One of the most loved children’s books of the last century is The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. The National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children”. The story is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work.
If you have read the book you will remember that the little train broke down and the cargo headed to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain was not going to make it there.
The train asked Shiny New Engine to pull it over the mountain but he said, “that’s not what I do”. Then the train asked Big Strong Engine to pull it over the mountain but he said, “I have no time for the likes of you”.
The train asked the Little Blue Engine to help. “I’m not very big”, said the Little Blue Engine. “They use me only for switching trains in the yard. I have never been over the mountain.”
Then The Little Blue Engine hitched herself to the little train. She tugged and pulled and slowly they started off. Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. “I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can. “
It’s a very American story. The moral of the story is that anything can be accomplished with a bit of optimism, hard work, and perseverance.
Ever since I was in school, I've always been encouraged to “believe in yourself and you can do anything”. To think that “I can do it!”. To have the attitude that “I can shape my own destiny”. But is that the truth?
The problem with the “I think I can” mentality is that it leaves God out of the equation. Many Christians believe in the power of positive thinking gospel. If I just put my mind to it I can become a better person. If I just work hard enough I can overcome the sin in my life.
Self-confidence is a misplaced reliance and it is offensive to God. Both our acts of righteousness, and the quality of righteousness that we hope they produce, are offensive to God. When we show the “I think I can” attitude towards overcoming sin, imagine how God feels. This is what God has to say about our efforts on our own.
“We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
Self righteousness looks great on the outside and people notice it. Christian churches are filled with people who look holy but solely trust in themselves to be good enough for God. They are seeking Him based upon their own righteousness and what they can accomplish for God.
God wants us to have confidence; Just not in our own works. We need to put our confidence in God. In Hebrews 4:16 the Bible tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.
Instead of “I think can” our motto need to be I think God can, I think God can. We need to understand that we are completely powerless – in and of ourselves – to do anything good. To understand that we can’t save ourselves, fix ourselves, change ourselves, or even give God our affections!
God wants us to have confidence, but he wants us to put our confidence in Him and not in ourselves. Proverbs 3:26 tells us, “For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught”.
Until we realize that instead of “I think I can” our spiritual life is I know I can’t; Until we let God into our lives we will never win the fight. Let’s look at one of the most positive promises in the Bible. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Philippians 4:13
Now that’s the power of positive thinking. I know He can, I know He can, I know He can.
I presented this topic at the Shreveport First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana on February 13, 2016. You can view the video here.