Are You an “Impossible” Thinker or a “Possibility” Thinker?

by Joe Plemon on December 30, 2011

The biblical story (John 6:5-13) of the boy with five loaves and two fish is about more than this boy or even the miracle of feeding five thousand people.   It is about human nature and possibility thinking.   As we prepare to start a New Year, the lessons we learn from Phillip, Andrew, the boy and Jesus will help us learn about ourselves, and hopefully have a 2012 full of new adventures we had never considered possible.

As you read this story, ask yourself if these characters are “impossible” or “possibility” thinkers:

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,   “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

Phillip the math nerd.

Phillip summed up the problem and decided the solution.  “Not possible.  I have done the math.  There are too many people and not enough resources.  This just won’t do.”  Consider what must have gone through his mind: “Let’s see…Looks like about 5000 men, so, counting women and children, we would need to feed around 15,000.  Of course we don’t have that much food here, so we will need to get carry out.  As a minimum, we need one piece of bread and one sardine per person.  If there are 20 pieces of bread in a loaf, we would need 750 loaves.  At $2 each that comes out to $1500.  I think there may be 6 sardines in a can, so we would need 2500 cans.  I would guess about $2 a can, or another $5000 for a total of $6500.”

How about you? Do you run all the numbers before trying anything new?  Do you hesitate to stick your toe in the water if you can’t see the end result?  I am like that.

 Andrew the common sense disciple.

Andrew wasn’t interested in the math; his thought process probably went something like this, “By checking around to see what food is already available, I can make a logical assessment of what the situation looks like.”  His survey was less than encouraging: five loaves and two fish.  To his credit, he brought them to Jesus, but his assessment was discouraging, “what are they for so many?”.

How about you?  Do you make conclusions based solely on the evidence at hand?   Does your good common sense ever prevent you from trying something new?  Do you ever think outside the box?  Do you limit what you try to what you have tried before?  Are you the person who says, “I tried that once and it just didn’t work.”?

 The boy who gave what he had.

The boy simply and willingly gave what he had.  He has no preconceived ideas of how his contribution would be of benefit; he simply wanted to help out.

How about you? Even if you don’t understand how the project will work out, do you volunteer to give your best effort anyway?   Are you willing to lay your own ego on the line to try someone else’s idea (especially a boss’s idea) even if you don’t see how it could work?

 Jesus: The boss.

He knew how to solve the problem all along.  He could have done it alone, but he drew the others into the process.  Why?  So they could learn that with God all things are possible.  So they could learn to not limit their thinking.  So they could share in the victory.  He thanked God for the meager portion of food.

How about you?  If you are the boss, do you go out of your way to make sure others share in the victories?  Do you seek their involvement even if you don’t need it?  Are you thankful even when the resources you need for a project don’t materialize?

Concluding thoughts

Because the math didn’t work, Phillip was convinced that the project could not be done.  Andrew was also skeptical because he didn’t see how there could be enough resources to do the project.  But a boy simply offered what he had and, as a result, was part of a miracle.

Readers:  Which character in this story is most like you?  What would need to change for you to become more of a possibility thinker?


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jai Catalano December 31, 2011 at 6:52 am

Hello Joe. I am new to the Yakezie Challenge and wanted to stop by and say hi. I like to think I give it my all. I know that changing plans or goals do not mean that I failed if the project wasn’t a success (what is success?). I had to leave a job recently because I was being unintentionally lied to about my future position. I say unintentionally because her partner (also her boyfriend) was toying with her emotions and couldn’t run her business like a business person. I left because I truly needed to move on.

Happy New Year



joeplemon December 31, 2011 at 9:07 am

Welcome to Yakezie and thanks for stopping by. I agree that changing plans or goals does not indicate failure. To the contrary, failure could be defined as not trying in the first place. After checking your site, I would say you are definitely a possibility thinker…you seem to be willing to stretch yourself and are not afraid to try new endeavors. I wish you the best as you move on from your previous job.


youngandthrifty December 31, 2011 at 11:44 am

Sometimes we are all like Phillip the Math Nerd or Andrew the Common Sense Disciple. All of us can fall prey to these mistakes. It’s all about finding balance in life.


joeplemon December 31, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I am a LOT like Phillip (as mentioned in the post) and quite a bit like Andrew. But I would like to be more like the boy…not ignoring math or common sense, but learning that sometimes I need to step out on an idea even if don’t clearly see the outcome.


Felice January 1, 2012 at 9:32 am

I really enjoyed this article! Simple, to the point, great insight. At times, I feel like I’m the boy, but I’m a “weary” boy. I don’t mind helping out; I’ll even offer it. But, after things repeatedly don’t work out, one tires of being the boy. In reality, I don’t always see Jesus work miracles. I see failure. It can be very discouraging, especially when you see the failure coming (like Andrew and Philip). Still, this article reminds me not to give up. As we know, the laborers are few . . .

On another note, I wonder what your perspective is on the parable of the talents. (This article reminded me of that for some reason). I never quite understood why the servant with one talent was considered evil. Is playing it safe “evil”?

By the way, Happy New Year!


joeplemon January 1, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Thanks for your encouraging words concerning this article. Yes, it is easy to become weary when we are giving our all to the Lord and things don’t work out the way we want or expect. I try to tell myself that God sees the big picture and I don’t. Maybe that is why HE is God and I am not. Someday, I believe will see how God was at work in the middle of all of these “failures”.

About the servant with one talent, here are the verses you are referring to:

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. Mat 25:24-28

In my opinion, the master referred to the servant as wicked and lazy because he failed to use the master’s assets to build the master’s estate. Note that this servant allowed fear to paralyze him. Does this mean that playing it safe is wrong? Evidently, when utilizing whatever God has given us, we need to step out boldly, encounter an element of risk and trust Him to embolden us and use us powerfully. Fear, in God’s economy, is a sin.

You asked my thoughts, so I hope they make sense. 🙂


Felice January 2, 2012 at 7:31 am

Thanks for responding, Joe. Your thoughts are very helpful. Looking at the text again, I can also see how wrong it was for the 3rd servant to make certain assumptions about the master. I have difficulty with this parable because I’m guilty of that attitude too. When things get hard I find myself thinking, “God doesn’t have to do the dirty work. He doesn’t have to work for a living or struggle with bills. Why am I burdened with so much responsibility?” It sounds terrible to admit this, but I’m being honest. Ultimately, I think you’re right; It’s all fear. Fear that I won’t make the right decisions and fear of the consequences. I need to shed the fear of risk in 2012 and get my inner “boy” back.



joeplemon January 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Felice — Me too. As I pointed out in the post, I am like Phillip. Sometimes I calculate and analyze and dissect a possible endeavor so much that the opportunity vanishes. All of my investigation can seemingly be justified, but it can also be a mask for my fears. I am striving to take more risks in 2012…should be an interesting year!


Invest It Wisely January 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I also need to shed the fear of risk and get some of the inner boy back. That was a great way of putting it! How were we so fearless as children?


joeplemon January 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

“How were we so fearless as children?”

Great question! Jesus said we should become as little children. I wonder if this fearless attribute is something He was alluding to.


Angel Collins January 4, 2012 at 4:00 am

That is very nice to incorporate critical and math thinking into the wonders of Jesus. I can say that I am coward at times and I tend to jump into conclusion without trying so hard and I do wish to change that for this year. I will try hard for me to have a better outcome. Thanks so much for sharing this nice article. 🙂


joeplemon January 5, 2012 at 9:58 am

Angel — I appreciate the encouraging words. Here is wishing you a great year of reaching for that which seems impossible.


Tim @ Faith and Finance January 4, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I think I’m more like Phillip the math nerd. If it doesn’t seem to add up, I usually get discouraged. I am usually an optimistic person, but if I were transported back to that picnic with Jesus, I’d probably be more like Phillip.


joeplemon January 5, 2012 at 10:07 am

Tim…me too. Does this mean that we left brain thinkers need to better develop our right brain functions? Hmmm. Or — perhaps simply seeking whatever Jesus has in mind would help stretch those limitations that our math might create.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: