You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

March 10, 2013

When I think of Charlie Brown one of two images immediately
comes to mind.  And maybe it’s the same
with you.  It’s either the scene of
Charlie Brown staring forlornly into the tree that has once again eaten his
kite or it’s Charlie Brown lying flat on his back after Lucy has pulled the
football away at the very last minute as Charlie has attempted to kick it. 
And I would suspect that whatever image you have of Charlie
Brown it has something to do with defeat or failure.   Perhaps as he stares at the Christmas tree
that he has brought to the pageant, the one everyone laughs at.  Or maybe it’s the futile crush he has on the
Little Red Headed Girl, and she doesn’t even know he exists.  Or perhaps it’s the sight of Charlie Brown
standing in the rain all by himself on the ball diamond. 
Charlie Brown’s creator Charles Schulz wrote “Charlie Brown
must be the one who suffers, because he’s a caricature of the average person.
Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning. Winning is great,
but it isn’t funny.”   
Here are some highlights from Charlie Brown’s life.  (Video Clip)
Schulz was asked if, for his final Peanuts strip,
Charlie Brown would finally get to kick that football after almost fifty years
of trying. His response: “Oh, no! Definitely not! I couldn’t have Charlie Brown kick
that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a
century.” Yet, in a December 1999 interview, holding back tears, he
recounted the moment when he signed the panel of his final strip, saying, “All of a
sudden I thought, ‘You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the
football. What a dirty trick — he never had a chance to kick the football!’”
In the Old Testament there is an entire book written about a
man who made Charlie Brown’s life look like a walk in the park, pulled out
football and everything.  His name was
Job and the book is found in the Old Testament. 
If you have your bible with you then you can find it by going to the
middle of your Bible which should be Psalms or Proverbs and then turning toward
the front. 

Schulz even gives a nod to the book of Job in the Peanuts cartoon. 

(Charlie Brown: Nine home runs in a row! Good grief! What can I do. We’re
getting slaughtered again, Schroeder. . . I don’t know what to do. Why do we
have to suffer like this?

Schroeder: ”Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”

Charlie Brown: What?

Linus: He’s quoting from the Book of Job, Charlie Brown, seventh
verse, fifth chapter. Actually, the problem of suffering is a very profound
one, and . . .

Lucy: If a person has had bad luck, it’s because he’s doing
something wrong, that’s what I always say!

Schroeder: That’s what Job’s friends told him. But I doubt it. . .

Lucy: What about Job’s wife? I don’t think she gets enough
credit!

Schroeder: I think a person who never suffers, never matures.
Suffering is actually very important.

Lucy: Who wants to suffer? Don’t be ridiculous!

Schroeder: But pain is a part of life, and. .

Linus: A person who speaks only of the “patience” of Job reveals
that he knows very little of the book! Now, the way I see it. . .

Charlie Brown: Good grief! I don’t have a ball team. I have a theological
seminary!)

Job was the righteous man’s poster boy, the Bible tells us
that He was blameless, a man of complete integrity, who feared God and stayed
away from Evil.  And just to top it off
we are told that he was the richest man in the area.  But these aren’t the things that made Job
famous, and we’ve all heard of Job, even if you don’t know the story of Job you
probably have heard the expression, “The patience of Job” an expression that
was most often used in reference to my Mother’s dealing with her youngest son.
But you have to know the story to understand the
reference.  Now the first part of the story
is a little confusing, I don’t understand it, and really can’t explain it.  It would appear that one day the angels
appeared before God reporting on what they had done and Satan shows up.  During the ensuing conversation God questions
Satan on his activities and Satan responds by saying Job
1:7 . . . “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going
on.” 
And at that point God draws Satan’s attention to his servant
Job and how righteous he is, and Satan says “sure, and why wouldn’t he serve
you?  You have always protected him, and
his property.  Everything he touches
turns to gold, take away his possessions and I can guarantee that he will curse
you.”
Now what I don’t understand is why at this point God agrees
to allow Satan access to Job, someday I might understand it, but right now I
don’t.  A long time ago I discovered that
God is way up there and I’m way down here and I can’t understand everything
that God does, but that’s ok, because if I could understand everything about
God he wouldn’t be much of a God.  After
all I can’t even understand woman.    But
that is what happens. 
Not very long after this conversation Job is at home when a
servant arrives telling him that his enemies have raided the farm stolen his
oxen and donkeys and killed all his farm hands. 
Just then another messenger arrives and says “you’ll never believe what
happened boss, fire fell from the sky and burned up your sheep and shepherds”
And a third guy arrives on the scene to inform Job that all his camels have
been stolen by raiders from the north.
Now you gotta admit at this
point Job seems to be handling it pretty well, until the fourth messenger
arrives to tell his boss that a powerful wind hit the house where his children
were celebrating with their oldest brothers and there have been no survivors,
all ten children have died.  It was at
this point that Job broke down in grief. 
But even with that listen to what he says in Job
1:21
He said, “I came naked from my mother’s
womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the
LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”
Did you catch that?  If you missed it the bible sums it up in the
next verse by saying Job 1:22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. Let’s
read it again just in case you didn’t catch it the first time.  Job 1:22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. 
Well someone must have come along and said “Cheer up Job,
things could be worse” cause he cheered up and sure enough things got
worse.  Kind of reminds me of what Poul Anderson said
“I have
yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in
the right way, did not become still more complicated.”
Up to now the tragedies happened to the things and people surrounding
Job but not Job himself, and Satan told God, “Well sure, he can still praise you;
he still has his health, let me take that from him.”  And again I don’t understand it but God
agreed, saying “Just spare his life.” 
Now personally I think Satan underestimated Job as a parent, I think
that the death of his children would be a far greater tragedy then mere
physical discomfort.  But Job became
covered with boils from head to foot, yuck. 
But you know Satan had some
smarts because of all the things that Job lost, Satan left him with his
wife.  You say “Denn, that’s just nasty.”  Not so, listen to the comfort that Job’s wife
offered in Job 2:9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your
integrity? Curse God and die.”  “Why
thanks babe, I love you too.” 
And so for the next forty or so
chapters we read how various friends came and the discussion they had
concerning the tragedies that had befallen our hero. If you don’t know the
story they try to convince Job that it’s all his fault and he probably deserves
everything that has happened to him.  If
you’ve ever heard someone called “Job’s comforter” this is where it comes
from.  If you’ve ever been called “Job’s
comforter”  it’s not a compliment.  But through it all, Job remained true to
God. 
And we struggle with bad things happening to good people and
I’m sure that sometimes Charlie Brown wondered why bad things happened to
him.  When Schulz died Henry Allen of
the Washington Post wrote a piece in memory of Sparky and as part of his
reflection he said “It’s not so much that bad things happen to good people in
Peanuts. At least in the Bible, God is testing Job. In Peanuts, bad things
happen for no reason at all.”
In one strip Charlie Brown, say: “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and
I ask, ‘Why me?’ Then a voice answers, ‘Nothing personal. Your name just
happened to come up.’”  You ever
feel like that?
So this morning, for a little while we are going to look at
suffering.  Why does the football keep
getting pulled out and why does the tree always eat my kite?
1) Stuff Happens   Because you are a member of the human race
you will have troubles, you can’t get around that.   We live in a world that has been corrupted
by evil and because of that bad things happen. 
 If we go back to the verse that
Schroeder reference in the strip Job 5:7 People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from
a fire.   Without wanting to sound
really cynical, it shouldn’t surprise us when we have problems it should
surprise us when we don’t.
Bad things even happen to
believers.  It would be neat if becoming
a Christian exempted you from all hurt and heart break, you’d never get sick,
never become unemployed never lose a spouse or a child, but that ain’t the way
it happens.  The bible is full of examples
of bad things happening to good people. 
It would be nice if our
salvation was a passport out of suffering and tragedy.  What a great outreach.  We could put a sign up “Become a Christian
and escape life’s problems”, we’d have to bar the doors to keep people out, but
that’s not the way it happens, sorry.
Jesus brother James wrote a
letter to the early church and he said James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy. He didn’t say if trouble comes
your way, he said when trouble comes your way. 
And Jesus himself said in Matthew 6:34 “So don’t
worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble
is enough for today.” Did you catch that? Today’s trouble is enough for
today.
C.S. Lewis kind of summed it
up when he said “We were promised sufferings. They
were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’”
And no it isn’t fair, there are times that life isn’t fair,
but we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin, and stuff happens.  Little stuff and big stuff.  But you’re probably doing alright compared to
Job.
2) Don’t Take It Personally Sometimes
when trouble happens we tend to look at it a couple of different ways.  As Christians sometimes we look inward for
reasons, wondering what have I done, why me, I don’t deserve this.  Job hadn’t done anything wrong, there was no
hidden sin in his life, and he wasn’t rebelling against God.  We need to realize that trouble happens to
the just and the unjust. And I know that’s a cynical view of life but Jesus
said in Matthew 5:45 “. .
. For He (God) gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends
rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
How often do we focus on our problems to the exclusion of
everything and everyone else?  We aren’t
alone in this world and chances are there are people with bigger problems than
yours, it was Humphrey Bogart who said “Everybody in Casablanca has problems.”  And everybody in Hammonds Plains has
problems and everyone in the HRM has problems.  
The second thing that believers
do is to automatically attribute every problem in their life to Satan.  Now I don’t want to underestimate the power
of the dark one, however I think we give him way too much credit.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a child of
God and certain privileges come with that position.  And my Bible still has 2 Thessalonians 3:3 But
the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
Sure you say but what about
when you’re in bondage?  Again I don’t
want to minimize spiritual warfare, but there are a lot of people out there who
are in bondage because they choose to be in bondage.  It’s a very convenient excuse when we enjoy a
sin to simply throw up our hands and say “I can’t help myself, I’m in
bondage.  I’m not sure that is what Jesus
had in mind when he told his disciples in 
John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a
slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is
part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
I like that: So if the Son sets you
free, you are truly free.
And you might be thinking: “But Denn what if what happened
to Job happens to me? What if God allows Satan to strike at my family and I.”
Probably won’t happen. 
Job is very much an isolated incident in the scriptures, we can’t
explain why God allowed it to happen the first time but it doesn’t happen
again.  And considering the description
of Job, remember it Job 1:1 He was blameless—a
man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.  So probably, unless you are blameless
and a person of complete integrity who fears God and stays away from evil you
are probably safe.  If that is the
criteria than most of us have nothing to worry about. 
Don’t be in so much of a hurry to give the Devil all the
credit for the bad stuff that happens in your life.  To quote C.S. Lewis again “There are two equal and opposite errors
into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their
existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy
interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”
3) It’s Not Wrong To Question  Sometimes we are given the impression
that Job stoically endured all that happened, that he never asked why, never
questioned whether it was fair or not, just endured.  And that just isn’t true, for most of the
forty chapters in the book of Job, Job was asking; Why? 
And there’s nothing wrong with asking why.  Throughout the Bible people questioned God,
Abraham asked why, Moses asked why, Joshua asked why, David asked why, Isaiah
asked why, Peter asked why, Paul asked why. 
Even Jesus when he was hanging on the cross looked up to heaven and
asked “Why?”
But if you’re going to ask God
why, you are going to have to be satisfied with the answers and that can be
tough.  Because as God told Job 38:2 “Who is this that
questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?
Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God is
God and we are just people.  But a little
homework for this week, go home and read Job chapters 38-40, won’t take you
long but it might help you understand God a little more.
4) We Have The Victory  Sometimes we can figure out a solution to
our problem on our own perhaps by using Brady’s First
Law of Problem Solving: When confronted by a difficult problem, you can solve
it more easily by reducing it to the question: How would the Lone Ranger have
handled this? But more often than not, that’s not enough and so if you
get nothing else out of this morning’s message get this “We Win”. 
When we are faithful to God, in
the good times and in the bad we are the victors.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the early church
in Rome, and remember this was where the persecution broke out against the
early church, where Christians were killed for the sheer sport of it.  Romans 8:35-37 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it
mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted,
or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? . . . No,
despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who
loved us.
Did you catch that Overwhelming victory is ours. 
And in 1 John 5:4 We read 1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil
world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.
Don’t throw up your hands and say, “I quit”  It was Billy Sunday
who said, “Stopping at third adds no more to the score
then striking out.”    
Friends the message I leave with you today is: Don’t quit,
don’t give up, the victory has already been won.  So where are you at?  Do you sometimes find it tough to be
faithful, to believe in the victory?  I
want to pray for you this morning.  Life
is tough, but God is there for us.   If
you want me to pray for you this morning, and through the week I’d like you to
stand where you are, I don’t know what you’re going through but God does.  There’s an old saying that says “Let go and
let God.”  Is that what you need to do
today, is to let go and let God?