Do you ever find yourself saying, “I can’t do that?” Perhaps you have a valid reason, but what if you could learn the power of possibility thinking?
I have two friends with stage 4 cancer. Another friend recently lost her husband to an accidental death.
If they told you they couldn’t do something right now, wouldn’t you be inclined to give them a pass?
That’s what I thought, too, until I read Matthew 14.
Jesus doesn’t take a free pass
In Matthew 14, Herod kills John the Baptist. When Jesus hears the news he wants to get alone to pray and presumably to grieve. But as soon as he gets off the boat he’s met by a large crowd.
Jesus could have said, “Hey guys, I need some time to grieve. My cousin was just murdered by Herod and it’s making me think about my mortality and God’s plan for me. I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, can you come back in a few days?”
That sounds a bit sacrilegious to think of Jesus talking like that, but isn’t that how we respond?
I can’t help you right now because we’re dealing with a family emergency. Sorry, I wish I could give you some time, but we’re super busy looking for colleges and…
You ever noticed how the busiest people always have time for you?
Jesus could have rebuffed the crowds at this point, but instead, he has compassion on them and heals their sick. But he goes further by feeding them.
LESSON: Possibility thinkers overlook their personal pain to help others
Jesus got time alone to pray, but it wasn’t on his original timeline. He waited until after he dismissed the crowds.
Limited thinking misses the possibilities
If you’ve read the New Testament, the stories of Jesus feeding the 4,000 and 5,000 probably stand in your mind as significant miracles. I want to zero in on the disciples’ limited thinking in these stories.
First, they protested by saying it would cost too much. I give this excuse too often: I can’t afford to do that. I usually stop there. What if I continued thinking and said, “I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do.”
Sounds like the response Peter gave in Acts 3 when a lame man asked for money: “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
Possibility thinking starts with what’s available
Second, they offer a meager lunch and say, “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” Basically they’re asking, “what good will this do with such a huge need?” Jesus responds, “Bring them here!”
We typically look at our resources, skills, and talents and think we’re not good enough, talented enough, or rich enough to be used by God. Especially when we’re facing impossible odds.
God says, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 NLT)
John Maxwell defines Possibility Thinking like this,
“Possibility Thinking is the willingness to see possibilities everywhere instead of limitations.”John Maxwell
One of my friends fighting cancer recently told me he was mad because he couldn’t get up to do his job due to cancer symptoms. I gently reminded him that he does have cancer so give himself grace, but then I asked a simple question, “What can you do?” I went on to ask, “Can you pray? Can you find a way to bless your wife today? Can you give thanks for one thing?”
His mindset shifted as he realized he could do something. That’s the power of possibility thinking. It starts by recognizing what we can be thankful for. We often take for granted resources that we have as we become obsessed with what we don’t have.
God is with you
Third, when Jesus finishes praying he comes down from the mountain and finds the disciples fighting a fierce storm. They’re already fearing for their lives and then they see Jesus walking on water and assume he’s a ghost. I’d say they wet their pants, but they were already wet and I’m not sure they even wore pants!
Knowing the disciples were petrified he calms them by saying, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!”
Remember how math teachers taught us infinity times anything, except zero, equals infinity. God is with you. Bring your smallest amount of faith and he will multiply that 10x, 30x, 100x, dare I say to infinity and beyond?!
Praying about the impossibility of possibility
Peter immediately wants to join Jesus on the water. He temporarily forgets that this is impossible. He steps out and takes a few steps, but then he takes his eyes off of Jesus and looks at the waves. He’s sunk, but for Jesus.
Aren’t we like that too? We get a sudden surge of energy and vision and start to pursue big dreams for God. And then the first wave comes and we get knocked off the proverbial surfboard. We’re drowning and we become afraid of the impossible.
Jesus said, “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”
Jesus likely isn’t calling you to literally walk on water. But he IS calling you to step out of the boat and believe in him. Don’t take your eyes off of him. He didn’t call you because you’re so important, but instead because he loves you.
Encourage for the suffering
If you’re fighting cancer or recovering from trauma or major grief, please don’t hear this message to say you just need to buck up and keep serving. God will show you what you “can” do if you’ll just listen. I am suggesting it might be more (or less) than you think, and very likely it will be quite different.
Write down the last five things you said you couldn’t do. Pick one of them and ask yourself these questions:
- How could I have said yes to that opportunity?
- Why did I say no? Is it because I have a Limited Thinking perspective? If so, how could I reframe it so I can show what I am able to do?
- What is one thing I can do today to pursue this opportunity?
- How could gratitude change how I responded to the opportunity?
Lord, thank you for modeling faithfulness in the midst of overwhelming grief. I pray you’ll teach me to give thanks for each opportunity you give to me. Show me how to see the good and discover what I am able to do. Fill me with Your Spirit’s power. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.