My guess is that more people get into trouble spiritually through bitterness than through immorality. Bitterness is a cancer of the soul that can destroy our walk with God and poison those around us. Thus, the Scriptures stern warning against becoming bitter : See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Heb. 12:15)
How many people do you and I know who are angry and bitter? Somewhere along the way they were dealt a blow and have nursed a grudge ever since. At the root of our bitterness is the mistaken idea that life is all about us and our rights; that it is our right to have our dreams and expectations fulfilled; that God owes us a wonderful, pain free life. After all, isnt that the American dream? And when it doesnt happen we become angry, shake our fist at God and go our own way. The fact that God has a sovereign plan for us that focuses on His glory and not primarily on our fulfillment, and the fact that His plan may well include suffering, sacrifice, and persecution escapes our comprehension. St. Paul chose suffering over self-preservation in obedience to the prompting of the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. Said he, "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. (Act. 20:22-24)
There are three issues that we will need to come to grips with if we are to remain free from bitterness:
1 Recognize Gods Sovereignty in our lives
We need to acknowledge the fact that God is sovereignty molding our lives into the likeness of His Son, using the grief and pain of life as the crucible. Two passages forcefully drive this truth home:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselvesgroan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodiesAnd we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposeFor those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Rom. 8:22, 23, 28, 29)
The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:6, 7, 10, 11)
When I was a boy, our family lived a very privileged life style. But God was totally out of the picture. At age 8 our world collapsed. Years of great difficulty followed including the untimely and tragic death of my mother when I was 15. While God did not cause the pain in our family, He certainly used it to prepare my heart to receive His grace. Without those years of difficulty I dont believe I would be a follower of Christ today. In my 20s I began to grasp the reality of Gods sovereign hand during those difficult and formative years in preparing me to embrace Him. My bitterness was turned into praise and surrender.
That Joseph understood Gods sovereignty during his nightmarish years of enslavement, which prepared him to lead Egypt and rescue his clan from tragedy is evident in his statement to his murderous brothers, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Gen. 50:20)
QUESTION: Do you have a clear, biblical understanding of Gods sovereignty in your life, and have you joyfully surrendered to it?
(Part #2 of this Facts will continue next week)