Tonight I want ust to consider another in the long list of problems which we face from time to time as Christians. Remember, we said from the outset of this series of messages that the Word of God has the answers to all of our problems. Please do not misunderstand me, I certainly do not mean to minimize in any way the problems that you are now experiencing or any that you may face in the future. There are no easy answers, but there are answers! As we apply the principles of the Word of God to our lives, and how we deal with problems, we will begin to see some victories!
The problem we want to consider this evening is a very serious one. It is the problem of "bitterness". This is a problem that will blow out the candle of joy in our life and leave us in darkness. It will destroy individuals, marriages, family relationships, church relationships, and show itself in hurtful ways all over. Most bitter people are that way because of an unforgiving spirit. People who are bitter are usually very harsh, critical, and judgmental. It can manifest itself in other ways as well. It may show up as indifference, self- pity, or simply as uninvolvement. They do more harm to the cause of Christ and withold the power of God more than drunkards or thieves. Bitter believers, sour saints, or caustic Christians all suffer from the problem of bitterness in their hearts which has taken away their joy. Now what has caused this bitterness is a hurt. This hurt has not been resolved, and the hurt has become the poison soil for the root of bitterness to spring from. Now the hurt may not have been intentional, the hurt could have been intentional, or the hurt could have been imagined. Everyone of us have been hurt, but not all of us have become bitter! If you deal with the hurt, have a forgiving spirit, make reconciliation, then God's grace will take over and you will not become bitter. But a bitter person is one who refuses to deal with a problem, harbors hostility in his heart, and then must try to justify the feeling that he has. So he becomes a negative person, looking for other things that are wrong in order to justify the way that he feels. God will convict us for having wrong feelings toward others, but the bitter person is at controversy with God. He tells God that he has every right to feel the way he feels and begins to look around for other reasons to justify this. The more he sees, the more bitter he becomes. By the way, if you are looking for something that is wrong you can find it anywhere! If you are looking for things wrong with this church, you don't need to look any farther than this pastor. You will find something that you don't like, and you will find something to justify your bitterness!
In Hebrews 12:15, bitterness is called a root. That means it is underground and often unseen. My mother taught me that there was a right way to deal with weeds in the flower bed. I wanted to cut them off with my knife at ground level, but she knew that they needed to be uprooted to be dealt with effectively. The same is true of bitterness in the life of a child of God. We cannot simply deal with surface results of bitterness; we must deal with the root! In our passage tonight we have a vivid illustration of the effect of bitterness in the life of a believer, and how that bitterness can be turned into blessing. Elisha had just been annointed by the Spirit of God, and had received a double portion of the power of Elijah. Elisha had just crossed over Jordan by miraculously striking the water and causing the water to part. Now he was coming into the city of Jericho. No doubt the word had spread rather quickly of Elisha's power and presence in the city. It is at this point that the men of the city came to him with their request. Read: v19-22
I. Note the Condition. v19
A. Its situation was pleasant.
1. As far as the outward appearances were concerned, everything was favourable.
2. The soil was rich in possibilites, the climate was wonderful, and the site of the city was delightful.
3. If someone was to consider a place to live and raise their family, Jerich was a prime choice for that.
4. At least when you looked only on the outward.
B. Its ground was barren.
1. Now that doesn't mean that nothing would grow.
2. The word "barren" means causing to miscarry.
3. Things would grow, the people would plant the seed and the shoots would come up through the ground, the vineyards and the trees would bud and blossom, but the fruit would never develop.
4. The ground was barren, in that no fruit could be harvested from it.
C. Its water was naught.
1. The word "naught" means worth- less, bad, or nothingness.
2. The problem wasn't so much that the ground was bad, but the water brought death rather than life.
3. It resulted in barreness rather than fruitfulness.
4. We know that this was the problem, because it is where Elisha went to solve it.
II. Note the Remedy. v20-21
A. The people recognized that their only hope was to come from God.
1. They came to Elisha because they had seen the power of God on his life.
2. They recognized that God had annointed him and that he spoke for God.
3. So when these men of Jericho came to Elisha as God's representative, they were coming to God!
B. God had the answer to their problems...He never fails.
1. Elisha took a cruse full of salt. (Salt=Influence of Christ)
2. He then went to the spring of waters and cast the salt in.
3. Then declared, "Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters..."
4. Note: He didn't deal with the water in the barrels or the buckets...he went to the source!
C. The results are seen in v22.
1. There was healing.
a. "So the waters were healed unto this day"
b. The healed waters ran in the same stream as before, but now they brought forth life!
c. There is still a spring in Jericho that brings forth wonderful fresh water, called the spring of Elisha.
2. There was fruitfulness.
a. "There shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.
b. The bitter waters that had caused the land to be barren had been healed.
III. Note the Application.
A. Bitterness results in barreness.
1. Many Christians will never see any fruit in their lives because of their bitterness.
2. They may be "well-situated", full of promise and possibility.
3. Deep-seated bitterness hinders them from baring fruit.
B. Bitterness must be dealt with at the source.
1. In counseling, I operate on what is called the "Iceberg Principle"
2. When you see an iceberg, what you see is only the tip...the real danger is below the surface.
3. I may spend weeks chipping away at the tip until we begin to deal with the real source of the problem.
4. If we do not deal with bitter- ness at its source the root will spring up again and again.
C. For bitterness to be turned to blessing God must be at work.
1. People spend millions of dollars each year on psychiatrists and therapists seeking a release from the burden of bitterness in their lives.
2. But no amount of counselling or treatment can remove a bitter spirit.
3. Note: James 3:8-12
a. It is impossible for a person who is filled with bitterness to bring forth fruit for the glory of God!
b. Realize the hypocrisy of such a life. cf. Jas. 3:13-18
4. Note: Mark 9:49-50
a. Paul said we were to be living sacrifices unto God.
b. God said that the sacrifice needed the salt (life and influence of Christ).
c. Jesus said, "Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."
Conclusion: Tonight, will you allow God to do a work in your life? You are situated well. You have, for all outward appearances, a beautiful life, but it is spiritually barren. You are bitter. Maybe it is toward family members, or friends, or church members, or someone else. Would you pray and ask God to shine the searchlight of His Holy Spirit upon your life and reveal the root of that bitterness. Would you be willing to say to God, "Search me O, God"? Realizing that you must go back to the very source and root of that bitterness and allow Jesus Christ to enable you to forgive or seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Whatever the need will you let God work in your life tonight?