"God On Film"
This past Monday, Nate was sick and had to stay home from daycare. So what did I do with him? I took him to the movies, of course. After all, he was only a little sick and we were both going to go crazy if we stayed home all day. So we went to see the most recent addition to the Winnie the Pooh series.
Winnie the Pooh is actually one of the children's literary characters that I really want my kids to get to know and appreciate, for a few different reasons. First, they're generally some pretty wholesome stories that teach good values. Second, I was a fan myself as a kid so it's something we can share. And third, there's that Canadian connection with Winnie the Pooh being named after the city of Winnipeg.
In fact, let me tell you something about another passion of mine: hockey. As you probably know, the city of Winnipeg just got an NHL franchise back. The Winnipeg Jets had played there for ____ years from _____ to ______ before moving to Phoenix, and the city had been trying to get a franchise back ever since. Just a couple months ago, they were able to make a deal to purchase and move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg. The only question was, what would they name the team? Would they keep the name Thrashers? Probably not. The new owners seemed to prefer the name the "Manitoba Moose." And the team would have probably been called that, except that the vast majority of the fans were demanding that the team be named the Jets again. So the owners consented to that name and just released the new logo on Friday.
[PowerPoint - Jets logo]
Anyway, right in the mix with the Trashers, Moose, and Jets as a possible name for the franchise was the name Poohs. That's right, the Winnipeg Poohs. And I suppose the name could have gained some serious consideration if 12-year old boys wouldn't snicker every time they heard it. Plus, I can only imagine what kinds of logos would be posted online. So probably for those reasons more than anything else, the Winnipeg Poohs was never really destined to become the name.
But Winnie the Pooh does have a connection to the city of Winnipeg and all of Canada--there's even a Heritage Canada commercial based on A.A. Milne creating Winnie the Pooh for his son Christopher Robin and naming the bear after Winnipeg--so I want Nate and Noah to become familiar with Pooh-bear and the whole gang from the Hundred Acre Wood.
So when I took Nate to the theatre on Monday, I was pleased that he really seemed to enjoy it. And so did I. It was a good movie and I'd recommend it to anyone with young children.
Now, this movie, simply called Winnie the Pooh, is actually a combination of three separate classic stories by A.A. Milne. As a result, there are three main story lines that run throughout the movie. First, Pooh-bear wakes up to discover he's out of honey ("Oh, bother"), and so he begins a hunt to find some, urged on by a very grumbly tummy. Second, while he's looking for honey, he comes across Eeyore who's even more depressed than usual. Eeyore has lost his tail, and so all the members of the Hundred Acre Wood work together to try to come up with a replacement. Should Eeyore's new tail be a yoyo, a weather vane, or a clock? Whoever came up with the best solution would win a prize... a jar of honey. And third, the main plot of the movie involves Owl misreading a note left by Christopher Robin. The note said that he would be "back soon," but owl interpreted it to mean that Christopher Robin had been kidnapped by a creature known as the Backson. So the gang goes on a quest to capture the Backson and rescue Christopher Robin.
What I want to do this morning is look at each of those three story lines and draw from each one of them a tidbit of wisdom that we learn from Pooh that we also learn from Scripture. Starting with how Pooh helped Eeyore look for his tail. The wisdom we learn from that story line is...
A. Focus on the positives, not the problems.
My sister's favourite character from Winnie the Pooh is not Winnie, it's Eeyore. She has shelves and drawers full of Eeyore collectibles. In the highly unlikely case that you don't know who Eeyore is, Eeyore's the one who is always downcast and negative... he's perpetually depressed. And because he's always so gloomy, he gets all the best lines. Here’s just a few of his classic lines…
“Good morning Pooh Bear… If it is a good morning… which I doubt.”
“I have my friends. Someone spoke to me only yesterday.”
“I’d look on the bright side… if I could find it.”
Now, in a book or an animated series, that's great. You can laugh at what Eeyore says. It's entertaining and even kind of endearing. But what about in real life? I mean, you might love to see Eeyore on the screen, but would you really want to know him in real life?
Actually, maybe you do know him. Or least, people like him. You probably know people who are negative in everything they say. Maybe they're like Eeyore in a "woe is me" kind of way... always with a cloud over their head. Or maybe they're negative in an aggressive way... always complaining about everything and everyone.
Let me ask you, what do those kinds of people do to you? They just drain you, don't they? I mean, you don't really enjoy being around them, do you? What happens when you're around them too long? You start to become like them. You start to get negative, too. You start to gripe and complain. You start to focus on the negative, and it just wears you down.
I know people that if I go to them and I'm excited about some new idea and I'm motivated to get things done and I'm excited about life... after I spend a few minutes with them, I realize the folly of my ways. Instead, I'm demotivated, there's no excitement left... they've just zapped it all from me. Why? Because that's what an Eeyore does to you.
Winnie the Pooh, on the other hand, is always positive. He's optimistic. And if something negative happens, he doesn't resign himself to it; he wants to fix it. Just like in the movie. He sees the possibilities through the problems.
I mentioned that Eeyore had lost his tail. Do you know how he responded? He had resigned himself to it. He figured maybe he deserved it or it was just the way it was. But Winnie the Pooh would have nothing of that. Instead, he started searching for it and he mobilized all the other residents of the Hundred Acres Wood to help search for it, too. And if they couldn't find it, they'd find something to replace it with. Here are some of their attempts…
[VIDEO – Clip of various attempts to replace Eeyore’s tail]
People who are like Eeyore drain you of all your energy and turn you into someone negative yourself. What do people like Pooh do? They energize you. They inspire you. They help you to see the positive in the midst of a negative situation.
What does this mean for you and me? It means we should surround ourselves with positive people and spend the majority of our time with them, but it also means that we should strive to be positive people ourselves.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Focus on the positive. That's what you and I can learn from Winnie the Pooh. Instead of hanging around people who are negative and always dragging you down, hang around people who are uplifting. And instead of always being negative yourself, learn to focus on the positive. That doesn't mean ignoring problems, but it means looking for the possibilities beyond the problems.
Jesus was someone who could do that. He certainly encountered his share of problems. Not the least of which was the cross. And you know what? If He wanted to, He could have avoided the cross. He didn't have to die on the cross. He didn't have to subject Himself to that kind of torture. But He did, and He did it willingly. Why? Because He saw the possibilities and not just the problem.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.
What was the joy awaiting Him? What was the possibility of the Cross? It was our redemption. It was the fact that we could be forgiven and be reunited in a restored relationship with our Creator. Instead of focusing on the Cross, Jesus focused on what could be accomplished because of it.
If anyone had a reason to be negative, it was Jesus. If He could focus on the positive and experience joy even when faced with the Cross, certainly you can learn to focus on the positives in whatever situations you find yourself in, too.
You know, I think one of the main reasons people get so negative is that they lack hope. As a Christ-follower, you have no reason to lack hope. You can trust in God even in the most dire of situations. The Psalmist had it right when he wrote...
Psalm 42:5 (NLT)
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!
And in Nehemiah...
Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)
"Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
Focus on the positives, not the problems. That's what we learn from one of the story lines. Another story line teaches this:
B. Be faithful to your friends, even when it costs.
When Owl read that note left by Christopher Robin and misinterpreted it to mean that Christopher Robin had been captured by the Backson, no one knew what he was talking about. No one else had ever heard of the Backson. So Owl proceeded to paint a picture for them of a hideously evil creature that lived someplace in the forest. And it was really a terrifying description he gave. At least, it was terrifying for Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Eeyore, and Piglet.
Especially Piglet. Remember, Piglet is the timid one of the group. He's afraid of everything. So obviously he was frightened of the Backson. But all of them, including Piglet, set out to rescue Christopher Robin despite their fear. Why? Because Christopher Robin was their friend, and they weren't going to abandon him.
Jesus talked about having that kind of love for your friends, even to the point that you're willing to risk your life for them.
John 15:12-13 (NLT)
"Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
Now, chances are it'll never come to that for you. It probably won't come down to you actually risking your life and laying it down for your friend. It might, but probably not.
So how about the rest of the time? What kind of a friend are you? Are you there for your friends when they need you, or do you kick them when they're down? When other people start trash-talking about them, do you join in or do you defend them?
There's one scene in the movie where Winnie the Pooh, Owl, Tigger, Roo, and Kanga are all trapped in a big pit. Piglet, though is safely up top. And he has a rope. So the five in the hole call up to Piglet and ask him to rescue all five of them with the rope. Winnie the Pooh encourages everyone else in the pit that there's no need to worry because Piglet is pretty bright and will be able to get them out of the pit. At which point they suddenly hear the snipping sound of scissors as Piglet cuts the rope into five short pieces, one for each of his friends in the pit.
Okay, maybe Piglet wasn't that bright after all. But still, you've got to admire how Pooh-bear believed in Piglet and stood up for him and bragged him up in front of others.
It makes me wonder, how do I talk about my friends? Am I an encourager or a discourager? How about you? Are you an encourager or a discourager? Do you brag others up or do you tear them down?
Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
The truth is, we need each other. We've talked about that before in relation to the Church. As Christ-followers, we need each other. We support each other, we encourage each other, we pray for each other, we love each other, we're there for each other. That's what it means to be part of the Body of Christ, the Family of God, the Church.
Those same qualities are present in any healthy friendship. Real friends make each other better.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Real friends are loyal. They're faithful. They make each other stronger, not weaker.
Okay, so that takes care of two of the three story lines. Hunting for Eeyores tail and rescuing Christopher Robin from the Backson. Those were the more pressing story lines, but the other story line was overarching the whole move and really provides the backdrop for pretty much every Winnie the Pooh story: Winnie's search for honey.
Pooh always wants more honey. He never has enough. I think, spiritually, there's a very important lesson for us there.
C. Never be content with where you're at spiritually, always have an insatiable hunger for more.
You never want to grow stagnant as a Christ-follower. Even that very term, "follower," implies some sort of movement. You're not stationary; you're progressing. If you are a Christ-follower, you are seeking after Him more and more. You're never content with where you're at; you always want to know Him and experience Him more.
Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT)
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.
What a great word-picture is painted there. As a deer has an insatiable thirst for water, so I crave for God.
Another Psalm... Psalm 63... was written by David while he was out in the wilderness. He physically needed water, and he compared his thirst for water with his desire for God.
Psalm 63:1 (NLT)
O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
So my question for you is, do you crave after God that way? Do you have an insatiable hunger or thirst for God? Do you want to know Him better everyday? Do you want to experience Him more and more?
You know, hunger can sometimes take a while to develop. And sometimes it's there for a while before you realize it's there. But it can develop and it can grow.
So even if right now you can't honestly say that you do hunger for more of God, do you recognize that you want to want Him? That you want to feel that hunger... that thirst? That maybe you're not there yet, but your desire is to get there?
If so, then ask God to place that hunger within you. And trust Him to do it. Jesus' own disciples had to ask Him to increase their faith and to help them with their unbelief. I don't see any problem with you asking Him to increase your faith by placing a desire within you for Him.
In fact, can I give you a very profound spiritual insight? This is it: God is like Doritos. How, you ask? Because you can't have just one. You have one Dorito, you're gonna want another one. And another, and another. Maybe you didn't realize you were hungry for Doritos, but after tasting one you just couldn't get enough.
Well, you taste a little bit of God's goodness and you're going to want more. You might not have even realized you were hungry, but once you experience a little bit of His love and His grace and His work in your life, you just can't get enough. I think maybe that's why David wrote in Psalm 34:8...
Psalm 34:8 (NLT)
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Because once you get a little taste, you'll know He's all you'll ever need.
1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness.
You've had a taste, now cry out for more.
In fact, let me pray for you right now...
Dear Jesus, thank you for your love and your grace that you pour out so freely on us. Thank you for being our "all in all"... all we'll ever need. Lord, our desire is to know you more, and we ask that even that desire will grow more. Stoke the fire and feed the flames of our heart's desire for You. For those of us who are already experiencing an insatiable desire for more of you, I pray that you will help us grow in our faith, in our love,¸¸¸¸ and in our knowledge of you. For those of us who aren't quite there yet, I pray that you will place within us a deep and growing desire to know you better and to experience all you have for us. Thank you for your grace that makes this all possible. In Your name, Amen.
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson