Unspoken: Bitterness - What One Values

By Johnny Hunt
Bible Book: Hebrews  12 : 12-17
Subject: Bitterness

Bitterness builds its case

Bitterness blinds to possibilities

Bitterness blocks spiritual growth

Bitterness binds joy, peace, love

In Acts 14:2, it is referred to as poison. It translates a smoldering resentment. You can actually build a “life of bitterness” from storing up resentment.

The truth of the context of Hebrews is mentioned in its last verses:

Heb 13:20-22, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.”

“make you complete” – perfect or equip. The idea of equipping by means of adjusting, shaping, mending, restoring, or preparing. The purpose here is not to teach truth only, but to encourage living up to the truth by the grace (power/ability to obey) given. God’s loving, caring hand in discipline has been extended in Heb. 12:5-11, in order to bring cooperation that the intentional purpose of God be realized in our lives. In this text, encouragement for living out the truths we learned is declared. Knowing and believing are one side of the coin; living and obeying are the other. We are to explain the spiritual principles and then illustrate and encourage the application of them. We can become those that have an intellectual grasp of the doctrine of Scriptures, but know nothing of practical Christian living.



The writer uses a metaphor of a runner in a race to describe the disciplined individual’s condition like a weary runner. As this runner is experiencing trials in his personal life he/she must not allow the circumstances to get the best of him. They are in dire need of a “second wind.”

Isaiah 35:3-4 “Strengthen the weak hands,

And make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are fearful-hearted,

‘Be strong, do not fear!

Behold, your God will come with vengeance,

With the recompense of God;

He will come and save you.’"

Speaks of Israel’s future restoration and quoted in Heb 12 with application to strengthen endurance among those persecuted.

“Vengeance is Mine”

Victory is Mine

Vengeance is Mine

Victory is reduced/replaced by viciousness (Commit them to the Lord)

“strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” means to lift up; used of the restoration of ruins. This is what discipline is

intended to accomplish in our lives. It will make us strong, setting things aright.

“hang down” – to relax

“feeble knees” – to paralyze The runner is tiring; it’s a sign of fatigue.

Bitterness will control your attitude and your actions. This pictures a person who is no longer in control.


“make straight paths” – wheel tracks; the tracks of a wheel.

Staying in your lane; when we get out we interfere with other runners and can become disqualified ourselves.

Bitterness not only blinds, but it blurs our vision.

Prov 4:25-27, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”

“dislocated” – turned out of the way; when we run we leave a track behind us, which we either lead or mislead. “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

This verse gives a vivid picture of concern for the “lame.” (Weak)

Inconsistent Christians leaving wandering paths do not help the Body of Christ; bad example, stumbling blocks. Live right and leave straight path!



Human Relationships: Goal of Believers

Matt 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Rom 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Rom 14:19, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”

Give peace a chance (grace needed)

Harmonious living with other people; fruit of the Spirit

B. PURE. 14b

“holiness” – obedient; holy life we live set apart for God’s glory. A deliberate choice to seek cleansing from daily defilement. To be DIFFERENT. Holy in your everyday life. 


“without which no one will see the Lord” – the reference is to unbelievers who see and observe our pursuit of peace and holiness, without which they would not be drawn to accept Christ themselves.

Holiness is a fruit of salvation; not the means.

John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Gal 4:19, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you”

Christlikeness is our greatest possible testing to the watching world.

1. Warning #1 “lest” 15a

“lest anyone fall short of the grace of God” – for us who have been saved by the grace of God, there is the potential in that grace to provide us with every power, every opportunity, every strength necessary to grow to full maturity in the Lord.

Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” (1 Cor. 15:10). Anything good in my life is due to the working of the grace of God.

“fail or fall short” – come short of, fail to reach a goal. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to come to the end of life and look back on the years and see all kinds of missed opportunities. WARNING: “Do not fail to be everything that grace can make you.” Pictures a lagging behind in the race.

2. Warning #2 “lest” 15b

“lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble”

Satan wants to render us ineffective. He will use bitterness to take away our strength, to destroy our joy and happiness. Bitterness will poison all of life. By the way, the Devil will tell you that you are justified in being bitter because of what was done to you.


Bitterness kills/destroys relationships

Why? Built on trust; bitterness builds walls of distrust because of seething unresolved bitterness. Relationships never get beyond the surface because of the fear of bitterness’s rejection.

1 Sam. 19:10, “Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul's presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.”

Bitterness caused Saul to have a diminished capacity for reason that was clouded by bitterness.

“by this many become defiled” – Who are the many? Probably those closest to us. Speaks of a corruptive influence. To dye or to stain; bitterness is acidic; it eats way at your credibility, your health and your ability to discern.

“looking carefully” – believers are to watch their own lives.

If we don’t deal with the root, we will later deal with the fruit of bitterness; it will spring up and it will cause trouble.

Bitterness is characterized in the Scriptures as a root, a deep growing reality, difficult to see or dig out, but always bringing forth its destructive fruit. Bitterness is a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. It destroys peace and quiet and ravishes relationships. Bitterness is an ugly emotion, as it easily embarrasses itself and humiliates others for sport. There are 196 Bible verses about bitterness.

III. RUIN 16-17

Esau is one who chose to neglect grace. Esau made a decision based on present gratification rather than future satisfaction.

A. FLESH. 16a

“fornicator” – immoral person; no commitment to purity. He had Jacob as his brother and Isaac was his father. He had great light. He knew the Word, heard the promises, had fellowship with His people, and yet with determined willfulness he turned his back on God and the things of God.

B. FAITH. 16b

“profane” – godless or unhallowed; no reverence for the things of God ; unsacred. There was no place for God in his life. He treated spiritual things as being of no account.


Esau was to be the promise through whom the great spiritual blessings of God were to come. However, he sold-out, v.16

Haunting Question: What Could Have Been?

Missed Life’s Purpose

When Esau woke up to what he neglected and forsook, it was too late. He selfishly wanted God’s blessing, but did not want God. The repentance spoken of here was not repentance on Esau’s part. It was repentance, a change of mind, on the part of Father Isaac. Esau is a reminder of one who lightly valued spiritual realities for a brief moment of physical comfort. He threw away a golden opportunity and lived to regret it.


Change comes when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.

“Rescue” – I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue, what else can I do.

Fight Bitterness with:

1. Compassion of Christ

He transfers poison into pity

2. Grace of God enables a change in me

3. The love of Jesus does surgery on your wounded heart

4. The Word.

James 1:19-20 “ So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Eph 4:26, "Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath”

Eph 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Matt 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Prov 25:21-22, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you.”

Prov 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Ps 37:8, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret — it only causes harm.”

Prov 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.”