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?

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