Good morning, everybody. For the last eight years, you have been giving me a warm welcome as a guest speaker. Today, you’re giving me a warm welcome as somebody who has a title. I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’m officially the youth pastor at Mariners Church. Yeah. That’s pretty fancy.
I don’t know if you know this, but our senior pastor, Eric, is actually a small group leader with ninth-grade boys, so technically, he’s under me (under my leadership), which is also pretty fancy that he works for me. If you would also like to be in the center of God’s will and work with teenagers like Eric and the video you just saw, we have a table out on the patio. We would love to get you connected and get involved.
A couple of months ago, I asked you to pray for the teenagers in our church. Over 1,000 of you signed up to be on my prayer team. I’m grateful for that. Last weekend, we had over 500 high school students here on our property. This is them on a Saturday night service. They came into the Saturday night service, and it was awesome.
I’ve been telling you for years, teenagers are not the future of the church; they are the church. The fact that they’re in here, we ought to celebrate that. When you see them, high-five them, hand them money, donuts, whatever it is. It’s so fun.
This last month, in January, I’ve actually been speaking to the junior highers. All four services. It’s been fun. It’s wild. It’s created some enthusiasm. Many kids came to Christ. We just hired one of my dearest friends. He has four teenagers of his own. His name is Josh Griffin. He’s a world-class speaker.
He’s going to be teaching junior highers here at Mariners, pretty much every week. We’re excited for him. He’s started a series today called How Not to Get Grounded. It’s based on the book of Proverbs. We’ve done something fun. We actually have a camera in our junior high group right now to show you what our junior high service looks like. I thought I’d let you know that.
[Video – scene from Hook]
In case you’re wondering, you need to know it’s much more difficult to speak to junior highers than it is to speak to you. You are a piece of cake in comparison. When I spoke in junior high, I use an outline where you fill in the blanks to keep them a little bit engaged. After the first week, a junior high kid came up and gave this to me. This was his outline that he did. Yeah. Those of you who are wondering, no, those are not my teaching points, and yes, I have moved him to another church.
Before you write off all junior highers as immature, I thought this was interesting. A parent sent me this. Her junior high son wants to go into ministry. He’s been taking notes of how I teach and preach because someday he wants to be a teacher. He just wrote down different ways to communicate. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it? To know that kid is sitting in our church? That’s fun. He’s definitely after Eric’s job, and based on that outline, I think he’s going to get it.
Today, we’re starting a brand-new series called Relationship 20/20: Having a Vision for Great Relationships. We’re talking about how to fight, how to forgive, how relationships make us grow. Why they gave me the How to Fight on a day where most people would rather be at a Super Bowl party than here at church just makes me so angry, I want to fight someone.
Just kidding. I actually hate conflict. I really do. I don’t like conflict at all. I don’t even like the word conflict. I don’t like the sound of it. It sounds like convict. I don’t know if you know this, but the etymology of the word conflict is con- and -flict. You probably know this. –Flict means afflicted by. Con means constipation. I haven’t really fact-checked that yet, but that’s how it makes me feel. It’s all tied up inside.
Has anybody seen that new Netflix show? California Constipation. Oh, apparently it hasn’t come out yet. Junior highers didn’t get that joke either. This series over the next three weeks doesn’t really matter if you’re a follower of Jesus, or if you’re just checking out this God, faith, Christianity thing. We’re thrilled that you’re here. This is not a marriage series. It’s a relationship series. If you have a relationship (father, son, neighbor, coworker, marriage), it encompasses all of them because, in relationships, we experience conflict and tension.
I’m just curious. Anybody in here, when I say, “Conflict,” you get excited? You go, “I thrive in conflict”? Anybody? There are typically a couple psychos in every crowd. For most of us, we don’t thrive in conflict. I obsess over conflict. Anybody in the obsess, when you’re in conflict with somebody you love, you think about it? You replay it? For me, I get all angst. I drink too much Diet Coke. I eat food. I get gassy and bloated, which is where I came up with the definition of conflict. Basically it’s this. I’m void of peace. When you’re in conflict, you’re void of peace. Does anybody connect with that one? Yeah.
Several years ago, I was writing a book, and I had a chapter on conflict. So I did a survey, and I had 5,100 people respond to this survey on conflict. Only 1,700 were men, and 3,4000 were women. I don’t know what to make of that, and I’m afraid if I do, I’ll create more conflict.
The first question was this. “When you have conflict, what’s your gut response? What’s your default?” The number one response for ladies is “Talk it out.” For men, “Talk it out,” was their fifth highest response. Number one, guys, was “Deal only when necessary.” Number two was “Avoid.” Number three was, “I’d rather contract scurvy than talk about it.”
The second question was, “What’s the typical source of conflict?” Granted, one of my answers was not, “Your annoying personality,” but men and women had the same answer. “Miscommunication,” and, “Unmet expectations,” which seems pretty basic and standard. Third question is, “Once you enter conflict, what’s your primary goal?” Ladies, you said, “To be heard or understood,” which makes sense. Guys’ number one was “To seek resolution.” Guys, we don’t care to be heard or understood. We just want to get it out of the way.
One of the options was to win, and men were two times more likely to put “To win,” then woman. The biggie is this. “How would you consider your fighting skills: poor, needs improvement, good, fair, or excellent?” Both number one response for men and women was “Needs improvement,” although men were two times more likely to rate themselves as “Excellent.”
Here’s the bottom line to all of this.
Everybody in here needs help with conflict. I encourage you to pull out your notes. I encourage you to pull them. We’re going to walk through these. At the top of your notes, you’re going to kind of see where I’m going with this because I put in your notes, “Conflict is inevitable, but misery is…” what? Optional. Conflict is inevitable, but misery is optional.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul challenges followers of Jesus in Romans 12. It says this. “If possible…” If you have a pen, circle, “If possible…”
“…as far as it depends on you…” Interesting. Underline that. “…live at peace with everyone.” So here’s the deal. If possible, peace is our goal. So if conflict is inevitable, and misery is optional, as followers of Jesus, then our plan is to pursue and to choose peace. Nobody in here can avoid conflict. It goes back to the beginning of time. There’s a theological foundation of conflict.
Adam and Eve living in perfect, relational harmony. They disobey God, and all of a sudden, we’re introduced to blame and sin. “The woman made me do it.” Then you get to the very first family. In the first family, a brother kills another brother. You’re not even out of Genesis yet, and humanity is off to a rousing start: jealousy, pride, deceit, revenge, anger. It’s all right there at the very beginning.
You move a couple books over into 2 Kings. This is an interesting one. There’s a prophet by the name of Elisha. Some of you are going to think I’m making this up, so read it on your own. Elisha is walking through a town, and some teenagers come out and start making fun of him. They yell at him, “Baldhead. Hey, baldhead.”
He gets so angry at them that he curses them in the name of the Lord, and bears come out of the woods and maul to death 42 teenagers. Yeah, I know. As someone who works with teenagers and happens to be slightly balding, I can just say I understand and appreciate Elisha’s anger.
Here’s what I want you to get. Anger is directly connected to relationship destruction. If you fast forward to the New Testament, Jesus has some radical teaching on anger. In Matthew 5, it says this.
“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.” Remember, Jesus flips things upside down. “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
What’s Jesus doing? He’s saying, “You all have grown up under the shadow the 10 commandments. Our ancestors lived by the 10 commandments, and one of them is though shall not…” what? Kill or murder. We get that. So we walk through life a little piously like, “At least I’m not a murderer.” But Jesus knows there’s something more insidious living in the heart of humanity.
He says, “Don’t walk through life thinking just because you haven’t clubbed somebody to death that you get away scot-free. No. When you use your anger to kill people and sabotage relationships, that’s going to be subject to judgment.” Under this idea of how to fight, if I’m going to teach you how to fight, I have to teach you how to deal with your anger because anger is directly connected to relationship destruction.
Let’s get in touch with our anger. I want you to think about something that triggers your anger. Something that makes you get upset. I’m going to ask those of you in the front, but let me just give you an idea of what I’m thinking about. For me, it happened yesterday. For those of you who smoke, and when you’re finished with your cigarette, and you flick it out the window as if the whole world is your ashtray, that triggers me. I don’t like that. That just makes me angry. I want to drive by and throw something in your window. That’s me.
When I go to the movies and people are on the cell phone, and I can see that light, that kind of triggers me. Talk to me. Slow drivers. Okay? Yeah. That’s pretty much been in every service. I want you to know that, which is why we have a lot of road rage in the Mariners’ parking lot. What else? Crossing the toll road. Different opinions trigger your anger. What about over here on more of the spiritual side of it. What else? Talk to me. Politics. Profanity. You get it.
We all have different things that trigger our anger. We all get angry. What becomes different is in how we express our anger. The best relational fighters have learned to tame their anger. Not stop their anger.
They stop the negative consequences of their anger, but you don’t stop anger because it’s an emotion. Anger in and of itself is not good or bad, it’s an emotion. Anger comes and goes.
What separates the good fighters from the not good fighters is the destruction that happens with it. If conflict is inevitable, but misery is optional, and my goal is to choose peace, I’m going to lay out a peace plan for you. Here’s a path to peace. If it works for you, great. I think it does. But we’re going to go with it.
- Name it: I do this so I can move forward, grow, change (if necessary), and love.
When it comes to peace, you have to name your anger. The opposite of naming it is denial. Denial stops growth and change, and denial is not sincere love.
I found this last night talking with people who come to the Saturday evening service, which we know they’re the flakey bunch. They don’t know church is on Sunday. They didn’t like talking about anger. You could just tell people at church don’t like to talk about anger because “We don’t want people to think we have a problem with it. I mean, yeah, I get angry every once in a while, but I don’t have a problem with it.”
Or, we compare ourselves to other people. You compare yourself to the loudmouth, obnoxious person who yells all the time like, “Now, that person has an anger problem. Compared to them, I’m like Jesus junior.” I’ve heard this a bunch. Some people will say, “I don’t get angry because I’m a Christian,” which is maybe the dumbest thing ever uttered. The only person who doesn’t get angry is called comatose. We all get angry.
What I’m asking you to do is just name it. Identify it. Admit it. Admit it for what it is. It’s a feeling. Now, watch. I can feel anger without it having to destroy a relationship. Just like, I can feel tired without having to go to sleep. I can feel hungry without having to eat. I rarely do, but I can feel that without having to eat. In the same way, I can feel anger without swinging anger around like a battle-axe and ambushing and abusing other people and leading me down a path of misery.
We all have anger in common, what separates us is how we express our anger. There are some of you in here when you get angry, you express it right away. You’re called exploders. You get angry, and you let people know. You regurgitate all over people, and then you’re fine. As soon as you express your anger, you’re fine. “What’s for dinner? Are the Lakers on tonight? Zip-a-dee-do-dah.” You’re fine. You just have to get it out. Exploders, let me see your hands. Admit loud and proud. Be loud and proud.
Watch this. Exploders, I want you to think of what makes you angry, and at the count of three, I want you to shout (if you’re an exploder) no. Let everybody else who’s not an exploder know the power you have. I want you to do this. Ready? One, two, three. Somebody was scary right over there. Yeah, that’s what exploders do.
There’s a larger group of us in here who also get angry, but we don’t let other people know it. “We’re not exploders. Oh no. We’re imploders. We take that anger, and we stuff it down. Now, we’re angry. We’re just silent with our anger. We don’t let it go either. No, we chew on it and stew on it and brew on it. Imploders, you know I’m right because I’m one too. Imploders raise your hands. Raise your hands with me. Lots of us.
Here’s what we do. We even smile like, “Yeah. I’m not like that exploder over there.” We kind of feel like we’re superior to others. Let me just let you know, neither way works. Imploders, you’re probably sicker. Imploders, you can say no at the count of three. One, two, three. Wimpy. Exploders are making fun of us with that right now. You’re ticked, but you won’t let anybody know it.
Here’s what we’re doing. You just have to name it. Whether you implode or explode, everybody raise your right hand. Repeat after me. I get angry. That’s it. Just name it. Anger is not bad. It’s an emotion. It’s a feeling. It comes, and it goes. If you’re going to fight well, you have to move to second place of peace. This is a big one.
- Delay it: I do this, so I don’t hurt others and damage relationships.
Put a star by this one. Right here is where most of the relational damage takes place because you’re triggered, and then what happens? The switchblade of words comes out. This is where we wound, and we damage people. The Bible calls us a fool for doing that. Take a look. Proverbs 29:11.
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person holds it in check.” What do you want to be? A fool or wise? Some of you are like, “Well, Doug. What if I have something really important to say? What if it’s on the tip of my tongue, and I just have to say it?” Okay, spanky. If that is true, if it is helpful for the person’s growth, and it’s going to be great for your relationship, if it is true, then it’s going to be true 24 hours later, 72 hours later. Are you with me? The delay is okay.
But when you’re triggered and immediately you say something, or you try to meditate, that’s a fool. That’s what a fool does. By the way, you’re under no moral obligation to say whatever comes to your mind or what’s on the tip of your tongue. Those of you who are married, when you took your vows, you didn’t take a vow to say to your spouse everything that you think. You don’t have to do that.
Take a look at this verse in Proverbs 17. I love this. This is just good wisdom. “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” It’s not just your words. Some of you have the nonverbal. When you’re mad, you could be a mass murderer with your face and not say anything. He’s referring to us as well.
I have been studying the Bible since I was a teenager (40 years), and I know of only two ways to feel anger and fight without negative consequences. How to fight with anger without negative consequences. The first one is this. Become a monk. Seriously. Have you ever seen an angry monk? No.
Why are they not angry? Because they isolate themselves from people. They’re away from the busy life and the noise and the tension, and the result is predictable. There’s a whole lot less opportunity to get angry. What does a monk get angry at? “Oh, there’s not enough straw in my bed,” or whatever. They have robe rash. I don’t know.
I actually thought about going into the monkhood for just a little bit, but it wasn’t for me. It was rough on my hair. So that’s one way. Here’s the only other way that I know. If that’s not an option for you, here’s the only other way I know to feel anger and to fight without damaging people. Here it is. It’s in your notes, up on the screen.
To depend on God’s Spirit to guide you. In my notes, I have the words daily choice. Every day I have to make a choice: am I going to be guided by my own nature, or am I going to be guided by God’s Spirit? Watch what the apostle Paul says in Galatians 5. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.” I just stole my point from the Bible. That’s all I do is steal from the Bible.
“Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.”
Let’s just say we have our sinful nature. If you’ve been around Mariners, this whole last month, we’ve talked about a new nature. If you have a sinful nature, and you are filled with your sinful nature…let’s just say this full glass of some type of color represents your sinful nature…and you’re going through life, and all of a sudden, you bump into conflict, what spills out? Yeah, what spills out is your sinful nature.
It’s not in your notes, but I’m going to read it right out of the Bible. You can write this down if you want. This is the same chapter of Galatians. Verse 19. Watch this. It says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear…” Then there’s a whole list of the results of the sinful nature. Watch the ones that represent relational fighting. “Hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish of ambition, dissension, division.” It’s painting a picture of misery.
But when I’m aware of my new life, and I’m walking with God’s presence, and I’m yoked to God, and I’m depending on him, if I’m filled with my new nature, and I bump into conflict, what spills out? Yeah. The new nature spills out.
Watch this. Same chapter. Galatians 5. It’s up on the screen. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy…” What? “…peace…” That’s what we’re going after, right? When in conflict, choose peace. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Let me show you how this works in real life. A while back, I’m at Chicago O’Hare Airport. I am on a people mover. One of those people movers where you walk on the left, and you stand on the right. I have my luggage. I’m going through the airport, and I’m walking on the left. I’m not standing on the right, I’m walking on the left. There are a bunch of people on the people mover, and I just hear this voice. “Get out of the way. Get out the way. Please move. Get out of the way. Get out of the way.”
I’m thinking to myself, “Some slowpoke back there is getting yelled at by this lady. There’s no way she’s talking to me.” I didn’t want to look back, but I just knew she wasn’t talking to me because I was walking at a very reasonable pace. I’m athletic for goodness sakes. I do CrossFit. I’m walking, and all of a sudden, this lady darts around me, looks back right at me like she’s talking to her husband. “Apparently, he’s deaf.” Oh, yeah. Yeah.
So trigger. Right? Trigger. What happens? My sinful nature bubbles up, and all of a sudden, I begin to craft these thoughts like, “Well, I may be deaf, but you’re ugly.” Now, I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it this time. I have a lot of failure stories, but this one was actually a good one.
I was in Chicago. I was speaking at this event. I was super grateful. I was walking with Jesus. I was yoked to him. I was depending on him. I was just in that season of life where I was full. So when I bump into that conflict, Doug doesn’t spill out. In fact, do you know what I felt? I felt compassion. I felt compassion for her. I felt more compassion for her husband. He was married to her.
Here’s life. You can’t keep people from being rude or stupid or both, even when your angry, but you can choose your response. So by depending on God’s Spirit to transform our sinful nature to be more like his nature and then follow the Spirit’s prompting, which is guiding us to life, not misery.
Look at this verse in Galatians 5:24. “Those who belong…” I circled “…belong…” in my notes because if you’ve stood and you’ve ever said, “I believe,” you belong. If you believe, you belong. “…to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to…” what? “…his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another…” There’s conflict. “…or be jealous of one another.”
If you have traded your sinful nature for the new nature that we’ve been talking about the last month…See the cross over there? This sinful nature…Bam. The last two services I’ve hit people, but it has forced them to delay their anger. That sinful nature has been crucified at the cross. That doesn’t have to define you. You allow the new nature, God’s indwelling Spirit, to define you. Are you tracking? So we name it. We delay it. But if you really want to learn how to fight well, you have to take the third step to peace.
- Study it: I do this so I can learn, improve my relationships, and grow closer to Jesus.
By the way, this is the biggie. This separates the spiritually immature from the spiritually mature. Because we’re all triggered. Conflict is inevitable. But when you study it, you have to ask this question. “Why am I angry?” Don’t say, “What made me angry?” If you just go around saying what makes you angry, what happens is you live on the surface, and you blame all the triggers.
“What made me angry?” Slow traffic, fast walkers, long sermons, people who throw things. Whatever it is. Then you blame everybody else, and you stay on the surface. But when you ask the why question, what happens is you actually kind of peel back your soul, and you look within. Chances are, you’re going to find two things within inside.
You’re going to find them curled up in the corner of your soul. One in the fetal hiding position, and one in the attack position. All curled up in the fetal position is fear. So when I study my anger and say, “Why? Doug, why did that make you so angry?” and I really reflect on it and think about it, do you know what I find? A lot of times, I find fearful Doug. I find Doug, who’s afraid. He’s afraid that he’s not going to be a good husband or a good dad or a good friend or a good coworker. He’s afraid of failure and rejection.
Sometimes, I find hurt Doug. Hurt Doug isn’t hiding. Hurt Doug is ready to attack. Those of us who’ve been hurt are very dangerous because we’re always in attack mode. That’s why you’ve heard this before. “Hurt people…” what? Yeah. Hurt people hurt people.
If I’m being really honest with you, when I got this (what I was supposed to teach on this weekend), I wasn’t real thrilled, because I don’t fight very well or very fair on my own power. Just being honest. When I’m triggered, and hurt or fear is awakened within, here’s what I do. I ramp up. I lock in on my target, and I don’t want to lose. I don’t think about their consequence, and sometimes, I don’t even think about my relationship with Jesus. Again, I said, “On my own power.” On my own power, I’m not a good fighter. That’s why I have to go depend on God’s power to guide me.
So, friends, the reason I want you to get this one so bad is if you just delay it, but you don’t study it, it’s always going to come out and play. It’s always going to come out and play again, and it’s going to keep you from peace. It’s going to move you to a land of misery. Your relationships will never be what God intends them to be.
So when you study it, and you see what it is (it’s fear or it’s hurt), then what you do in your new life (your new nature), you take it to God who loves you so very much. You say, “God, would you help me in this situation? I’ve named it. I’m angry. I delayed it. I haven’t killed anybody yet. But now, I see that it’s really not about them. It’s about me. My hurt and my fear were awakened, and I don’t know what to do.”
Look at this verse. Psalm 4:3-4. “Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him.” I love that. “Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still.”
The second part of that verse (verse 4), if that’s all we had, I’d put that in the category of good psychology. That says, “Be angry, and do not sin,” because honestly, you don’t need God’s help for that. You don’t need faith. You don’t need a dependence on God’s power. Pretty much anybody can do that. Be angry, but don’t wound people. But verse 3 is what really helps us there. It gives us a spiritual perspective when it says, “…the Lord will hear when I call to him.”
Here’s what I’m asking you to do. When you study it, and it’s the ugly truth that it’s fear or hurt, then you call out, and you say, “God, I’m so angry.” I trust you, and I trust what your word says. I actually want to delay damage, and so I beg you to guide me and give me a wisdom in this relationship that I don’t have on my own.” Does this make sense?
I want to be very, very clear. I’m not asking you to go out of here and not have the difficult conversations. I’m not asking you to not express your anger. I’m just saying if you want to fight well, if you want to pursue peace, if you want to live out of your new nature, you have to name it, you have to delay it, you have to study it. Then when you do, you can have rational, helpful, still passionate conversations that actually lead to peace. Anger straight to action isn’t peace. Anger straight to action is ambush. You and I are better than that. We’re just better than that.
Remember this first verse in Romans 12:18. It says, “…as far as it depends on you…” Anger is inevitable. Misery is optional. So when I have an opportunity, I’m going to choose peace. That’s what I want for me. That’s what I want for you.
Jesus, we can’t do this on our own power. When we’re triggered, we go after people. I pray that you would give us a wisdom, so you don’t act like fools. Give us wisdom, so we don’t damage more relationships. Give us a wisdom, so we treat people the way that you would want them to be treated in this new nature. Thank you that our old nature has been crucified with you, that we traded it for your Spirit and it’s guidance. We ask that we’d be different as we leave here today. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Nothing compares to your name, Jesus. Today, we’re going to be shouting other names at the screen, right? We’re going to be shouting, “Mahomes,” and “Garoppolo” or however you say it. There are other names, but as you walk out of here today, may the name of Jesus, who has the power and the presence to take our sinful nature and take it to him to the cross so you and I can have a new life and a life that we ever dreamed about.
Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” That’s the life that we’re called to live. Not the one of misery. We have a choice. So we’re going to be those people this week, right? Yeah. Let’s hold our hands out and receive God’s blessing.
God, we are your people, and we’re so grateful for your love. That you love us unconditionally. That your love for us is not based on what we look like or how much hair we have or what’s in our bank account. You love us because you created us and you’re drawing us closer to you. May we walk out of here today being reminded of that great love, and to live the new life that you’ve called us to live. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.