The Presence of Bitter Conditions

Dr. Steve Viars June 2, 2019
Outline

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…

- I’ve been in enough of those conversations to know that the responses can be rich and varied…

- some men and women might become very animated about the unfair of treatment of some other person, sometimes decades ago…with a concluding affirmation of “you better believe I’m bitter, and I have every right to be…”…well, alrighty then…

- if you know the Bible very well at all, you can probably think of statements that would suggest that way of living displeases God…like 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.

- unrestrained bitterness will destroy people like you and me…author Lee Stroebel said - 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

- another well-known saying by an unknown author is – Bitterness does more harm to this vessel in which it is stored than the vessel on which it is poured.

- I hope you’re the kind of person who would say – I have progressed in my relationship with the Lord where I am trying to rid my heart and life of unacknowledged and unrestrained bitterness because I know how damaging it can be to my walk with Christ…

- but does that mean that anyone here could answer our initial question with – no, I don’t have any bitterness in my life at all?...

- I would want to, gently I hope, love you enough as a pastor to say that this side of heaven, that is not possible…

- this morning we are beginning a new series that will take us through the entire summer on the subject of Overcoming Bitterness

- this fits into our overall theme of Growing What God Has Given in a variety of ways…

- what Strobel said is true – and we saw it even in the juxtaposition in Ephesians 4:31…

- characteristics like bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking are the antithesis of spiritual growth…

- they are the opposite of being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving…

- and to the degree to which a person is harboring bitterness in his or her heart…to that same degree they are not growing spiritually…they are not growing what God has given…

- part of my role as pastor is to position the dynamite of the word of God at the logjams of your heart that are preventing spiritual growth at the rate the Lord desires…

- for sure, one of the potential logjams in effective spiritual growth for many followers of Jesus Christ is labeled bitterness…

- so please envision your Christian life like a beautiful river that unfortunately has been blocked up with a few logjams…

- and then coming down the hillside are your sweet pastors, with the dynamite of the Word of God…and we’re going to do a little basting…

- and it’s probably going to be a little bit noisy, and you might want to put your safety goggles on…

- but when the summer is over, if the stream is flowing more clearly and efficiently, then the effort would have been worth it…

- we could say the same thing corporately…I am convinced there is such a thing as a bitter church…

- if you know your Bible well, you know this was a major issue during the wilderness wanderings…we’ll see that in more detail in a moment…

- but this characteristic can poison and paralyze the entire church family…you can’t get anything done because every conversation and every decision is considered through the foggy eyeglass lens of bitterness…

- people can’t think clearly, or see clearly, or act decisively…forget about growing what God has given as a church…if this issue isn’t aggressively addressed…

- so hopefully you would say you’re not going to allow unrestrained bitterness to take root in your life…or at our church…

- but what about the person, or the church, who would say, I don’t have any bitterness in my life at all?...

- this study is going to reveal that such a position is simply not true…

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

1. The poison of a bitter lifestyle

- This is what’s most recognizable…full on bitterness…

- bitter words…bitter actions…

- in fact, over time it can even affect the way a person looks…

- if left unattended, Scripture warns that we could become a - 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.

- I hope we would all say…I want to do everything in my power – and by that I mean through the power of the Savior who works within me – to avoid ever being in any way like Esau…

- but not surprisingly…the Bible also teaches us about…

2. The power of a bitter heart

- the Scripture affirms that - Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness…

- you don’t make this characteristic in the microwave…you cook it in the crockpot…

- as those disappointments and hurts are nursed and replayed in one’s mind over and over…

- Erwin Lutzer said – There is no such thing as a bitter person who keeps his bitterness to himself.

- so this topic is like so many others in the Word of God – there is this constant interplay between the hands and the heart…

- or many times between the mouth and the heart…

- perhaps it should not surprise us that in one of the most extended discussion in the Bible about the power of the tongue, we find the subject of bitterness mixed into the discussion…

- and we read things like -- 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?

- and there are a number of lessons in this passage to which we’ll return in a subsequent Sunday…but we won’t do this subject justice, biblically speaking…unless we look not just at the logjam…but at what may be building up just beneath the surface…

- I was recently talking to a friend who owns a cabin on a lake and he was telling me he had been working to free a downed log that had gotten stuck in his dock…

- and he said that he tied it off to a neighbors tree because the problem is…those downed trees can become waterlogged and luck just below the surface and become catastrophic for boaters and skiers…

- sometimes that condition can be worse than a visible logjam…which is why the Bible says -- Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

- however, and especially for our purposes this morning…the more I study and prayerfully reflect on this topic, the more convinced I am that neither of these first two categories is the appropriate starting place for this discussion…and here’s why…Scripture also speaks about…

3. The Presence of Bitter Conditions

- Bitterness is not just a response…it’s a reality…

- people can treat you and me in all sorts of ways that the Bible would call bitter…

- please let that truth sink into your heart…

- this topic doesn’t start with what you do…no one has ever gotten out of bed and decided, I think I’ll just get up and start being bitter at no particular person for no particular reason…

- even if the reality is more of something that was perceived than what actually occurred – in that person’s mind, that’s what occurred…

- and here’s why that is so important…the Word of God has a very rich and robust suffer-ology to help us respond to bitter circumstances well…

- but if we simply run to verses like Philippians 4:4 and repeat it over and over, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice”…we will ignore great portions of Scripture that help us process pains and hurts and abuse and injustice well…

- recently I’ve been reading a book by David McCollough entitled “The Pioneers”…

- if you’ve never read McCollough, I would strongly encourage you to do so…

- this particular book is about the early settlers of Marietta, Ohio…

- it’s a delightful story including the godly men and women whose Christian faith caused them to take a stand against slavery ever being practiced in their state…

- one of the patriarchs was named Ephraim Cutler…and while he had an incredibly powerful and Christlike impact on their state…McCollough records one of the sad occasions he faced and his response to it…

“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)

- what’s amazing is – that’s a quote from Psalm 39 – but a very incomplete one…

- and I would like to suggest to you as one of the opening salvos in this series that being unable or unwilling to speak in the right way, at the right time, to the right people about the bitter circumstances of life…is not an antidote to bitter heart and life…but an accelerant..

- in other words…how you handle bitter circumstances will either lead to a bitter response…or prevent one…

- and if you simply ignore the hurt, or the pain, or the disappointment…

- you may not see the immediate visible logjam of bitter words and actions…at least not right away…

- and there may not be the submerged log under the surface of a bitter heart…

- but do you know what that failure will produce?...a gradual shallowness in your stream…that unaddressed sadness, and hurt, and grief will be like silt that builds up over time and maybe you can’t immediately see it from the surface…but your river of faith and vibrancy is becoming shallower with each passing year…

- maybe what’s needed there isn’t so much a stick of dynamite…but a steam shovel…or whatever the mechanical equivalent would be today…that will dig down and dredge out that silt and debris and make the river flow clearly and deeply again…perhaps deeper than ever before…

- with all of this in mind – let me invite you to open your Bible now to Genesis chapter 49…page _____ of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- we are going to be looking at a number of additional passages of Scripture this am – we’ll have them on the screen for sake of time…

- but as you’re turning there, let me explain that the framework we just suggested of how to categorize the various uses of the word bitter in the Bible is also going to be the framework for our series…

- for the next three weeks, we’re going to encourage ourselves to…

Part One – Facing the Reality of Bitterness

- as godly a man as Ephraim Cutler was…the Bible has a response to painful death that is must more robust than the one he followed…

- and we’re going to begin looking at that this morning and then for the next 2 weeks will layer on the issue of lamenting and even the prominent place in Scripture of “bitter tears.”…then we’ll turn our attention in…

Part Two – Avoiding the Pitfalls of Bitterness

- what does a bitter heart feel like, what does a bitter tongue sound like, and what does a bitter life look like?...then we’ll conclude by…

Part Three – Embracing the Hope of Bitterness

- at the end of the summer we’re going to put all of this to the test with an extended biblical case study of someone who starts in extreme bitterness on every level but whom God helps turn everything around in a way that is delightful and breathtakingly relevant…

- for our purposes this am…let’s spend the rest of our time looking for 3 principles for responding to hard times well…

I. Face the Reality of Bitter Circumstances

- you’re in Genesis 49 which is the fascinating passage where the patriarch Jacob (who was renamed Israel) gathers his sons around him on his deathbed and makes a series of amazing statements and prophecies…

- 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…”

- of course time doesn’t allow us to look at each of these though they are incredible…like what Jacob says about his firstborn Rueben…[cf verse 4 – unstable as water]…anyone here old enough to remember ice cube trays…]

- but look at what he says about Joseph…read Genesis 49:22-23 [or through v. 26 if time allows]…

- now, here’s a very important question…who were the archers?...who shot at him and harassed him?...many students of Scripture believe that was speaking about Joseph’s own brothers…

A. Jealous attacks

- and please keep in mind, this is at the end of the Joseph story…

- Joseph is essentially the Prime Minister of Egypt…by his God-given wisdom, many including the children of Israel have been kept alive during a terrible famine…

- and Jacob is about to die…which we will learn means the brothers assume now Joseph will get even with them…why?...because of all the bitter arrows they shot at him…

  • 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.

- and the amazing thing is – Jacob, on his death-bed, didn’t think this kind of treatment needed to be ignored – it needed to be faced…

- see friends, bitterness is not just a response…it’s a reality…

- do you ever have anyone making bitter attacks at you?...and what was the opening question of this message?...do you have any bitterness in your life?...

- now let’s forward the narrative until after the death not just of Jacob, but of Joseph…for several hundred years until the Bible says that a new king arose in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph…and what did the children of Israel face at that period of time according to the Word of God?...

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.

- following the grammar of that passage is very important…bitterness is not something they first did…it’s something they first experienced…and ignoring that reality is not an antidote to sinful bitterness of heart and life, it’s an accelerant…

- do you have anyone in your life who treats you harshly…just because they can?...

- here’s another somber example…

C. Incessant mocking

- do you remember the story of Hannah?...who was married to a man named Elkanah…who had a second wife…do you remember her name?...Peninnah…

- and what was happening in the dynamic of their relationship?...Hannah was struggling with infertility…please imagine how painful that is…but what was making it worse?...

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

- that verse should take our breath away for a lot of different reasons…

- but we’ve all been there, have we not --- where someone was provoking you bitterly to irritate you…

- [could talk about the woman in the office at the pool store – purposely delaying building permits – “everyone knew – I was just trying to see if I could make you cuss – we had a bet going”]

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

- hopefully this initial point is coming through loud and clear…when the Bible speaks about bitterness, it is first and foremost referring to the kind of trouble and hardship that will always be part of what it means to live in a fallen world…

- of course you have to be careful whenever you’re quoting one of Job’s counselors, but Eliphaz was right when he said -- Job 5:7 - For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward. …that’s why Peter said…

- 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;

- so can I pose our question one more time – do you have any bitterness in your life?...we all do, don’t we – if we’re talking about painful, hurtful, disappointing circumstances…

- so here’s the next question – how do you face that reality in a way that wards off sinful bitterness of the heart, and mouth, and life?...

- we’re made in the image of God…we’re not simply animals or robots who are programmed by our environment/circumstances and pre-programmed to respond in a particular way…

- here’s one important answer…

II. Navigate the Wrong Extremes When Responding to Trial

A. Complaining and Grumbling

- this is the one that would probably come to mind quickest for most of us…

- we want to complain and we like to grumble…but we’re pretty sure that God doesn’t…

- that’s not a hard case to prove…

- we mentioned earlier the experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness…

- they were professional complainers…

- even right after the crossing of the Red Sea – we read…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?”

- or -- 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.”

- there are all sorts of observations here too that we just don’t have time to stop and make…other than pointing out that God’s people can be incredibly skilled at complaining…

- maybe that’s why in the NT, we’re commanded simply -- 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.

- so we all know that’s a wrong extreme…and I hope we’re also convinced…doing that simply makes the bitterness worse…

- complaining is like having a logjam and then saying…and let me put some limbs on top, and now add another layer of mud…that’s what a murmuring, complaining tongue does…

- but here’s the question – is the opposite of that saying nothing to anyone at any time?...

- Is Ephraim Cutler’s approach a biblical approach?...

B. Suffering in silence

- you would have to ignore large sections of Scripture in order to draw the conclusion that this is what God desires…

- even in Psalm 39 – the passage David McCullough quotes regarding Ephraim Cutler…the Psalm does say…Psalm 39:9 - I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is You who have done it.

- but this one of those many times where it so important to study the Word of God in its context…

- the Psalm begins like this…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.”

- now please tell me – in its context – before whom and why is David not opening his mouth about his concerns?...

- before those who don’t know the Lord because his words could so easily be twisted to justify all sorts of sinful responses…

- but does that mean David just suffers in silence?...not at all…that would be ignoring the rest of the Psalm…

- in fact in the very next verse he says…Psalm 39:2 - I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, and my sorrow grew worse.

- cf Spurgeon said of this Psalm – 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. (Psalms, Vol. 1, Crossway Classic Commentaries, p. 159).

- John MacArthur said it like this – His silence did not ease his pain; it seemed to make it all the worse (MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 622).

- please let those words sink deeply into your soul…

- there’s no question that grumbling and complaining will lead to sinful bitterness…

- but so can ignoring the hurt, suffering in silence, or affixing a plastic smile to a broken heart…

- bitterness is not first a reaction…it’s first a reality…

- friend – do you have any bitterness in your life?...we all do…and being honest about that, at the right time and in the right way and to the right people is essential to avoiding the sin of bitterness in our hearts and lives…

- so, what are some of the values of trying to navigate the balance between complaining and grumbling on one side – and suffering in silence on the other….perhaps we could say it this way…

III. Let Bitter Circumstances Produce Sweet Fruit

A. The sweetness of knowing Christ

- earlier we saw how Peter encouraged his readers to not be surprised by trials and difficulties…

- in his next letter he told them -- 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.

- being honest and open about the bitter aspects of this present life ha a way of bringing us to the ends of ourselves pretty quickly…

- and friend, that can be a very good thing…

- that may be why some would prefer to suffer in silence…at least that’s better than facing the pain without having a solution…

- the Lord may be allowing difficulty in your life as a means of bringing you to the end of yourself…so you’ll admit your need of a Savior and Lord…

- and friend – if you do that – here’s the promise – there’s a sweetness that comes from knowing Jesus that can and will always be stronger than the bitterest of circumstances on earth…

B. The sweetness of self-reflection

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

- the more I’m meditated on how bitterness is first and foremost a reality – we all face bitter circumstances…the more I wondered – have I been a source of bitterness in someone else’s life?...

- Joseph’s brothers bitterly attacked him, shot arrows at him and harassed him…

- I wonder – have I done that to others…

- the Egyptians made the lives of the Israelites bitter with hard labor…

- well, we have about 175 employees at Faith and hundreds and hundreds of ministry volunteers…have I ever made someone else’s life bitter…

- Peninnah found a vulnerability in her rival Hannah – and mocked her bitterly for it…have I ever mocked someone else in order to make a joke or gain an advantage?...

- thankfully… 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.

- perhaps this reminder of where bitterness starts will cause all of us to ask penetrating questions of the way we’re choosing to live…

C. The sweetness of acknowledging God’s sovereignty

- many students of Scripture believe that the book of Job was among the first books to be written…

- that may be because all human beings will wonder about the place of evil in this world…

- and in the book of Job, God pulls back the curtain to allow us to see His role in trials, and that of our adversary the devil…

- in many ways the book of Job isn’t a test of Job – it’s a test of God…because Satan’s argument is – Job just loves you because of the blessings he’s received from you – allow me to bring adversity and he’ll curse you…

- in other words – God, you’re not powerful enough to sustain a person going through bitter circumstances…

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

- we even saw that in the Hannah story -- 1 Samuel 1:6 - Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.

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

D. The sweetness of embracing the mission

- one of the common refrains I hear from the brothers and sisters in our church whenever they are walking through a trial is – I can’t imagine going through this without a personal relationship with Christ…

- well, then when an opportunity like serving in VBS, or inviting a neighbor to the upcoming community picnic, or any of the hundreds of ways to serve the Lord in outreach this summer – the more we’ve been honest about the reality of suffering and the sustenance of our Savior – the more likely we are to want the good news of Jesus to be proclaimed as brightly as possible…

- [could talk about the world-wide aspect of that mission and our incoming international seminary students as well as some of our upcoming international trips)

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!

- sometimes items are especially sweet when they are received in a setting that is bitter

F. The sweetness of longing for our eternal home

- we’ve quoted the apostle Peter twice this am – here’s one more…

- 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,

- how in the world could Peter use the phrase “little while” to describe bitter circumstances that some people will face the rest of their lives…

- because it’s just for the rest of our lives…here on earth.

Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

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 three 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