Avoiding Bitterness

“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” (Genesis 4:3-5)

Unfortunately for Cain, the LORD did not have regard for his offering.   We can probably all appreciate to some extent how that must have felt. No one enjoys the feeling of not being good enough. No one likes to put sweat and tears into some effort only to come up short. We want to receive praise for our efforts and our accomplishments so that we can feel proud of what we have achieved. We want to feel good about ourselves. When things do not go our way, and our efforts come up short, it can be quite frustrating.

Of course, this is what happened with Cain:

“So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:5)

When we get really upset, it is written all across our faces. This was apparently the case with Cain, and his disappointment at falling short and being revealed as insufficient turned to anger inside him. Is this not a temptation that we all face? When we do not get what we want, or when we do our best and no one takes notice, or when those around us seem to tell us by our actions that we are not good enough, are we not tempted to become bitter? When someone else’s life seems to be falling into place while ours seems to be floundering, are we not tempted to become jealous?

In this context, God responds to Cain:

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Discouragement, Cynicism, Anger, Bitterness, and Jealousy were no the only options Cain had in response to his personal failures and disappointments. And we all have personal failures and disappointments. When they arise, we can respond in a destructive way that hands the reins over to our negative feelings, or we can take the alternative that God offers. We can rise up in the strength God offers and be master over the sin. We can take the high road. We can resist the bitterness and instead start where we are and resolve to do our best moving forward.

“Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Genesis 4:8)

Something to consider about Cain’s actions is that they certainly did not make his life better. Yes, he was angry. Yes, he may have been jealous of Abel. Maybe he thought that if he could not be happy, he was not going to allow Abel to be happy either. And maybe for a brief moment Cain felt some kind of personal power or satisfaction is lashing out and doing things his own way. But ultimately, the outcome was worse, not better, that what Cain could have expected if he had simply picked himself up and dedicated himself to bringing an acceptable offering to God in the future.

Some have said that my generation was never taught how to deal with disappointment. I think to some extent they may be right. And to some extent this is a problem that all generations face. Things will not go our way. We will be shown to be inadequate when we most want to feel sufficient. Our natural human reaction will be cynicism and bitterness and endless blame. But what we can do, if we accept God’s offer, is pick ourselves up and keep following Him in a way that can make things better, not worse.

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How Should We Worship?

Contemporary religious groups worship in many different ways. Some have a choir and an organ, others have acoustic guitar and drums, others have laser light shows and men repelling from the ceilings. Some set a mood that is joyous and celebratory, others are serious and reverent. 

As with any aspect of life, so it is also with worship that God’s will is revealed in scripture. In John 4:24 Jesus said “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” These two concepts – spirit and truth – can provide a basic framework for considering our worship.

In scripture, the spirit is understood to be the core of one’s being, and the source of our desires, and emotions. We therefore understand worshipping in spirit to be a calling out from deep within ourselves. It is giving our all to Him both with our hearts and our minds.



Truth as understood from scripture is an objective reality that emanates from God. The truth about gravity, for instance, is that a person’s body will be pulled down towards the earth. As the gravity example illustrates, truth is not at the whim of our opinions. Worshipping in truth is about submitting to the realities that God has established regardless of our opinions.



Examples that illustrate the principles of worshipping in spirit, and worshipping in truth are both found in the Bible:

Romans 12:1 describes worship as the giving of our very selves as living sacrifices to God. Matthew 13:45-46 describes a man who joyously gives up everything that he has in his excitement at having found God’s kingdom. This man is worshipping in spirit, he is zealous for good and eager to give his all. Rather than worshipping out of compulsion or a sense of guilt, he worships because he is in awe.

Passages such as the rejection of Cain’s offering in Genesis 4, the consumption by fire from heaven of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10, or the striking dead of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 demonstrate the Biblical importance of worshipping in truth. For a New Testament example consider 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, in which the church is harshly reprimanded for taking the Lord’s Supper in a manner that is not in accordance with God’s will. All of these examples demonstrate that our “feelings” are not sufficient grounds to worship in a way that God does not accept.



Much confusion surrounding how to worship may come from an overemphasis on one of these principles to the detriment of the other. Our great zeal to worship God can be disastrous if it is unchecked by a deep respect for His will and the utmost concern for worshipping in a manner that He accepts. On the other hand, a solemn commitment to adhere strictly to God’s guidelines can still produce an empty worship if it is done out of obligation rather than true adoration.

The working out of the many implications of God’s desire for worship both in spirit and in truth is a subject too broad for a short bulletin article, but establishing these principles lays the groundwork for developing an understanding of worship that is full of both respectful obedience and heartfelt adoration.

Worship