Times Square Church Pulpit Series
Turn Off the Stew!
By David Wilkerson
March 9, 1998
Everyone knows what stew is. It’s the meat-and-vegetable dish you
put in a pot, simmer in a slow boil, and then eat. Yet “Webster’s
Encyclopedic Dictionary” offers another definition. It describes
stew as “a state of being agitated, disturbed.” This same
definition also includes the phrase “stewing in one’s own juices”
– meaning, “to allow trouble and agitation to simmer; to continue
in a disturbed state of mind.”
We Americans tend to overlap these two meanings of the word “stew.”
Whenever we want to describe our troubled emotions, for instance, we
use cooking terms. For example:
An upset person is said to be “steamed.” And a very angry person is
thought of as being “boiling mad.” When someone rages excessively,
his “mind is fried.” Indeed, human emotions are sometimes described
in terms of tap water: hot, cold or lukewarm.
Such expressions abound in the workplace. Many people describe their
office as a “pressure cooker.” The phrase “turning up the heat”
means to put on pressure. When someone is lethargic, his coworkers
say, “Somebody ought to light a fire under him.” And when someone
can’t handle the pressure, he’s told, “If you can’t stand the heat,
get out of the kitchen.” Likewise, someone who’s making progress is
A house that’s overheated is described as being “hot as an oven.”
And a frigid home is said to be “cold as a deep freeze.”
In this message, I want to focus on the expression “stewing in
one’s own juices.” The fact is, Jesus taught eternal truths by
using everyday illustrations – parables, stories and familiar
expressions of his day. And I believe “stewing in one’s own juices”
is a modern-day expression that can reveal much to us about our
walk with Christ.
I Pray That What I Have to
Share With You About This
Expression Will Offer
Not long ago, I preached a message about our need to show charity
to those closest to us. In that message, I spoke about the
sinfulness of being easily provoked.
I was so convicted by what the Lord showed me on this subject, I
determined to deal a death blow to this sin in my life. After much
prayer and seeking God, I was convinced I had victory. I thought,
“By God’s grace, I will never again become easily provoked. I’ll
always stop and pray, count to ten, and trust the Holy Ghost to
calm my spirit. He’ll help me to turn the other cheek and walk
Well, my “victory” lasted just four days. That’s when I received a
phone call from a close friend – a call that took me by surprise.
My friend said something to me I felt was cutting – and I resented
it deeply. It disturbed me so much, I cut short the conversation. I
didn’t hang up on him – but he knew I was truly provoked.
That conversation lit a fire under my flesh. I was disturbed, hurt,
agitated. And all my fleshly juices began to pour out: anger,
indignation, grief. In short, I began to stew in my own juices!
I began pacing around my study, trying to pray – but I was so
bothered and troubled, I could hardly keep focused on the Lord. I
prayed, “God, that call came straight from hell! My close friend
put me down, and there was no reason for it. It had to be the devil
trying to provoke me. I don’t have to listen to that kind of
I allowed these thoughts to simmer for about an hour. Then, finally,
I came to a boiling point – and I cried out, “Lord, I’m really
stewed about this! I’m hot and bothered – really steamed!”
That’s when I heard God’s still, small voice, saying, “David, turn
off the stew – put out the flame right now! You’re stewing in your
own juices of hurt, anger and hatred, because you’ve been deeply
hurt. But what you’re doing is dangerous – and you dare not continue
I learned a long time ago that when the Holy Spirit speaks, it pays
for me to listen. I repented on the spot and asked his forgiveness.
Then I sat down and began thinking: “What was it that so provoked
me? And why did I keep things stewing and simmering inside? I can’t
stay mad at this friend – we’ve been close for a long time. And I
know I’m going to forgive him. So, why am I so upset?”
Suddenly, it hit me: The stewing and simmering inside me wasn’t the
result of that hurtful conversation. No – I was angry because I’d
allowed myself to be easily provoked again! I was troubled, agitated
at myself – because I’d quickly fallen back into an old habit I
thought I’d conquered.
When I saw that I hadn’t learned that lesson after all- that I was
still easily provoked – I cried, “Lord, I’ll never learn! You gave
me this message, and I preached it to hundreds of people. But I
don’t have the victory in my own life!”
I felt like a runner who had fallen in the race. And I began to weep
inside, “Lord, I want so much to win the prize of being conformed to
your likeness. But now I see I’ll never make it! After all these
years of walking with you, receiving your revelation and enjoying
your communion, I still don’t come near the mark. I still have anger
in my heart – and I still react with self-righteous pride. Oh, God,
will I ever be like Jesus?”
Here is what the Lord showed me:
Satan Is So Subtle and
Deceptive in His Temptaions,
He Uses Those Closest to Us
To Provoke Us!
Consider Job’s experience. Who but the devil could put such hurtful
words in the mouth of this man’s wife? In the midst of their
horrible suffering, she told Job, “Curse God and die!” Imagine how
deeply those unloving words must have wounded this godly man –
especially when he was so down and in need of encouragement.
It was also the devil who spoke harshly to David through his
brothers. When David’s father sent him to the front lines of battle
to bring food to his brothers, David’s older brother Eliab said:
“…Why camest thou down hither? And with whom hast thou left those
few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness
of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the
battle” (1 Samuel 17:28). In other words: “You’re here only because
you want to see the spectacle of war!”
Who but the devil could have taken hold of Eliab’s tongue to say
such demeaning things to a young man who had the call of God? Thank
God, David didn’t simmer over those words and slink his way home.
Otherwise, God’s plan might have been aborted!
I think also of the angry, accusing words that Joseph’s brothers
leveled at him. Satan prompted those words – because he wanted
Joseph to hold onto bitterness and spend years stewing in the
juices of anger, revenge and hatred. Thank God, Joseph laid it all
down. He didn’t allow it to simmer!
Even Jesus’ brothers spoke hurtful words to him. They challenged
his claim of divinity, saying, “…If thou do these things, shew
thyself to the world” (John 7:4). In other words: “If you’re really
the Messiah, then prove it! Go perform your miracles in Jerusalem,
so the whole world can see.”
“For neither did his brethren believe in him” (verse 5). There’s
nothing quite as painful as being thought of as a fraud by your
family. Only the devil could have spoken to Christ that way,
through his own brothers. He wanted to provoke Jesus to anger!
It Is Dangerous to Allow Your
Stew to Simmer – to Keep the
Flame Burning and Continue
Boiling in Your Own Juices!
Are you still stewing or simmering over some hurtful thing said or
done to you in the past? Is the flame of anger still burning,
bringing you to a slow boil, and yet you refuse to shut it off? If
so, you are in danger of boiling over! You’ll be burned by your own
stew – scalded for life! The headlines are full of such examples:
* A Bronx man held a simmering anger against society that he
allowed to stew for five years. Finally, in a single moment of
rage, it all boiled over into destruction. He ended up suffocating
the seven-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend. The girl’s
mother held her daughter’s legs while the boyfriend tried to drown
her in a bathtub full of boiling water. When that didn’t work, he
used duct tape to close her mouth and nose, finally smothering her
* A man has been sentenced to life in prison for shooting the
driver of another car. The convicted man had been an angry driver
for years, seething with “road rage.” It all boiled over one day
when the other driver passed him, maneuvering one car ahead of him
on the highway. The angry man then pulled up beside the driver,
drew a gun and shot him to death.
These examples from the world are extreme. Yet, how many Christians
have no life at all because they hold onto a simmering bitterness,
letting it stew?
* I know a divorced woman – a Christian – who has wasted thirty
years of her life. She’s still simmering in anger at her
ex-husband, who abandoned her. He’s been remarried for almost
thirty years – and yet she still curses him. She’s stewing in the
juices of bitterness!
* A woman who’s been divorced for eight years has a picture of her
ex-husband posted on the wall – and she throws darts at it! All
she’s thought about for years is the hurt he caused her. And now
the only life she knows is spending year after year seething in
anger – boiling over in rage!
* A young waitress who waited on my wife and me recently was
obviously boiling over with bitterness. When we asked her what was
wrong, she told us she was once a Christian – but she quit on God
after a series of tragedies occurred in her life.
A few years ago, her brother was riding his bicycle when he was hit
by a car and killed. Shortly after that, her mother developed
cancer and died. Then, within a few months, the young woman found
out she had sugar diabetes.
Now she was stewing in anger at God. She said, “If there is a God,
why has he put so much anguish on me? He wasn’t there for me when
I needed him. He never answered any of my prayers. So I’ve dropped
That young woman is dying a slow death – stewing in her own juices!
She admitted to us, “I’m numb – I don’t feel anything anymore. I’m
not living, I’m just walking around.”
Perhaps you can identify with her. Maybe you’re simmering inside,
about to boil over. You don’t want to curse God – yet you feel he
isn’t there for you. So you cry out in frustration, “Lord, I feel
nothing from you!”
Consider these similar words, spoken by an anguished man of God:
“…I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in
the bitterness of my soul…my soul chooseth strangling, and death
rather than my life. I loathe it…for my days are vanity
[worthless]” (Job 7:11-16). Job was boiling over with frustration –
seething because he didn’t understand why tragedy after tragedy had
fallen on him.
Yet, Job wouldn’t allow the fires of bitterness to keep burning
inside him. He faithfully turned off the flame, until he could say,
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (13:15).
Scripture warns us: “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye
are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). “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”
God is saying, “Be careful! Don’t let even a tiny bit of bitterness
take root. No matter what has been done to you – no matter how you
feel, or how unjustly you’ve been treated – you cannot carry a root
of bitterness. It will kill you!”
Beloved, if you refuse to lay down your bitterness – if you keep
simmering, boiling and stewing – you can bring judgment on your
home, your spouse, your children, everyone around you. And it can
literally kill you!
Only the Holy Ghost Can
Empower Us to Turn Off
The Fires of Agitation!
A bitter person will not listen to anyone’s counsel. And a bitter
Christian won’t even heed God’s word. Why? Agitation, bitterness
and hatred shut the eyes and ears – and harden the heart!
Occasionally, a person who’s stewed for a long time may show some
evidence of repentance. He’ll say, “Yes, I’m trying to put off my
anger – but it’s difficult.” Yet he leaves a tiny flame burning –
and over time his bitter stew is brought back to a simmer.
The prophet Hosea likens the human heart to an oven. He says this
oven can be heated by the fires of lust, anger, agitation,
“They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who
ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be
leavened…For they have made ready their heart like an oven,
whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in
the morning it burneth as a flaming fire. They are all hot as an
oven…” (Hosea 7:4-7).
The bread that’s produced in this oven represents the fruit of our
life. Think about it: Like a baker, we take the dough of our life
and knead in leaven: lust, bitterness, anger. Now, we may leave
the dough on a counter near the oven, without baking it. And the
fire in the oven may even begin to die out. But the fact is, the
leaven is still at work – weaving its way through the loaf,
spreading its decaying properties.
Beloved, the leaven in your heart is hard at work right now. You
may not be stoking the fires in the oven. But, eventually, the
leaven will cause a rise. And, in a single moment of rage, it will
bring forth the bread of iniquity!
This describes the lives of many Christians today. They’ve got a
little leaven in their heart – some small anger or hurt they’ve
never dealt with – and they won’t face it and repent. Instead,
they simply turn a blind eye to it. They may believe their heart
is clean, innocent. They may even testify, “I have nothing against
that person. I’m not stewing over anything.”
But the leaven of bitterness is still at work in them – reaching
into every area of their life. And the time will come when it will
surface again, rising up like leavened bread – because it hasn’t
been dealt with!
“An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in
transgression” (Proverbs 29:22). Anyone who has a hidden anger
eventually will stir it up – and he’ll end up abounding in sin!
There Is a Kind of Stewing
You May Do – and Satan
Will Do Everything in His
Power to Keep You From
Shutting It Off!
Let me return now to my opening story – about the phone call I
received from my friend. The kind of stewing I did after that
conversation is the kind Satan wants you to do: It’s a stewing
over your failures in your efforts to be conformed to the likeness
The apostle Peter says something very important on this subject:
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure
grief, suffering wrongfully….Who did no sin, neither was guile
found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again;
when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him
that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23).
Peter has just described how Jesus handled every situation in life.
When people hurt him, he didn’t fight back. When they reviled him,
he didn t threaten them. When they wanted to argue with him, he
didn’t get involved. Instead, he simply walked away. Even when he
faced death, he didn’t utter a word of protest.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for
us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps”
(verse 21). Peter makes it clear: Jesus is to be our example of
The apostle Paul adds, “If you don’t have charity – that is, the
love of Christ – you are nothing!” Yet, what does it mean to have
charity? Simply put, having charity means putting up with a lot of
things that bug us!
According to 1 Corinthians 13, charity means showing kindness to
everyone, with no exceptions…having no jealousy whatsoever…not
boasting or promoting oneself…seeking others’ interests above our
own…not being easily provoked…not thinking evil of anyone…not
rejoicing when someone falls, even an enemy.
Both Peter and Paul are stating very clearly in these passages:
“Here is our command to you: There is to be no fighting back, no
revenge, no threatening among you. Instead, commit all your
agitations, fears and bitterness to Christ. Follow his example!”
Our hearts may answer, “Lord, that’s what I want!” And we may set
out to obey. At first we may get a few victories under our belt,
and we start to feel confident about what God is doing in us. We
tell our friends, “God is really working in me – and I’m changing!”
But suddenly, out of nowhere, an arrow is shot into our heart.
Someone says or does something that plunges an ugly, unexpected,
acid arrow into us – and we quickly have a rush of angry thoughts.
Then, before we know it, we’re shooting poisoned arrows back at the
one who crossed us!
Not long after this, we realize we’ve failed. We’d tried hard –
praying, seeking God, clinging to truth, and enjoying many
successes. But, suddenly, the enemy came in like a flood – and we
failed completely in our effort to be like Jesus!
When We Fail, Acting in
An Uncharitable Manner,
Another Kind of Simmering
Happens – a Brooding That
Suddenly, we’re plagued by a sense of unworthiness. We turn inward,
thinking, “I did it again! I haven’t changed at all. I’ll never be
Christlike. Lord, I’ve been walking with you for years – yet I
still react like a babe, not a mature Christian. Why haven’t I
Beloved, that is exactly where the devil wants you! He wants you to
keep stewing over your shortcomings, worrying about a lack of
growth, thinking the race is impossible – so you’ll become
discouraged and drop out!
The author of Hebrews writes, “…let us run with patience the race
that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). You simply must have patience
with yourself and with your growth. After all, the race is going to
continue until Jesus returns. Yes, you’re going to stumble, trip and
get winded. But if you fail, you’re to get up and move on!
God’s word speaks of overcoming: “For whatsoever is born of God
overcometh the world…” (1 John 5:4). “He that overcometh shall
inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son”
To overcome is to “conquer and get the best of all temptations and
obstacles.” What are our obstacles? They are every new reaction in
the flesh, every failure to be Christlike, every uprising of
temper, bitterness or agitation. These are hindrances to conquer
I believe multitudes of people who once served the Lord are now
living in sin and unbelief because Satan convinced them they could
never be Christlike. They kept making mistakes – and they reacted
by beating themselves down, feeling like compromisers, stewing over
their failures. Finally, they just gave up.
I ask you – what if David had simmered and stewed in his failures?
This man was exposed before the whole world as an adulterer and a
murderer. He wrote, “…my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).
“For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden
they are too heavy for me….I am troubled; I am bowed down
greatly; I go mourning all the day long” (38:4-6).
Yet David did not stew in his failures. He repented
wholeheartedly – and he could say, “Thou hast turned for me my
mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded
me with gladness” (30:11).
The fastest way to “turn off the stew” is to trust in Christ s
forgiveness. And Christ is ready to forgive at all times: “For
thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy
unto all them that call upon thee” (86:3). “Who forgiveth all thine
iniquities…” (103:5). Amen!
When in New York City Visit Times Square Church
Located at 51st Street and Broadway (Manhattan)
Schedule of Services
Sunday Afternoon…………………………. 3:00
Sunday Evening…………………………… 6:00
Tuesday Evening [Prayer, healing, communion]… 7:00
Thursday Evening [Intercessory Prayer]……… 7:00
Friday Evening…………………………… 7:00
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