Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 8, 1997
This morning our focus is on bitterness and what to do about it. And, to help us get into our topic this morning - from the home office in San Bruno, California - The Calvary Church Top Ten List of things that really irritate people - stuff that really gets under our skin and bothers us:
10. People who drive to slowBy the way, have you noticed that people who drive slower than us are obnoxious and rude - and those who pass us are reckless fools?
8. Salespeople or computers who call during dinnerWe all have times of irritation - and even deeper - bitterness - circumstances and people that we feel irritated - bitter - and justifiably angry about. We all struggle with bitterness. This morning we want to talk about bitterness and how to deal with it. Let me invite you to turn with me to Hebrews 12:12-17. These verses focus on the effects of bitterness and are a warning - a strong warning to not put up with bitterness in our lives.
Hebrews 12:12-17: Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God;” - Bitterness effects us - it effects us physically - it effects our relationship with others - it effects our relationship with God. See to it - verse 15: “that no ‘root of bitterness’ spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birth right for a single meal. - Bitterness can be the source of moral and spiritual disaster in the Church. Through the effects of bitter people, the church can turn away from its birthright - as the community called to live in fellowship with God and to call others to salvation in Jesus. And, verse 17: For you know that afterward, when he - Esau - desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, through he sought it with tears.” - there’s a potential that once we go down the path away from God - we may not get back God’s blessing for us.
Its really important that this “root of bitterness” is killed - and really, the way to do this is to pull out the whole root. At home we have crack weeds. - I don’t know how they grow - they just come up through these little thin cracks in the cement. And if I just pull the top part - the plant off - the roots get stronger and bigger and harder to kill.
It’s easier to just cut off the plant - to deal with easy solutions to our struggles in life. But if we don’t get rid of the root - that little root can destroy a patio - a brick wall - even the foundation of the house - and certainly our lives.
If we are going to live healthy lives as individuals - and be effective and loving as a church - we need to kill the roots of bitterness in our lives - not just complacently trim the weeds.
This is not the last word on bitterness - but this morning we want to look at two certain root killers:
1. COMMIT OUR CIRCUMSTANCE TO GOD
To acknowledge that God knows what He’s doing - and to allow Him sovereignty over the circumstance.
Starting in Genesis, chapter 37, is the account of Joseph. If anyone had the right to feel bitter about his circumstances - it was Joseph.
It was Joseph who has honored by his father with a many colored coat - and then hated by his brothers. Joseph who had God’s sovereign will revealed to him in a dream - and then was rebuked by his father when he shared it.
Joseph was so hated by his own brothers that they sold him to Midianite traders for 20 shekels of silver. He’s sold into slavery to Potipher - and God blesses him - he’s put in charge of Potipher’s household affairs and just when everything seems to be going okay - Potipher’s wife makes a pass at him - and he’s thrown in jail because he did the righteous thing.
But, again God blessed Joseph and Joseph is put in charge of the jail. He was able to help some inmates - and they promptly forgot he even existed - and he’s left in jail for 2 years.
And do you remember this? How God gave the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream to Joseph - and Joseph ended up as the Pharaoh's number one man in Egypt for 80 years. Things are going right - and then his brothers show up.
Not once in the account of Joseph - in the worst circumstances he experienced - not once do we read, “And thus Joseph became bitter and cried out to God in anger for the circumstance of his life.” Not once - and I think Joseph had every right and opportunity to indulge in a little self-pity - a little justifiable bitterness.
The reason he didn’t is found in Genesis 45:5 - Joseph’s attitude in the midst of his circumstances. Do you remember all the intrigue and goings and comings of Joseph’s brothers - and when he finally revealed to them who he was.
I mean, he was the most powerful man on earth - if there ever was a setup for revenge this was it - instead, Joseph says this to his brothers, (Genesis 45:5) “And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here - don’t be afraid that I’m going to take my revenge out on you because of the circumstances I went through - for God sent me before you to preserve life.” God had a plan.
Church - do we hear this? God is in control of the circumstances. And, as Joseph surrendered his circumstances to God’s sovereignty - Joseph’s attitude is not bitterness - its growing trust and confidence in God. And rather than Joseph dying as a bitter unrighteous slave of Potipher - God used him to deliver the Hebrew nation and made him to be one of the greatest men of all history.
We become bitter in our circumstances - where we live - the quality of our marriage - our work situation - our career - what we drive - what we have vs. what others have. We need to trust that our loving - sovereign - Heavenly Father has not made a mistake. At some point we must admit that God is in control and He can use these circumstances for good - even if we may never see it.
Change our attitude by trusting God and we put ourselves in a place where God can bless and use us in the midst of circumstances.
The second certain “root of bitterness” killer is to:
2. COMMIT PEOPLE TO GOD
This means seeing that God loves all people - even people we might feel bitter towards. God even loves us.
Last Tuesday, Karen and I went to our Christian Life and Witnessing class at Temple Baptist - over by Stonestown. It was not a good time for me to go. I could have thought of a number of reasons to stay home. It was raining - I had just been to the eye doctor and my eyes were dilated - I couldn’t really focus on anything - and my head hurt.
But we went. And there was a traffic jam on 280 so I took a shortcut and then had to follow the world’s slowest driver - so we were late - there was a crowd - and we had to sit up in the balcony.
Well, the balcony was packed and there were two seats left. One up front and one further back. I sent Karen up front and sat down in the seat in back. On my left was a wall - on my right, a seat covered with a coat - and then two girls. At the time I thought they were reserving the seat next to me for someone.
I had a great seat. With all the heads in front of me I couldn’t see the speaker - and with my dilated eyes I couldn’t read my textbook. And it was hot and stuffy.
10 minutes into this exercise in patience an elderly couple came in - completely unrelated to these two girls. The lady sat on the other side of the two girls and the man sat next to me - they moved their coat and he sat down. Well, it had been raining outside - and he was wearing a large raincoat which he failed to take off - a large wet rain coat.
So now, I’m in a seat where I can’t see anything - crushed up against the wall - my right side is sopping wet - I’m hot - and I’m thinking that instead of this man I could be sitting with my wife.
The root of bitterness was growing - and this man became the focal point.
As I was sitting there feeling justifiably bitter a small voice reminded me that this Sunday I would be sharing about bitterness. It really gets to me when God does that. “Okay Muncherian - time to practice what you preach”
How do we to commit people to God? We need to keep in mind how much God loves them - and us.
In Matthew 18 there is a familiar parable told by Jesus that touches the core of what we are talking about today. Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness.
A servant is brought before the king who owes the king 10 thousand talents (today with inflation about 1 billion dollars - or about 200,000 years worth of labor). There’s no way the servant can pay this debt. You’ll probably remember that in this parable the servant begs for the life of his wife, children, and himself - and out of pity the king forgave the servant of his debt and set him free.
Its a tremendous picture of God’s forgiveness of our sins and just how much God loves us.
The servant in turn comes upon a fellow servant who owes him 100 denarii (a few dollars in today’s money - at that time about 100 days wages for the average laborer) - a trivial amount compared to what he has just been forgiven. The servant demands payment - and when it doesn’t come - he throws his fellow servant in prison.
When the king finds out about it - he has the servant dragged in front of him - here are his words (Matthew 18:32ff), “You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” Then the king has him turned over to the jailers to be tortured until he pays back what he owes.
Jesus warns us, (Matthew 18:35) “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Those who are forgiven must forgive. We must love as we have been loved. If we can understand the love of God for us - If God can love us - forgive us - treat us with such dignity and respect - can’t we do this to others? People whom God has loved - whom Jesus has died for.
I started to consider this large wet man as a brother in Christ - forgiven by the same God who forgave me. Loved by the same God who loves me. And he had come here to serve Jesus - to witness for Him.
That man didn’t change - but my attitude changed - my disposition - my entire evening changed.
Sometimes we have bitterness because we really don’t believe that God loves us. We need to ask ourselves, “Do I really believe that God loves me?” Sometimes we get bitter at people - even our brothers and sisters here at CACC - and we need to remind ourselves, “This person that I am bitter towards - does God love them? Won’t God who loves both of us take care of this person and whatever I’m bitter about?”
Our last hymn this morning is “At The Cross.” And before we sing it I want to share a story about why we’re singing this hymn - and how it fits with seeing God’s love for ourselves and others. The words of this hymn speak powerfully of God’s love for us.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Japan invaded, conquered, and occupied Korea. Japan was ruthless - the occupation of Korea was savage and brutal.
One group singled out for concentrated oppression was the Christians. One of the first things the Japanese did was to board up the evangelical churches and deport most foreign missionaries.
One pastor persistently asked his local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. Finally one meeting was allowed and Christians came from all over Korea to worship God.
It was during the last hymn that the Japanese police chief gave the orders to barricade the door. No one realized that they had doused the church with kerosene until they smelled the smoke. The dried wooden structure quickly ignited. There was a rush for the windows. Those jumping through were met by bullets.
The hate and bitterness of this event lasted for decades - there was no forgiveness of the Japanese.
In 1972 a group of Japanese pastors traveling through Korea came upon the memorial built at the site of the massacre. Overcome with shame they returned to Japan and raised enough money to build a new church.
When the dedication service was held, a delegation from Japan joined the relatives and special guests. The speeches were made - the details of the tragedy recalled - the names of the dead honored. And still there was hate and bitterness.
The song leader closed the service with this hymn, “At The Cross” - the last hymn sung by the martyrs as they died.
It was the realization of the love of God that finally broke through. In tears the Japanese begged for forgiveness. The Koreans - with tears clung to their Christian brothers and sisters. And decades of bitterness came to an end.
As we sing this hymn - hear the words and consider how much God loves you. He really does - and if you’ve never accepted that love - realize His love for you today. You can say to Him - “God thank you for loving me - thank you for forgiving my sins.”
And if God so loves you - what about your brothers and sisters sitting around you? Say to God, “God I want to commit (name) to you because you love him/her. Let me be an instrument of your love towards them.”
Whatever the circumstance - name it - and tell God that you are committing it to Him.
Thank you Father for you love for us and your loving sovereignty over our lives.