Watty Piper’s children’s classic, The Little Engine That Could, has delighted children of all ages since it was published in 1930. Like most things written for children, this peon in praise of self-confidence is an oversimplification. Thinking we can does not prove we can, or should, attempt a task; but thinking we cannot is certain defeat.
From a Christian point of view, the danger of self-confidence is as great as the danger of self-doubt. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12), is important advice.
The Bible does not give encouragement to self-confidence; but it does call on us to be confident. We cannot save ourselves by our own deeds (Gal 2:16), but we can be saved when we submit to what has been done for us in Christ (Eph 2:1-8). We cannot defeat Satan alone (Jude 9), but he can be defeated and made to flee (James 4:7).
Right now, it appears to me, Satan is having his way with most of the world and even with many Christians.
On the one hand, they trust themselves too much when it comes to resisting temptation. They put themselves in harm’s way rather than avoiding temptation. People also trust to their resources and works for salvation, instead of throwing themselves on the mercy in Christ.
On the other hand, when it comes to worship and evangelism, we are far too quick to say, “I cannot do that.” We hear the excuses all of the time. “I cannot preach.” “I cannot tell others about the Lord.” “I cannot sing.” “I cannot, I cannot, I cannot.” It is clearly self-defeating.
Of course, we cannot. The first time I tried to lead a song, I did a terrible job. The first time I tried to preach, I fainted. The second time I tried to preach, I fainted. Had I quit then I could have gone through life saying (with more justification than most), “I cannot.”
But God can (Lk 1:37). He can work in us and through us to accomplish his will (1 Jn 4:4). Stop saying, “I cannot.” I am not suggesting that we take up the little engine’s refrain, but I am suggesting that we learn to rely on the Lord’s power to do the Lord’s work.