Holes In The Fence

Sun, Sep 13, 2020
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: James 1:18-21
Duration:21 mins 42 secs

Message text

"Holes in the Fence!"
James 1:18 – 21

A serviceman once wrote about a moment of comedy he had witnessed in the army. It happened during a company inspection. The inspection was being conducted by a full sergeant major. Everything had gone smoothly until the officer came to a certain soldier, looked him up and down and snapped, "Button that pocket, soldier!" The soldier, more than a little rattled, stammered, "Right now, sir?" "Of course, right now!" was the reply. So the soldier very carefully reached out and buttoned the flap on the sergeant major’s shirt pocket.

You see the officer had been quick to note the youngster's uniform problem, but hadn't noticed his own. And that’s a lesson we all need to learn because for some reason, the faults of others seem to stick out like a missing tooth, while our own faults are often hard to spot.

And what James is going to share with us today, are three areas which seem to stick out in most Christians, especially for young Christians in regard to the trials which we face. And as we go through today’s sermon, keep in mind that we need to apply what we learn to ourselves first.

James 1:19-20 “19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
James says when it comes to our trials; the first thing we need to remember is, "be quick to listen."

He told us in James 1:18 “18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

And then he tells us in James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
And so, when James says that Christians are to be quick to listen, he’s talking about listening in regards to us being open to the word of God.

One of the first things immature Christians tend to do when they begin to face any trial, is they stop reading the Word of God. A strong Christian will always go to the Word of God for help, for encouragement, and for comfort. Because the mature Christian understands that God’s word will help them.

As someone once said, some Bible verses are like lanterns, they were made for dark places and dark hours. It’s a bit like the little girl who was going on a train many years ago. She couldn't understand why the trainman was going through the car lighting the lamps. She said, "Mother, it is the middle of the day and the sun is shining, why is he turning on those lights?" The mother smiled, and said, "Wait a bit and you'll see what the lights are for." A few moments later the train plunged into a long, dark tunnel, and then the little girl saw the wisdom of the lamp lighting process.

When we read our Bibles, it seems that they contain thousands of verses that seem very ordinary and unnecessary. And there are times when we can't see why God has gone to all the trouble of lighting those lamps of truth. But some day when you're going into the tunnel of bereavement, or the tunnel of temptation, or the tunnel of suffering. It’s then that you will find value and appreciate the verses that appear to be ordinary and unnecessary.

In other words when we are facing trials we need to be "quick to listen" to what God says to us in His word. James says when we’re struggling as Christians especially in times of trials; it’s then that we need the Word of God most of all in our lives.
We need to humbly and calmly be open to what the Word of God has to say to us. Because it’s only by reading the Word can we know that God cares.

But do you believe that? Do you believe that God wants to help you through those trails?
Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you.”

Peter basically says the same thing over in 2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

God wants to help us but for that to happen we need to keep on reading His word and listen to what He has to say. You see immature Christians when they are facing trials not only stop reading God’s word; they usually start staying away from the worship assembly. But the mature Christian can’t wait to come to worship,

why? Because they know and understand, that they can get that help, encouragement and comfort that they need to help them through those trials from bible studies and worship.

1 Corinthians 14:3 “3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. And I hope and pray that all of you receive, help, encouragement and comfort through the preaching and teaching which happens here, especially when you’re going through trials of any kind.

And so, one of the ways which is going to help us grow up into spiritually mature Christians when we are facing trials, is to keep on listening to what God has to say to us through His word.

Now the second thing that we need to learn to help us grow through our trials is we need to be "slow to speak."
There are a couple of ancient sayings I found which I would like to share with you because I believe we can learn from them.

One ancient saying says, “Men have two ears, and but one tongue, that they should hear more than they speak.”

Another ancient saying says, “The ears are always open, ever ready to receive instruction; but the tongue is surrounded with a double row of teeth, to hedge it in, and to keep it within proper bounds.”

You see ... as a Christian matures through trials they learn some things. And one of the things they learn is the ability to know when to speak.

Now I’m pretty sure we all know lots of spiritually mature Christians, even here within our own congregation.
And if there’s one thing I try to learn from them is just how much they speak.
When a young Christian is going through trials they don’t need to know every single chapter and verse in the Bible; there are times when just a few words are all that are needed.

We all probably know of someone who we view as an extremely strong Christian. It might not be because of their example as a Christian, nor because of their knowledge of the Bible but because they are a person of few words. Their words carry so much wisdom and understanding. Their words are always helpful, encouraging and comforting.

My point is that for us to help each other grow up spiritually through our trials there may be times we all need to listen more and speak less.

Often the young Christian who is suffering just needs someone to listen to them and speak few words. And so James says a mature Christian is a Christian who is quick to listen and slow to speak.
And that brings us to the final thing that Christians need to do to grow through our trials, we all need to be slow to become angry.

You see the word ‘wrath’ is closely related to the word ‘anger.’ What we really need to understand is that the Bible has a lot to say about both.
For example the Old Testament says in Psalm 37:8 “Don't give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble”.

The Book of Proverbs says in Proverbs 14:17 “One who is quick-tempered acts foolishly, and the schemer is hated.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbour a grudge.”

In the New Testament Paul says to the church in Rome in Romans 12:19 “19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.

To the Ephesians Paul writes in Ephesians 4:31 “31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

To the Colossians he writes in Colossians 3:8 “8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

So, let me ask you, what is the difference between anger and anger? Because Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

Paul doesn’t seem to have a problem with a Christian becoming angry. He says, “If you become angry.”
We may know individuals who when facing trials may get angry not only with God but with everyone else around them.
And often they say something like ‘well Jesus got angry, I’m just following His example’.

They quote Jesus expressing anger towards the money changers in the temple as John tells us in John 2:13-17 and they say, ‘you see Jesus expressed anger.’

People who try to excuse their anger often go to passages like Psalm 78:49-51 where the Psalmist writes, “He caused them great distress by pouring out his anger and fierce rage, which came as messengers of death. He did not restrain his anger or spare their lives, but killed them with a plague. He killed the first-born sons of all the families of Egypt.”

People who try to excuse their anger often go to passages like Romans 1:18 where Paul writes, “God's anger is revealed from heaven against all the sin and evil of the people whose evil ways prevent the truth from being known.”

My point is this; we need to understand the difference between wrath and anger. How do we reconcile those passages which demand that anger and wrath is sinful and something to be put away, with those passages that speak of anger on the part of God, Christ and even the Christian?

Well, first of all we need to understand that God's anger is always a just reaction to evil. Because God is divine and all-knowing, His wrath is never misguided. In other words He is more than capable of properly directing anger and wrath. Whereas we, with our imperfections, are not so capable to do that. In our anger we’re often misguided whether it is through ignorance or misunderstanding.

Haven't we ever been angry about something, and later regretted it when we realize we were in the wrong?

Jesus had the ability to read the hearts of men and with such divine knowledge;
He could not mistakenly direct wrath and anger. His anger was always holy anger against unrighteousness which is detestable to God. And when Jesus was angry, He was angry only for God’s honour.

When He was personally abused, He said nothing. 1 Peter 2:21-23 “It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered; he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge.”

Jesus said nothing, it wasn’t until someone acted against God, then He displayed "righteous anger." And that’s where we all fall down at times, we often use anger improperly. You see, were supposed to be like Jesus and follow His example.

And notice James doesn’t say a Christian doesn’t get angry, he says a Christian should be slow to anger. In other words anger itself is not the problem but the way we deal with the emotion of anger could lead to a problem.

Let’s go back to Ephesians 4:26 “If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day”. Now to understand this verse we need to keep the verse in its context.

Especially since Paul writes just a few verses later in Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort”.

Now what I believe James and Paul are saying to us is rather than trying to justify our anger, we should be looking at how to deal with it when it arises in our hearts. James says we should be slow to anger and Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 “If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin.” What they are saying is that our emotion of anger needs to be kept under control.

In other words don't allow it to show itself in a sinful way.
I’m sure we have all had times in our lives when people have said and done pretty hurtful things to us.

But the mature Christian has learned to control that anger and the mature Christian knows that it needs to be dealt with very quickly. That’s why Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:26 and says, “If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day”. Other translations say, "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath." Have you ever wondered why we need to get rid of that anger so quickly?

Well thankfully Paul tells us why in the very next verse, Ephesians 4:27 “Don't give the Devil a chance”. You see a mature Christian understand what happens if you don’t deal with that anger properly and quickly.

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.

He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence and said, 'You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same.’

You see, when we say or do things in anger; they leave a hole just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.

It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is still there. As someone once said, 'A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.’

A mature Christian knows and understands the damage anger can do. They know that the devil will have a field day with that anger and they know that the devil will use that anger to create division amongst God’s people.

James warns us in James 1:20 “Human anger does not achieve God's righteous purpose.” You see ... there is a place for anger, but only if it’s going to lead to the honour and will of God and that’s where we fail the test.

How many holes have we left in the fence with our anger? How many people have we wounded with words and deeds which we should have controlled?

If we want to grow up into spiritually mature Christians, we need to be able to control that anger. And the way we can help ourselves to control that anger is simply by applying the first two warnings of James, be quick to listen and slow to speak in our lives.

Sermon Contributor : Mike Glover


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