Bitter Root Expectancy


When negative things happen over and over again, we start to expect the worse. We are warned in scripture of a bitter root expectancy.

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.”

This bitter root within us not only affects us but those around us as well. Most of us have spent a lifetime building a negative expectancy, and I can tell you from experience, it won’t go away easily.

However, we can start the process of removing it from our lives. If we are going to rid ourselves of it, we must “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Remember the lame man in Acts 3? He had no way of providing for himself. His entire life was filled with negativity. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he looked at them expecting to receive something, and he got more than he was expecting. We usually get much more than we expect as well, be it negatively or positively.

God wants to give us much more than we expect to our benefit, but we must stop expecting the negative and begin expecting His goodness and abundance within our lives (John 10:10, Ephesians 3:20). Let’s rebuke any and all negative expectancies from our life and begin to expect God’s best. 

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jesus was sent as the “high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11). “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness” (Romans 11:22).

As children of God, we mustn’t expect God’s severity because we are under the blood of Christ. Let’s look to, expect and be determined to walk in all of His goodness. There’s nothing in our Lord but pure unadulterated goodness toward us.

James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Exodus 33:11 says, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” This is the type of relationship God desires with us (John 15:13, James 2:23).

Exodus 33:13 and 33:17-19 – “If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You. The Lord said to Moses, I will also do this thing of which you have spoken, for you have found favor in My sight. Then Moses said, show me Your glory! And He said, I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you.”

Let’s long for, expect and ask the Lord to cause all of His goodness to pass by us as He did Moses. “Oh Sovereign Lord, we ask You to show us Your ways and to cause all of Your goodness and glory to pass by us that we might know you intimately.”

In these days of turmoil and anxiety, God wants a people that will long for and expect all of His goodness and glory to pass by His chosen once again. Let’s expect nothing but God’s goodness in our life, crying out to know Him, who is pure unadulterated goodness (John 17:3).

Resist Negativity

We must resist all negativity. Be determined you won’t let it in your life. The devil’s job is to keep us down, but God promises when we resist the devil he must flee.

James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

The word resist means to stand up against. You must stand against all negative expectancies with everything you have. Fight it and refuse to ever let it have a foothold in your life or thoughts. 

1 Peter 5:9 – “Whom resist stedfast in the faith, neither give place to the devil.”

When speaking of giving our anxiety to God in prayer Paul ends by exhorting us to dwell on the positive. 

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Praying isn’t enough to release us from negativity, anxiety and bitter root expectancy. It takes prayer, praise and positivity (Philippians 4:6-8). Prayer focusses on the problem, the negative, which we must do, but to leave it there keeps us bound to the negative.

Praise causes us to look to the one alone who has the answers and solutions to all our problems and needs (Psalm 121:1-2). Positivity causes us to dwell on that which ushers in peace and a new expectancy to our heart and life.

Psalm 40:1-3 – “I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my ways. And He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. Many shall see it and fear and shall trust in the Lord.” 

Notice the progression of the psalmist. He goes from the negative in his life, to praise for the answer to his troubles, then to a positive expectancy of things to come.

Renew Your Mind

We must retrain our minds to dwell on positive things until they crowd out all the negative things in our life.

Romans 12:2 – “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Our battlefield and the enemy’s attack against us begins in our mind. In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul said, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Devices or schemes is nóēma (“to exert mental effort”), the mind, especially its final output (systematic understanding). 

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Watch What You Say

When something goes wrong we tend vocalize it negatively. We must retrain, not only our thinking, but also our speech. 

Proverbs 18:20-21 – “A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth, and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Luke 6:45 – “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil, for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

We must resist this tendency and speak what is positive instead. Allow grace to flow from your mouth. “No, I am going to succeed. I will overcome and be victorious over this. God has promised me success and victory.”

When tempted to speak negatively, speak the Word of God instead which is filled with grace and favor. It lifts up, strengthens and edifies. It never returns to God empty or void but accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Matthew 12:36-37 – “But I say unto you that every idle word that men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication (unwholesome word) proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Negative words affect us greatly, whether speaking or hearing them spoken. Study and memorize 2 Kings 6:16, Isaiah 43:2, 54:17, 59:19, Romans 8:37, 1 John 4:4, 5:4-5, and Revelation 12:11.

Watch Who You Spend Your Time With

We become like the people we are around.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Proverbs 13:20 – “He who walks with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Make no mistake about it, we are influenced by those we spend the most time with. If you spend time with people who don’t seem to care about life and don’t try to better themselves, you will little by little fall into the same trap. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who pursue success and try to better themselves, you will move in that direction.

This applies in so many areas of our lives. If people you fellowship with drag you down in anyway you need to make a major change in who you spend your time around.

Forgive Others

In John 20:23 Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” This has nothing to do with us having authority to withhold forgiveness from people’s lives. It has more to do with us.

When we harbor bitterness and unforgiveness within our heart, we retain that particular sin to ourselves. If we forgive someone who has sinned against us, we release ourselves from any hold that sin or situation might have had on us.

When we hold things against someone, we often have the same things happen to us. If someone has sinned against or offended us and we don’t forgive them from our heart, we may find ourselves in bondage to the very sin that we hated and that offended us. We also project our negative expectancy on others because we never forgave the offense or offender.

The only way to free ourselves is to completely forgive. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus said we often must forgive up to 490 times or levels before getting something completely out of our system. This means we must choose to forgive an offense every time it raises its ugly head, until there’s no bitterness or unforgiveness left in us.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Colossians 3:13 – “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Bitterness and unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison then hoping it kills the other person.


Starting a new church or ministry is one of the most rewarding things you can do to advance the kingdom, but it can also be very challenging. With over 40 years of church planting and ministry experience, Dr. Linton's passion is to encourage, support and equip pastors and church leaders.