I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” This popular phrase from the American fairytale, The Little Engine That Could, is often used to help children understand the value of hard work and optimism. We all know the power of a positive attitude; however, maintaining an “I can” attitude can be challenging, especially if you are trying to live an obedient life. Maybe it’s just me, but the more time I spend in God’s Word, the more unworthy I often feel. I know I’m not supposed to feel that way, but I think it is my “wanting to be a good Christian” nature that gets in the way. I always seem to fall short. Can anyone relate?
About a month ago, I finished one of my studies and needed to determine the next Bible reading for my quiet time. I don’t know why, but I felt God telling me to read Isaiah. So, off I went. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to quit and pick another book. The first 39 chapters are called “The Book of Judgment.” Brutal. About the time I was ready to throw in the towel, little nuggets of hope would appear. Here are couple.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them white as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned. Isaiah 2:10
All throughout these chapters of judgment, God preserved a remnant. There was always hope. I kept reading. After all, God was judging the disobedient, and while I could make application to my own life, at times it was difficult to relate. Then came chapter 29. See if you find these verses convicting.
And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” (vs. 13)
“How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and He is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, ‘He didn’t make me’? Does a jar ever say, ‘The potter who made me is stupid’?” (vs. 16)
And then the nugget.
The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord. (v. 19)
As I sat and reflected on these passages, my thoughts seemed to be fighting each other, bouncing back and forth between feeling unworthy and feeling encouraged by the power of an Almighty God (The Lord of Heaven’s Armies, as Isaiah says). Then I penned this phrase (I’m always jotting down thoughts and verses during my quiet time):
I can’t, but YOU can; therefore, I can!
I wondered. How different would our Christian walk be if we always thought of ourselves as NOTHING and God as EVERYTHING? What would happen if we truly embraced the fact that God is our creator, our potter? We simply are the clay—the vessel through which He can do His work.
While it is true that we are nothing and are unworthy, we don’t have to sink into a place of self-pity. A defeated existence is not our calling! It is a delicate balance—a balance of humility and belief. We should remain humble but at the same time harness the power that comes from being a child of God. One thing I have learned from reading through the first half of Isaiah—there is no true power apart from God. We don’t have to be like the Little Engine reciting, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” We can change it to “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can BECAUSE God can.” How do I know this? Back to Isaiah. The tide starts to change in chapter 40 (verses 28-31).
Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
I can’t, but YOU can; therefore, I can!
Striving to live an obedient, faithful life in our own strength is not only impossible, it is discouraging and defeating. Jesus came so we can live victoriously! It doesn’t mean we won’t struggle. I’m still learning to walk the delicate balance of belief and humility—believing and trusting God is who He says He is while remaining in a place of submission to His calling on my life.
We can start by changing the way we speak to ourselves. Let’s change our “I think I can” to “I know I can.”
· I know I can LOVE because God is Love, and He can love through me.
· I know I can FORGIVE others because I am forgiven, and He will show His mercy through me.
· I know I can find peace because God is my rock. (Love this verse!)
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. Isaiah 26: 3-4
The Little Engine taught us as children that hard work and optimism are important, and that is true. However, as Christians, we need to remember that our true power source never runs out. Trust in Him. Keep your thoughts fixed on what God can do through you! I know you can, I know you can, I know you can!