At Gateway Church in Austin, Kenny Green shared week three in a four part series Fast and Furious: Overcoming Anger and Impatience.
Frustrated with 2020 yet? This year seems to be piling it on. And, in our impatience, we want it all to end now. Imagine if you learned to trust that God had better things planned instead of getting caught up in what’s happening in our world? It is possible to navigate this Fast and Furious world with God as our guide.
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’re living in difficult and important times where lives and jobs are in jeopardy… and at the same time, a cultural moment where real change can take place… but all of this can lead to disharmony and discord and division.
Change is hard, and change is exactly what we need, and we don’t want to miss what God is wanting to do in our lives and through our lives because we lose our temper, become impatient, or go about life in the wrong way.
In this teaching series we’re taking a look at some case studies in 1st & 2nd Samuel, to highlight characters who gave us a few examples (some good/some not so good) of how to deal with anger and impatience.
When this pandemic hit us here in Austin the ability to physically meet together was suddenly taken from us. This has been hard.
Now, God created me as an intuitive feeler. I mention this because one of my biggest strengths as a pastor and a teacher is my ability to read and feel a room.
- I’m most effective when I’m with people and I’m vibin’ off of them.
- I’m at my best when I can feel your reaction either in a crowd like this or across the table from me at a coffee shop.
So, when this pandemic hit, we all started to shelter-in-place and all of my meetings and human interactions were suddenly on Zoom… I felt like some of my ability to perform in my strengths had been taken from me.
And while I’ve been very thankful for technology and the ability to continue working in this season… like so many of you, I can’t help but sometimes feel like I’m just kinda waiting for something to change.
(Anyone know what I mean?)
Taking Things That Aren’t Ours
Like, I’m trying to be patient… but I sometimes catch myself trying to push things forward and make things happen, in an effort to control “something”… in a time where everything feels so “out of control”.
- As humans, we so often struggle with impatience, don’t we? Waiting is hard.
- We struggle to trust God’s timing and plans for us.
- We struggle with contentment and to be thankful for “what we have”.
Last week we took a look at David, known in The Scriptures as a man after God’s heart, and yet, we also know that wasn’t always all he was after…
King David saw Bathsheba (another man’s wife) and took her into his own bed… and had her husband killed.
This was just one of the many mistakes made by one of the Bible’s greatest heroes.
“Saw and took” are the same actions we see Adam and Eve take when they saw the fruit from the forbidden tree and took it… demonstrating they trusted their own ways over God’s ways… saying “God, “I know better.”
The story continues in 2 Samuel 13 where things just go completely off the rails as we meet a couple of king David’s sons, Amnon and Absalom.
Amnon falls desperately in love with their own sister, Tamar. Amnon tries to get his sister to sleep with him and when she refuses… he takes her against her will.
(Just like his dad did with Bathsheba)
Now, we read that king David was furious when he heard what his son had done… yet he never did anything to hold Amnon accountable or to help Tamar.
- Now it’s interesting because we hear people talk about “generational sin” or “generational curses”, and many of us are quick to dismiss these ideas. We like to think that the past doesn’t really have influence over what we do in the present…
- but this is how it works… David’s shame from what he had done with Bathsheba left him completely impotent as a father… and it kept him from stepping into this difficult conversation with his son… now caught-up in the exact same sin.
Amnon’s brother Absalom sees their sister in tears and when she tells him what their brother had done to her, Absalom immediately began to hate his brother and despise his father for his cowardice in doing nothing to discipline Amnon or to bring honor and justice to Tamar.
Absalom has this hatred and bitterness growing in his heart for 2 years until finally, he decides that he is going to take matters into his own hands. He murders his brother and as a result, flees the country as a wanted criminal.
Absalom lives in banishment for 3 years – that’s another 3 years of unresolved bitterness.
So, when he returned home, he didn’t return in peace. Instead he returned home with bitterness and revolution in his heart.
Now, the story tells us that in all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. 2 Samuel 14:25
- Absalom was handsome, and he knew it… he’s the Son of the king, and now that he killed his brother Amnon, he was also the sole heir to the throne.
- Even though he’s now back in Jerusalem, he remained estranged from his father, David for another 2 years. So, for those of you keeping score… that’s 7 years of unresolved bitterness.
Bitterness in our hearts creates doubts in our minds.
Absalom begins to conspire against his father… and he campaign with people from all of the outlying villages of the nation of Israel and begins to garner their support.
He would wake up early and stand on the side of the road that led to the city gate, and intercept people who were coming to see his father, with their complaints and concerns.
He would affirm their words… and tell them that if he were in charge, they could always come to him and all of their concerns would be heard and they would receive justice.
Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. (See 2 Samuel 15:5-6)
He’s manipulating people through his campaigning. He’s exploiting vulnerable people, pretending to care about them, and it’s working. The people are now starting to look to Absalom for leadership, instead of his father David. This continues on for four years. That’s four more years of bitterness.
Soon, as he prepares this coup to take over his father’s throne, his conspiracy gains so much support from the people that by-the-time David even hears about what’s going on it’s clear to him that his life is in great jeopardy at the hands of his son Absalom.
Trusting God for His Position
King David is forced to flee the city and hide amongst the caves in the wilderness of Judah. (This is when David writes Psalm 63).
David did not want to be like Saul who tried to kill him when he was young.
David believed his role as king was given to him by God, and if God wanted him to keep it then God would make a way.
David said to the high priest of Israel named Zadok:
“If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26 But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.” – 2 Samuel 15:25-26
- Absalom saw the opportunity for the throne… and instead of waiting as the rightful heir… in his brokenness and bitterness he decided to take it.
- Just like his dad did with Bathsheba and his brother did with his sister
- Just Adam and Eve did with the forbidden fruit.
Absalom’s 15 minutes of fame makes for a pretty sad story… and ultimately ends with him being killed by Joab, the commander of king David’s armies.
David returns to Jerusalem and to his throne, but he does so with a broken heart. For the second time, just like with Saul, David laments over the very man who tried to kill him.
- Absalom allows his anger and disappointment to boil into rage
- Instead of waiting on God’s timing… and trusting in God for justice, Absalom lets impatience and his desire for control to completely rule him.
- He allows bitterness to take-root in his heart and it destroys his family.
There are many parts of Absalom’s story that I relate to…
He experienced an anger that, in-and-of itself was very justified, but he let that anger fester and take root in his heart.. That bitterness led him down a road where his best decisions and the counsel of those who he had surrounded himself were really destructive.
Crazy as it might sounds, I feel a lot of empathy for Absalom. I get him.
- I can understand how a young man can allow disappointment to turn into anger that either wants to act-out destructively or just run away.
- I get what it’s what it’s like to be ruled by bitterness and fear… so much so, that you just end-up living in a vicious cycle of addiction and really destructive behavior for years and years.
- And I can certainly understand being controlled by all of the shame that comes from those bad choices.
I’m really grateful that my decisions didn’t lead me to an early death like they did for Absalom… but in 2004, drug addiction and the life I had chosen had led me to yet another arrest and a time of incarceration… and it was the darkest time in my life. But I learned something amazing during that time. I remember praying the same prayer that most people pray when they first end-up in jail.
God, get me out of here… and then I’ll change
When our circumstances are uncomfortable, scary or painful, we get really impatient. If we pray at all, we tend to have conversations with God that are pretty one-sided, and they’re often “if you – then I” conversations.
God, if you (just do this thing/list of things I want you to do) then I promise I’ll do x-y-z.
Just like Absalom, we want to take matters into our own hands.
- We want things to happen according to our timeline… instead of waiting on God’s timing
- We try to do things that make us feel “in control” of our circumstances… because in reality, we’re totally out of control.
So initially, God didn’t get me out of jail… and looking back, I’m forever grateful that he didn’t, because if I would’ve gotten out right away…
I would’ve went straight back “business as usual”… nothing would’ve changed.
God knew I needed to be in jail for a time.
- It was in jail that I got sober for the first time in over 10 years
- It was in jail that I met a chaplain who gave me a Bible
- It was in jail that I began to read the Gospel of John for the first time.
- It was there that my heart began to soften and I met Jesus through the scriptures.
It didn’t take long before my prayer changed from “God, get me out of here… and then I’ll change” to
“God, don’t let me out of here until you’ve changed me.”
So many of us are living in a season where all we want is for our circumstances to change, but I’ve learned that God desires to change us in the midst of our circumstances.
- It was when I felt the most shame that He re-introduced me to his love for me.
- When all I wanted was control, he taught me to surrender
- It was when I felt the most alone that I found a relationship with Jesus
- And while I was locked-down… He taught me about real freedom
And so, my prayer went from “God get me out of here… and then I’ll change” to “God don’t let me out of here until you’ve changed me” to “God, now that you’ve changed me don’t ever let me go back.”
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15
“As I walked out the door toward freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred, and bitterness behind that I would still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela
For those who are suffering today whether those who have experienced oppression or living through injustice, sometimes the only comfort is knowing that one day, God will bring people to justice. Although there are many of us that are just waiting for that day, it’s important to note, that day might come with a hard lesson.
- King David learned that in-order for God to destroy his enemies, it would mean destroying a part of himself. (Absalom)
- This is our problem as well, as humans living through suffering… that in order for God to bring justice to all who’ve suffered… all of us would need to be brought to justice ourselves.
What we learn from Adam & Eve, from Saul, David, Absalom, and from your story and mine is that we are all involved and complicit in the broken story of humanity.
How can God bring the justice we so desperately hunger for and yet not destroy us all?
Our solution is found in just one place – in just one person – someone who would come many generations after that of David and Absalom. The one that all of the prophets of old spoke of and the one that all of the daughters and sons of Israel longed for.
- Instead of coming to seek the destruction evildoers, He comes to offer mercy
- Instead of sending humanity to the death we deserve, He would die in our place
- Instead of destroying us who have destroyed, he would destroy himself who has given all of us life
What Absalom, the son of a king, couldn’t see through his bitterness and rage and what I caught just a glimpse of during the darkest, most hopeless time of my life and what we all, as sons and daughters of the King of all kings can see so clearly now…
- At the cross… God’s power is revealed in its fullest… as Jesus he was stripped, beaten and made utterly weak for us.
- When Jesus allowed himself to be crushed for our own sin… we clearly see a Love that he thought better than even his own life.
- At the cross we see all of God’s justice unleashed… but not on us… on Himself.
In my struggle to control my circumstances, I only find anxiety….
As I wait for those in power to bring justice, I’m continually disappointed…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
- What I’ve found to be true… is that the best part of following Jesus, is Jesus!
- It’s at the feet of Jesus… that I find peace and rest.
- It’s in his presence that I find His Power when I’m powerless… and His Strength in my weakness.