The Presence of Bitter Conditions

Dr. Steve Viars June 2, 2019

Ephesians 4:31-32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

“Acrid bitterness inevitably seeps into the lives of people who harbor grudges and suppress anger, bitterness is always a poison. It keeps your pain alive instead of letting you deal with it and get beyond it. Bitterness sentences you to relive the hurt over and over.” Lee Strobel

“Bitterness does more harm to this vessel in which it is stored than the vessel on which it is poured.”

God’s Word uses the word bitter in three very distinct ways

1. The poison of a bitter lifestyle

Hebrews 12:16-17 - …immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

2. The power of a bitter heart

Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness…

“There is no such thing as a bitter person who keeps his bitterness to himself.” Erwin Lutzer

James 3:10-11 - …from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?

Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

3. The presence of bitter conditions

“In the early spring of 1849, Ephraim’s oldest son, Charles, announced he was joining the rush to California for gold. ‘A year ago we had not heard of the gold of California, and even after the papers were filled with descriptions of the immense regions where it is found, and of the multitudes who went to seek it—It never occurred to me that any one dear to us would go there,’ wrote Julia. Again, as in her father’s earlier days, the west was the future.”

“Two months later came word from California that Charles had died of cholera. The news shook the whole family in a way nothing had—‘to think of his dying away from home and friends, buried upon those vast plains where no one knows even the place of his last rest,’ Julie wrote. And the blow fell hardest on Ephraim. ‘He is very much bowed down under the stroke—still he murmurs not, the language of his heart seems to be, “I was dumb. I opened not my mouth, because thou God dids’t it.” Occasionally we hear a suppressed groan as he walks his room with clasped hands.’” David McCollough, The Pioneers, p. 252

I. Face the Reality of Bitter Circumstances

Genesis 49:1-2 - Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father…”

A. Jealous attacks

Genesis 37:4 - His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.

Genesis 37:24 - …and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

B. Harsh treatment

Exodus 1:13-14 - The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.

C. Incessant mocking

1 Samuel 1:6 - Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.

D. A natural part of living in a sin-cursed world

Job 5:7 - For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward…

1 Peter 4:12 - Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…

II. Navigate the Wrong Extremes When Responding to Trial

A. Complaining and grumbling

Exodus 15:22-24 - Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

Exodus 16:2-3 - The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Philippians 2:14-16 - Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

B. Suffering in silence

Psalm 39:9 - I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is You who have done it.

Psalm 39:1 - I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.”

Psalm 39:2 - I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, and my sorrow grew worse.

“Inward grief was made to work and ferment by want of vent. Utterance is the natural outlet for the heart’s anguish, and silence is, therefore, both an aggravation of the evil and a barrier against its cure…silence is an awful thing for the sufferer. Mourner, tell your sorrow; do it first and most fully to God, but even to pour it out before some wise and godly friend is far from being wasted breath.” Charles Spurgeon, Psalms, Vol. 1, Crossway Classic Commentaries, p. 159

“His silence did not ease his pain; it seemed to make it all the worse.” John MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 622

III. Let Bitter Circumstances Produce Sweet Fruit

A. The sweetness of knowing Christ

2 Peter 1:10-11 - Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

B. The sweetness of self-reflection

Psalm 51:10 - Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

C. The sweetness of acknowledging God’s sovereignty

Job 19:25 - As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.

1 Samuel 1:6 - Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Charles Spurgeon

D. The sweetness of embracing the mission

E. The sweetness of drinking from God’s Word

Psalm 119:103 - How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

F. The sweetness of longing for our eternal home

1 Peter 1:6 - In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials…

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video