We all know the old story, (or maybe it is just fresh on my mind being the daddy of a 3 year old) about the brave little engine who with all her might and despite her lack of ability climbed the top of the mountain to bring all of the snacks, candy and toys to the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. While huffing and puffing up the mountain the brave little engine kept saying the same thing over and over again “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Sound familiar now? It was a heroic moment. It taught little boys and little girls that it is wrong to come with the attitude of “that’s not my job” and it is right to try to help others who are in need regardless of what you may believe your ability to help may be. It also was a lesson in heart and actually trying to do something to help others. It promoted action rather than inaction and that is a very good thing. That is a very American thing. To pull oneself up by their own bootstraps and get to work is antithetical to what sometimes feels like the majority of the political voices in American are saying today. The modern “Little Engine That Could” would probably have a Federal Government Seal emblazoned on the side of it’s iron hide. However, this post is not about American exceptionalism, capitalism, politics or anything like that. I do love politics and find it fascinating but right now is neither the time nor the place therefore, I digress.
When reflecting on the story of “the Little Engine that Could” in a Christian perspective, biblical reality seems to go in a different direction in the understanding of how this story should turn out. The reality of life will find that many of us, if not most of us, find ourselves bogged down and exhausted with life. We try harder, try to live better, doing righter, keep on keepin’ on, struggling to finish the race well and finishing the race well seems to somehow always paint a picture in our minds of running a race alone and all by ourselves. Why do we never see Jesus as the one who is running our race? We even rely on and declare funny sayings that we think are in the Bible but really are not like, “God helps those who help themselves” and “God will never give you more than you can handle.” NEITHER of these statements are found in the Bible and quite frankly are against what God’s Word actually says and teaches. They may be found on coffee cups but not in God’s Word.
The reality is that God often, if not most of the time, gives us things that we cannot handle. He does so specifically and purposefully so that we will come to the realization that we NEED His help. Look at the Law. It is impossible. You cannot handle it on your own. Yet somehow in the name of free will and individualism we pervert the understanding of both to love and latch on to the idea that we can be in control and if we work hard enough and try hard enough we can figure out how to keep the law and how to win at life for our own righteousness sake. Take note that this is done for our own righteousness sake and never in worship of God’s namesake and the righteousness of Christ. Yet in our self-help, self-worth, self-pride, worship of the idol of self in the religion of “me” we look as if we are a little engine struggling, pulling, tugging up a mountain saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and never moving an inch. Sometimes slipping and sliding down the track until we hit rock bottom.
Yet rock bottom is where Jesus often meets us isn’t? It is in those moments of “I can’t. I can’t do this. I give up” where Jesus reaches out his hand and offers Himself, His ability, His strength, His hope, His way, His truth, His life to us. Not his help. He is NOT our co-pilot. He does not help us to make it happen. He MAKES it happen. It is ALL on him. He IS the pilot, he IS our life, he IS the catalyst, the ignition, the initiator. We never start looking for Jesus without God’s gift of grace placing the desire in our heart to look for Jesus. We love Him because He first loved us. We need to realize that we are the Little Engine Who Can’t and rejoice in the fact that God has given us His grace in the ability to understand and see that truth about us. (Those who do not understand this truth have not been given God’s grace and understanding to see it for they are not the children of God. This will sound offensive to them and will only harden their heart more. Think Pharaoh in Exodus and what the Old and New Testament say about Him and his relationship with God. The heart that receives by faith in the truth of God’s gift of grace through faith in Christ is a heart that has already been changed, regenerated by God in order to receive this as truth…heavy stuff, I know, so maybe a future post can explain all of this).
Since we are on the topic of childhood memories, remember the first Church song you remember being sung? For me it was “Jesus Loves Me.” One of the key lines in the song is “they are weak but He is strong.” Remember that and hold on to that. Apart from Christ you will never ever EVER reach the top of the mountain. Yet, the moment that you give up and look to Jesus for His finished work, for His peace for His love for His forgiveness for God’s grace, is the moment that the Engine Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life steps in to take over everything. EH VA REE THANG. You never stop being the Little Engine Who Can’t but you have a friend and a master in the Engine Who is the Way. When He covers you with His own power and nature, you have a new nature being in Him. With His covering, it is His ability that is now in control and getting the job done.
He cannot be stopped.
He cannot be exhausted.
His grace cannot be swallowed up by your inability and failure.
He has enough grace to cover it all and all of you.
And He is always on time.
God WILL give you more than you can handle. Those moments are given as a gift of grace to realize how much you need Jesus, how your only hope is if you are in Him. Use those moments to praise God that He is able to bring you through on the other side of the mountain. Smile, praise and worship God, enjoy the ride, and rest in the finished work of the Engine Who is the Way the Truth and the Life.
Let this new found freedom and rest motivate you and inspire you to call out to others, “All aboard.”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
“I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!”
1 Corinthians 15:31
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”