Rough Draft Chapter from my next book… It’s the 15th chapter that i’ve written but i’m not sure if it won’t be placed earlier in the book.
Chapter 15- Sweetness for Bitterness
Amplified Bible (AMP)
31Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).
32And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.
There is a laundry list of things listed in Ephesians 4:31-32 that we should make ourselves aware of as it pertains to issues that we need to rid ourselves of, but the very FIRST on that list is bitterness.
So many of us have experienced deep emotional wounds from others who have wronged us. The reasons for the emotional wounds and the bitterness that often follows are as vast as the number of people reading this book. Some of you were hurt by the betrayal of a friend or spouse. Others have experienced injustice when being passed over for a promotion that you were most qualified for. Still others, were wounded by those who called themselves Christians but did not display the love or compassion of Christ when you needed their support… As I said, the reasons are vast but the human response to the pain is often the same… Bitterness!
When bitterness starts to set in, you begin thinking about those who wronged you and how you did not deserve the hurt that you experienced. Then you internalize that pain, dwelling on it and meditating on the injustice or violation of trust that you experienced!
Focusing on the pain and frustration associated with all of the circumstances begins to directly affect your emotional outlook and as a coping mechanism, you begin placing walls and barriers between you and other relationships to protect yourself from being hurt again. These walls are most often the direct response to bitterness that is taking control in your life!
Bitterness is not a stronghold that I am unfamiliar with. I have had to take authority over it on several occasions in my own life. Like I said, We’ve all been hurt… What was interesting with one particular circumstance in my life was that I didn’t even know that I had become bitter. In hindsight, I can now look back and see the progression and the deception that the bitterness took control with, but I honestly did not see that I was bitter at the time.
In the season that I became very bitter, for me it started by noticing repetitive things that I considered unacceptable practices by Christians, from a biblical standpoint. I became very frustrated by the inconsistencies that I was seeing with people that I encountered who called themselves Christians but were full of hate-filled judgment and what appeared to me to be blatant self-righteousness. As I began looking for it, I saw it more and more. That’s the issue with looking for something to be dissatisfied with, if you are looking for it, you will most certainly find it.
Had I been more mature about the situation, I would have understood that my frustration was justified and was even a part of what God has called me to be instrumental in changing, but at the time I was overwhelmed with a number of other issues that frustrated me as well and the totality of the circumstances sent me into a bitterness down-spiral
With all of the pressures, feelings of lack of fulfillment, feelings of anger at those who had lied to me and intentionally deceived me and feelings of being used, I began grouping my frustrations into a single pot and became the left-wing version of the self-righteous Christian that I couldn’t stand as I began pointing my finger back at the church (universal) and Christians in general in hate-filled, self-righteous judgment.
Now, here is the interesting thing. I LOVED God with all my heart! But I HATED His bride! The anger that I internalized completely consumed my ability to be anything but cynical as it pertained to anyone that resembled what I came to judge as religious and legalistic Church Folk. I rationalized my growing distain and prejudice of them by saying to myself that they are all fake, judgmental and deceived. I would go through the motions, attend church, lead worship and even preach…but bitterness was in my heart to the point that it was even reflected in what I was conveying from the pulpit!
If someone had asked me why I was bitter, I would have told them, I’m not bitter…I’m just wiser than I used to be and I see things for how they really are. The problem with that perspective was not that I saw an inconsistency that did need to be addressed, but that I refused to see it through the eyes of love and compassion that God saw it through. Without love, I disqualified myself from being able to speak in to those who were bound by the deception and inconsistency that I observed.
I could absolutely substantiate my position about how these Christians were acting toward people as unacceptable behavior for Christians. After all, the New Testament is filled with scriptures on loving and not passing judgment…but I had been deceived by my own arrogance and self-righteousness into not loving and passing judgment on other Christians in the same way that they were doing to those who did not feel loved by the church.
I had literally become the reciprocal of what I had grown to despise (Which has it’s own lesson as it pertains to judge not lest you be judged). During this season, I had resolved to relinquish my ministry credentials and pursue my secular career, which appeared to have the smile of God upon it, having received several acknowledgements and promotions in a very short time, but thank God that my wife Lisa talked me out of it because she could see what I could not in that I was allowing my frustration to stand in the way of continuing to pursue the calling that I knew God had placed in me. So, for a period of time (that is longer than I care to admit), I lived a life of hidden bitterness, feeling constantly hostile…and I was miserable!
During this same time, my dad mentioned to me that he had seen a preacher in Nashville on television that he thought I would really like. Of course, I was of the mindset that I was not looking to get involved in another church, especially not the church of some TV preacher that I had never heard of. So, I dismissed my fathers advice of checking this guy out with a, Thanks but no thanks… and I forgot about it. About four months later, my parents were planning a vacation to Nashville and asked me if I would mind taking them to a church in Nashville called The Oasis that they looked up and would like to visit.
Of course, it was their vacation and I did not have a problem taking them somewhere on their vacation if that was how they wanted to spend it. So, when they came, we went and visited this Oasis Church.
I had to admit that when the Pastor was preaching, I really liked his style. He seemed to be pretty real and kept my attention better than I had anticipated, so I let my guard down a little.
At the end of the service, the pastor had an alter call for people who needed prayer. Probably fifteen people came to the front and he began praying for each one individually. After praying for five or six people, he reached a man and started praying out loud over the man, sweetness for bitterness. I remember thinking, that’s a good thing to pray for the guy, he probably needs to get over some bitterness in his life…So I can agree with that… Remember, I told you before, I loved God and honestly, I loved people…I just didn’t have love for those that called themselves Christians because I didn’t see them loving the people that I loved… but, hey, I didn’t know this guy and I did believe in the power of prayer, so I stretched my hand toward this guy that this pastor was praying sweetness for bitterness over and prayed with him…
The pastor repeated the phrase sweetness for bitterness, sweetness for bitterness several times and somewhere along the line of the fifth or sixth time he said it, it was as though something cut my chest open from a spiritual perspective.
The experience and the emotion of it literally winded me and I gasped and coughed. It was completely out of the blue and unexpected, here I was praying for this guy and the Holy Spirit had something to do in me that I did not anticipate coming.
The pastor continued to say, sweetness for bitterness over and over again and every time he said it, it was as though I was being cut again and again… As I was standing, praying for this man, I gripped the chair in front of me and after not shedding a tear in years I began to weep as I released the pent up anger and bitterness inside of me that I didn’t even realize was there.
I had no idea that I was bitter but in a moments time, the Holy Spirit revealed something to me that I didn’t even know about myself and then released me from it! As I reflect back on my life there are only three points that were absolutely life altering where, overnight my direction completely changed. This was one of those life-altering moments.
After I was able to recognize the bitterness for what it was in my life, I was able to combat it and grow through it. I did have to make a practice of not allowing the bitterness to come back in, but it was interesting to me how much more clearly that I could see what the bitterness had previously blinded me from being able to perceive, particularly in the arena of the Gods love and the calling that He had placed in me.
Another thing that was particularly interesting to me was this, the circumstances that I had been frustrated about I still was not satisfied with allowing to exist but my approach to the issues changed dramatically. The frustration was no longer a catalyst for hate-filled, self-righteous passing of judgment but a love filled desire to see changed what I knew to be inconsistent and furthermore a pursuit of wisdom regarding how to effectively confront these issues.
I knew that God had placed the desire to see change in my heart because it was His heart to see the change as well. God loves those people as much as He loves me and with that understanding, I was now qualified to speak into them because I could approach them with love and compassion for what they were struggling with…particularly the issue of inconsistency that maybe, like me, they were completely unaware of in their life.
What I realized in all of this is that bitterness was sent as a covert enemy to infiltrate my thinking and divert my destiny. The impact of that diversion had the potential to affect thousands! Had I turned my back on ministry in that season, I would not be writing what I am today and God would have had to use someone else to get this message to you and the countless others that have been positively impacted by this ministry in the subsequent years! And that is exactly the impact that bitterness can have in your life as well. You have destiny to fulfill, lives to impact and breakthroughs to experience, but bitterness can and likely will keep you from those victories and breakthroughs if you do not take authority over it!
Colossians 3:1-17 & 25
Amplified Bible (AMP)
1IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.
3For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.
4When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.
5So kill (deaden, [a]deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God).
6It is on account of these [very sins] that the [holy] anger of God is ever coming upon the sons of disobedience (those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will),
7Among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to [such practices].
8But now put away and rid yourselves [completely] of all these things: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander, and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips!
9Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old (unregenerate) self with its evil practices,
10And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self], which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into [fuller and more perfect [b]knowledge upon] knowledge after the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.
11[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There [c]is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [[d]who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all [[e]everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person].
12Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].
13Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].
14And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].
15And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always].
16Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness, as you teach and admonish and train one another in all insight and intelligence and wisdom [in spiritual things, and as you sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to God with [His] grace in your hearts.
17And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him…
25For he who deals wrongfully will [reap the fruit of his folly and] be punished for his wrongdoing. And [with God] there is no partiality [no matter what a person’s position may be, whether he is the slave or the master].
This third chapter of Colossians in the New Testament expresses exactly who we need to strive to be and why. I encourage you today to search your heart and see if you have harbored bitterness inside of you. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you who you have held bitterness against and then choose to release that bitterness. Lives are hanging in the balance, not the least of which is yours!
Even if, right now that seems like a task that may be impossible for you to do, remember, if you have the desire to be free from it, you can be!
Amplified Bible (AMP)
13I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [a]infuses inner strength into me; I am [b]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].
On your own, you may not feel that you have the strength, but in Christ you are ready for anything that comes your way! Be encouraged, you can and you WILL overcome!
He gives you sweetness for bitterness… I’m living proof!