Week 1 - God's Promises and Purpose for our lives
Week 2 - Unguarded Strength Becomes a Weakness
Week 3 -
Untangling the Strands of Bitterness
Read II Timothy 3:16, 17
Betrayal is one of the most challenging experiences to deal with because, by its very definition, it comes from someone we trust.
In a sermon entitled “When Your World Turns Against You,” pastor and author Max Lucado explains:
“It's more than rejection. Rejection opens a wound; betrayal pours the salt. It's more than loneliness. Loneliness leaves you in the cold; betrayal closes the door. It's more than mockery. Mockery plunges the knife; betrayal twists it. It's more than an insult. An insult attacks your pride; betrayal breaks your heart.”
Consumed with pride and lashing out at the sting of betrayal, Samson sets out on a quest for vengeance. With his decision to marry a Philistine young lady, Samson plunges into a downward spiral of bitterness, anger, and rage.
It's far too easy to go from a broken heart to a bitter soul, allowing unresolved anger to fuel the consuming fire of vengeance. For some, vengeance is expressed in cold fury.
Seething from within, they withdraw to plot their cold-hearted revenge. For others, revenge equates to an explosion of anger and rage. Self-control is the victim of an all-consuming thirst for vengeance.
This is where we find Samson.
What began as a personal matter between Samson and his father-in-law soon escalates into something much more. Many Philistines (including Samson’s wife and father-in-law) are dead and their wheat fields, vineyards, and orchards are laid waste.
In retaliation, the Philistines tighten their hold on the Israelites. Their suffering prompted 3,000 men of Judah to pursue Samson to the cave where he hid.
When pressed for a reason, Samson’s response is a familiar one to us even today. Samson replied,
“I only did to them what they did to me” (Judges 15:11b, NLT).
How often have we responded the same way?
“NO Golden Rule” Here: (Matthew 7:12)
We feel disrespected or betrayed, so we strike out to hurt our offenders. Unrestrained, they, in turn, seek to wound us even more deeply, and the “battle” escalates seemingly out of control.
Then our anger passes, and we find ourselves in the modern equivalent of a cave left to lick our wounds and survey the devastation.
From our vantage point, it’s clear that there were a number of “turning points” where Samson could have chosen to end the destructive back and forth but didn’t. What can we learn from Samson?
God’s Word offers us an antidote. With keen insight into the downward spiral of bitterness, the apostle Paul wrote,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT).
Take a moment to reflect on what those weights might be in your own life. The approval of man, the wounds of the past, your hunger for revenge, lust, greed, envy . . . The list for each of us is both unique and common.
Like Samson, we have been supernaturally gifted by God to fulfill His unique purposes. From the womb, (Jer. 1:5) God’s hand has been on us to accomplish extraordinary things for His glory and to advance His kingdom.
But if we are honest, we might also glimpse a less worthy parallel. As with Samson, have there been times when our anger, bitterness, and thirst for revenge have brought darkness instead of light and death in place of life?
To be transformed from the shackles of our “eye for an eye” culture, we must heed the wisdom of Ephesians 4.
Separate from the Past:
Philippians 3:13,14 (NKJV)
13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In our flesh, we hurt because we have been hurt. It is only by making a clean break with that way of thinking that we will be free from its bondage.
If we are to find the strength to counter hurt with compassion, anger with empathy, and wounds with forgiveness, it will only be through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember last week
Paul reminded us to –
“Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24, NLT).
Stop the Slide/slow fade
Recognize that being transformed into the image of Christ is a process. Your automatic response to betrayal might well be anger or rage. Recognize the trap it reflects and decide to cry out to God for His strength to respond in a way that reflects Him.
“And don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT).
Take a breath, hold your tongue, leave the confrontation, seek wise counsel. Before the heat of the moment, decide how you will respond to avoid being swept away by your emotions.
Remember Proverbs 15:1
God’s Healing for Vengeance
Every day, you will encounter those who are operating under the philosophy that entangled Samson and inspired destruction and loss.
They hurt me so I will hurt them.
Just as it is not sufficient to just cut off the tops of the weeds in your garden, we must be willing to explore the source of bitterness, rage, and other evil in our lives.
Piece by piece, wound by wound, examine what lies at the root of your behavior and choose to subject it to God’s transformation.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32, NLT)
It is because of God’s forgiveness for us that we not only find the strength to return good for evil, but we also declare to a world trapped in the endless cycle of revenge that there is a path of light and life.
Don’t poison your future w/ the pain of your past!
What will it take for you to surrender ALL anger, pain and bitterness from your past?
Don’t miss the 4th and final message of our Samson series -
God’s Sovereignty Is Unmatched and His Gifts Irrevocable:
Judges 16 -- Week 4 of 4