Summary: God’s power is strongest when we can admit our weaknesses
As I was growing up, my favorite children’s story was
‘The Little Engine that Could’ attributed to Mabel C. Bragg,
a teacher in Boston, Massachusetts.
The gist of the story is that a long train must be
pulled over a high mountain. Larger and more powerful
engines are asked to pull the train but for various
reasons they refuse. At last in desperation the train
asks the little switch engine to take it up the mountain
and down on the other side. “I think I can,” puffed the
little locomotive, as it attaches itself to the front of
the great heavy train. The other engines all mock the
little engine for trying, but that did not stop the little
As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster
and faster, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Then as it near the top of the mountain, that had so
discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly, but still
kept saying, “I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can,
I--think--I--can.” It reached the top of the mountain through
its brave, persistent effort. Then going down the other side,
the little engine congratulated itself saying, “I thought
I could, I thought I could.” By chugging on with his motto
I-think-I-can, the engine succeeded in pulling the train
over the mountain.
Without realizing it, children seem to adopt one of two operating
philosophies of life from this story. Some of them look at life
and just like the larger and more powerful engines they make all
sorts of excuses because in the back of their minds they are
thinking “I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can.” It does
not matter what opportunities come their way, they still believe
“I don’t think I can.” This attitude prevents them from
taking risks and holds them back from stepping out in faith
to attempt great things for God. They let their fear of
failure slowly chip away at God’s work within them. They
In the Bible we see this in the story of Jesus walking on
the water. Eleven of the disciples stayed huddled in the
boat. They were afraid to take the risk and try to walk on
the water toward Jesus.
Why are those with this operating philosophy - “I cannot do
it.” - failing? Because for years they have had the wrong
It is not about them and what they cannot do or think that
they cannot do. Instead it is about God and what God can do.
As Paul says in Philippians 4:13…
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It is not what I cannot do. It is what Christ can do through me!
Other children become the little engine that could: “I think
I can. I think I can.” It does not matter what obstacles come
their way, they still believe “I think I can. I think I can.”
We also see this attitude in the story of Jesus walking on the
water. Peter thought he could. So in the middle of the lake
Peter stepped over the side of the boat and started to walk on
the water toward Jesus. As he took his eyes of off Jesus, he
immediately began to sink.
Someday they will finally hit a wall and discover that they can
not. Positive thinking is not the answer.
As Jack Zuflet writes…