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Formula For Bitterness, Results Guaranteed


We finished Jonah. Let’s head to Colossians next. Four chapters. Four days. Another entire book of the Bible!


Root of BitternessJonah 4

This is the chapter of Jonah that doesn’t get much airtime. Everyone knows the exciting tale of chapter one. We understand Jonah’s desperate prayer of chapter two. We’re excited to see how the city of Nineveh repents and turns to God in chapter three. But chapter four? What’s that all about?

It’s about compassion and bitterness. Chapter four reveals Jonah’s character and highlights a challenge we all face. Jonah continues to argue with God. From the very beginning Jonah didn’t want to take that message to Nineveh. Jonah says why, “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.” – Jonah 4:2

God asked Jonah to deliver a message to a people Jonah didn’t like at all. I think we face a similar problem. Too often we don’t follow God because following him means getting involved with people. People are messy. When I’m involved with people I don’t always get my way. Some people will tell me I’m wrong. Some people will make me uncomfortable. This ministry thing would be easy if it weren’t for all these people!

That was Jonah’s attitude. He didn’t like the people.

Jonah’s problem was deeper than general complacency. It was an active selfishness on his part. After Jonah preached throughout Nineveh he left the city, went up on a hill and found what he hoped would be a front row seat to the end of the world. But that end never comes. God was merciful. Jonah’s response reveals his heart. “Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” – Jonah 4:3

That’s a big statement. Jonah says, “I would rather die than be wrong!”

God tries to help him understand. He grows a tree to provide shade and comfort for Jonah. Jonah continues to complain. God kills the tree. Jonah complains even more. Again Jonah looks to God. This time his compliant is even more pointed. “I would rather die than be uncomfortable!”

And that’s ultimately the perfect formula for bitterness. If you want to grow bitterness in your own heart simply follow Jonah’s pattern.

Look for reasons not to like people. Decide that your opinion is the only one that counts. Don’t act or change or move until you’re absolutely positive you’re 100% right. Better yet, find ways to insure everyone around you is always wrong. Cultivate the attitude that says, “I’d rather die than be wrong.”

And then, for extra measure, to insure the bitterness takes deep root and spreads quickly, add in the fertilizer of selfishness. “I’d rather die than be uncomfortable.” It’s the perfect formula for bitterness.

The saddest part of the book of Jonah is how it ends. There’s nothing to indicate Jonah ever changed. The people of Nineveh changed. God gave grace. All we know of Jonah is that he died a bitter old man. No where in Scripture is Jonah referred to as a hero of the faith or a good example to follow. I believe it’s because he held on to his bitterness. He reveled in it. He didn’t like people. He would rather die than be wrong. He would rather die than be uncomfortable.

Jonah was used by God. But he didn’t like it.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the mercy you’ve given me. Grow in me a deep love for people. Increase my relational bandwidth. Increase my capacity to care for people. Overcome the selfishness I know is in my own heart. Give me a willingness to do the hard things, the inconvenient things and the things that make me uncomfortable if that’s what it takes to deliver your message, demonstrate your love and help others experience your mercy.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Point of No Return

Today we finished Nahum. Tomorrow let’s begin 2 Thessalonians. It’s only 3 chapters. Start tomorrow, you’ll finish Monday!


Nahum 3

SCRIPTURE

Nahum 3:19 “There is no healing for your wound your injury is fatal. All who hear of your destruction will clap their hands for joy. Where can anyone be found who has not suffered from your continual cruelty?” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

We don’t like to admit it, but there is a point of no return. You can wait long enough or choose to reject God long enough that he will give you exactly what you want. He will give you freedom from his grace. This was the fate of Nineveh. You remember Nineveh. After three days in the belly of the luxury cruise ship, Big Fish, Jonah arrived in Nineveh to preach a message of repentance. The people of Nineveh received the message. They repented, God relented. But that was another generation. The repentance of one generation became the rebellion of the next.

What do we hear of Nineveh today?

Their destruction is complete. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.” That’s true, but perhaps there is one thing even more terrifying – being released from the grace of God to pursue nothing but our own desires.

Most people would think that kind of freedom, to pursue their own desires, is what they really want. But that’s because most people don’t really believe they really struggle with sin. We don’t think we’re that bad. We know we make mistakes. We understand not everyone is perfect, but we do all right. “I’m better than most,” we tell ourselves. “I’m slightly above average.” But it’s not true and somewhere, deep within, we know it.

Without the grace of God to guide us, the mercy of God to restrain us, and the love of God to sustain us we will go the way of Nineveh. Our wound will not heal. It will be fatal. And the world will rejoice at our passing.

APPLICATION

The solution is trust. We’re not very good at this, but it’s the answer. We need to trust that God knows more than we do. We need to trust that God has our best interest at heart. We need to trust that following his desire for us will lead us into everything we could ever want and anything we really need. Whatever God says ‘yes’ to we should pursue with our whole heart. Whenever God says ‘no’ we should stop and turn the other way.

If you’re a parent you understand how this works. You don’t stop your children from running out into the street because you want to limit their fun, but because you want to save their life. You don’t make them take a bath or brush their teeth because you’re mean and nasty, but because you don’t want them to go through life smelling nasty. With our kids the day comes when they approach the edge of the street and look both ways without our warning. They get up and take a shower and brush their truth on their own. But until that day we remain vigilant as parents.

That’s what God is up to. It’s why he gave his word. It’s the work of his spirit in our lives. May we receive his instruction, follow his word, trust his intention and surrender.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for showing the way. Thank you for continuing to speak through your word. Help me to listen, understand, receive and obey the ways you want me to follow. Please don’t let me or my family get to the point where we can easily ignore you. We need your grace, mercy and influence in our lives. There are times we are good at deceiving ourselves. Right now we have friends who have deceived themselves into believing you can’t be trusted. They believe they know better than you. Continue to speak into their lives. Help them see through this moment to the life you have for them in the next. Let them come to their senses and surrender themselves to you. Help us to be faithful friends to them. Help us speak the truth in love, practicing good judgement, but without being judgmental. Do in us and them what only you can do.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Basket Case

 

Psalm 13:1-6.

Do you ever feel like you’re living Psalm 13. It starts with an impatient plea to God, “How long will you forget me, God?” Yet ends with a confident cry of trust and praise. In-between, the Psalmist declares His desire to overcome His enemies, to not be put to shame before them, and to bring glory and honor to God.

I believe God has called me to fulfill a specific purpose. I often ask God to give me the job no one else can do. If someone else can do it, then let them and let them receive the blessings of obedience that come from following Him. I want those blessings, but not for doing your job for you. I believe God has given us each a significant task and mine is different from yours.

God had a significant task for David. David would become the King of Israel and a blessing to future generations. Yet so much of David’s early life was spent running from enemies. So much of his early life looked less like a blessing and more like a curse. It’s in these moments that David would write a Psalm like this. “God, please don’t forget me.” I have to confess, that while no one is trying to kill me, there are times I feel exactly like David. “God, you’ve called me to a specific purpose, a significant task, when will you allow me to fulfill it? Don’t let my opponents get the last laugh, don’t let the naysayers be proven right, for the sake of your glory and your name do your work in me. I don’t understand your timing or your ways, I’m impatient for your answers, but I trust that it’s all under your control. So today, I give myself to you.”

Sometimes I’m a basket case. I’m up. I’m down. I’m confident. I’m confused. But like David, I pray that my faith will never waver. In all the confusion, as depression begins to set in, I pray I will always turn to God, tell Him what’s on my heart and be reminded of His great faithfulness to me and my family.

I wonder if you’re up or down today. I wonder if you’re confident or confused. God wants to hear from you. He’s not afraid of your cries for help or your fragile and ever-changing emotional states. Tell him what’s on your heart and mind and be reminded of His faithfulness.

God has a significant task for you. He is working it out right now. Turn to Him when you’re up. Trust Him when you’re down. He will lead you through the confusion.

As David would say, “I have trusted in your mercy. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”