Build a Stubborn Calmness
Scriptures: Matthew 20:25-28 ; 1 Timothy 3:1-7 ; 1 Peter 2:21-23 ; James 4:1-3
by Jacob Abshire on March 7, 2023
Steve Jobs is one of the most inspiring visionaries of our time. He built one of the most successful companies in the world, not to mention a number of computing devices that we all have grown to love. However, his leadership style was revealed to be abrasive, condescending, and easily angered after his passing. Many would argue that the end justifies the means, but in God’s kingdom, godliness is measured by these means.
Over the past weeks, we have examined the godly characteristics found in the qualifications of a pastor. We have learned about the importance of our reputation, our passion, our thinking, our appetites, our dignity, our hospitality, and our skill at speaking, and our reputation of sobriety. Now, we want to focus our attention on the quality that arises from the words “not violent.” It is a quality that, most would argue, is nothing more than a personality type. But, we will see that they are wrong.
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”1 Timothy 3:1-7
What Does “Not Violent” Mean?
In the original language, the description of a violent person referred to what we might call a bully. It comes from the word that means “to strike with force” and relates to physical aggression and violence in order to force others into conformity. A violent man is a quick-tempered man, who is defensive, ready to attack, and critical—particularly when he doesn’t get his way.
The term is used only twice in the New Testament and in both instances, it follows the prohibition of drunkenness. So, it is likely that it relates to being out of control and easily agitated, which is typical of one who is intoxicated. But, the term stands alone without respect to any cause.
So, godly people should not be people who strike out in aggression, regardless of whether they are drunk or not. They should not express anger and retribution for perceived wrongs against them, nor are they fueled by the fire in their hearts when cravings go unmet. They are not violent.
There are a number of good examples of people who are violent. The first, and maybe the most famous, was Cain. In Genesis 4, we read that “Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him” for making a better offering to God (Gen. 4:4-8). Cain’s offering was not accepted. This was not what he wanted. So, he murdered his brother.
Another famous passage dealing with this kind of anger is found in James’ epistle. He describes people who fight among themselves when they don’t get what they want.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? It is not this, that your passions are at war with you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.”James 4:1-3
In the book of Proverbs, this is the kind of person that God hates (Prov. 6:16-19). It characterizes the unsaved (Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-3) and works against the advancement of the gospel. It is not a mark of a godly person. Instead, the godly person is peaceable during conflict. The Bible tells us that godly people are called to be like Christ, who:
“… suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”1 Peter 2:21-23
Christ remained unrelentlessly calm despite the abuse he suffered, the injustice he experienced, and the mistreatment he endured. He was stubbornly calm and long-suffering during his conflicts. In the same way, we should be stubbornly calm, regardless of our circumstances, even when it is unjust. And, we should never use aggression as a device to persuade others.
Practical Advice on Leadership
Some of us are in positions of leadership. And, if our reputation is good, we find ourselves naturally leading with or without official titles. So, the Lord’s words in Matthew 20 are helpful when it comes to the mode by which we are to lead others. It is not through fear, but servanthood. Comparing the men of His day with the man of God, Jesus says:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”Matthew 20:25-28
If anyone had the right to exercise might over others as a leader, it was Jesus. But, He served as a man of peace, not violence. When He was angered, it was for the right reason, and it never resulted in physical aggression against anyone.
So, being someone who is calm in controversy, does not mean that we never get angry. It means that we remain peaceful when we are wronged and when things are not going as we planned. This kind of violence that is prohibited comes from a sinful kind of anger.
The godly man is not short-tempered, he is long-suffering. He doesn’t rule by coercion, but by serving. He is calm and sensible. He uses words that instruct and build, not tear down. He is not abusive, not deceptive, not trigger happy, and he doesn’t speak with his fists. Is that the way others would describe you? Here are five steps to build your stubborn calmness.
How is your temper in the home, at work, toward other believers and strangers. What about on social media or at sporting events? Do you say offensive or abusive things to other people? If so, this is a sign that you are a violent person, and need to repent.
Think about situations that tempt you to become angry and explode. If these situations can be avoided, do it. There might be people that trigger your temper, and for a time, while you work on your heart, you might need to steer clear of them.
The best way to divert your temper is to recite Scripture about it to yourself. I’ll leave some down in the show notes. I suggest you meditate on them by reading, memorizing, and reciting them to tame your temper. For instance, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Ja. 1:20). This verse reminds us that anger is not the path to godliness.
One of the ways our tempers get easily-triggered is due to the fact that we have held on to offenses against us. It’s important to remember that you have offended God in more ways than others have offended you. And yet, he has forgiven you. Until you have forgiven others, you will not snuff out your fiery temper.
I have found that praying often about your anger not only invites God to work on your heart, but it puts in the forefront of your mind, a reminder to calm down and rely on God. When you are wronged, God comes to your aid. He is the one who rightfully advocates for your reputation and the Bible tells us that “Vengeance belongs to the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).