Do Not Get Bitter “…Be not bitter…” (Colossians 3:19).
One of the last times I spoke to Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty I was sharing about one of the crusades we had recently completed. Pastor listened patiently, then as he turned to leave, he said to me, “Daniel, if you don’t get bitter, you’ll make it.”
I heard Pastor Billy Joe share these words in a hundred sermons. He frequently recounted the story of when he was a youth pastor and attended a weeklong seminar taught by an experienced minister. After the final service, Billy Joe followed the minister out into the parking lot and asked him, “What advice would you give me as a young minister.” The preacher looked back and without pausing a step said, “If you don’t get bitter, you will make it in ministry.”
In ministry, there is an opportunity to get bitter every day. People betray you, say bad things about you, mistreat you, or fail to support you in your calling. It is a continual battle to guard your heart against the trap of bitterness.
Bitterness begins with disappointment, grows with gossip, and ends by chocking the life out of you.
In life, a choice must be made between being bitter and becoming better. There will always be many opportunities to become bitter. In life, are you bitter because of parking tickets, debts, and bad grades? Or are you a better person because of the friends you have made, the triumphs you have experienced, and the knowledge you have gained?
Bitter people are disappointed, displeased, disillusioned, dissatisfied, frustrated, disenchanted, upset, dejected, disheartened, downcast, disgruntled, discontent, and unhappy. Better people are grateful, excited, appreciative, pleased, thankful, gratified, delighted, exhilarated, inspired, stimulated, heartened, motivated, cheerful, gladdened, and infused with a sense of destiny. Bitter people are always looking back at what could have been. Better people are always looking forward to what will come. Bitter people carry nightmares from the past. Better people dream of the future. Bitter people have a bad attitude. Better people have a positive attitude.
When I was growing up, my father always told me, “It does not matter what happens to you in life, all that matters is how you respond to it.” I usually heard this phrase after having lost my temper because one of my siblings was teasing me. No matter what they had done, my Dad taught me to correct my own attitude first. I learned that my attitude about what happens to me is more important then what actually happens.
Everyone has things go wrong in life at one time or another, but the winners in life usually respond in a positive manner. The pessimist says the glass is half empty, and the optimist says the glass is half full, but those with exceptional optimism say the glass is totally full; half full of water, and half full of air. Be grateful for both the good times and the hard times.
When Jesus died on the cross, some of the last words he spoke were, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” In the midst of his pain and anguish, he forgave. His attitude is praiseworthy and worthy of imitation. Jesus kept his heart pure when it would have been so easy to become bitter at the men who had nailed him to the cross and at the Father for demanding this of him. If Jesus would have become bitter, it would have destroyed the entire plan of salvation.
Charles Swindol believes, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% attitude.” I used to resent the long lines at the bank and at the post office. But one day I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the situation. So, I asked myself how I could use the time standing in line to my best advantage, and I decided that I could start meeting new people. I began to strike up conversations with those around me and since then I have made some wonderful friends. The lines are just as long as ever, but now my attitude is different. I actually appreciate the opportunity to rub shoulders with people I have never met before.
Attitude is more important then money, success, or achievement. For example, good attitude will make or break a marriage. The perfect marriage partner is a myth, everyone is going to have some type of flaw. But a good attitude covers many wrongs. A person with a good attitude focuses on the positive instead of concentrating on the negative.
The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything be excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” As Dr. Donald Vance says, “Chew the hay and spit out the sticks.” Thank God for the good and pray (do not gossip) about everything else.
Here are two things you can do to guarantee that you become a better person instead of a bitter person. First, develop an attitude of gratitude. Thank God for all He has brought you through. Be grateful for the learning experiences which built up your patience. Concentrate on the good and the bad will not look so terrible any more. Second, repent of unforgiveness. The hearts of those who hold grudges inside tend to fester. If you have been wronged, forgive those who wronged you. Forgiveness opens up the door for God to turn the situation around. Forgiveness must come before God can release restitution into your life. Everyone and every school has imperfections. It is important to forgive. Jesus chose to forgive us even though we have blown it a thousand times, can we do no less for those who have sinned against us?
If you change your attitude you will change your life. I encourage you to force yourself to become a better person, instead of a bitter person. Choose to be sweet instead of sour. Bitterness will ultimately destroy the soul, but a thankful attitude will always produce a better person.