How Bitterness Can Destroy Us!
How Bitterness Can Destroy Us!
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21, ESV)
21 "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
"See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:15, ESV)
PRESS INTO GOD'S GRACE
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:3, ESV)
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves..."
"There is never forgiveness without suffering, nails, thorns, sweat and blood. Never!" ~ Tim Keller
DESTROY EVIL WITH DELIBERATE GRACE
v. 20 - "To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink..."
" Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, ESV)
"If any relationship has cooled off or weakened in any way, it is always your move. It doesn't matter who started it!" - Tim Keller
Week 1 - How Bitterness Can Destroy Us
This weekend’s message discussed the danger of bitterness! In particular, how bitterness, when left unchecked by the grace and forgiveness of God, can destroy us. There are not many if any of us who could state that we have escaped the snare of this vicious and destructive emotion.
Today’s study will skip through a few passages from Genesis 37- Genesis 44. We will be looking at the story of Joseph--a story that contains examples of both unforgiveness and forgiveness and many opportunities for both along the way. Let’s start as a group, before reading, by trying to recall the story of Joseph (hint: the coat of many colors) and piece together as many facts as possible before we begin our study.
1. Let’s start in Gen.37. As a group, read v1-4. According to these verses, why do his brothers hate Joseph?
2. Let’s try and look at this story from a different perspective. There are two parties at fault here for the hatred Joseph’s brothers have toward him--who are they?
So we can see that Joseph really, for all intents and purposes, was not to blame for his misfortunes. His father was the instigator and his brothers could have handled their anger toward Joseph better. We see in v5-11 that two prophetic dreams further instigated his brother's hatred toward him. These dreams foretell of Joseph as the ruler of his family, not just his brothers, but also his mother and father. Then in v12-36 tell us of a great conspiracy of Joseph’s brothers to rid themselves of him. They first decide to throw him into a pit and let him die, but change their mind and sell him as a slave to a caravan of merchants.
3. Let’s pause here and look at the failed opportunities for forgiveness and new potential opportunities for forgiveness.
a. What role did unforgiveness play in this situation for Joseph’s brothers?
b. Now, place yourself in Joseph’s shoes. What do you think he is feeling now that he is a slave--and sold there none-the-less by his own brothers?
Joseph being sold into slavery began a string of pretty unfortunate events, many of which would have caused a person of lesser faith than Joseph to become discouraged, bitter, and angry. The next time we see Joseph is in Gen. 39 when he is bought by Potiphar. He rises to prominence in Potiphar’s household, only to be sabotaged again and eventually placed in prison.
4. How would you expect someone, having just gone through what Joseph did with his brothers, to respond to something like this happening so soon after?
5. If you were in this situation, how would it make you feel toward your brothers--who were the catalyst in this series of events?
Next, we see Joseph in Gen. 40, still in prison where he meets two of Pharaoh's servants being punished. He interprets dreams for them--asking only that they remember him when they are freed. His interpretations are spot on, yet the cupbearer failed to remember him and Joseph remained in prison...for over two additional years.
6. What is a realistic expectation of Joseph’s attitude toward forgiveness at this point in his life and situation?
7. After sitting in prison two years after the cupbearer was released, Joseph is finally brought before Pharaoh to interpret a dream. Look at Gen 41:16..what can we learn about Joseph’s heart from his statement in this verse?
8. Not only here but also look at a few other verses. As a group, turn back to these verses Gen. 39:9 with Potiphar’s wife, Gen. 40:8 with the imprisoned servants of Pharaoh, Gen 41:16, 25, and 32, with Pharaoh himself. What do these verses tell you about Joseph’s heart?
There is no way Joseph could have been this sensitive to God and the Holy Spirit if he were harboring bitterness, anger, and hatred in his heart because of his circumstances. Even more, the story ends in Gen. 45 with Joseph’s brothers bowing before him, as in the dreams. As a group, read Gen. 45:1-15. Discuss the story of Joseph, and how his forgiving heart can set an example for us in the way we should live.
It is so easy to skip forgiveness and move on. In doing so, we fail to start the healing process, essentially moving through life with an open wound. These wounds will not heal properly without the treatment of forgiveness, at best, they will scar--at worst, they fester and become chronic problems in our everyday lives. Many people suffer from issues and have no idea where they started, but can often be traced back to a moment of unforgiveness. If however, like Joseph, we decided to honor God in our circumstances and ward off bitterness, anger, and hatred, with a forgiving heart...we can glorify God and live lives of peace, resting in God’s sovereignty!