The power of positive thinking. You hear it touted all the time, right? As some would have it, all you have to do is believe you can do anything and it’ll come to you. Visualize yourself doing something, and you’ll be able to do it. Follow your heart. Believe in yourself. Nothing is outside of your reach if you believe it.
Well, let me share with you some pointed contrasts to this commonly-held misnomer. I can’t dunk a basketball (on a regulation rim). Never have, never will. No matter how much I believe I can, no matter how much I visualize myself going up above the rim and slamming the “rock” home, it’s never, ever going to happen. Ever. Period. There are multiple other things I can’t do, never will be able to do.
Here’s the thing … though there are things I can’t do no matter how positively I think or how I visualize myself to the contrary, that’s okay. The fact that I am not capable by virtue of the “power of positive thought” doesn’t make me a nobody, doesn’t make me weak or somehow diminish my societal worth. It’s not that I’m some nobody. It actually points to the Somebody who makes me somebody.
This week, I was drawn to a passage as I read through Acts 19-28, and Romans 1-16. It was actually Romans 4:17-18 that captured my attention.
We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
What hit me most was this contrasted wording in the latter part of the passage … the “couldn’t” and “would,” specifically. I love how Paul uses these diametrical words to rendered a concept that you and I need to grasp for our everyday lives.
Notice … he says Abraham wasn’t focused on what Abraham could not do, he was focused on what God would do. I daresay that you and I have to commit this week to pray about this magnificent truth … because it IS wholly true and it applies to us in ways we probably haven’t contemplated.
Let’s unpack this a little. Abraham was an old man. His wife, Sarah, was an old woman They didn’t have kids, and yet God told them He was going to set them up as the parents of a nation … of “many peoples.” Huh??? Not trying to overstate the analogy, but that’s like God telling me not only that I’m going to be able to routinely dunk a basketball on a regulation rim, but also that I’m going to be able to do that pommel horse thing or the rings that the male gymnasts do in the Olympics. Sorry folks, ain’t ever gonna happen. Of course, God’s promise to Abraham was far, far, more impossible than even those things. And yet …
Abraham didn’t become great because of what he couldn’t do, but because of what God would do. Powerful contrast, but so important for us. Abraham looked at the unimaginably impossible and believed it was possible. Because of God. Sure, he and Sarah had a little gaffe in trying to help God out in fulfilling His promise, but ultimately they knew not only that God could deliver on His promise, but that He would deliver on His promise. Why? Because God said He would.
How many of us are still stuck trying to do or stuck because we can’t do. We are working to try to dunk the basketball. Or, we’re staring in the face of the fact that we can’t dunk the basketball and we are allowing ourselves to be destroyed by the fact that we can’t. The plain simple fact is just because we can’t do something doesn’t make us some nobody … just the opposite, folks, it should point us to the Somebody who can do ALL things. And when He promises to do something, He always delivers. But there’s an important distinction there.
We need to look not to the promises we want to grant ourselves, or to the promises we can’t fulfill for ourselves. Rather, our view should be to the promises He makes to us. If we shift our focus to what we know God could do, we free ourselves from the burden of what we can’t do and are now can truly become recipients of His gifts and promises. Truth be told, if God told me, “Michael, I am going to have you dunk a basketball,” I would be incredulous. But having walked with God for nearly 20 years and having read His word and the examples of His ability, and seen that ability in my life and the lives of others around me … I can sincerely say I would be expectant. Expectant of the fact that He would bring it to pass.
So in a sense, the power of positive thinking has legitimacy. But it only has legitimacy in light of the object of the power of positive thought. When Abraham carried the power of positive thinking around being the father of many nations, the Bible tells us that He “dared to trust God to do what only God could do.” That’s the ticket!
Here’s my point. In a way, we really are some nobody. When we’re truly honest with ourselves, let’s face it, there’s truly nothing we can do on our own. Everything “ability” I have is really an “inability” that God reversed, by His grace. So whatever I can do, I can only do because God equips me. My “couldn’t” only points all the more to God’s “could” and in many cases, His “would.” If we want to have the power of positive thought, to not feel like some nobody in the face of our challenges, our strife, our frustration, our lack of measuring up to society or to others, we have to look not to our some nobody-ness, but to the Somebody who can equip us to do anything and Who, when He promises something turns the “could” to “would.” One hundred percent!
How do we know what those “woulds” are? That’s the purpose of prayer, fellowship, the Holy Spirit’s help in our lives, and His word. The reason Abraham knew that God “would,” is because He spent time talking with and listening to God. Let’s purpose to do the same. Let’s focus not on whether we’re some nobody, let’s focus on the Somebody.
Soli Deo gloria!