Christmas time—the holiday season—should be a time of love, joy, and fellowship… a time of celebration and anticipation.
But for all too many it’s a time of reflection on past failures… on broken dreams… on emptiness… on missed opportunities.
For those who rejoice, they have taken God’s perspective.
For those who suffer, they have taken man’s perspective.
Jesus said, I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.
He never promised that everyday would be joyful, not even successful.
But he did promise to be there with us in success or failure.
The point is: We should dwell on the Lord and what he wants us to be… rather than languishing in our failures and focusing on our emptiness.
God has a purpose in both our ups and our downs.
Back in Isaiah’s day, Judah’s king Hezekiah, suffered a brush with death, but survived his illness to say:
17 Indeed it was for my own peace That I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
18 For Sheol (the grave) cannot thank You, Death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your truth.
19 The living, the living man, he shall praise you, as I do this day; the father shall make known your truth to the children.
20 "The LORD was ready to save me; therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the LORD.
We don’t always understand the workings of God.
This is especially true when we’re too fixed on our own limitations… our faults… our failures.
This blinds us to God’s viewpoint… to his resources… his desires… his ways.
Take, for instance, the only survivor of a shipwreck. He was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.
Thankful to be alive and ashore but concerned about being alone and uncertain, he prayed for God to rescue him.
Every day he searched the horizon for help, but none came.
In time, he managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to shelter him from the wind and the rain.
Every day was spent scavenging for food.
One day, as he returned home, he was startled to find his little hut in flames.
Smoke boiled up. Everything was gone.
Totally bewildered, he dropped to his knees in the sand and screamed: " Oh God, how could you do this to me?”
All hope sank with the setting sun.
Sleep was slow coming that night as he curled himself under a palm tree.
But the loud blast of a ship’s horn awoke him early the next day.
He rolled over to see a ship approaching the island.
It had come to rescue him.
"How did you know I was here?" he asked his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal just before dark" they replied.
It is so easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground—It just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.
Two thousand years ago, God decided the time was ripe to save us out of our man-made misery, to deliver us out of our sin and neglect.
God the Son, the one who spoke and nothing became everything, shelved his glory and entered our lives as a new-born babe—born in poverty but in a family of faith.
• Knowing that this was but the first step toward a cruel and painful death at Calvary…
• Knowing that he would be rejected and abused…
• Knowing that he would suffer the excruciating pain of being separated from the love of God the Father…
• Knowing that while we were yet sinners,
he would die our death for us… just so we could see life—could live life—from God’s perspective and not be totally destroyed by our own limitations and failures.
God knows our humanity.
He made us the way we are.
But, before he put us here—before the foundations of the earth—he planned to offer himself—God the Son—as
• A sacrifice that would take away the sins of the whole world;
• A sacrifice that would give eternal life along with the mind of Christ to any and all with faith enough to receive it.
Those of us who know Jesus as our Christ have the mind of Christ.
This gives us the opportunity to see our problems from his viewpoint… and to apply his resources in solving them.
From our unregenerate perspective, our problems have a way of compounding in our own mind.
In time they become overwhelming… insurmountable.
But for all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has a positive answer for it.
We say: "It’s impossible."
God says: All things are possible in Luke 18:27.
We say: "I’m too tired."
God says: I will give you rest in Matthew 11:28-20.
We say: "Nobody really loves me."
God says: I love you along with the whole world in John 3:16 & John 13:34.
When troubles continue to mount, we begin to falter.
We say: "I can’t go on."
God says: My grace is sufficient in II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15.
We say: "I can’t figure things out."
God says: in Proverbs 3:5-6, I will direct your steps.
We say: "I can’t do it."
God says: You can do all things in Philippians 4:13.
We say: "I’m not able."
God says: I am able in II Corinthians 9:8.
In time, we are tempted to throw in the towel.
We say: "I can’t forgive myself."
God says: I forgive you in I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1.
We say: "I can’t manage.”
God says: I will supply all your needs in Philippians 4:19.
We say: "I’m afraid."
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear in II Timothy 1:7.
We say: "I’m always worried and frustrated."
God says: In I Peter 5:7,Cast all your cares on ME.
We say: "I don’t have enough faith."
God says: I’ve given everyone a measure of faith in Romans 12:3.
We say: "I’m not smart enough."
God says: I give you wisdom in I Corinthians 1:30.
In desperation, we say: "I feel all alone."
God says: In Hebrews 13:5, I will never leave you or forsake you.
Bitterness is the work of the devil.
He knows that it is one of the most crushing mental attitudes in our life.
It paralyzes us.
It consumes our attention.
It blinds our vision.
It is our own worst enemy.
It destroys close fellowship with the Lord.
It leads to the loss of many of the blessings—emotional stability, peace, and joy to name but a few.
Since bitterness is of the flesh and not the Spirit of God, it shuts off our production of good works—the gold, silver, and precious stones--which are a major source of blessings and rewards in the plan of God.
Unchecked and unconfessed, bitterness can lead to a wide range of other sins: Hatred… cruelty… antagonism … self-pity… vindictiveness and the desire for revenge… just to name a few.
Just what is biblical bitterness?
The Greek words—pikros and pikria—meaning bitter or bitterness are used no less than 40 times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.
Only once does it describe something that is bitter, and that is the reference to "bitter" water in Exodus 15:23.
The original meaning is "sharp", or "pointed". In time it came to describe anything unpleasant, undesirable, or something bad and unexpected.
More often than not, it describes a bitter person—someone soured and cruel. (Ruth 1:20; Hab. 1:6).
In the New Testament, there are 7 references to bitterness as
• Suffering of mind and body,
• Something that is difficult to bear,
• Something that causes animosity and reaction,
• Something that is brought about by hatred or antagonism. (Matt. 26:75; Luke 22:62; Acts 8:23; Rom. 3:14; Eph. 4:31; James 3:11,14).
Proverbs tell us that pride goes before the fall.
Acts 8:23 tells us that pride results in bitterness.
Moral degeneracy, a product of pride, also causes bitterness, according to Romans 3:14.
Trusting you horoscope—the alignment of stars and planets—instead of the Word of God leaves us bitter also, according to Ephesians 4:31.
Paul also reminds us in Colossians 3:19 that the lack of a Spiritual foundation in marriage can result in bitterness.
Jeremiah does not limit it to marriage. He says bitterness is a sign of the spiritual life gone wrong, in Jeremiah 2:19.
James, in 3:14, warns us… “if you have bitter jealousy and strife, stop being arrogant and lying against the truth." Why?
It prevents us from studying and understanding the Word of God.
In short, a bitter person is out of touch with God, his Word, his ways, and his Spirit.
It shows total lack of grace orientation and a misunderstanding of the Plan of God.
Jesus tells us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and body, and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
In addition to this, Jesus also prayed that we might love one another the way God loves him and he loves us.
Paul reminds us that we are to preserve the unity of the faith within the body of Christ.
The author of the Book of Hebrews, in 12:15 urges us to
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
Like Hezekiah said in Isa 38:17, Behold, bitterness became deliverance to me. In Your love you have delivered my soul out of the pit of destruction; for you have cast all my sins behind my back.
Hezekiah learned that the bitterness that he felt toward his bad health was for his own good. His bitterness became deliverance to me. In Your love you have delivered my soul out of the pit of destruction; for you have cast all my sins behind my back.
In place of bitterness, Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:8 that we have both "wisdom and prudence" which are part of God’s grace provision for us.
• Wisdom comes with a thorough understanding of Bible doctrine and the principles of Christian living.
• Prudence is the practical use of applied Bible truth in making decisions and solving problems in this life.
With the wisdom of God and the prudence of proven Bible doctrine, we can avoid bitterness by using 1 John 1:9—simply agree with God when something makes us bitter. And the sin that triggers bitterness will be forgiven—completely removed from us and from God’s own record of us.
Once confessed, we are restored in the fellowship and the power of God… and this is one of the burdens that Jesus has asked us to unload on him. Bring me every burden; bring me every care; take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. And I will give you rest.
This rest is the serenity that we get by being where God wants us to be and doing what God wants us to do.
When we refuse or neglect to confess our sins—the shortcomings that lead to bitterness—we deny ourselves the Spirit of God to help us.
Without our agreement—our confession—the Holy Spirit is "grieved" or "quenched".
Sin breaks our fellowship with God.
It turns off his power in our lives.
We are on our own… and this is what embitters us at times.
Confession brings the Holy Spirit back into our lives.
He fills us and controls us and keeps us open to all the blessings in the heavenlies.
This is what makes Christmas merry!
This is what allows the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts and actions.
This allows him to produce His fruit (Gal. 5:22,23)—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control.
This is the key to the abundant life that Jesus came to earth to give us.
Christmas is but the beginning of the process to deliver us from sin and death…and to enrichen our lives with the very essence of God himself.
Scriptures tell us that if we want to keep our lives in tune with the will of God—to enjoy this abundant life—that we should Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Fellowship within the Body of Christ is important too.
Hebrew 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
All of this is accomplished by resting in our faith. That is we are to trust God and enjoy the peace that passes all understanding.
Herein lies the completed gift of Christmas—eternal fellowship with God and with each other in the body of Christ—the peace that God gives that passes all understanding!