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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2000-07-23

Text: Job 10:1-3; 42:1-3

Resentment refers to having ill feelings against someone, usually for something that he has done, or has not done. Resentment damages all kinds of relationships. It brings about division and disunity among friends, disharmony among brethren in Christ (Hebrews 12:15 '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;'). It can even cause disruption in the relationship of closely-knit family members (cf. Colossians 3:19,21 'Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them' Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.'). Thus resentment can turn a child against his parents, a husband against his wife, and even a man against his God. Yes, some have expressed resentment against God.

I. Dealing with Resentment Against God

A. Resentment can Lead to Rebellion

And if one is not careful, that resentment can lead a person to rebel against God. When the Israelites were travelling in the wilderness, the hot and dusty environment and difficult rocky terrain provided the ideal conditions for much resentment to develop. The people resented having to eat manna everyday. Instead of nipping their resentment in the bud, the people chose to let it develop into sin and rebellion, and thus God punished them with a plague. And when the Israelites arrived at the border of Canaan, and received the evil report from the spies, they began to express resentment against God again.

This time they murmured that God had put them and their children in the danger of being destroyed by the Canaanites. Their resentment grew into a nationwide movement of disobedience against God. The awful result is that a whole generation of Israelites was denied entrance into the Promised Land and they died in the wilderness.

B. Jonah's Resentment

But there were also instances when a person's resentment against the Lord thankfully did not develop into rebellion or disobedience. We think of the prophet Jonah in chapter 4, sulking away and displeased with God, all because God had spared the people of Nineveh from destruction (Jonah 4:1-4) and not carried out the prophecy He gave to Jonah. And so he said, 'O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.'

Dearly beloved, have you ever said something like that? Do you know that suicidal intentions can sometimes be resentment in disguise? Contrary to what many think, the act of suicide is not against oneself alone. Others are affected, often tragically. Many times this is the deliberate intent - to make someone else feel that he is somehow responsible for one's death. Jonah's words 'it is better for me to die than to live' were an indirect accusation that by sparing the Ninevites God had robbed his own life of all meaning and value. He was clearly very upset with the Lord.

Dearly beloved, have you ever felt upset with God? Perhaps you may not have gone to the extent of being like Jonah, but rather, of feeling a little disappointed or dissatisfied with something that God had allowed to happen to you, e.g. taking home someone you love, or denying you the career opportunity you had wanted so much, or perhaps failing to provide you with a life partner while all your contemporaries are settling down in marriage. If these things are accompanied with a decline in your spiritual life, and decreasing service to God, these are sure signs that you are upset with the Lord. Have you ever questioned God or complained to Him about the things He does? If you have, you need to realize that all of these are actually just different forms of expressing your resentment or bitterness against God. You are then in a similar situation to Jonah sulking and wishing that God would take his life. And you are also in a similar situation to Job.

C. Job's Resentment

Whenever we think of Job, who lost everything that he had - his wealth, his possessions, his family, and even his health - we often think of his faith and patience. No matter had happened to him he never turned against God or denied Him. But in the latter chapters of the book we see that although Job was able to withstand successfully the temptation to deny God, he struggled a lot with God in his thoughts.

And he did eventually express some resentment against God for allowing the terrible misfortunes that befell him. We read this in the text of Job 10:1-3, and we can also see it in Job 7:11 where he said 'Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.'

D. How God Awakened Them from Resentment

But in both Job's and Jonah's situations, we see how God wonderfully resolved the resentment of His own dear children. In both cases, the Lord took the initiative to educate them out of their resentment. In Jonah's case, this took the form of a simple object lesson using a plant and a worm. Through this Jonah learnt that the root of his resentment was selfishness, and that compassion for the plight of sinners was the way out of it (Jonah 4:10,11). In Job's case, God used all the wonders of nature and of the animal world to teach him that the root of his resentment was ignorance, and that humble submission to God was the way out of it (Job 42:1-3).

Both Jonah and Job were awakened out of resentment. They were thus fully restored in their relationship with the Lord, and did not end up living in rebellion or disobedience to God, like the Israelites did in the wilderness. And if there is anyone here this morning whose relationship with God has been strained by ill feelings, resentment of bitterness, I pray that God will deal with you as He dealt with Job and Jonah, and awaken you out of resentment. Perhaps selfishness is the root your feelings of resentment, or perhaps it is ignorance. Whatever the cause, may you experience the joy of being fully restored to a close intimate relationship with God.

But perhaps for many in our midst the need may not be so much for restoration of their relationship with God, but for the restoration of their relationship with someone else. The Bible tells us, that we should not harbour any bitter feelings or resentment against anyone. Ephesians 4:31 'Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.' And thus we now turn our attention to:

I. Dealing With Resentment Against People

First we must consider:

A. The Causes of Resentment

1. Sins Committed Against Us

Resentment is what we feel not when we sin, but when someone sins against us. When we sin, the feelings we have are feelings of guilt. When someone does something against us, like spreading lies about us all over town, what we feel is not guilt but resentment.

2. Misunderstandings

Sometimes the feelings arise even when the things done against us did not take place at all, but are only imagined. We feel resentful toward someone for what he said, when in reality he never said it. It was only a rumour that we heard and we did not bother to verify it, and we become needlessly resentful. We expect some kind of apology, but it never comes, because there is nothing to apologise for. It is all just a plain misunderstanding.

One example of a misunderstanding in the Bible is recorded in Joshua 22:10-34 when the tribes of Israel who lived on the east built an altar at their border with the tribes on the west. The western tribes became indignant because they imagined that the eastern tribes were trying to establish their own center of worship instead of accepting the one that was already ordained by God at Shiloh. Thus they misunderstood the act of the eastern tribes thinking it was an act of blatant apostasy, and they prepared for war. Thankfully, civil war between the tribes was averted when a delegation was sent from the west to talk things over.

Only then did they discover that the altar was not at all meant to rival Shiloh but to be a witness for future generations that the eastern tribes have the right to worship the Lord at Shiloh, and should never be excluded from it. And so the truth behind the altar building turned out to be completely different from what was imagined. The same thing often happens in interpersonal conflicts - they often result from things that are only imagined, things that are just guessed or speculated.

B. Resolving Feelings of Resentment

1. Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Therefore, the first thing we need to do when feelings of resentment arise in us, is to give the person who has offended us the benefit of the doubt and seek to clarify the situation with him. If someone has sinned against you, go to that person and share why you feel the way you do about him. Be prepared to discover that you may be as much in the wrong as the other person, though you may feel that it is all his fault. Oftentimes the bad feelings that exist among Christians today are due to misunderstandings and a breakdown in communication.

Sometimes it is not easy to go to a person whom we think has done wrong to us because our feelings are hurt. It is so hard to bring ourselves to talk candidly to that person. And we choose rather to let our imagination run wild, which often leads to imagining the worst possible intentions against us!

When this happens it is easy to allow resentment to develop into sin. The Bible records how king Saul became very upset with David, all because he had heard his people singing 'Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.' (1 Samuel 18:7,8). When Saul heard this, he imagined that David wants to overthrow him. ('and what can he have more but the kingdom?') And Saul's resentment grew into an obsession to get rid of David

Let us not make the same mistake as King Saul. He should have given David the benefit of the doubt, and not imagined that He desired to take over his kingdom. Whenever you hear something that sounds like someone is making an affront against you, do not base your response on what you imagine, but on what you can verify by conferring directly and personally with him. Always give others the benefit of the doubt. 

2. Return Good for Evil

Now, the question comes, 'What if there is no misunderstanding at all, but genuine sin against us?' What do we do if someone has really mistreated us? Such a situation does not give us the right to feel resentful. The Bible never grants anyone the right to be resentful or worse still, to retaliate. Instead the Bible instructs us to respond to sins with love and forgiveness. Matthew 5:44 'do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you'

One of the best examples of dealing with resentment is found in the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob.

It all began with the way that his father treated him - giving him things that he did not give to the rest of his sons. Joseph's brothers became jealous. The situation became worse after the dreams that Joseph had, in which he saw them bowing down to him. They deeply resented this and plotted to kill him. But he was sold into Egyptian slavery instead.

And Joseph suffered for 12 years as a slave and later as a prisoner in Egypt because of what his brothers had done to him. He could easily have allowed resentment to fill his heart. But later on, when he became the prime minister of Egypt, his brothers came to him to find food during a famine, and they did not know that he was Joseph. At this point, he had the power to make them pay for what they had done to him. But instead of doing that he forgave his brothers. Just listen to what he said to them in Genesis 50:20,21 'But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.' Joseph sought to be reconciled to his brothers.

3. Seek Reconciliation

This example teaches us that when one a brother sins against another they should always seek to be reconciled. If your relationship with someone is strained, you must seek to mend the relationship. It is wrong to let it remain strained. Our Lord Jesus said that reconciliation with one another is a requirement for our offering of worship to be acceptable to God. In Matthew 5:23,24 'Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.'

In his epistle to the Philippians, the apostle Paul had to deal with a strained relationship that had developed between two Christian women in the church. We read about this in Philippians 4:2-3 'I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.' Here were two very committed Christians, named Euodias and Syntyche, who once worked closely together with Paul. Both of them were very dear to him. And they were both probably good friends before.

But some disagreement had arisen between them and they were now not even on talking terms with each other. The situation must have been quite noticeable and must have gone on for a long time, because the news even reached the apostle Paul, who was far away in a Roman prison. And in his letter to the church, Paul had to plead with both of them to be reconciled and even ask others to help bring them back together again. It would have been embarrassing to these two women to have their names read out publicly and heard by everyone in the church when the epistle was received and read. But it shows that such strained relationships between church members are not a trivial issue that can just be overlooked or ignored. The fact that the apostle Paul under the Holy Spirit's inspiration considered it to be important enough to deserve a mention in his letter, teaches us that we should always strive to mend our strained relationships.

And for reconciliation to be complete there must be a willingness to:

4. Forgive and Forget

I have heard people telling me, 'I can forgive him but I cannot forget what he has done to me.' The feelings of resentment still remain, and continue, even after all the apologies have been made and the whole matter has been dealt with at length. Somehow someone still finds it hard to bury the matter, and the ill-feelings keep erupting time and again and affecting the relationship.

Perhaps some of us may still be having deep feelings of resentment for someone concerning things that took place a long time ago. Do you have still have bitter feelings toward someone even over something that has happened 10 or 20 years ago? There is one way you can tell: Bitterness remembers details. You can still remember every single word he said, his intonation and the inflection of every part of his voice. You know exactly what happened. Dearly beloved, if this describes you accurately, it means you that you have not fully dealt with your resentment yet.

If you realise this morning that there is still resentment in your heart against someone, then you must deal with it: Firstly you should Repent and Confess the bitterness to God. Someone may say, 'What do you mean confess? I am not the one who sinned. It was the other person who did.' Listen: while it is true that the other person sinned, you have also sinned by harbouring resentment in your heart against him. Resentment is never justified.

We are to forgive as well as forget. Acknowledge that you have sinned against God, and then ask the Lord to take away all your resentment.

Secondly, remember that if God has forgiven you all your sins, you must also forgive others. We always pray in the Lord's prayer 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.' But how can we ask God to forgive our sins, and at the same time be unwilling to forgive others? Jesus said in Luke 17:3,4 'Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.' 

Sometimes it may not be easy to forgive. One may get so irritated with a brother's faults that he would refuse to forgive him. The usual reaction is: 'How could he do things like that? He's supposed to be a brother in Christ, a born again Christian!' We must understand that not all Christian brethren have reached the same level of sanctification. We need to be patient with one another's faults and offences.

Let us remember that God has not finished with us yet. If God is not patient with us, we would all have perished long ago. And our Lord wants us to do the same for others: to patiently keep on forgiving a brother, though he may sin against us and repent again and again. Let us read Matthew 18:21,22 'Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.'

As we come to the end of this morning's message, let us really commit ourselves now not to allow any resentment to dwell in our hearts - whether it is resentment against the Lord or against man. May the Lord grant you the willingness and power to put away the feelings of resentment from your heart.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25