(Continuing with the subject of meekness from Matthew Henry.)
“He has the sweetest and surest peace who is most master of his own passions. The comfort that a man has in governing himself is much greater than he could have in having people serve him and nations bow down to him. It is certain that the worst enemies we have, if ever they break loose and get head, are in our own bosoms.”
How can we defeat these enemies in our own hearts? How can we learn to govern ourselves and our passions? Here are some suggestions.
1. Repent of any and all un-confessed angers of the past. We sometimes confess the sin lightly, giving ourselves excuses and blaming our outbursts on the sins of others. “I’m sorry for being cross, but you were provoking me by your….” Our confessions should be unilateral: “Please forgive me for being angry and saying hurtful things. I was wrong.”
2. Rather than seeking forgiveness, we try to make up for angry outbursts by being sweetie-nice after everything has blown over. But sugar-coating sin is hypocrisy, which just adds another sin to the pile.
3. Every morning pray that God will fill you with His Holy Spirit and display the fruit of the Spirit in your life, particularly peace and patience and kindness.
4. Ask God to reveal any hidden sins in your life. Anger comes straight up from our hearts and comes out our mouths. What is feeding this anger? How did it get there? Most likely some ugly attitudes in rooted in your heart. Ask God to show you what they are. Could be resentment, envy, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, or pride. If your anger comes out toward one particular person, check for a grievance you have nurtured or a critical spirit about perceived or real defects this person has. Confess it all and begin to pray for this person.
5. Be watchful. Pray that you will see temptation coming so you can get yourself prepared to resist it. When your heart rises up within you, subdue it by God’s grace. Which is worse from God’s perspective: the provocation or your outburst of anger?
6. Consider your own shortcomings, faults, and sins. Why should you be so hard on others when you want them to have patience and understanding toward you?
7. Remind yourself that God is using these provocations to teach you something. Are you listening? Are you paying attention? Are you learning? Each provocation is an opportunity for you to grow in grace and strengthen your faith. Don’t miss your opportunities and don’t squander them.
8. When you start to respond in anger, repent quickly and immediately. Don’t put it off. Stop mid-anger and seek forgiveness.
9. Don’t set yourself up for temptation. If you are always tempted to get angry at your family when you host a baby shower, then take a break for a while. Learn to govern yourself in the little things and get good at those before you try again.
10. Thank God for every victory, small or large. Praise Him and ask Him for more grace and more victory. Don’t be content to make small progress; be diligent to get further up and further in. This is a race with a prize. Lay hold of it!