The Doctor is In
I don’t know if Lucy is anyone’s favorite character in the Peanut’s universe. But the reality is that we all either know a Lucy or are a Lucy and if you are a Lucy there is really no way to see that as complimentary.
Lucy is not a nice person, she calls Charlie Brown a “Block Head” torments her little brother Linus and endeavors to belittle Snoopy. Lucy was first introduced in 1952 and soon became a popular addition to the cast, maybe because she is so easy to dislike and I think anyone who grew up with a big sister could probably identify with her little brother Linus’s view when he said “Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.”
Lucy’s full name of course is Lucy Van Pelt and she has two younger siblings, Linus of the blanket and Rerun their baby brother. The only time it seems that Lucy is vulnerable is when she is mooning over Schroeder and we are never sure if it’s true love or because of her belief that musicians make lots of money. Let’s take a brief look at the life of Lucy. (Video)
In the same way that Schroeder is associated with his piano, Linus with his blanket and Snoopy with his dog house Lucy is identified with her five cent advice. She is never overly sympathetic nor does she sugar coat her advice, instead she bluntly tells her clients what she thinks they need to hear, whether it is in their best interest or not. And she truly believes that her clients need to accept her judgments and face up to their problems.
And that might seem a little simplistic but then again they only paid five cents for her help. And as a friend of mine is fond of saying “Don’t you hate when you get what you paid for?” But regardless of how unhelpful and potentially devastating Lucy’s words are to Charlie Brown he continues to seek out and pay for her advice. He continues to allow her to speak into his life and to a certain degree control how he sees himself. (Peanuts strip)
Now Lucy wasn’t the only one who spoke to Charlie Brown and offered him advice, there were others who offered helpful suggestions like Linus, those who offered encouraging words, like Peppermint Patty and those who offered love and hugs like Snoopy. And yet time and time again Charlie Brown found himself listening to the negative natterings of Lucy.
Each one of us has someone who will speak negatively into our lives. It might be someone who we work with or someone we live with, but as long was we allow them to continue to do that we aren’t doing ourselves any favours. Now I understand that we can’t banish those people from our lives, although. . . but we can decide how much we allow them to influence us.
In the scripture that was read earlier we discover a man by the name of Nehemiah who had various people speak into his life, so let see what we learn from the book of Nehemiah.
It goes without saying that Nehemiah was a little confused. There were some people who loved him and others who hated him. He thought he was doing a good thing, a necessary thing, even a God thing, but obviously there were those who disagreed.
Nehemiah was one of the Jews living in exile and was in the service of the King of Persia a king by the name of Artaxerxes.
His life had been very comfortable, he had a great job, a nice place to live and job security for as long as he lived. You see he was the King’s cupbearer, which doesn’t seem to be much of a job today but then it was very important. In that day and age Kings lived under the constant threat of assassination.
Therefore, if you were a smart king, you had a cupbearer whose job it was to ensure that your cup was not hazardous to your health. He carried that cup with him everywhere he went, it never left his sight and he could always reassure the king that when his drinks were poured that there would be nothing wrong with the cup.
Now the only drawback with the job was that Nehemiah always got to have the first drink out of the cup, just in case. But being an optimist Nehemiah’s outlook was "so far, so good." Nehemiah had it made, and he knew it.
And then one day his comfortable little world was disrupted when his brother showed up after having been away for a while. They were sitting down having a Tim’s and Nehemiah asked Hanani how things were going in the old home town, not really expecting an answer or at least not an honest answer. But Hanani obviously chose being honest over being polite because he said “You know brother, it stinks, Jerusalem is in ruins, the walls around the city have collapsed and everyone is just kind of moping around. It’s really kind of sad.”
And for some reason something clicked with Nehemiah, he had no real connection to Jerusalem, his grandparents had been brought to Babylon as slaves sixty years before and Jerusalem was no more tangible then was the far side of the moon. He had heard about it before, he even knew that it had been destroyed and left in ruins, but it had never been real before. And now for whatever reason it broke his heart. And the more he thought about it the more it bothered him, it began to gnaw away at his very being and eventually he began to mope around and it wasn’t long before the king noticed that something was bothering Nehemiah. After all Nehemiah was a constant fixture at the king’s table, he was always there with the king’s cup.
Well it didn’t take much prompting from the king before Nehemiah poured out his heart, telling his boss the entire story, how Jerusalem had been left in ruins and that it was breaking his heart. The king asked what he wanted to do about it and the words he spoke almost came from their own volition. He wanted to return to this city he had only heard of and do the impossible, he wanted to rebuild the walls and rehang the gates. And amazingly enough the king agreed and that is where we began our story.
If you remember your Old Testament history, you do remember your Old Testament history don’t you? So, the Babylonians had conquered Israel in 586 BC and had taken the residents of Jerusalem into captivity. Persia in turn conquered Babylon in 539 BC and later allowed the Jews who wanted to return home. Some chose to remain because Babylon had become home.
So what’s up with Nehemiah? Well throughout the story we run into a multitude of different characters, each who has his own agenda and who affect Nehemiah and his quest in different ways. As I read through the book I realized that the same is true with us as well, that none of us function in a vacuum, in isolation. We all are surrounded by people, for good and for bad. It was John Donne who wrote “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” So, who are some of the people that Nehemiah comes in contact with and what effect do they have on our hero?
1) His Sponsor At some point or another we are all going to need a sponsor in our life. Someone who believes in us and is willing to go to bat for us. This is the person in your life that you could call at 3 o’clock in the morning and tell them you need a thousand dollars and they would write you a cheque or go to the bank machine and get the money. This is the person in your life that you could tell your deepest darkest secret and they wouldn’t walk away. You can call them your sponsor, or your mentor or your best friend. You know what they say “Friends help you move but best friends help you move bodies.” In the Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell writes “To be someone's best friend requires a minimum investment of time. More than that, though, it takes emotional energy. Caring about someone deeply is exhausting.”
In Nehemiah’s case this was the King. He not only believed in Nehemiah and Nehemiah’s dreams but he wanted to be a part of them and he didn’t just pay lip service. When he asked Nehemiah was bothering him and Nehemiah told him listen to the King’s response, Nehemiah 2:4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
Now it’s easy to ask that question but where the rubber meets the road is when a person tells you how they can help. “How can I help you?” “Well I’m glad you asked, you could do this and this and this.” What now? I guess there’s one of two things that will happen, either it will get done or it won’t get done. Listen to what happened in this case, Nehemiah 2:8 . . . And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.
Sometimes you don’t even have to ask, when Angela’s dad passed my best friend drove up from Yarmouth the next day to be with us, didn’t ask if he could or should he just did it. You probably don’t have too many of these people in your life because it requires such a commitment, and you probably can’t be this type of person to many different people for the same reason. Which is probably what Thomas Fuller meant when he said “If you have one true friend you have more than your share.”
But Nehemiah wasn’t able to fulfil his dream with just the King.
He also had 2) His Supporters When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he spent the first three days scoping out the situation and then he approached the local leaders and told them what God had laid on his heart for them to do. You might say that he cast the vision for them. And listen to their response back to him, Nehemiah 2:18 . . . They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” but that wasn’t all the scripture also says, it goes on to say: So they began the good work.
Throughout the book of Nehemiah you read about people who helped to rebuild the gates and the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Eliashib helped rebuild the Sheep Gate, the sons of Hassenaah repaired the Fish Gate, Meremoth repaired one section of wall and Jedaiah fixed the next section. It was Hasshub who rebuilt the Tower of the Ovens. And how would you like to have been Malkijah who got to repair the Dung Gate. And then there was Shallum, listen to what he did, Nehemiah 3:15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallum, the leader of the Mizpah district. He rebuilt it, roofed it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Then he repaired the wall of the pool of Siloam near the king’s garden, and he rebuilt the wall as far as the stairs that descend from the City of David.
Wow! Talk about overachievers.
If we are going to accomplish everything we need to do in this life we are going to need supporters, they may not be there at 3 o’clock in the morning with a thousand dollars but they will be there to help. And if you are going to make an impact in the lives of those around you then you need to be willing to help when they need it.
3. His Critics Here’s the reality folks if you ever say anything or attempt anything worthwhile you will be criticized for it. And we can’t understand that. I mean why would people criticize you for doing something good? Nehemiah must have wondered that himself. All he was trying to do was rebuild the walls of the city, what could people possibly find wrong with that? And yet they did. Listen to the word of God, Nehemiah 4:1-2 Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”
Nehemiah should have paid attention to Robert Kennedy who said “One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.” We don’t know for certain exactly why Sanballat was so upset with the rebuilding of the temple but some scholars have said that he was the Governor of Samaria, which is the area to the North of Jerusalem and felt that Nehemiah was encroaching on his territory. Whatever the reason we find Sanballat surfacing time and time again throughout our story trying to turn the people against Nehemiah.
How do you answer critics? Good question, I have been pastoring for over thirty years, which isn’t all that long is you say it quick, and believe it or not there have been a few times that people have criticized things that I’ve said and things that I’ve done. Actually there have been more then a few times. And there are a couple of things that I remember when Abraham Lincoln was President he said "If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." And the Greek Poet Epictetus wrote “If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.”
There will always be critics, realize that and get on with doing what God wants you to do. Even Jesus who was born perfect and lived perfect had critics.
The next group that Nehemiah had contact with were his critics squared.
4. His Enemies The critics said nasty things about him, and spread rumours about him but it was his enemies that wanted to do nasty things to him. Listen to the story in Nehemiah 4:11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”
That’s pretty serious stuff, and as Henry Kissinger said “Even a paranoid can have enemies.” But Nehemiah wasn’t going to be put off by threats; he stationed guards whenever he had people working on the wall, he told them to keep a watch out and to be careful.
In our spiritual life we have enemies, those who not only want to see us fail but actually try to make us fail. You know what I’m talking about, they try to persuade you to abandon your faith to compromise your morals and to deny your God.
Our greatest enemy is Satan, he wants to leave your spiritual life in ruins and he will use any means possible to do it. 1 Peter 5:8-9 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
And like Nehemiah the only solution is to be on guard.
Nehemiah could never have accomplished what he did, even with the King’s help and his supporter’s help in the face of his critics and his enemies if he was functioning in his own strength but he wasn’t.
5) His God From the very beginning the dreams and desires of Nehemiah came from God. And God helped them do what people said they would never be able to accomplish on their own. Nehemiah 6:15-16 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.
When you set out to do something great for God, understand that will not exempt you from criticism or from the attacks of the enemy. When I first went into the ministry when people criticised me or attacked me personally I would wonder whether or not I was doing the right thing. But then I realized that people were being saved and lives were being changed and I couldn’t make everyone happy but I had a moral obligation to make God happy.
That is the secret for your Christian life for the life of our church to make sure you are doing what God wants you to do. To play to an audience of One. Because if God is on your side then you are on the winning side. Listen to Romans 8:31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
So where are you at today, and who are you allowing to speak into your life? There are people who you can’t banish from your life but you can minimize the effect their words have on your life.