Jump Start # 2986
Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
I have been doing a bit of flying lately. Airports. Luggage. Security checks. Masks. And, a whole lot of waiting. Usually, I have something to work on while I’m sitting in airports, but there are times when I just watch people. I watch the people coming off a plane, I watch the people who are waiting and I watch those who are trying to serve the rest of us. Old people. Young people. Parents with little ones. People with dogs. People who seem to be late and they are hurrying as fast as they can. Lots of people eating. Nearly everyone on their phones, talking, texting, playing games and watching videos. One thing I don’t see much of these days are smiles. I supposed traveling takes the smiles out of us. Some look liked they haven’t smiled in a long time.
This leads us to our verse today. There is a two step principle. The first step is to put away or lay aside. That’s our verse. The second step is to add character, color and Christ to your hearts. That’s the next verse. It’s not enough to dump the junk. One must replace it with the excellent qualities that are found in Jesus. Dumping the junk leaves us empty.
The first word in this list is bitterness. Believe it or not, bitterness is a choice. It can be removed, if one will only do that. Bitterness makes us sour. And, the words that follow, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice tend to come from a bitter heart. You won’t find anger in the heart that is blessed, happy and content. People are bitter because they have chosen to be bitter.
Now, that thought is interesting to me. Why would anyone want to be bitter? A bitter person doesn’t have a good day. A bitter person isn’t a joy to be around. Misery, gloom and doom are the trio that follows bitterness.
Here are some thoughts:
First, it isn’t what happens in life that causes one to be bitter. Most times a bitter person will point to the unfairness, the disappointments, the heartache and the troubles of life and use those things as an excuse as to why he is bitter. I can’t help it. Look what has happened. You’d be bitter too, he reasons, if this happened to you. But this deflates our verse today. If the environment and circumstances around me cause me to be bitter, then I simply can’t help it and I certainly can’t put it aside. In essence, I am along for the ride. What happens to me is beyond my control and how I react to that is not my fault. I wouldn’t be bitter if I had a trouble free day.
But all of this is bologna. A bitter person and a joyful person have the same things happen to them. There are funerals. There are people that disappoint them. There are things that break. There are days when nothing seems to go right. Yet, one is joyous, pleasant, content and a delight to be around. He’s had all those troubles, however he has chosen to be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving, as the next passage states. The bitter person has chosen to focus upon the troubles and not the Lord. The bitter person blames the troubles. The bitter person becomes jealous of the joyful person and believes that the joyful person never has any problems. The bitter person remains bitter because he has chosen that. It’s not the amount of troubles, it’s the choice one makes.
Second, the bitter person has a difficult time counting his blessings. It’s hard to see blessings when you are busy counting your troubles. The focus of the bitter person is inward and towards himself. He has little, he believes, to be thankful for. He wants the world to know about his problems. He wants others to join him in his pity party. Nothing is right. Nothing is good. Even in worship, the bitter person will find something to complain about. His misery is taking over his life. He can’t see anything good. But for the joyful person, his heart explodes with gratitude for the Lord. God has been so good to him. He sees God’s hand in his life in so many ways. Does the joyful person have problems? Certainly. However, he is also aware that the Lord is there and is a present help, even in the midst of troubles.
Third, the bitter person actually has a faith issue. He doesn’t see good in trials. He learns nothing in difficult times. His prayer life is non-existent. His dependence upon God is little. Dickens began his “Tale of Two Cities,” with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Not for the bitter person. It’s all bad. It’s always bad. And, the only hope for the bitter person turning around is faith in Christ. Understanding that with Jesus, things will only get better. That may not happen here, but it certainly will in Heaven. The best is yet to come for the child of the Lord. Why are some bitter and some joyful? It’s not the amount of problems. It’s choices they made that were based upon what faith they had. The smaller one’s faith, the greater the problems seem to be and the more likely one will be bitter. The greater the faith, the more this person sees the Lord and the more likely he will be joyful.
Put away all bitterness. Not just the big stuff, but even the little stuff. Bitterness will not make you a better person. It will not make you have greater thoughts about the Lord. What it will do is turn you into a miserable person. People don’t like to be around miserable people. The expression, “misery loves company,” is because misery loves to sing the blues and tell others how terrible life is. Misery wants others to join the sad, pitiful, complaining society of bitterness. Some I believe are charter members. They have been bitter so long that they don’t know any other way to be. When they have a joyful moment, they think something is wrong. Paul tells us to put this away. Put a lid on it. Toss it out. Don’t be bitter. It’s your choice. Those around you would not choose bitterness for you. They would want you to be joyful and happy. Yet, we choose it for ourselves.
Even in festive holiday times, there are those who line up with the Grinch and want to steal the joy from everyone else. Don’t be this way. Choose to be joyful. It will make a difference in you life.