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Acting On And Reacting To Our Strong Emotions

(Psalms 143:4 NKJV) Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed.

Handling strong emotion is not easy – and life in the Spirit is frequently full of strong emotions. Love, righteous anger, compassion, ecstasy and joy in worship can be transcendent and powerful emotions that sweep the believer along. In the face of such powerful emotions what should we do? How should we act on our emotions? How should we react to them as they well up inside us? That is the subject of this chapter.

Jesus And Strong Emotions

Did Jesus have strong emotions or were His emotions always mild and uneventful? From incidents such as His cleansing of the temple, His cursing of the fig-tree, His groans at Lazarus’ tomb, His rebukes of His disciples, His blazing anger at the hard hearts of the Pharisees and His rejoicing at the return of the disciples from their ministry trip; we can say Jesus had many strong emotions. Jesus was a fully emotional Jewish man filled with the Holy Spirit and sent on a holy mission for the glory of God. He was not a bored and passionless bureaucrat. He was a prophet and the Son of God.

The strength of Jesus’ emotions flowed from the power of His perceptions and the strength of His beliefs. What we perceive and believe gives force to our convictions and emotions. If you behold little of reality and believe almost nothing, then you will feel small and dull passions at best. However if you are filled with the Spirit, and see Heaven opened, and know the truth, and believe the Scriptures, and are truly on a mission from the Lord then your emotions will be strong and clear and grow in strength and grandeur. To add the obvious, the reverse is not true, strong emotions do not mean you are spiritual. People can be gripped by all sorts of strong and yet fleshly emotions. So strong emotions can be both godly and fleshly. Jesus was powerfully emotional but was without sin. How did He do it? He exercised self-control.

Self-Control, Repression, Grieving and Quenching

There are two main spiritual errors when it comes to the expression of emotion in the Christian life. The first is giving expression to carnal emotions such as wrath, bitterness and clamour. This is called “grieving the Spirit” and is mentioned in Ephesians 4:30,31. The second error is the repressing of holy emotions that arise within us because of the work of the Spirit. This is called “quenching” the Spirit and is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5;19. Holy emotions frequently have an intensity about them that makes many people fear their presence and clamp down on them. Self-control means managing our emotions so that fleshly and carnal emotions such as wrath and bitterness are kept out of the Christian life and holy emotions such as compassion are given full expression in the best manner possible. Thus, as we saw in the last chapter, self-control does mean clamping down on some emotions – but not on all. The Christian life is about holy emotion not a dead and passionless existence. However before we can control our emotions and manage them appropriately we must become aware of their existence.

Repression is the opposite of self-control because it denies the existence of the emotion and does not enable us to control it in any way at all. That is why people who use repression of emotion as a main device in their Christian life are often subject to outbursts of rage. They in fact have no real control of their emotions and no insight onto their emotional state. Before I go any further I want you to stop and think about the concept of “permission to feel emotion”. This is denied to many people. They are told from a young age to keep emotions, particularly negative emotions, completely under wraps. Once this is successfully internalised such people may have to give themselves “permission to feel” those emotions that they have denied themselves over the years. Such emotions may include sensual emotions, pleasure, anger, disappointment and grief. Gradually coming to feel long lost emotions can take some time. There is frequently a deep fear that control will be lost. It needs to be remembered by such people that they have successfully controlled that emotion for perhaps thirty or more years. They know how to put the lid on the box when they have to. It is most unlikely they will truly lose control but the experience will feel new and a bit scary at first. Eventually the recovered emotions will lead to the deeper resonances of life and a fuller and more meaningful existence.

The aim of biblical EQ is that we move from repression and denial of emotion to proper self-control of emotion. Thus the Holy Spirit will not quenched by being good emotions being stifled or grieved by inappropriate emotions such as wrath or bitterness being expressed. This makes the person of the Holy Spirit absolutely central to the Christian’s true experience of emotion. It is as He is released in His fullness that we move into the emotional life of our Saviour. It is we are led by the Spirit that we experience His moving within our souls, His passion for the lost, His hatred of sin, His love of holy things, His rejoicing in the truth. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and operates under the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we enter into holy emotions and forsake fleshly passions and ungodly wrath and dissension. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit and His infilling we become a joyous, loving, holy and zealous people filled with holy emotions and the fruits of the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18-21, Colossians 3:16-17, Galatians 5:16-23)

True Holy Spirit led self-control is neither apathetic nor stoical on one hand or irresponsible and indulgent on the other. The Holy Spirit leads us to express emotion wisely and truthfully but also joyously and with depth and intensity. Shallow sentimentality is not found in the Scriptures. People of faith are deep, resonant and have a grounded-ness about them. Neither are Spirit-filled Christians cold and stoical or flaccid and apathetic. The people of the Living God are most fully alive. That is what makes Christianity attractive. Many people say of the time they first met Christians “they had something about them, a joy that I really wanted.” The Holy Spirit filled believer is emotionally alive and emotionally substantial.

Self-Control and Other Control

If we are not self-controlled we are other-controlled. In other words if we do not take charge of our emotions then they will be up and down with every change in the weather, every different circumstance, every tiny provocation. If we do not take positive and definite control of our emotions we will simply be flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life. Basically the choices are self-control or other-control, mastery - or madness in its various forms.

There is a common myth that other people can “press our buttons” and make us explode with anger or burst into tears or react emotionally. “He made me so mad”, “She seduced me, she made me have sex with her” and so on. Most of the time, this is just plain untrue. Generally you were able to master your emotions in that situation but you chose not to.

Say you are in a heated domestic argument, with much shouting and red-faced anger, and the telephone rings. So you pick it up and suddenly your voice is calm and rational, you say hello nicely and take the message. In doing so you just took control of your strongest and angriest emotions. You mastered yourself, in a second of time; just in order to answer the phone. You knew how to calm down and you did. You knew how to stop shouting, and you did so. You demonstrated instantaneous movement from powerful emotions to complete rationality; switching off your fight-or flight response as you did so. It was impressive. The phone incident demonstrated that you do possess the power to instantaneously master strong emotions. You can do so easily and routinely in order to avoid embarrassment. Why then do you not use the power you have when you answered the phone more often? That is the power we call self-control and you do have it.

The phone incident shows we have an “off-button” for the fight or flight response. We can switch it off suddenly and completely. The off-button is like the red emergency button they have on trains where I come from in Brisbane, Australia. The red button is behind plexiglass which must be broken by effort but once that button is pressed the whole train with its hundreds of tons of locomotives and carriages comes quickly to a grinding halt. Your fight or flight response may seem like a runaway train but you have the red button and with a bit of effort you can stop it completely.

Hitting the red button is as easy as saying “Stop” to yourself in a firm and commanding tone of voice (either audibly or inaudibly). The red button can be pressed as soon as you decide to take charge of yourself and your emotions. This involves coming to the realization that you should take command of you emotions, then doing so by switching off the fight-or-flight response and returning to a rational way of being. Lets break down the phone incident and see how that happens:

1. You are caught up in the argument. Your face is red, the anger is surging, you are floating on the adrenalin and in a strange way the rage feels good. You are letting fly. You are half-aware that the rage is controlling you but you don’t care. You are going with the flow of the fight or flight response.

2. The phone rings, you pick it up.

3. You realise the call is important.

4. You realise your present responses are inappropriate.

5. You decide to take control of your emotions.

6. You switch off the fight or flight response. (By pressing the “red button”).

7. You return to a rational and intelligent way of being as you take the call.

The critical point is when you decide to take control of your emotions. Realizing your emotions are inappropriate is not quite enough. You must make a definite inner decision. Some people realise their emotions are inappropriate but think “what the blazes” and let fly over the telephone as well! That inner decision, that choice between “what the blazes” and “I’d better cool down” is critical. That’s the equivalent of breaking the plexiglass. It’s the bit of effort that’s required to stop the whole shuddering train. After that decision is made pressing the button is easy. When you put yourself in control of yourself you achieve mastery. When you decide to put your mind in charge and not your adrenalin you win. You must make the firm and definite decision that even when emotions are powerful you are going to be in charge of them. This is not repression, it self-control. It’s the sane, rational, functional part of you being in control of your emotions. Its deciding to appoint your Spirit-filled mind as the CEO of Myself Inc.

This is very powerful. No-one can make you react emotionally unless they use so much force (such as torture) that they actually break you. If you definitely decide not to laugh (say at a dirty joke), no-one can make you laugh. If you definitely decide not to cry, (say in order to stay together in an emergency) then no-one can make you cry. Your emotions are yours to express or repress. You are in control of them. You can stop them and you can let the go. Your mind can decide how you will or will not react as long as you make the decision to put it clearly and absolutely in charge of your life.

Some people fear people of strong minds and say they are repressed and even that they have ‘deep inner rage” which in a few cases is true. Repression and rage live together in some people. However we are aiming at a Spirit-filled Christian use of the mind. We want the mind to be strong and strongly in control, but we also want it to be holy, renewed and spiritual. We want the mind to permit holy and appropriate emotions and to stop fleshly and inappropriate emotions. We do not want to quench the Spirit. Thus we need discernment about when to press the button. We do not want either total emotional repression, or a runaway fight-or flight response. We need a balanced middle ground. We need to discern our strong emotions. Thus we do not need to run away from strong emotion whether it be positive emotion, negative emotion or even deep spiritual emotion. The presence of strong emotion should not panic us into a fight or flight response or shut us down into repression. Rather we should evaluate the emotion rather than react to the emotion, we should master the emotion and not just flee from it or try to beat it to death. The mastery stance requires discernment and discernment requires understanding of emotions, their sources, their place in our life and their relative values. The following few sections deal with how we can respond to the strongest emotions such as temptations and powerful spiritual experiences with poise, power and wisdom.

Emotions and Discerning The Truth

Before we decide to let an emotional control or direct our behaviour we need to know whether or not it is leading us in the right direction. Can we safely follow our hearts? Are emotions a good guide to truth and to right behaviour? If the Holy Spirit produces good emotions are all good emotions a sign of God’s Presence? Can we tell the truth of a doctrine or the authenticity of a movement by how it makes us feel? Not at all! “It feels so good it must be right” is a downright lie!

While the Holy Spirit produces joy and peace, the presence of joy and peace does not necessarily indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit. People can feel at peace after a bottle or two of wine! People experience joy and peace when they convert to Buddhism, a New Age group or even to Islam. People join cults because they feel better there than at church. Cults can feel warm, loving, tranquil and enlightened. Cults often meet the emotional needs that were not met in the local church and someone has said “Cults are the unpaid bills of the Church.” Thus good feelings are no guide to good theology. The opposite may also be true, bad feelings are no guide to bad theology. We may experience negative emotions when we are being confronted with the truth. The prophets – who spoke the truth – found many people reacting negatively to them. The truth was not producing good feelings in those who heard. Negative emotions are no indication of error and positive emotions are no indication of truth. Thus good emotions are not a guide to good theology neither are difficult emotions an indication of wrong theology.

If this is the case is it “too risky” to cultivate a Christian subjectivity? Not if we place emotions in their right place as a response to truth and a guide to action. Emotions are a valid response to truth but not a valid guide to truth. Jesus reacted emotionally as He perceived the truth but Jesus did not arrive at the truth via His emotions. He arrived at the truth via Scripture. Jesus wept when He saw His friends grieving as Lazarus’s grave. He was moved by compassion when He saw people sick, harassed and lost. His emotions were a response to His perceptions in a framework filled with God’s truth. However Jesus never said “I feel X therefore I will believe Y”. His emotions moved Him to act and His actions were based on truth revealed from the Father. His emotions did not show Him what was true or false – they just moved Him to act on what He already knew (from Scripture) was true or false. We do not follow our emotions, rather we need to follow truth – and express emotion as we do so.

Bob was a 50-year-old executive having a mid-life crisis. Somewhere along the road he was told, “just follow your heart”. He followed his feelings into an ‘emotionally fulfilling relationship” with a younger woman and a painful divorce that he now deeply regrets. The adultery felt great. However it was not of the truth. The good feelings were not an indication of a right course of action. These good feelings can be intense, global and very convincing. There is such a thing as very strong temptation. There are emotions that can lead us into adultery, drugs and alcohol addiction, gambling, and acts of self-destruction. These emotions feel true, authentic and valid at the time. They may even feel “cosmic” and like a form of self-awareness, self-discovery or enlightenment. Affairs can seem totally “right” in their initial phase, the first drink for an alcoholic “feels terrific”, the guru makes people feel “at one with the Universe”. Unless there is a solid examination of the truth and awareness of the consequences these powerful emotions can lead people to shipwreck their lives.

Following our heart can be truly catastrophic. However repression is not the answer. [In fact repression can be the indirect cause of the catastrophe as temptation comes strongest to our repressed unmet needs.] Rather than repressing our emotions and unmet needs we need to be aware of our heart and discipline it according to the truth. During a mid-life crisis the best advice is “acknowledge your feelings but follow the truth.” It is perfectly Ok to acknowledge to yourself that, “I am strongly tempted to have an affair” as long as you stare that fact in the face and decide to refuse the temptation because you love God. It can also help to look at the consequences and say, “I will not do so because that is wrong and destructive and would make shipwreck of my life.” By acknowledging the temptation and refusing it you can grow in emotional and spiritual maturity.

There is however an aspect of emotion that can guide us and is meant to guide us. Emotions can act as a “preliminary analysis” of a complex situation prompting us to give it more thought. For instance our emotions can make us uneasy about someone and after we look harder we find out they have a reputation for being dishonest, predatory or cruel. Or our emotions can give us the hunch that there might be real potential in a certain situation. Once our emotions have alerted us we can then examine the situation objectively and see if our emotions have informed us correctly.

There is a place for hunches, gut feelings, emotional signals and awareness of emotional atmosphere. Emotions are able to reduce a very complex situation down to a certain feeling or impulse and they do this very quickly and efficiently. A young man sees a lady and feels “Wow, she is the one.” this judgment may be made in a second or two. That judgement however will need a lot of further examination before it can validly lead to marriage. Emotions are thus meant to be initial assessments of complex situations – but only initial assessments.

This is useful in that our emotions select the situations that our reason will go to work on and analyse. A young man cannot analyse the suitability of every young lady he meets – that would be impractical. Rather he thinks about those he is attracted to. Thus his emotions select first and his thorough evaluation follows later. Emotions can make us attracted, suspicious, repelled, guarded, curious or astonished at a given situation. Sometimes this initial impression is validated by further thought at other times it is proved totally wrong.

In our own culture and on familiar territory our impressions can be quite accurate however the further we are from home base the worse our emotional judgement becomes and the more we must rely solely on objective evidence. Inner impressions have a place in our discernment of situations and we should listen to them. God has placed them within us. However we need to be careful in relying on them and not mistakenly think that we are always right. If there are significant consequences from following those impressions we should be very careful and check the facts carefully before proceeding. These impressions cannot replace reasoning rather they alert us that reasoning should commence on a particular issue or line of thought. They are a stimulus to thought not an alternative to it.

When emotions are damaged the ability to form accurate impressions of situations also suffers. Emotionally damaged people tend to be prone to mistakes in judgment. They rush into love, they hold back from friendship, they gamble on foolish ventures, and they run from shadows. The ability to sense what is happening in a situation, then to sit back and analyse it adequately, is out of kilter. People who have been emotionally damaged should not enter into a significant relationship or project until they have healed to the point where they have functional and accurate discernment. They should look at their decision-making and be careful – seeking the advice of friends and family and striving to be as objective as possible. Even if their ability to assess situations was good before it will not be as good now. This loss of judgement can be alarming but it is temporary and will pass in time as emotional healing takes place.

Spiritual Experiences

Many of our most powerful emotional experiences are spiritual experiences. The spiritual life and the emotional life are thus very closely connected and our meaningful spiritual experiences are nearly always highly charged with emotion. Truth, for the believer is real and living and meaningful and the discovery of truth – those great “Aha!” moments is frequently deeply emotional. When Ezra read the Law the Jews wept (Nehemiah 8:1-9). Truth and emotion went hand in hand. The scientific age with its view of truth as clinical and unemotional is rooted in Greek Platonism not in biblical (and especially Hebrew) reality. In the West it has led to false dichotomy between theology and emotionality that is even reflected at the level of denominational differences. Part of the appeal of the New Age is having teaching that is expected to be emotionally and existentially meaningful.

Thus it is the testimony of men and women of God down the ages is that deep spiritual experiences were also often powerful emotional events. Biography after biography talks about nights in anguished prayer, times of breakthrough and joy, deep sorrow over sin and being astounded by the presence and power of God. Revival in particular is seen as full of emotion. However this has led to the common error that only deeply emotional experiences are truly genuine spiritual experiences. The true convert is expected to weep or be joyous or have certain feelings. The emotion, which often accompanies spiritual change, has in some cases become required. That is simply not a biblical stance. The biblical sign of true conversion is a life lived so that repentance is demonstrated and the “fruits of repentance” are shown. The life, not the emotions, is the true indicator of piety.

Variance in Emotionality

Thus a highly emotional person is not more or less spiritual than a relatively unemotional person. The emotional volume level is not terribly important. What is important is that we have the right sorts of emotions. We should feel some sort of contrition when we do wrong. We should feel compassion for the hungry. We should feel indignation when blasphemy occurs. These are proper and holy emotions. Improper and unholy emotions might include rage over a trivial insult or jealousy over a person’s success. The question is not whether the emotion is loud or muted but whether it is holy or fleshly.

Ecstasy, Trance, Dreams and Vision

A vision does not make a saint. Powerful spiritual phenomena are recorded both for genuine prophets, seers and mystics and for false prophets, cult leaders and mischief-makers. Most Christians seem to have a significant dream or vision at some point in their life. A few have them often. However most dreams, visions and experiences of trance seem to be of fairly limited value. I am a missionary and while writing this book I took ill with a tropical fever and spent a few days in delirium. During the delirium amazing and disturbing visions came to me every time I closed my eyes. These visions were a sign of a high temperature, not of great holiness, and antibiotics “exorcised” them from my mind. The experience, though interesting, was of little spiritual value and I did not gain anything from it. It was just interesting spiritual stuff and that’s about all. Even when a dream or vision has a distinctly numinous and awesome quality about it there is no guarantee that it is genuine and useful – until Scripture tests it.

At no point are Christians exhorted to enter into altered states of consciousness. Rather they are at times warned about excesses in this area and placing too much emphasis on dreams and visions (see Colossians 2). To balance this I have, during my missionary career, seen the great value of dreams to pre-literate tribes-people in Papua New Guinea and among Muslims. People frequently come to Christ or make a definite change for the better in their Christian life because of a dream in which Jesus or an angel appeared to them. The fruits of the dream show its validity and such valid dreams fit within the biblical pattern. However they occur naturally without any special inducement or the use of drugs.

Thus we need to take our dreams and visions seriously and evaluate them wisely and in a balanced and biblical fashion. Writing then down is helpful and then leave them in the notebook while you pray and consult the Scriptures and perhaps a wise Christian or three. Here are a few guidelines for doing the evaluation:

· Chronological date setting is not found in Scripture, so I doubt any dream that uses actual times and dates (e.g. 18th September 2003) to forecast the future. The Scriptures use event time, (e.g. seven years after the appearance of the man of lawlessness) not clock time, when setting the prophetic calendar.

· If after your dream or vision you find yourself convinced of your own spiritual importance then pause, stop think. Spiritual pride is not what God wants. The dream or vision is not Scripture and is very probably not a new chapter in the book of Revelation. Calm down, evaluate it very carefully and then share it with a few others. Humility will help you sort out the truth.

· Dreams and visions and spiritual experiences can come from God, from your own imagination, or from the Devil. Those from God are scriptural and edifying and point to the complete sovereignty of God and glorify His Son Jesus Christ, those from self tend to be filled with daily events or political events and are often self-centred, those from the Devil are tempting or terrifying or accusing.

· I do not think it is presumptuous to say “Lord if that dream was of you please give it to me three nights running and substantiate it with Scripture and other signs.” God allows us to test the spiritual realm (1 John 4:1-3). This is especially so if the dream points to a major change in life direction.

· No dream that contradicts Scripture, invites you to sin, fills you with pride or terrifies you out of your mind, is from God.

· The power of the emotion in the dream does not tell you how important or spiritually valuable the dream is. You can have powerfully emotional dreams following too much pizza but they are of no spiritual value. The spiritual value is determined by carefully weighing the dream against Scripture.

· Many dreams do not carry direct symbols that are easily interpreted (like the fig tree for Israel). Most of the language of dreams and visions comes from within your own subconscious and the metaphors you use to yourself. They are like the cartoons in the paper. So if in your dream your wife has a knife in her neck it may not mean she is going to die. Instead it probably means that you are finding her to be a “pain in the neck” and that the argument over the dishes has made its way into your dreams. After you have written down your dream look for the metaphors you commonly use and see if any have popped into it. This is a good starting point for interpretation.

· Doctrine flows from Scripture in context not dreams and visions. A dream may serve as an illustration of a doctrine (I once had a wonderful dream of Jesus as the Shepherd) but they are not the source of doctrine. A dream or vision can be your subconscious making truth real to you in pictorial form but it does not invent new truth. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree n Daniel 4 merely told him he needed to become humble – it illustrated an already existing doctrine and carried God’s warning of the consequences of sin (as many dreams do, see Genesis 20:3-7).

· Some people experience vivid dreams in response to political events in the news. Hundreds of such dreams and visions have been sent to me over the Internet and at least ninety-seven percent of them have been substantially wrong. They generally predict invasions of America or Australia, gigantic tidal waves, and huge earthquakes. My theory is that such dreams represent a way of dealing with anxiety over the instability and wickedness we see around us. They carry a spirit of fear and anxiety within their structure and seem to lack substance.

· Demonic dreams tend to fall into four categories inflating, accusing, terrifying or seductive. Inflating dreams convince the person of their own importance and generate spiritual pride, accusing dreams “reveal” the supposedly secret sins of another person or convince the dreamer of their own inevitable damnation and judgment, terrifying dreams use fear as their main weapon and often involve demons and masks and sometimes leave the person struggling to breathe, seductive dreams involve very realistic and vivid dreams of sexual acts and are powerfully alluring playing on the deep sensuality in the person to make them wake up with a strong desire to sin.

· Dreams can result in distraction from ministry. Quite a few of my colleagues in the ministry have moved out of flourishing but difficult ministries and gone to a place they saw in a dream to start a “new and exciting ministry”. In every case I think they have ended up disillusioned. My theory is that sometimes the pressures of ministry make us want out and our subconscious manufactures a way out for us in the form of a spiritually acceptable dream or vision. Such callings should be tested over time.

Powerful spiritual experiences and dreams and visions are not to be feared and fled from. Nether are they to be over-rated. Rather they are to be carefully tested and the truth extracted from them.

The Point Of Balance

Archimedes once said “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I could move the earth.” But where can we stand to get a grip on our strong emotions? Tis’ a fine notion to think that we can stand outside our strong emotions, evaluate them Scripturally and then bring them into submission to the Holy Spirit. But this fine notion seems very impractical to many people caught up in the roller-coaster ride of their own powerful emotions. Here are some hints that may help you to find a “place to stand” so you can take charge of your own emotional life.

· Make a definite and clear decision to place Jesus in charge of your life with your Spirit-filled mind as His CEO. Your mind, set on the Spirit, has delegated authority from God to bring the rest of you under control and into line with His purposes.

· Realise that you are the boss. You are the master of your emotions. They are not the master of you. You have a right to tell them what to do. They are your emotions after all, your property so to speak.

· Realise that you have the control panel inside you. You can press the “red button” and take control of the fight-or flight response. You can modulate the volumes of emotions and control them.

· Don’t disown your emotions. You have to own them before you can boss them!

· Realise that the apparent authority of strong emotions is largely illusory. They are just part of you, they are not the President of the U.S.A. They may feel compelling but they have no right to compel you at all.

· Think. Use logic. Stop and think hard about where your emotions are taking you. Check the consequences of the actions. Choose to be rational and sensible.

· Evaluate the truth of the propositions the strong emotions are putting to you such as “it would be a good idea to punch X” or more subtly “You should follow your heart and have an affair”. Even if these things feel true and right and authentic and satisfying and fulfilling they may be wrong. See Genesis 3! Choose to stand on God’s Word.

· Apply the principles in the chapter on mastery.

· Be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. Just pray “Lord fill me with the Holy Spirit and grant me wisdom and self-control and fix my mind on You.” That is the sort of prayer He delights to answer. If you can get hold of the Campus Crusade booklet “How To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” you will find it a big help and very practical and easy to use.

· Be aware of your weaknesses. Know that “under such and such circumstances I tend to react in X manner”. Check yourself. Watch yourself carefully. Have friends keep you accountable and have them pray with you and help you find your point of wisdom and balance.

· Get it very clear that the Holy Spirit is wise and intelligent and His leadings are generally wise and intelligent. Don’t destabilize yourself by following many crazy ideas thinking they are leadings from the Holy Spirit. Stand in wisdom and do not move from it.

By practicing the above techniques on a daily basis you will gradually learn how to generate dignity, power and poise. Day by day you will become a stronger person not tossed here and there by every strong emotion that comes your way. You will hop off the roller-coaster of your own emotions and start to take charge of yourself and your destiny. Best of all you will learn to be a Spirit-filled Christian and be able to consistently demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit.

Once we have started mastering ourselves we can more fully engage in profitable relationships with others. To do this, and to minister grace, we need to be able to recognise and understand their emotions, which is the subject of the next chapter.

Discussion Questions

1. Are strong emotions a bit of a problem for you at times? How are they a problem?

2. What is the difference between self-control and repression?

3. How are grieving the Spirit and quenching the Spirit opposite kinds of spiritual errors?

4. What is the “red button”? How can we switch off the fight-or-flight response?

5. What is the place of emotions in forming our doctrines and telling us what is right and what is wrong? Why do we need discernment? Do good emotions mean we have found the truth?

6. Do you think that Jesus had powerful spiritual experiences? Did He rely on emotions or experiences or Scripture when it came to forming doctrine and understanding truth?

7. Many powerful spiritual experiences are recorded in Scripture and some still happen today. How should we assess and handle them?

8. Jesus seemed to be always poised and in charge. He had obviously found a “place to stand” in order to manage His emotions and manage life. What are some things that can make people lose their poise? How can you find such a “place to stand”?