The Christian life can be best compared to bittersweet chocolate. There are the sweet parts and then there are the bitter parts.
As I heard one of my favorite Christian teachers say, “Christian’s know both realities. We know the deepest truest joy in life through a relationship with Jesus. At the same time we’re fully aware of life in a world that is deeply fractured, broken, and desperate.
Oh how sweet is our salvation and the fact that our names are written down in Heaven:
“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 NKJV)
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20 NKJV)
I want to make sure that this is made perfectly clear that when I use the word ‘bitter’ in reference to Christians, I am not talking about being a bitter person, which is sin. I am talking about the fact, that because of the world we live in, we will grieve over the bitter things that transpire around us. It is a bitter thing to watch a loved one go astray in their faith. It is a bitter thing to watch someone close to us slowly die of cancer.
We are explicitly told that we are to possess joy and peace despite the harshness of life:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)
But at the same time we are to carry one another’s burdens:
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT)
So how do we do it, to be joyful even when we have to take on the bitterness that life throws at us? When we are truly walking in the spirit day-by-day, it is no problem at all. It is when we let our guard down and are not in close communion with the LORD each and every day, life will bring us down. We are instructed:
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 NKJV)
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21 NKJV)
Paul and Silas are a true example of experiencing the bitter and the sweet:
“And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:23, 25 KJV)
Please don’t get the idea that as Christians we will always have a smile on our face. But we are always to have an inner peace and joy that the world cannot take away from us.
Show me a Christian who is not walking in the spirit, and I will show you a miserable person. He or she may put on a happy face, but inside their joy and peace is quenched.
We that are Christians are waiting for the return of our LORD. You can truly say that it will be a sweet time for us. But for those that are perishing it will be an extremely bitter time:
“Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.” (Revelation 10:10 NKJV)
As a final word I want to get across to you the same thing Jesus tried to get across to His disciples when the 70 came back from their mission where they saw demons fleeing:
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE IS TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR NAME IS WRITTEN DOWN IN HEAVEN!
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15 NKJV)
And if your name is written down in the Book of Life, my second question to you is, “Are you walking in the spirit and singing praises unto God despite being treated bitterly by the world?”