them under the blood, and choose to be an overcomer.
1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, (7) casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Charles Morris. Founder and Senior Pastor of RSIM USA.