“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” says the Little Engine as it chugs triumphantly up and over the hill. Those are the words from the classic children’s book, The Little Engine That Could. It is a popular story told and retold about a train that must be pulled over a high mountain after its locomotive has broken down. Large and powerful engines are summoned to pull the train but refuse as the load is too much for them. Finally, in desperation, the Little Engine is summoned, and it is willing to try and pull the heavy train. The Little Engine gathers steam over the high mountain repeating “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” Both my little sons and I loved the story, even though not entirely biblical.
There are two important differences between the Little Engine story and the Bible. First, the Little Engine says, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”, but the Bible teaches us to say, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can…” And the second and most important difference is that the Little Engine relies on its own power while as believers we rely on the power of Christ working in us. As followers of Jesus we know that we have all the power to do whatever He calls us to do, so that we can say, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can…” We see this magnificent affirmation in Philippians 4:13 in which the apostle Paul confidently declares: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
You might feel like the other engines felt as you face an impossible mountain. It might be a mountain of financial trouble, heartbreak in the family, or bad news from the doctor. This verse assures that we are ready for anything life throws at us through the power of Christ working in us.
In reflecting on Philippians 4:13 it is helpful to remember where Paul is as he writes: He is in a Roman prison! And yet, he knows he has Christ’s power to meet any problem head-on. Paul is no armchair theorist writing about life. Paul knows trouble. Paul knows suffering, and knows he is ready for anything through Christ who strengthens him and us. For Paul, it is not “I think I can, I think I can”, but “I know I can!”
Earlier in this letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul says: “For to me, living is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21). It is in knowing Christ as his life that Paul experiences the power for dealing with any circumstance. Christ supplies the power for facing any trial, any temptation, any eventuality. This is not a one-time strengthening by Him, but a moment-by-moment empowering as we live relying on Christ. We learn to say with Paul, “For to me, living is Christ.” As we discover our own weakness, we are ready to live in reliance on Christ. I cannot help but think of what Paul says the Lord told him when he was faced with great weakness in a situation: “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Might Paul’s words from a Roman prison be God’s word for you today! Whatever you are facing, you can do all things through Christ who lives in you. You can say triumphantly, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I can!”
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.