Much we experience in life is bittersweet.
You can’t enjoy the sight of the beautiful rainbow without rain.
Leaving a job you enjoy for another job is often filled with mixed emotions. You leave behind pleasant memories and close relationships for a new challenge and an exciting opportunity
Buying a new home and selling an old one is also one of those moments where you look forward with joy, yet look back with a twinge of sadness.
Canadian writer Nadia Scrieva opined that “Victory is always bittersweet.” Like the girl who was glad she won the contest, but sad that she beat out her best friend who wanted to win even more than she did.
In today’s Bible reading we see that bittersweet experiences of life can even apply spiritually. And especially in our proclamation of the Word of God.
John graphically records the vision he experienced this way.
Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”
So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”
And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
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. And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.
This picture reminds us of the experience of the prophet Ezekiel who’s told to “eat the scroll.” In the beginning, it tasted like honey in his mouth. However, as he carried out his God-ordained mission, it was painful to digest and he went away “in bitterness, in the heat of (his) spirit” (Ezek. 2:8-3:3).
John’s vision reminds us of several important points.
(1) God’s Word is heaven-sent. It didn’t originate from a human source. It is a solemn proclamation. A divine duty. And a sacred privilege.
(2) Preachers have a responsibility to faithful declare the message to everyone. “Go into all the world,” Jesus commissioned the apostles. By implication and application, we are to take the gospel to everyone we can and everywhere we’re able.
(3) The Gospel has a two-fold effect.
When we study, learn and grow in the Word, it’s sweet. Pleasant. Enjoyable. And satisfying. The Psalmist wrote the God’s Word is “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps 19:10). In Psalm 119 that extols the greatness of God’s Word, he penned, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (V.103).
However, that sweetness paradoxically can leave a bitter taste when we must “reprove and rebuke” erring brethren, false teachers, and even friends, as well as family.
I have personally experienced the bittersweet nature of preaching and teaching when I’ve have excitedly shared the Gospel with a loved one, yet they fail to respond.
The Bible teaching on the joy and intimacy of the husband-wife is sweet, but it’s not pleasant to talk to a couple in an unscriptural marriage, engaged in an adulterous relationship.
It’s wonderful to work with Shepherds who watch for souls and genuinely care about the flock. However, it’s painful to see those who’ve neglected their duty. Then realize the uncomfortable responsibility to talk to an elder about his shortcomings.
Working with a growing, thriving and vibrant local church is a delight. Yet, there are always some who not only disregard their spiritual health but even make your ministry more difficult.
Bittersweet. That’s life. Even in the Lord’s work. John vividly experienced it. And so have I.
However, there is a day coming, when we will be transported from all the bitterness of this life, and enjoy the sweet presence of God and only goodness, grandeur and glory.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman