Saturday, August 04, 2007

Healing from bitterness

The healing from bitterness
Job 42.1 – 6


* The following sermon extensively uses the book “Get the Junk out of your Trunk: Let go of the past to live your best life” by Duane Vander Klok (2005).  For further information visit www.chosenbooks.com.  (Chosen books is a division of Baker Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI)

Recap: We perceive sin against us and demand justice/apology/justice/revenge.  We forget the goodness of God and focus on the perceived offense.  We loss sound judgement and our sense of reality is thrown off.  We begin to imagine what is not.  We become perfectionists (in the flawless sense).  We suffer spiritually, physically, emotionally, and in our relationships.  Bitterness disqualifies us from God’s forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a continual, daily exercise of prayer and love.


I.    Bitterness becomes ignorance.

  •     A.    Bitterness is a root problem, ultimately the problem is with God.

        1.    “It is often hard to face and is often overlooked or excused – or deeply hidden.” [Vander Klok]

            a.    Since humans are flawed and an obvious source of resentment, we easily blame others.  FACT, the root problem is with God.

            b.    Much harder to admit that we think God has done something wrong to us.

        2.    We begin to forgive and the process of behaving that way but can still be given to those moments of bitterness.

            a.    The deep underlying bitterness, boiling below the surface, is really against God.

            b.    People are an excuse, but when we just change the focus of who we are bitter towards... it shows a deeper problem.

  •     B.    Blaming God comes from misunderstanding God.

        1.    Job’s bitterness.

            a.    “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” [Job 7:11]

                1.)    The bitterness compels Job to speak.  He thinks he is being honest.

                2.)    He feels the anguish.  He thinks this is fair.

                3.)    Giving voice to complaints does not heal.

            b.    “Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing.  He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason.  He would not let me regain my breath but would overwhelm me with misery.” [Job 9:16 – 18]

                1.)    Ever feel like God doesn’t listen to you?  Job did.

                2.)    Ever feel like God is crushing you under the weight of the storm?  Job did.

                3.)    “Overwhelm me with misery.”  Misery is the worst kind of bitterness.  MSG = “piles bitterness upon bitterness.”

            c.    “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” [Job 10:1]

                1.)    Notice this has degenerated into a disgust with his life.

                2.)    All the years of blessing are forgotten.  The focus is on the bitterness.

            d.    “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul.” [Job 27:2]

                1.)    Ever feel like “this” is not “fair?”  Job did.

                2.)    The denial of justice is the willingness to right a wrong.  In other words, God has taken his rights away.

II.    Bitterness betrays ignorance about God.

  •     A.    We misunderstand the character of God.

        1.    Job’s flawed reasoning:

            a.    “All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me.  He has made me his target.” [Job 16:12]

                1.)    Job starts with the illusion that “all was well.”  Ever remember “the good old days.” (Back when things were better?) [The illusion is that comfortable stagnation is better than painful progress.]

                2.)    Job blames God for his problems and feels God is out to get him.  At least Job is being honest about his feelings and thoughts.

            b.    “It is all the same; that is why I say, `He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.'  When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent.  When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges.  If it is not he, then who is it?” [Job 9:22 – 24]

                1.)    Job blames God as the author of every bad thing on earth.

                2.)    The argument that almost makes sense.

                    a.)    If God caused evil/bad to happen, then God is evil.

                    b.)    If God allowed evil/bad to happen, then God is passive.

                    c.)    If God didn’t know, then God is weak.

                3.)    The cold reality.

                    a.)    God loves Job but Satan is making Job’s life miserable.

                    b.)    God normally does not interfere with the “laws of nature.”

(Ill.) If you trip what will happen?  You fall.  If someone like Billy Graham trips what will happen?  He will fall.  In other words, there are certain physical (and by implication spiritual) laws that apply to everyone (like we all start life as “sinners” and sin has consequences).

        2.    Job’s understanding of God was wrong.

            a.    “Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:  "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” [Job 38:1 – 2]

                1.)    In other words, Job’s knowledge of God was flawed, incomplete, or plain ignorant.

                2.)    We are no better.

                    a.)    How many of us really put effort into know God (not just about God).

                    b.)    How many of us spend the time and energy reading and trying to understand the Bible (that reveals God) and praying (in conversation).

                    c.)    How many of us make seriously effort to “keep in step with the Spirit.”

            b.    Job spent a lot of energy on being righteous, but it was without “knowledge.”

                1.)    Does God want righteousness? Absolutely, yes!

                2.)    But God desires relationship, which cannot be achieved in ignorance!

  •     B.    We misunderstand where bad things come from.  (War motif)

        1.    God created humans to rule (KJV = have dominion) over the earth. [Genesis 1:26]

        2.    Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to “take care of it.” [Genesis 2:15]  Literally this means “guard.”  (Which begs the question, guard against who or what?)

        3.    When Adam sinned all sorts of things happened, establishing spiritual laws.

            a.    “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” [Romans 5:12]

            b.    “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” [2 Corinthians 4:4]

                1.)    Suggests that by sinning Adam abdicated rule... giving it to the devil.

                2.)    Notice Satan does not replace God.  (He wants too, but he can’t.  So he does the closest thing possible... the devil plays puppet master.)

            c.    When Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:10]

                1.)    God’s kingdom (perfect rule/will) has yet to be achieved.

                2.)    God’s will is done in heaven but not always on earth.

                3.)    If God’s will was done, everyone would be saved! [1 Timothy 2:4]

        4.    We have an enemy we are responsible to face (and defeat).

            a.    “The thief (the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” [John 10:10]

                1.)    That which steals, kills, or destroys comes from the devil not God.

                2.)    Jesus on the other hand came to give full and abundant life.

            b.    The Bible says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.” [1 John 3:8b]

                1.)    By giving us full and abundant life, the goal was to destroy (undo) what the devil had and is doing.

                2.)    This is “zero tolerance” war.  God is completely good, humans are more than flawed, and the devil is utterly bad/evil.

“God is not your enemy, God is your answer.  (The devil) is your personal enemy and hates you.”  [Vander Klok]

“This means that the battle against bitterness in the midst of trial is nothing other than the battle against unbelief. Will we look to the sovereign goodness of God, and believe that he means us good in the refining fire? Or will we surrender to unbelief, and let bitterness grow?” [John Piper]

III.    Forgiveness restores blessing.

    A.    Look at Job’s “final answer.”

  •         1.    Job learned something about God.  His understanding was corrected.

Christians tend to believe not in God himself, but believe only in their beliefs about him. “Great suffering puts an end to belief in beliefs.” (David Atkinson, The Message of Job. IVP, 36).

            a.    “I know that you can do all things” [Job 42:2a]

            b.    “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand.” [Job 42:3b]

            c.    “Therefore I despise [KJV = “abhor” lit. “to disappear”] myself and repent in dust and ashes.” [Job 42:6]

Message “I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

        2.    “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” [Job 42:10]

            a.    God restored Job double what he lost when Job interceded for his friends (offenders).

  •             b.    Forgiveness (like faith) is alive when we put it to work in prayer and love.

    B.    What do we need to do?

        1.    What does not work:

            a.    Time does not heal all things.  With bitterness, they just get worse

            b.    Self-effort.  You cannot do this alone, you need outside help.  God must intervene.  (Remember nobody has beaten this alone.)

        2.    What does work:

            a.    Ask God to forgive you for allowing bitterness to take root.

          b.    Forgive “by faith” from the heart.

          c.    Put works to your faith in sincere prayer for others and acts of love.

          d.    Close the door.  “Admit it. Quit it.”


IV.    Forgiveness balances life.


    A.    How do you know there is genuine forgiveness?

        1.    Has anyone been an example of the process of forgiveness?

        2.    Joseph.

    B.    Joseph’s example:

        1.    Joseph “covered” their sin.

            a.    “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, "Have everyone leave my presence!" So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers.” [Genesis 45:1]

            b.    He did not spread the situation, protecting the ones he forgave.

        2.    He wanted this brothers to feel comfortable around him.

            a.    “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” [Genesis 45:5]

            b.    Notice he saw the purpose of God in something that was cruel and senseless.

        3.    He wanted his brothers to forgive themselves.  (This is a case were they had willfully and knowingly given Joseph cause to want justice.)

            a.    “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” [Genesis 45:5]

            b.    In these cases, both sides have to let go.

        4.    Joseph kept forgiving.

            a.    Genesis 50:15 – 21

            b.    “Forgiveness stands the test of time.”


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