Responding Properly When You Are Tempted to be Ang

Rob Green June 10, 2006 Romans 5:1-11

Introduction
I would like to begin this morning with a little story. 
- A friend of mine, we will call him John, thought he had found the girl of his dreams. 
- They started a relationship in high school and even though he decided to get a job rather than attend college, their relationship continued for her last two years of high school. 
- John was pretty happy that the love of his life would be attending the local Christian college – Cedarville College (now University). 
- After all, it was just 45 minutes from our homes. 

PICTURE OF CEDARVILLE

One day John decided to surprise her.  He picked up a bouquet of flowers and decided to make a surprise visit. 
- Instead of finding her at the dorm on her hands and knees asking the Lord for her boyfriend to call or visit – she was actually out.
- Not only was she out, but John was to soon discover that her interest in him had faded significantly in the presence of other available Christian young men.
- She had started the process of seeing other guys.

As you well can imagine – he was crushed. 
- He went to surprise the love of his life – the girl he expected to marry – only to discover that that the surprise was on him. 
- He threw the flowers in the trash, got in his car, and drove home.

In that 45 minute ride home, the hurt that began with tears turned to anger. 
- In his mind, he came to the conclusion that he really could only be mad at her or God – the other guys probably didn’t know a thing.
- Growing up in a Christian school and in a Christian home he understood that God was sovereign. 
o He understood that God was in control of everything. 
o There could be no place he went that God was not there, there was nothing that could happen that God did not either cause or allow. 
- In a tragic piece of irony – he concluded that in one way or another this pain, these tears, and the broken plans for his life could be boiled down to one and only one thing – GOD DID THIS TO ME! 
- His Anger against God boiled on that drive home.

John made a decision that day. 
- He was no longer interested in living for this kind of God,
- he was no longer interested in serving this kind of God,
- He was no longer interested in listening to this kind of God.
- John lived the next several years of his life in sin with few restraints.
John was right that God was sovereign. 
- John was wrong in how he responded to God’s sovereignty. 
- That raises the question – when you are tempted to be angry at God, how should you respond?

With that in mind please turn in your Bibles to Romans 5 (that is found on page 121 of the back section of the Bible in the pew in front of you or on page 1400 in the Chinese English Bible).

Today we are continuing our study of the question:  Are You Mad at God? [Cool Graphic]
 The first week Pastor Dutton taught from Genesis 4 showing how Cain’s attitude toward the sacrifice (taking less than the best) led to an anger at God that was not only sinful, but set in motion a downward progression of sin where his descendant were even worse.  In other words, anger at God can lead to even more ungodliness.
 Last week Pastor Aucoin reminded us that anger at God is a natural outflow of the heart when we choose to focus our attention on the things we can see (power, riches, fame).  Only as the heart is convicted by God’s Word can that be changed.

Our sermon this morning is “Responding Properly When You are Tempted to be Angry at God.”  In Romans 5, we are going to see three truths to remember when you are tempted to be angry at God.

Read Romans 5:1-2
The main portion of our study this morning will emphasize vv. 3-11, but it is important to see the context from vv. 1-2.  Paul is writing to a group of believers. 
- They are justified (which is a judicial act – a legal term if you will – whereby a sinner is declared righteous) 
o Racehorse Haines
- They have peace with God through Christ
- They exalt / boast in hope of the Glory of God

The picture could not be much better – if you have trusted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior this is you. 
- This passage describes a person who has peace with God and Hope in the glory of God (which describes a number of aspects in both the present and the future). 
- But Romans 5 was not written just to present the warm fuzzies of the Christian life.  It also presents the harsh realities. 
- Both are combined to help us understand three truths to cling to during times we are tempted to be angry at God.

In fact, the first truth to remember when you are tempted to be angry at God is


I.  God Uses Difficulties in Your Life to Build Hope

In v. 3 the text says, ‘and not only this, but we also exult [same word as in v. 2] in our tribulations.’  This is not pie in the sky Christianity. 
- This isn’t trust Jesus and you will be rich.  
- This isn’t trust Jesus and you will never have any difficulties in life. 
- There is reality here.
A.  Challenge of Tribulations
When I read the word “Tribulations” I am reminded of something very important.  Tribulations hurt – otherwise they wouldn’t be tribulations.  We experience lots of inconveniences, irritations, and time wasters.  However is there a difference between these types of things and tribulations?
- Is there a difference between being caught in a traffic jam and finding out a family member has cancer? 
- Is there a difference between a miscarriage and one of your kids’ getting a bad report card?

You may not have had the same experience as my friend John did, but you may have had some family challenges in your life.
- Maybe you have a failed relationship in your past.  Just like John it really hurt then and it still does today.
- A failed business.  Your dream of successfully building your business is gone.
- Or you were caught in the middle of an ugly divorce between your parents

Maybe your tribulation has come from reproductive challenges
- Maybe you have had a miscarriage [you remember the pain without the benefits of the baby at the end]
- Maybe you had a child die [I remember being a pallbearer for my 20 month old nephew]
- Of maybe you were not able to have children

Maybe your tribulations have come in the form of health challenges
- I think of the long health concerns of Amy Suter
- I think of the battle of lung cancer that killed my grandfather in his late fifties.
- Or the birth defect that has confined my sister to a wheelchair since she was old enough to sit up.

My point, friends, is this – there are tribulations – challenges that hurt.  They are challenges that put us in a position to be angry at God.  John was right God was involved in his situation.  But unlike John, we need to remember the value of those hurts.

B.  Exalt in Tribulations
Paul is not pretending to be some macho high school or college athlete who seems to live for the next workout, who thrives on the adrenaline of weight lifting, running, and the next big game.

It is not that Paul is standing in defiance asking God to bring it on because he can take it.

Paul is instead acknowledging the pain while longing for the results of that pain. 
- He is not asking God to bring it on. 
- He is saying that if in the sovereignty of the Lord that he must experience tribulations than just as he exalts in blessings he will exalt in the product of the tribulations. 

Pastor Viars presented a negative progression in Romans 1 where the people rebelled and God gave them up – this time the progression is positive and applies to the believers.
1.  Tribulations  Perseverance or Endurance

Pastor Aucoin mentioned last week the progression that the Psalmist went through from his irritation at God to his ultimate satisfaction in God.  We learned that this satisfaction often comes through challenge.  Romans 5 is really no different.
- It is the tribulation handled correctly that produces endurance

Endurance is the ability and willingness to stick it out no matter what.   It is quality and commitment of a person to live for Christ, to serve Christ no matter what.

The writer of Hebrews [could explain context]
Hebrews 12:1-2  Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Let us run with what?  ENDURANCE in the face of extreme opposition

We could find many other passages that remind us that difficulties are part of the process that God uses to refine our hearts.   Endurance is not the end

Endurance, the text says, leads to another place
2.  Perseverance or Endurance  Proven Character

One of the reasons the Bible says that we are not to take a new convert and make him a pastor is because he has not proven his character.
- It is over time, it is through difficulties of various kinds that our heart attitudes and actions are revealed.
- Tribulations properly handled help to develop that kind of proven Character that can stand as a soldier of the KING despite the size of the opposing army.
- The scars from the wounds of prior battles, the muscles that have been exercised through long marches and carrying heavy packs stand at the ready to serve King Jesus.

Making the role of Centurion in the Roman Army did not come automatically by time served, it came by proven service.  Friends, God allows (and sometimes brings) these trials to help us develop that character that stands in face of opposition and remains faithful despite the cost.

I think if we stopped there, that would be pretty good, but notice one more step in the progression

3.  Proven Character  Hope
Notice that hope, in this verse, is produced through the progression of right responses to tribulations.
It would not take long for us to think of the practical implications of Hope.

But I especially want you to notice the next phrase:  Hope that does not Disappoint

It is the kind of hope that has been proven in the times of distress.  It is the kind of hope that is not just thought about, but one that is generated through personal experience.
- This hope allows you to see life from an entirely different perspective.
- The lenses from which you view trials and tribulations are hope that will never disappoint.

Friends….. Don’t we need that kind of hope?  Don’t people in our town need that kind of hope?

One of the reasons I was given an opportunity to preach today was to highlight one of my major pastoral duties here – The Counseling Ministry.
- Not only do we host a conference for lots of people
- Not only are we doing a conference in Moldova later this year
- But about 40 hours worth of counseling is done each week.  This amounts to about 2,000 hours during a given year of free counseling. 

While some of the counselees are just looking to get to a better place (take their marriage from a 6 to an 8) others come because of serious tribulations in their lives. 
- In fact, many of them are looking for hope! 
- Some of them have asked others and no one to that point had been able to give them any answers.

We want them to see the God of the Bible – The God who is involved in their situation. 
- The God who wants to use that situation to build hope.
- The home for troubled girls / young women [Vision of Hope] – that name communicates something.  It communicates that no matter where you have been we know a God; a God that can fix the mess, a God of HOPE.

Personal Story
I distinctly remember as a seminary student finishing all of my classes – some 90 hours of master’s work in theology, Greek, and Hebrew.  I knew I had some major learning to do.  I had answers to some questions, but they were questions no one cared about
- I didn’t expect anyone to come up to me to defend a sublapsarian view of the decrees of God. 
- I was pretty sure no one was going to call me and ask me the aspectual categories of the Greek verb.  
My problem was this:  I was not completely sure of the answer to the questions I knew people were going to ask
- My wife and I are on the brink of divorce – what do we do?
- I struggle with worry – now what?
- My anger is beginning to divide my family – how do I deal with it?

I will never forget one of my earliest counseling cases that I did with Pastor Dutton.  A couple came in about twice my age – in the first 15 minutes I found out there were multiple marriages and this was like #4, there were multiple drugs for depression being used, finances were rocky at best and even though they wanted the marriage to work they weren’t sure how.
- After those 15 minutes I wanted to crawl under the desk and NEVER COME OUT!
- What they needed was hope and instruction from the God of Hope.
When you are in a tribulation – a family crisis, a broken relationship, a health diagnosis – rather than being angry at God and turn to a life of sin, remember that God uses difficulties to build hope.

The end of v. 5 reminds us of the great love with which God loves us through the Holy Spirit.  This great love leads us to a second truth to remember when you are tempted to be angry at God

II.  Christ Suffered the Wrath of God for You – A Rebel and a Sinner

I would call this point of those “perspective issues.”

Sometimes we are totally out of our cage
- We, like the psalmist, look at material pleasure, fame, or influence as the standard by which we will really know if God really loves us.
- That is one of the reasons many struggle with tribulations.  They don’t fit our grid of love.
- In fact tribulations run counter to what we deserve!

Yet these verses teach us nothing could be further from the truth.  We deserve punishment, but Christ died for us even when we were rebels and sinners.

A.  Three Descriptions of the kind of people Christ died to redeem

There are not three different kinds of people, but they are three different ways the Bible describes you and me.

1.  Helpless/Weak
Weakness or helpless to save ourselves.  We were/are people that don’t have the ability to earn heaven on our own.  We cannot pick ourselves up by our own boot straps.  Friends, the picture here is that either Jesus would come to do something or else we were going to die.

Maybe an illustration would serve well here:
- We are all aware that infants are helpless.  They need the care, love, and concerns of someone else.
- In the times of the NT it was common for individuals to expose their infants.  I read a 1st century letter from a husband to his pregnant wife telling her that if the baby was a boy great, but if it was a girl expose it.
- This was a life and death statement for the baby.
The text of Scripture puts us in the category.  We were one who left to our own devices could do nothing!

2.  Ungodly
The terminology doesn’t get any better with the next one.  Not only were we helpless, we were ungodly.

Our life, our behavior was not consistent with God’s righteous and holy Character.  In fact, we were

3.  Sinners
We were rebels against the standards of God.  We violated in word and in deed the truth of God and his standard.  We were utterly deserving of eternal punishment.

Jesus Christ did not die for a bunch of people that were good already, that could make it on their own – he died for helpless, ungodly, sinners instead.

The text makes between Christ and human beings
B.  Contrast between Christ and humans

The contrast between vv. 6-8 is seen in the kind of people that one would sacrifice his own life.
- there are lots of stories in our world where one human has died so that others might live
o There are times that parents give their lives to rescue their children
o There are times that soldiers give their lives for a nation and in some cases, other soldiers
o There are times rescue personnel put their own safety on the line to help another person.

These are very noble qualities.  I am thankful for the sacrifices made by a number of men and women for others to live in this free nation. 

But the point Paul wants to make is that while man does die for noble and right causes
- Jesus died for people who hated him. 
- Jesus died for people who continually rebelled. 
- Jesus died for people that were totally helpless.  In fact,

C.  Jesus Christ suffered the Wrath of God for helpless rebels

v. 9 reminds us again of the concept of justification.  I am justified through an act of God whereby he declared me innocent and he imputed the righteousness of Christ to my account.  The first step in that process

- Saved from the Wrath of God through Him

P. Viars series on Is God Mad at Us helped us understand that God’s Wrath is a scary thing.  That is why Paul would say, “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”  And that is written to believers!

You see, friends, forgiveness could not come free of charge. 
- The payment had to be made.  God’s holy character simply cannot allow sin to be brushed under the rug.  Exod. 34:7 – “I will by no means clear the guilty.” 
- So God the father poured out his Wrath on His Son in our place.  So that the gift of eternal life could be offered freely to you and me.
Part of that wrath was seen in the physical sufferings of Jesus.  But it does not take a lot of reading on martyrdom to realize that many human beings have been killed in unbelievably cruel ways.  Jesus’ physical suffering has been felt by others.

But he makes a terribly important statement on the cross.  Matthew 27:46 records it this way,
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

Those final three hours on the cross, God the Father poured out his Wrath on his Son so that his wrath would not have to be poured out on you and me.
The father turned his back on his Son.

Sometimes we believers get angry at God (some of them have been in our church and others have come through our counseling ministry)
- because they think of God as their genie
- They expect God to provide all their needs (as they define them) and even a few of their wants
- They expect inconveniences, irritants, but not tribulations (not the stuff that hurts)

But if we are going to respond to trials rightly, one needs not only remember that tribulations are designed to build in you hope, but also that Jesus suffered God’s Wrath for you.
- Is whining, fussing, complaining about tribulations and getting angry with God consistent with the cross?

I want to ask you
- Is the way you are living today consistent with the Cross?  The place where God sent his son to die for you?
- Is the way you are thinking consistent with the Cross?
- Are you so impressed with yours/our stewardship that it doesn’t surprise you a bit that God would pour buckets of blessing on you and FBC?
- In fact, it would surprise you if God did anything less? 
- Or are you in constant amazement that God would declare you righteous through the work of his precious son [even though you were a rebel and sinner – and if the truth were told you might have been among those shouting “Hosanna” one week and crucify him the next] and then agree to use us in some incredible ways to proclaim the name of Christ in our town and around the world?
Are there folks that come through our counseling ministry that need their lives reoriented to the cross?

III.  God wants to have a meaningful relationship with you

I love the ring of that don’t you?  There are two words I love the most – “meaningful relationship”.  In the final two verses we see that God did not justify us so that we can live a casual existence with him.  He did so that we might have a meaningful relationship with him.

Notice the way we were described

A.  You were an enemy of God
I think it is pretty fair to say that when you are an enemy of God things don’t look too good.  In fact, lets just take a couple of OT illustrations

1.  Hezekiah and the Assyrians (2 Kings 19: 10-13, 15-18, 32-36)
The Assyrians have already destroyed every major city in Northern Israel.  All that stands between them and total victory is Jerusalem.  The Assyrians are completely overwhelming. 
PICTURE OF A MASSIVE ARMY
 They have more sophisticated weapons (give me a machine gun and you take a sword and let’s see who wins.) 
 They have better supplies (access to food and water). 
 They are battle hardened troops (guys with muscles in their earlobes kind of people).  On paper there is no question who will win.  It is like the Purdue football team playing the 5-6th grade pee-wee league. 
 There is NO COMPETITION.  What happens?

2.  Gideon and the Midianites
Here is military strategy at its best.  In fact, I bet they teach this at West Point.  You take 300 dudes and I’ll take 135,000 and we will fight and see who wins.  The irony of course is that Gideon started with 32,000 men and God only let him fight with 300.  Who won? 
- Joshua 8:10 says that 120,000 men died in the initial battle.

The odds were so overwhelming that no sane person could have honestly picked the winner.  God was showing himself great.  He was showing that there is one rule in this world and its him.

Friends, being an enemy of God is a scary place to be.  As one famous preacher once said, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.”

Present the gospel:
If there is someone here today who has heard me talk about the justification stuff and you don’t understand that.  It may be friend that you have never come to the place where you have agreed with God that you are sinner and that Christ died for you while you still were a rebel against.  What you need to do is recognize your sin for what it is and repent – ask God to forgive you by believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your only hope of salvation.

Friend if that is you please don’t leave the auditorium this morning as an enemy of God.  You are in a scary place.

For those that have trusted Christ you have moved

From an ENEMY  0 right?
NO WAY
From an ENEMY  Friend!

The text puts it this way
B.  You are Reconciled
That is one of those $50 theology words that refers to the fact believers are put into a right relationship with God.  Jesus said it this way, “you are friends.”

Some believers almost act like practicing deists.  They believe God made the world even sent his son into it, but that is it.  There is no ongoing ministry of the Spirit, God is not longer involved in the World. And God is certainly not involved in their lives.

Paul takes that kind of thinking and he stands it on its head.
- God wants a meaningful relationship with you
- A relationship that exalts / boasts {have we seen that term before?} in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a relationship that impacts the way you do your job [Great book in the Resource Center called Your Work Matters to God], the way that you raise your children, the way that you treat your spouse, the way that you give to the church, the way that you serve [VBS starts tomorrow and there are still a few spots to serve the some 650 kids that will participate in VBS small, VBS, and Journey Extreme]

And it is a relationship that impacts the way you handle trials and tribulations
- The OT is full of emotion in the Psalms, Habakkuk, and the cries in Lamentations) but at the end of almost every single lament is a word of trust in the creator God.
- To much has been given much is required
- When we turn to the pages of the NT we find not only a creator God, but a God that interrupted human history to send his son in the World to suffer his wrath for all mankind.
- What the OT pointed to, we already see.  Should we not trust more?  Should the cross impact forever the lens by which we see God?

Conclusion
I have little doubt that you will experience something like my friend John. 
- The tribulation will hurt and you will be tempted to allow the pain and the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations to lead to anger at God in your heart. 
- But God has a plan for that trial – it is to give you the hope that comes from personal experience of watching God use it in your life.

Pastor Aucoin mentioned last week that the turning point for the man in Psalm 73 was the Word of God.  I am here to say that part God’s Word explains a few truths that we can cling to in the midst of the temptation to be angry at God.
1. God Uses Difficulties in Your Life to Build Hope
2. Christ Suffered the Wrath of God for You – A Rebel and a Sinner
3. God wants to have a meaningful relationship with you

Stand Together for Prayer

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.