PROGRAM W-1800 – Part II
We’re focusing on a verse found in Hebrews 12:15 which gives us some good advice and warnings about bitterness. It says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
We’ve taken a look at the different types of bitter roots which can grow up in our heart:
- The bitter root of rejection
- The bitter root of unfulfilled dreams
- The bitter root of being wronged
- The bitter root of poor health
- The bitter root of loss
We’ve also examined three important characteristics about bitter roots which we learn from this verse in Hebrews 12:
- First, they grow. When left unchecked, bitterness always grows.
- Second, they cause trouble. Physical, emotional and mental trouble.
- Third, they defile many. It is a poison which affects everyone it touches.
Lastly, we’ve recognized how bitter roots begin: By missing the grace of God—by failing to respond to the grace of God.
It’s so important that you know the truth about bitter roots and how they get started in your heart. Truth will set you free from painful bitterness, and my guess is that many of you need to find freedom from bitterness.
Now let me ask you what will seem like a very unusual or maybe unnecessary question:
Do you really want to get rid of those bitter roots?
Not everyone does, actually. Some people love to hang on to their bitterness; they want to continue to wallow in self-pity and anger. Do you really want to let go of the bitter roots in your heart?
You may be thinking, Why would anyone not want to get rid of bitterness? Well, to weed out the bitter roots, you must let go of your right to be bitter and angry. You may have to be willing to forgive some unlovely people who haven’t even asked you to forgive them. In order to weed out the bitter roots, you need to let go of vindictiveness and malice and allow God to have the last word.
I think of the man who was an invalid and had been sitting at the pool in Bethesda for thirty-eight years, hoping to be healed. You’ll find the story in John 5. Jesus walked up to him and said, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
Isn’t that a strange question to ask a man who has been lying at this pool for many years hoping to find healing? I think I would have replied, “What do you think I’m doing here, taking a sun bath?” But I have to wonder how in thirty-eight years this guy hadn’t made it into the water. He may have pretended that he wanted to get well. . .but did he really? When Jesus asked him that question, he replied by shifting blame: “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool. . .” (John 5:7).
Did he really want to get well? Once he was healed, he could no longer lay at that pool all day. He’d have to get up and take responsibility for himself—find a job. No more pity-parties once you’re healed, buddy. No more free lunches.
I think there are indeed many people who claim they want to be healed, but they really don’t want to let go of the bitterness and self-pity that they have harbored for so long. How about you? If you’re getting sick and tired of the damage that those bitter roots are causing you, you can right now, today, decide to “see to it that no bitter root grows up.”
Recognize the sin of bitter roots.
Here’s something we all must acknowledge: Allowing bitter roots to grow, and failing to take action to pull them up, is not only harmful, it is sinful. If you want to be rid of the bitter roots in your life, it must begin by confessing to God your sin of bitterness. It is a sin against God to harbor bitterness. Are you willing to admit that you’ve allowed sin to take root in your heart? That is step number one.
Take responsibility for the bitter roots in your heart.
Step number two is to stop shifting the blame and take responsibility for those bitter roots. It is your job and mine to make sure that we weed out those bitter roots. If there are bitter roots in your heart right now, you can’t blame them on anyone else; you’ve allowed them to grow.
I don’t mean that you haven’t suffered unjustly or that you don’t have a legitimate gripe. I’m not making light of the pain you’ve endured, nor am I excusing those who are responsible. They are accountable to God for what they’ve done, so you can rest assured that with God keeping the books, they’ll have to face their sin someday.
But if you think you have a right to your bitterness, you’re shifting the blame and that allows the bitter root to grow. Every time you justify your anger and resentment toward someone, that bitter root burrows down further and further in your heart. The bitter roots which are growing in your heart are causing you more harm than anyone else.
How do we pull up these bitter roots?
Like all weeding, you must do some hard work to get rid of the bitter roots. However, the beautiful blossoms that will then be able to grow in your life will be worth it all.
Our weeding tool is the Word of God.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
- Weed Killer #1:
Read Psalm 40:2-3:
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Read it out loud every day before you leave home or early in your day. This will focus your mind on God’s grace and help you remember how blessed you are because of Jesus and what he did for you. This is a great weed killer.
- Weed Killer #2:
Practice Psalm 92:1-2:
It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.
In the morning, sing a song about God’s love. Make it part of your morning routine. Here are some suggestions: Jesus Loves Me; Thy Loving Kindness Is Better than Life; Think About His Love; The Love of God. Then before you go to bed at night, sing a song about God’s faithfulness. Great Is Thy Faithfulness is a good one; you can sing that while you’re getting ready for bed. Choose your songs and make music to the Lord every morning and evening.
- Weed Killer #3:
Obey 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
A thankful, grateful heart is absolutely essential. My book entitled Extraordinary Women by Grace, contains stories of women like you forever changed by God’s astonishing grace. It includes the stories of six women in the Bible, six contemporary women, and my own story. One of those stories is my friend, Nancy. She suffered unjustly about as much as anyone I know. After 25 years of being the faithful, godly wife, she discovered that her husband had been living a lie all those years, when he died of AIDS in 1981. That’s when she found out he was bisexual. Two months later her only son was killed in a car accident one week before his high school graduation.
Nancy went through six years of desperate pain, sorrow, and running from God because she didn’t understand how God could allow all this to happen to her. But finally, sensing a great need to be back in fellowship with God, she went to a seminar where the speaker said, “You have to have a grateful heart.” That was the one thing Nancy just could not do. How could she be grateful for a deceptive marriage and the death of her son?
Nancy said to her friend that night, “I can’t have a grateful heart, but I want to. I know that is what it will take to get me out of bondage.” She went home and looked at her son Nathan’s picture on the table by her bed. Slowly, deliberately, she took his picture in her arms and knelt down beside her bed. Hesitatingly, slowly, she started thanking God that she had him for eighteen years. She started being thankful for all the wonderful things about Nathan. She found she could be sincerely grateful for the years she had Nathan.
Then she thought, “I guess I have to thank God for my husband, too. I guess I have to thank God that I have my children from my marriage in order to have a grateful heart.” To be grateful for that was much more difficult, and she was a long time on her knees with a battle going on inside of her. But finally, that night, God gave her the grace to be grateful even for her husband. For the first time in many years, she had a sense of the presence of God once again.
If you met Nancy today, you would see joy, peace, acceptance, and fulfillment. God has taken away the bitterness and she is touching many lives through her experience and her pain.
Thankfulness—a grateful heart—is absolutely essential. You can learn to be thankful. Don’t wait for the feelings; do it by faith like Nancy did!
- Weed Killer #4:
One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The past needs to become the past. Whether or not you can literally erase the past from your mind—and probably you can’t—you must get to the place where it is not haunting your present and ruining your future. It can never be changed. Nothing can make it any different than it is. By dwelling on it, you allow bitter roots to grow. Please, put the past behind you.
- Weed Killer #5:
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Forgiveness is a part of being able to put the past behind you. If you’re not willing to forgive those who have wronged you, you will never be free from bitterness. Remember, forgiving means giving up your right for revenge; it doesn’t mean that you whitewash the wrong which has been done.
Following these suggestions will keep you from missing the grace of God and those bitter roots will start to shrivel and die. You’re going to be full of God’s grace—and a heart full of grace leaves no room for bitter roots. I promise you, it will work if you will, in simple child-like faith, see to it that you don’t fall short of the grace of God and that bitter roots don’t grow up to cause you trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
Of course, then you’ll be happier and everyone around you will benefit too, because you’ll no longer be defiling them with your bitterness. I hope you’ll get busy pulling out those bitter roots.