FROM BITTER TO BETTER
A. HUMOR: Some things never change!
1. A supposed ancient manuscript was found that told extra details of what happened when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil.
2. When Adam bit the fruit he felt great shame, so he covered himself with fig leaves. Eve, too, felt shame and covered herself with fig leaves.
3. Then she went behind the bush to try on maple leaves, sycamore leaves, and next oak leaves!
11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Ramses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28
1. One of the hot new buzz phrases in business is Constructive Contention – the positive role that adversity can play in business. One of the major reasons that businesses fail is that they cease adapting to changing circumstances.
2. It has been discovered that an essential element for encouraging growth is conflict. Conflict, it turns out, fuels the engine of growth. As in business, so is this principle valuable for Christian life. Trials and troubles, far from being harmful to you, serve to strengthen and cause us to grow. Conflict fuels growth.
a. Maybe some of you feel like the little girl who was riding along on her bike when she bumped her head on the low hanging branch of a tree.
b. She ran into the house hollering, "Mom, Joey hit me!" Her Mom looked up from what she was doing and said, "Sarah, Joey didn’t hurt you. Joey’s not even here. He went to the grocery store with your dad."
c. The little girl got this startled look on her face, and said, "You mean stuff like this can happen on its own at any time?”
4. Job says that “man is born to trouble.” Troubles are inevitable in this life, but, in the end, they’ll actually be good for us. We will have some dark days.
5. Our faith will be tried, clouds will dim our vision, struggles will sap our strength. I’m NOT trying to rain on your parade, but to encourage you.
6. When troubles come, we must remember that God is in charge of our lives. He directs our footsteps even when we can’t see it; He’s working in your life to bring all things together for good.
7. TITLE: “FROM BITTER TO BETTER.”
I. EXAMPLES: HOW TRIALS BRING STRENGTH
A. ISRAEL IN EGYPT
1. When Pharaoh set out to destroy the People of God, God instead multiplied them. Pharaoh’s intention was to stop their growth, but trouble and adversity had the opposite effect: it made them grow and became stronger!
2. Israel entered Egypt numbering around 70 but left Egypt numbering in the millions. In the crucible of Pharaoh’s oppression God made a mighty nation. Like the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
3. Satan’s goal in bringing trials to our lives is to destroy us or to make our lives bitter, but God steps in to turn them around for good.
4. The Israelites were supposed to be weakened and become bitter toward God, but God mysteriously turned the instruments of oppression into the fertilizer for growth!
5. Verse 12, “the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew.”
B. EARLY CHURCH
1. The Jewish leadership thought they would crush the church with persecution.
2. But instead they compelled the church to fulfill the great commission – they were scattered all over Palestine and beyond.
3. Hell thinks that trouble and opposition will:
a. take us out of the fight; b. render us spiritually weak.
4. But what Hell hasn’t counted on is the fact that God turns “bitter” into “better.” Remember, Satan is not in charge of your life, God is! God works all things together for good to those that love Him.
C. THINK OF JESUS’ SUFFERINGS
1. It was the bitterness of the cross that resulted in the beauty of salvation; the bitterness of death that resulted in the beauty of resurrection; the bitterness of being beaten that resulted in the promise of our healing.
2. Every great thing that Jesus did for us resulted from a bitter assault by the enemy. God took the bitter and made it better.
3. The bitter wrath of hell loosed the tender mercies and grace of God/ heaven. “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound!” God will always abound more than sin & suffering.
4. Though the devil is powerful, God is all-powerful. Though the devil is mighty, God is almighty. Although the devil rules in some circumstances, God overrules!
5. The prophet Balaam tried to curse Israel but God turned his curses into blessings.
II. JOSEPH’S REVELATION
A. JOSEPH’S RUN OF BAD LUCK
1. There’s no better example of this principle than the story of Joseph.
2. His brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery, but God made him head over Potiphar’s household.
3. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape, and he was put in prison. But God gave Joseph favor with the warden, who made Joseph the assistant warden.
4. Pharaoh’s officials -- the baker and the cupbearer – were thrown into jail and Joseph interpreted their dreams correctly, but the cupbearer forgot him.
5. Nobody ever had any more reason to become bitter than Joseph. Despised by his own family; Sold into slavery; Falsely accused and imprisoned; Forgotten by the cupbearer.
6. Every time there seemed to be a ray of hope in Joseph’s life, another set of circumstances arose to crush all hope.
7. But in the end, God elevated by Joseph to the number-two position in Egypt. Undoubtedly, by this point, Joseph was waiting for the other shoe to drop – the next piece of bad news.
B. JOSEPH’S CHANCE TO GET EVEN
1. But then the unexpected happens. The famine forced Joseph’s brothers to come and ask their younger brother for food. Joseph stood poised between bitter and better.
2. He could’ve had his bitter revenge, or a joyful reunion. Interestingly, Joseph’s dreams never showed him what to do.
3. Standing before him were the brothers who caused him so much pain and heartache; they robbed him of 22 years of his life. Now he had them; he could order them killed or tortured or jailed – and nobody would question him.
4. At some point, in prayer, a revelation finally dawned and Joseph finally saw the hand of God in his life; “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).
5. “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life….So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:4, 8).
6. At last Joseph saw that it had been God that had allowed it for a greater purpose! “It wasn’t you who determined the course of my life, it was God!”
III. PRESENT VULNERABILITY
A. WILL YOU GET BITTER OR BETTER?
1. There’s someone here this evening whose standing between bitter and better.
2. I want you to know that God is in charge of your life. That even in the midst of trouble and trial, He’s the one that is working all things together for good.
3. Even if you can’t see his hand or feel his touch, even if it seems like the heavens are brass and you’re facing your trial all by yourself, God is right there. Keep the faith!
4. The day’s coming when you’ll look back on your journey and say, “It was God who brought me through the valley and up to the mountain top.”
5. When you feel like things are over your head – remember – they’re UNDER GOD’S FEET!
B. LOSING BRINGS MOTIVATION TO CLIMB
1. There is a custom among shepherds in the Alps. In the summertime when the grass in the lower valleys withers, the shepherds lead their sheep up a steep and stony pathways to the high grazing lands.
2. The sheep are reluctant to take the steep, difficult pathway. The shepherds make repeated attempts, but the timid sheep will not follow.
3. Finally, a shepherd reaches into the flock and takes a little lamb and places it under his arm, then reaches in again and takes another lamb, placing it under the other arm. Then he starts up the precipitous pathway.
4. Soon the mother sheep start to follow and afterward the entire flock and at last they reach the lush green pastures.
5. The Great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ, at times reaches into our flock and picks up our lamb. He doesn’t do it to rob you, but to lead you upward to richer and greener pastures with Him. [J. Vernon McGee]
A. ILLUS.: WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSING ON?
1. Kim Reichelm is the “extreme skiing” world champion; she and others love to ski through a stand of trees after a fresh, deep snow.
2. It’s extremely dangerous, as Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy found out. They were both killed after crashing into trees while skiing.
3. The key to safety is NOT to look at the trees, but the spaces between the trees — the exits where you hope to be traveling.” Kim Reichelm says, “Don’t stare at what you don’t want to hit.” YOUR FOCUS.
4. The point is, we have to get our eyes off our troubles and onto the Lord. When you focus on God, your faith gets boosted; if on your troubles, your faith shrinks.
B. THE CALL
1. How many of you are experiencing a severe trial? You feel confusion, loss, hopelessness...God wants to change your focus!
2. We want to pray for you. PRAYER.
[message adapted from one of the same title by Jeremy Poling]