The Little Engine That Could God

[Yesterday, I preached on a message at North Greenville‘s Chapel I am loosely calling “The Little Engine That Could God.”  I wrote out the intro in manuscript form.  It was a message on the omnipotence of God.  I’ve been praying about writing a book on the attributes of God by looking at a negative image of God, then correcting it through the Scripture’s teachings.  Writing Freshman 15 for college students was very challenging but also very rewarding (you can learn more about the book here or order it on Amazon here).  Praying about it and would love you to pray with me about if I should go further.  Here is the intro:]

“I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.”


We all remember this iconic phrase from the children’s classic The Little Engine That Could.  This favorite tale recounts the story of a train hauling toys up the mountain to some needy children.  When the train is unable to make the steep trek, the toys try to chorale other passing trains to carry them up the mountain.  Either due to disinterest or inability, all the trains refuse the responsibility of carrying this load.  Eventually, a little blue engine comes by who is unsure if it is able to pull the load up the mountain.  Seeing the disappointment in the toys‘ eyes, the engine decides to give it a shot.  Repeating that famous phrase over and over again, the engine eventually musters up enough strength to help those out in need.

Many of us follow The Little Engine That Could God.

No one would readily admit to following that God, but we prove it by our actions.  When encountering difficult situations in our lives with what seems to be insurmountable odds, we look for the best and the brightest to come to our rescue.  We research and poll people concerning what they would do.  We seek direction from doctors, teachers, preachers, counselors, and every expert you can imagine.  Once we exhaust all of our human resources, have made meager attempts of our own, we address the King of kings and Lord of lords and utter one of the most tragic phrases resonating in our churches today, “All we have left to do now is pray.”

Jesus has become our spare tire rather than our steering wheel.  He has become a last ditch effort rather than the only real option.  Our circumstances cause us to render God helpless in our minds and we try to get results on our own.

The older we get, the more this is a problem.  As a young child, we stand in awe of a God who set the stars in their place.  We have no problem understanding him to be powerful enough to handle any situation.  As the years go by, we tend to rely more on our own ability than the Omnipotent God.

I can still remember the time when he met that great financial need in my life.  I can’t forget the time he rescued my friend from the bonds of addiction.  I can still see the doctor’s expression when she saw a little boy walk in her office who was never supposed to stand on his feet.  I can remember those pivotal moments when I experienced God make the impossible possible, but oh, how I forget them when a new set of obstacles come my way.

I neglect to pray to him during hard times because I don’t believe him to be as active and involved in the affairs of this world as he once was.  At times, I feel he is unconcerned about what is going on in my life and so I just ignore him when storms blow through.  And when I do pray to him, I send up prayers with words like, “God, if you only could…,” “I really would appreciate if you would…,” “I know you don’t do things like this anymore, but…”

And beyond all that, we insult God by the very fact that we seem shocked when he does move.  “Can you believe it?  God answered our prayers!”  The fact that those moments are astonishing to us reveals that we do not fully comprehend who we are dealing with here.

We become like the father in Mark 9 whose son is demon-possessed and he implores Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22).  Jesus replies, “If You can?  Everything is possible to the one who believes” (Mark 9:23).  This man looks at the Messiah and warns Jesus that they have tried everything in their own power and nothing worked.  He is the last shot at change, and if he can help, they would surely appreciate it.  Can you imagine the look in Jesus’ eyes?  Can you think about what is voice sounded like when he thundered his response, “If You can?”  All we have to do today is look back over our shoulders and realize that God is not in heaven looking at our situations chanting, “I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.”

Today, we need to respond honestly like that father did, “I do believe!  Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).