Bitter to Better

April 18, 2018 | Josh Akin

Moving Beyond Bitterness

— from Philemon


“If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 

But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.”

Philemon 17-18


Funny Story About Bitterness-


“Go away” he said, as he pulled the covers over his head.  Finally his mother opened the door of his room and came and sat at the edge of his bed. “It’s time to go to church” she said.  “I don’t want to go to church.  The people there are brutal, they're cruel.”   She said, “Now honey,   You have to go to church.”  “Give me two reasons,” he said.  “Well first of all it’s Sunday” she said.  “This is the day Jesus was resurrected.  We assemble ourselves together in honor of the Lord to exhort and serve one another. As the Bible commands.  And #2 you’re the pastor.”


Everyone is vulnerable to becoming bitter.   In fact the more you love others the greater you will struggle it. 


Oh how many of us want to be filled, yet very often what we need is to be emptied.  Being emptied of bitterness is the beginning of wholeness and healing.


Example: Philemon

Paul wrote this letter of the New Testament to a good, believing man named Philemon.  In verse 7 we find that Philemon’s generosity allowed believers to worship and grow.  He took great sacrifice by opening his home to his local church.  But Philemon shows us that even the good guy will suffer from bitterness.  Perhaps we could say especially the good will suffer under bitterness.  For the more we love the more we feel the pain of love unreturned.

On Bitterness-

Bitterness is a wound of the heart left untreated.  Like any wound unless you clean and mend the wound it doesn’t get better.  It gets worse.  Infection comes. The damage spreads.


In a way, you could call bitterness any hurt that’s been buried in a grave too shallow.  Years go by and it refuses to go away.  Each time it rears it’s head uglier still.


The Bible calls bitterness a root.  Like roots moving outward from a tree so ‘roots of bitterness’ move out from the source.  Bitterness lies just under the surface, but when you least expect it, it trips up those who find shelter with you.  It springs up again and again, and will never go away unless dealt with.  Bitterness must be pulled out at the root.  So Paul writes, ..


Show: If you have been wronged put it on my account.


Paul says to Philemon, this faithful and good man.  You’ve been wronged, treated terribly.  It wasn’t right.   But for your sake put it on my account.


Read Exodus 15:22-25

So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur.  And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.

Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.

And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them,


Israel was struggling with bitterness, literally. God brought them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land.   Now God was using the wilderness to prepare them for the promise land.  God worked to get his people out of Egypt, but now His focus was getting Egypt out of the people. 

Exodus 15:22-24

They had been wandering without water for 3 days, imagine how thirsty the people were.  No doubt when they finally after 3 thirsty days saw the waters of Marah they rejoiced.  Surely they ran.  Some broke out in song.  I suppose others jumped right into that spring.  But despite their hopes they found it bitter.  It left thirstier than before. 


Think about that…

How often do you see something coming around the bend that you just know is going to bless you. “Oh how refreshing! Oh it’s going to arrive just in time.” Yet you find it bitter.  


“What a cruel joke” you say! Would God do such a thing?! Indeed He does… as a test. (Exodus 15:25)  God brought them there to prove them.   He took them from Egypt, now He’s taking Egypt from them. The test is part of that process.  


God doesn’t need a test to know what’s in us. We do.  God brings them to bitterness so Israel can find the roots of bitterness inside their heart.


Story of Spilled Coffee—

Our friend Philemon was a good faithful guy.  He wanted to head out of Egypt.  And he wanted Egypt out of him.  So he grabs his coffee and hits the road.  God’s bringing him to the promised land.  Free of bitterness! But watch out heading over the mountains means bumps in the road.  With each bump he finds the coffee no longer stays in the cup.  Did heading out, or did those mountains make the coffee?  No the mountain pass revealed what’s inside.  


Think about that…

This new relationship will bring refreshment. Oh this new job will be so much better.  A situation, a place, a person, yet in each we find bitterness.  You see, the situation doesn’t make us bitter, it reveals the bitterness inside our own hearts.  


Show: People, Places, Positions Can’t Take Away the Bitterness, Only Reveal It. 


So, the Lord showed the people their heart, then he showed Moses a tree.  

Read Exodus 15:25

“So Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree.”


God didn’t create it.  He SHOWED him the tree.   It was already there.  He just needed to bring it to his mind. So he took the tree, cast it in the waters, and the bitter was made sweet.


What is this tree?

In the Bible Peter says, “Jesus bore our sins on the tree.”


Oh Philemon must have been crying out “Bring Justice!”  “I have been wronged.  Unfairly hurt!. This isn’t right!” Philemon was a strong believer, gracious and generous.  He had every right to say..

 “Give me justice, 

someone must pay for this wrong.  

Someone must pay the price for what’s happened to me.” 

God says, “let me just show you this tree. 

There  has been justice.  

I paid the price. 

On the tree I died for that sin which is embittering you.  

This hurt, this mistake It’s making you so bitter, I want to show you I absorbed it. I paid the price completely.


So Paul writes “When you have been wronged charge it to my account.”  

>When I add the tree to my bitter situation it brings sweetness. See the tree. Don’t allow the bitterness to get to your heart.


THEN he revealed himself as the Lord that heals. (Jehovah Rafah) When your in the places of Marrah you get revelation. In tribulation comes revelation.  Like John on Patmos.  

> Adding the cross to my situation is not just for their healing it’s for mine.  


3. I have given you these for a testimony. Let this be part of your history. You can put this in your past. It can be a reminder of God’s healing Yesterday.  And no longer carry it around you.


Add the cross and let the waters be made sweet.



Talk thing over with the Lord, Let Him show you some parts of your life where you need to add the cross.