The dangers of bitterness, and the damage it causes.
1 Pet 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
The method he uses to devour us is simple: he plots us against each other.
Gal 5:15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Cor.2:11
As we can read from these passages, Satan is looking for whomever it is unprotected, unarmed, and unprepared to fend off his attacks. A good definition for devour is: To prey upon voraciously, or with an insatiable appetite for a pursuit. He’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goal of dragging those unsaved to hell, and making havoc of the lives of those that are saved.
Rev 2:24 …which have not known the depths of Satan.
And as he goes around trying to accomplish his mission, he has many different devices at his disposal. And one of his devices is bitterness. Jesus said in Mat12:25 … Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. When a Christian backslides and it is not dealt with swiftly and correctly,( the key word here being correctly!) eventually they will turn bitter against other Christians, the church, and God. We will look at these three and see where each one can lead to. Bitterness will bring division into the house of God; the house being our tabernacles (which is our bodies 2Cor.5:1,4) and the church.(1Tim.3:15)
1) Bitterness towards other Christians. Heb12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. When a Christians get mad or bitter at another, not only does it affect that person, but it spreads like cancer to other Christians, and before you realize how bad the damage can be, it’s done! How we need to be careful with our words. Psa.39:1 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my
tongue. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Psa.141:3.
Three reasons why Christians get bitter are:
a) Envy (Acts8:9-23) Here we see a man named Simon who had gotten saved, but let the root of envy grow in his heart. A good definition for envy is having a resentful desire for another’s advantages, and that is what Simon had towards Philip, Peter, and John. Phillip came into the city of Samaria and preached Jesus and many came to salvation. Then Peter and John came and laid hands on those that had gotten saved, and they received the Holy Spirit. Simon also had gotten saved, and when he saw Peter and John laying hands and the Holy Spirit was given by God through them, he wanted this power. Simon was one who was held in high regard by all (v9), when he spoke, people would take heed that it was he that had spoken (v10), and he enjoyed the prestige that he had in the city of Samaria.(v11) But it all changed when he got saved. No longer was he in the spotlight, no longer was it his words that carried weight, now he wasn’t the big shot in the city, it was Peter and John, and Simon didn’t like it. He wanted the ability to lay hands on others not for their benefit, but for his own. That’s why Peter told him in verses 21-23 …thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. There are those today not in church today because they are envious of other Christians. The jobs others hold, the cars other drive, the clothes they wear, the positions they hold in church. You name it, they are envious over it. Why? One word: pride. The Bible tells us in James 3:14-16 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
God places people in the church where He wants them, God blesses one and allows the other to face difficult times. But there are those that feel that they should be behind every good blessing and every important position, and when they are not, they allow that pride to destroy clear thinking, and good Godly living.
b) Jealousy (1 Sam 20:27-34) The second reason why Christians get bitter is a continuance of the first. Again, we need to look at the definition of this word, and it can be clearly seen that Saul was truly jealous of David. To be jealous means:
1)Fearful or wary of being supplanted (replaced) (1Sam.24:20)
2)Apprehensive of losing affection or position.(1Sam.22:7)
3) Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious.(1Sam.22:13)
4) Inclined to suspect rivalry.(1Sam.20:30)
5) Having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness.(1Sam.20:31)
6) Vigilant in guarding something.(1Sam.20:27)
7) Intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity; autocratic.(1Sam.22:8)
Saul was so bitter and jealous over David that he allowed his anger to consume him by leaving his kingdom to track him down time after time to kill him where at one time Saul loved David.(1 Sam 16:21) It also affected his relationship with his own son Jonathan. Saul accused Jonathan of “choosing” David (or siding with him–v30), and when Jonathan didn’t agree with his father in the matter, Saul attempted to take the life of his son by casting a javelin (spear) at him! By these scriptures we can understand that Saul felt David to be his rival because of his standing with God and knowing he was going to lose the kingdom to him. Jealousy leads to bitterness, there can be no doubt. It hinders Godly thinking, discernment, and discretion on matters that affect us and others.
3)Anger and resentment (1Sam.17:13) The third reason for bitterness towards others is because of anger and resentment they have harbor in their hearts for others. Here in 1Sam.17 we see that the three elder sons of Jessie join with Saul in the battle in the valley of Elah to set the battle in array against the Philistines. David came down to deliver food that Jessie sent, and when he heard Goliath blaspheme against God, he was angered and was ready to deliver justice then and there. Eliab, the firstborn, heard what David was saying to the men and proceeded to tell David in no uncertain words that he was not welcomed or needed there.(1Sam.17:28) Why would Eliab be so angry at his brother? David’s purpose was not to upstage anyone, but to show the Philistines .. that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands 1Sam.17:46-47 Although the Bible does not clearly state why, there are a few possibilities.
a) Eliab’s pride was bruised. After all, he was the firstborn of the sons of Jesse. Firstborns in the Bible hold certain positions and responsibilities. The youngest showing up the oldest did not sit well then as it does not even in today’s society. If anyone was going to lead the battle of the sons of Jesse, it was to be Eliab.
b) Eliab resented Samuel choosing David over him. In 1Sam.16:6, we read that Samuel believed that Eliab was the one to be the king over Israel, but he was rejected of the Lord. Perhaps Eliab harbored this in his heart. Again, he was the firstborn, and by all rights, he should be the first choice to succeed Saul. We know that the Lord chose David, but did Eliab? The Bible does not say.
When anger is first harbored in one’s heart, it is a small flame. However, if we do not take care of the matter, the devil has plenty of gas to pump that small flame into a inferno. It then turns into hatred for that individual . Hatred stirreth up (fuels the fire) strifes: but love covereth (puts out) all sins. Prov.10:12 When hatred takes hold, than resentment is soon to follow. The spirit of resentment is a spirit of indignation.
They are angry, hurt, frustrated by a certain situation that happened and they will not give it wholly to the Lord irregardless if the other individual asks forgiveness and tries to makes things right. The attitude is “I’m angry and hurt, and if I am, you better be to!” When the other party involved does not have the same attitude and God starts blessing them, the devil really turns up the flames by whispering in their ears all manners of lies and false accusations, and this bring resentment for any and all things that Christian wants to do in his/her life for the Lord. In Matt.18:23-27 we read the parable about a servant that was forgiven by His Master when he could not pay his debt. From
v28-31 we see that this same servant did not forgive his fellow servant and it was told to the Master.
Mat 18:32-35 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Here we read that the Lord delivered him to the tormentors.
What that Christian doesn’t realize is that God has allowed Satan to do this to teach those that will not forgive from their hearts a lesson. To torment someone does not always means causing physical pain, but it includes mental anguish. The Lord will turn you over to the spirit of bitterness, wrath, anger, hatred, resentment and malice. These spirits will torment you mentally, and you will have no rest until you finally reach the point of full repentance. For some, only days need to go by before they’ve paid all. For others, weeks. Others years go by and unfortunately there are some that go to the grave who never get things right with others. Truly it is best just to forgive, forget, forbear, and go forward for the Lord.
2)Bitterness towards the church. (Acts 6:1) Here in Acts 6, we read that the church was growing and could not properly look after the needs of the people as they once did when the congregation was smaller. When this happened, instead of praising God for more people getting saved and growing together as a body, they looked at the situation and complained that their needs were not being taken care of. A Grecian was an individual who: (a) was a native of Greece and (b) was a Jew that was born outside Israel and understood the Greek language. Whether the apostles lost sight of the fact that the body was indeed growing and that the Grecians were being overlooked in the service that they wished to perform, the fact still remains that instead of going to God with the problem, they started to get bitter about it and that caused them to murmur against those God had in charge.
The apostles remedy the situation with God given wisdom and had seven men appointed to help with the everyday running of the church. This is a direct correlation to Ex.18:17-23 when Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, saw the situation that Moses was in when he had to judge the people from morning to evening. Jethro knew it was too much for one to handle and came up with a solution that applied here in Acts 6. Moses’ job, as the apostles, was to be a intercessor for the people to God-ward, that he may bring their causes unto God. And he should teach them ordinances and laws, and show them the way they must walk, and the work that they must do. And so Moses did what the apostles did, he had others help in the smaller detail with the church in the wilderness.
So now we read in Acts 6:5, this pleased everyone involved. Were they pleased that they had seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, or were they pleased that their needs were met? I tend to think the latter. Our old man likes to be taken care of, either by our-selves, or by whoever is available. We tend to put our own need above everyone else. It’s known as the “me first” attitude, and that filters into the church. Some of these attitudes are:
1) “No one recognizes me and the work I do here.”
2) ” They didn’t asked me how they should spend the money I help give to the church.”
3) ” Why did (fill in the blank) get promoted to a bigger ministry when I’ve been here longer.”
4) ” I was sick and no one, not even the pastor, came and visited me.”
And the list could go on and on. Unfortunately, we are living in a day where Christians carry their feelings on their shoulder. And when something does happened, they are offended easily and react as babes instead of young or mature Christians. The usual procedure is that once they get hurt, they get angry. And after awhile, they become bitter. And then self-pity sets in to where they feel that no one cares for them, that all have abandoned them and left them for dead. At this stage is where Satan gets the advantage. They are vulnerable to any and all “council” that Satan has to offer. The first to get the blame is God Himself. Then Satan blames the church for not caring enough, and then he goes to the individual(s) themselves. Instead of rebuking Satan for the false accusations he had laid, people tend to accept his logic as legitimate. Eccl.9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war (the right kind of wisdom): but one sinner destroyeth much good.
When you have a Christian that is bitter at the church, you have one who has the potential of destroying a good, solid church with their anger being the driving force. Destruction from the inside is always more lethal than from outside forces. Psa. 55:12-14 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
3) Bitterness towards God. (Jonah 3:10-4:4) Jonah was a prophet(2Ki.14:25) sent by God to warn the people of Nineveh that God’s judgment was coming upon the city unless they repented of their sins and turned to God. Most know the story of how Jonah rebelled and fled and that God prepared a whale to swallow him up until he got right and did as the Lord commanded him. I believe the reason Jonah reacted the way he did was because he was harboring bitterness and resentment towards the inhabitants of Nineveh. The city was the greatest of the capitals of the ancient Assyrian Empire, and the Assyrians were the Jews enemy. In ch.4:2, Jonah told the Lord that he knew that God was going to forgive them and not destroy the town. This did not set well with him so he took off. It was in the belly of the whale that Jonah told the Lord that he would go and preach as he promised. (Jonah 2:9) Here is a good example of working for the Lord and the heart is just not in it. Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. Instead of rejoicing and praising the Lord for a town turning to God, he got angry at God. In fact, the Bible tells us that he got “very angry.” Because of his bitterness for the Assyrians, he couldn’t see the mercies of God to forgive a wicked people. His anger and hatred had clouded his mind and so it goes for those Christians that flee at God’s voice, be it through prayer, preaching, daily Bible reading, or just the Holy Spirit’s convicting power. They get mad at God. They blame Him for all the wrong that is going on in their lives, for Christians hurting them with their words and/or actions, and for there own failures. Why does God get all the blame?
1) They never make a fair evaluation of the situation. Anger usually rules the actions instead of a cool head. Prov.25:28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. Totally defenseless, the same state anyone who rules by their anger is in.
2) It’s easier to blame others than yourself. Lam 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. When we do search our own ways, we find that we are the blame, not God.
3) They blame it on someone who is not around to defend Himself. Just as the Lord Jesus spoke not a word at His trial but took the accusations, so does our Father take the accusations of mankind, be they saved or unsaved. It seems that God will never get off the trial stand.
But one thing I do know, before you blame the Lord for anything, take a good objective look at the situation and see where God fits in to receive the blame.
If you’ll do that, and truly be sincere about it, you’ll find ten of ten times that it is the individual that’s at fault, and not God. He good to us all the time.
Jn.10:32 Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
Jonah 4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?