18 Feb 2015 by Tony Dibble –
Max Lucado says that bitterness is similar to a person burning down his house in order to kill a rat [He still Moves Stones (Milton Keynes: Word, 1992) p 33]. Bitterness, if not eliminated, has damaging consequences for our faith. Our salvation is destroyed just because we want the carnal pleasure of being bitter over wasted issues. We often dismiss bitterness as something trivial and that is the problem. Instead, we must confront bitterness and end it.
THE MAGNITUDE OF BITTERNESS
Bitterness develops when we compare our circumstances with that of others. We feel that life has short-changed us. Regrets over decisions may arise. The most-ready examples are decisions over one’s marriage. Bitterness may also arise from quarrels about each others’ children or over violation on financial matters. Disagreements with pastors and leaders also give rise to bitterness. Covetousness and jealousy over others’ assets causes bitterness too. Antagonisms due to race, socio-economic class or caste equally lead to bitterness.
THE ROOT AND CONSEQUENCES OF BITTERNESS
Bitterness has a root. It starts by turning away from GOD. Man’s heart lets his desires play on. He treats GOD’s holiness and grace lightly. This only opens him to every curse available (Deut 29:18-20).
In Hebrews 12:15, there is a similar warning about this root which gives rise to bitterness. This root would affect us and bring about our defilement (‘miano’ in Greek).This is defilement of one’s morals. Once a person is bitter, he loses his moral fabric. That would be the end of his salvation.
THE NATURE OF BITTERNESS
Bitterness is a consequence of the fall in Eden. Man has no interest in searching out GOD (Rom 3:11-14). Deep down man resents GOD for expelling him. There is bitterness towards GOD in man’s nature. Like lust, bitterness waits to erupt.
If the heart is not right in GOD’s sight, bitterness would soon poison it (Acts 8:22-23).The heart knows its own bitterness (Prov 14:10). Bitterness is sometimes released by man’s self-inspection (introspection). This could lead to depression, especially when we lament about the past being better (Ecc 7:10).
St James speaks of bitterness and selfish ambition causing jealousy in our hearts and falsifying the truth. Bitterness is not from heaven. It is carnal and demonic (Jas 3:14-15). It would be disgusting to GOD.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes but the LORD weighs his motives.
Unforgiveness is inconsistent with GOD’s character. He demands that we forgive those who have wronged us. GOD has forgiven us in His love before the world was created (Eph 1:4).He expects the same of us. GOD would reject our prayers if we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us (Matt 5:22-24; 6:14-15; 18:21-22, 34-35). If any vengeance is necessary, that is totally GOD’s business (Deut 32:35). We have no business playing GOD in this respect. Unchecked bitterness, erupting into vengeance, is disobedience to GOD and is unforgivable.
No Christian is safe from bitterness. He should arrest it instead of lingering over it. Otherwise, all hell breaks loose in him.
The example of Christ
Christ forgave his persecutors whilst suffering on the cross. (Luke 23:34). He also forgave a repentant sinner whilst on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). If anyone had a case to be bitter, it was Christ. But He never for a moment let it envelope Him.
Charles Spurgeon (1834-92) in his Sermon Number 35 titled “Man Unknown to Man” writes that “the cure for bitterness of heart is to take it to the LORD at once”.
Hannah, the Prophet Samuel’s mother, was provoked to bitterness; she prayed and her situation had a breakthrough (1 Sam 1:6, 10 & 18) with the birth of Samuel.
GOD ordains circumstances and works good out of the evil that men generate. All things work together for the good of the believer (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). Accepting our circumstances is accepting GOD’s will (1 Cor 7:17-24). GOD has blessed us in more ways than we know, understand or deserve. Prayer in faith, not murmuring, is the approach in dealing with our circumstances. Murmuring caused a generation of GOD’s people (except Caleb & Joshua) from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 14:30).
Dealing with bitterness is serious business: bitterness kills. In Ephesians 4:30-32, St Paul tells us that bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit. We are instructed to get rid of all bitterness. It is in the same league table as bad temper, anger, loud quarrelling, abusive language and all malice. Clearly, GOD finds bitterness unacceptable. The Holy Spirit will help us clean out bitterness. We are His temple. He dwells in us (1Cor 3:16 -17).
NOTE: Tony Dibble worships at Endeavour Christian Gathering, in Perth, Western Australia. Prior to this, he was attending the Church of Our Holy Saviour, Labuan, East Malaysia. When in Kuala Lumpur, he worships at Faith Oasis Fellowship (FOF) Subang Jaya, Selangor.
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