The Backlash Of Bitterness—(Heb.12:1-17 Text v. 15) Copied & revised

Intro; Many think that they are hurting the one they are bitter at but by having these feelings they are hurting themselves the word “BACKLASH” means Reaction, Response, Repercussion, Resentment.

  1. A news story heard on the local news, told of a elderly lady driving a big, new, expensive car. It seems that she was preparing to back into a parallel parking space when suddenly a young man in a small sports car zoomed into the space ahead of her. The lady, angrily, asked why he had done that when he could tell that she was trying to park there. His response was, “I’m young and I’m quick.” When he came back a few minutes later, he found the elderly lady using her big, new, expensive car as a battering ram, backing up and then ramming into his car. He ran up to her and angrily asked her why she was wrecking his car. Her response was, “Because I’m old and I’m rich.”
  1. There are times in life when things happen to us that we resent and oftentimes we react by venting our feelings in destructive ways. There are times when our reaction gets us into trouble.

3.Paul tells us that one of the things that get us in trouble is bitterness. A bitter heart is always a bad heart and often a boiling heart.

  1. Let’s look at what Paul had to say about bitterness and learn how to handle bitterness rather than it handling us.
  2. (V.15) tells us to carefully guard our lives from bitterness. He says, “Looking diligently…lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.” Now what is this matter of bitterness that he directs our attention to?
  2. The word “bitterness” comes from an old root word meaning to bite. That is very suggestive. Bitterness is like being bitten by the old serpent Satan, releasing his venom and poison into our heart and life.
  3. We read in (Acts.8:23) Peter said to Simon, “I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness.” The word “gall” means “poison.” Bitterness is the poison that comes when bitten by certain things in life.
  4. T.S. Rendall defines bitterness as, “The atmosphere produced in us internally when we meditate over life’s circumstances and decide that we have not been given a fair deal.”
  5. He also defined bitterness as, “The radioactive fallout that contaminates everything in life after there has been a failure in the core of our being to come to grips with life’s disappointments.”
  6. Adrian Rogers said that, “Bitterness is a blight, an emotional cancer which consumes many a person who once had the bloom of eternal springtime upon them.”
  7. Bitterness is that feeling of hurt, resentment, anger, hate, and even revenge, that often build up in our heart when we have been bitten by certain experiences of life.
  2. James Merritt said, “Bitterness is harbored hurt hidden in the heart.” That is true, but the problem is, bitterness does not stay hidden.
  3. I think of Jeremiah the prophet. When he was persecuted by his family, opposed by the rulers of Jerusalem, hated by the people, he broke down and lashed out at everybody. In the book of Jeremiah we have several monologues where he expressed his bitterness. He manifested his bitterness to God and accused Him of putting him into the ministry against his will. Jeremiah even cursed the man who carried the news of his birth to his father.
  4. Jeremiah’s example reminds us that bitterness is basically expressed two ways. First, bitterness is expressed horizontally, or manward.
  5. You may be bitter: At a boss that fired you · A Spouse that walked out on you · A Business partner that cheated you out of money · A friend that violated your trust · A father who abused you · A mother who mistreated you · A brother or sister who let you down · A church in which you got hurt · A preacher who didn’t see you or call you.
  6. Bitterness is also expressed vertically, or Godward.
  7. I read of a woman that survived the sinking of the Titanic, but her husband did not. Looking back, the woman said, “God went down with the Titanic.”
  8. Of all the presidents that have served our country. All of them have used a Bible in their inauguration except Franklin Pierce. Just prior to his inauguration, President-elect Pierce, his wife, and their 11 year old son Benny, were involved in a train wreck. Neither Pierce or his wife were injured, but their son was killed. Pierce could not imagine how God would let such a thing happen. At his inauguration, he refused to have a Bible used during his swearing in office.
  9. Sometimes our bitterness is vented toward others, sometimes it is vented toward God.
  2. Paul speaks of bitterness troubling us and defiling us. Again, notice (V.15) “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”
  2. We are all familiar with the plant Kudzu. It is a vine native to Japan which was introduced in this country in 1876. It was first used as an ornamental shade plant and later to control soil erosion. Because of its rapid growth, by 1948, it was estimated that Kudzu was growing on 500,000 acres in the Southeast. Of that 500,000 acres, it was estimated that 480,000 acres were in Georgia. Kudzu can grow up to 1 foot per day and up to 100 feet in a single growing season. It has the ability to completely choke out the native plants and completely take over anything in its path.
  3. Paul describes bitterness as a plant that develops to the point that it takes over in our life. Bitterness is the kudzu of the heart and life.
  4. Paul speaks of the “root of bitterness.” A root has to be planted. I have already suggested things that can happen to “plant” bitterness in our heart.
  5. But for a root to grow it has to be cultivated. There must be the soil for it to grow in, the water and the sun to nourish it. Paul speaks of the “root of bitterness springing up.” The ideal is allowing it to grow and develop in our life.
  6. I cannot control what happens to me, but I can control what happens in me. I cannot control how others act toward me, but I can control how I react to them.
  7. What happens is that we provide the soil, water, and sun for bitterness to be cultivated in our life. Instead of dealing with the feelings of bitterness when they first sprout, we cultivate them and allow them to develop in our life. The bible says in (Eph.4:27) “Neither give place to the devil”.
  2. Paul tells us that when we allow bitterness to develop, “spring up” in our life, it troubles us. The verb “trouble” means “to crowd within.” The word is sometimes translated “vex.” The ideal is that it pushes out the good things in our heart and takes over in our life. It is like Kudzu.
  3. Bitterness will crowd out our joy, happiness, contentment, and peace, filling us with hurt, anger, resentment, and hatred.
  4. In a nutshell, bitterness “troubles” us. It vexes the heart and soul. As Paul said, “thereby many be defiled.” It perplexes our life and pollutes our life.
  5. I read “A rattlesnake, if cornered, will sometimes become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is, a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.”
  6. Bitterness is the biting of oneself. It poisons us. Bitterness is a plant that takes over in our life. Bitterness troubles the bitter one. Bitterness defiles the bitter one. When we are filled with bitterness, we are only hurting ourselves.
  7. An ancient Roman story goes that the soldiers of Caesar became dissatisfied with their regiment and rations. They knew they could not complain to Caesar, so they became angry with the gods. So, many of them shot their arrows toward the heavens, hoping to hit the gods. Several of the soldiers were wounded or killed as their own arrows fell back on them.
  8. A bitter heart is shooting arrows that eventually will come back to harm and hurt the one who shot them.


  1. Like all the other emotions we have bitterness can be the most defeated and overcome in our life. Instead of being handled by bitterness, we need to learn how to handle bitterness. How do we defeat bitterness.
  2. How do you get rid of a root? You get a shovel and pick and you dig it out. Digging roots up that are deeply entrenched in the ground and have grown and spread out is not easy. Dealing with bitterness may not be easy for you may have to do some things that go against our human nature. But if bitterness is going to be dealt with, some tough steps have to be taken.
  2. Notice (Eph.4:31), “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”
  3. The words “put away” mean “to dispose of.” It literally means to throw in the trash can. We are to look at whatever injured us, put it in the right perspective, see it as it really is, trash that what needs to be disposed of in our life.
  4. In a book, “Lee: The Last Years,” Charles Flood tells of how after the war, General Robert E. Lee visited a lady that took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. The tree had been like a family heirloom. She cried as she pointed out the limbs that had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire and the trunk that had been defaced by the Union army. She looked at Lee and asked, “What should she do about it?” After a moment of silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.”
  5. Whatever it was that injured you and left you full of bitterness, throw it away. Cut it down and forget it.
  2. You say, “But you don’t know what so and so did to me.” Let me ask you something. Has anybody ever treated you like they did Jesus. I don’t think you can even begin to compare how you were treated to how Jesus was treated. Yet we hear Jesus praying, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:43).
  3. Notice (Eph.4:32), “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
  4. In verse 31, the Bible tells us to put away our bitterness and then in verse 32, it tells us to forgive those who hurt insulted us.
  5. Many times we are like the two brothers, Harry and James. Harry hit James with a stick and bitter words followed. The mother intervened and said to James, “Now, before you go to bed your are going to have to forgive your brother.” James thought about it for a minute and then said, “all right, I’ll forgive him tonight, but If I don’t die through the night, he’d better look out in the morning.”
  6. Forgiveness means actually forgiving and letting the matter go. We are to forgive as God has forgiven us.
  7. We must forget whatever injured us and forgive whoever insulted us. That may not be easy, but on the other hand, is it worth your joy, peace, happiness, and power with God being crowded out of your life.
  8. (II Co 10:4) (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)