OUR WEAKNESS BEING OUR BOAST
Second Corinthians 12:9 says, "And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ might tabernacle over me." This shows us that we should not only consider ourselves weak, powerless, and incapable, but also rejoice in our weakness, powerlessness, and incapability. Does this verse say that we should weep for our weakness? No, on the contrary, it says that we should rejoice over our weaknesses, and we should not just rejoice but also boast in our weaknesses. What is boasting in one’s weaknesses? The whole world mourns for its weaknesses, but the overcomers boast in their weaknesses because they have faith.
Brothers and sisters, do you feel that you have some problems? Do you feel that you have some failures? You have to realize that your problems and failures are a blessing to you; they are there to help you overcome.
Once in Chefoo I met a doctor who had been saved for three or four years. He had served in the army for over ten years, and his demeanor reflected that of a soldier; he was direct and forthright. There was no question about his salvation; however, he had a habit of smoking cigarettes. Smoking did not pose a major problem to him when he was in Manchuria, but when he came to Chefoo, things became a little more difficult. There were seventy or eighty people in the church, and Chefoo was a small place. The only place he could smoke was at home. But even at home, he dared not smoke in the open because his wife was a sister. In the hospital where he worked, there were a few nurses who were our sisters as well. On the one hand, he wanted to smoke, but on the other hand, he felt embarrassed. Whenever he heard someone approaching while he was smoking, he had to hurriedly extinguish his cigarette. When he smoked on the street, he had to first look in front and behind to see whether there were any familiar faces. He could not quit smoking, yet it was painful for him to continue smoking. He did not know what to do. After one of my meetings, he came to me and made an appointment to see me the next morning at 9:00. He told me that he had very important things to talk about. The next morning when he came, he told me his whole story. He said that he had been smoking for over ten years and could not quit. What should he do? The more he spoke, the more I turned my face towards the ceiling and laughed. He said, "Mr. Nee, this is a serious matter." I said that I knew it was a serious matter. He said that he could do nothing about it. I said, "It is wonderful that you can do nothing about it. Nothing sounds better than hearing that you can do nothing about it." He asked me why, and I said, "I rejoice because only the Lord can deal with this matter. I can do nothing about it, and you can do nothing about it. Your wife can do nothing about it, and the brothers and sisters can do nothing about it. With such an ideal patient, the Lord Jesus will have good business for His clinic again." He told me that it was not a light matter that he could do nothing about it for over ten years. I agreed, but said, "This is difficult for you, but there is nothing difficult with the Lord. He can turn the situation just like that." I went on saying, "Dr. Shi, you are a good doctor, and I have good health. Therefore, you do not need me, and I do not need you. If you want to demonstrate your skill on me, I must first be sick, and not just sick of an ordinary illness, but of a serious illness. The more serious my illness, the more your skill will be made manifest. Today the Lord Jesus is here. He can deal with what you, Dr. Shi, cannot deal with." He asked what I meant, and I quoted 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ might tabernacle over me." It was good that he wanted to quit smoking and wonderful that he could not quit smoking. But he still did not understand the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9. It was wonderful that he could not quit smoking. It would not have been that wonderful if he did not have to smoke, because 2 Corinthians says that the power of Christ is perfected only in man’s weaknesses. I said, "To you, it is bad to smoke. But to God, your not being able to quit smoking is wonderful." He was dumbfounded, and his eyes stared at me. I told him, "Never think that your smoking is lamentable or that it is unfortunate. You have to tell the Lord, `I thank and praise You that I smoke. I thank and praise You that I cannot quit smoking. Yet Lord, I thank and praise You that You can make me quit smoking, and You can help me to stop smoking.’" He asked doubtingly, "Can God really do it?" I answered, "Indeed, He can." Then we prayed together. First I prayed a few words, and then he followed. He had the faith, and his prayer was in the tone of a typical soldier. He spoke in an honest way, "God, I thank and praise You because I smoke. Lord, I thank and praise You because I cannot quit smoking. Lord, I thank and praise You because You can quit smoking for me." After he prayed and while his tears were still wet, he put on his hat and was ready to leave. I asked him, "Dr. Shi, will you still smoke?" He said, "I, Tsai-lin Shi, cannot quit smoking, but God can quit for me." I knew that he would be all right. In the evening I was a little concerned about him and asked those in the hospital what had become of him. I found out that everything was proceeding smoothly. The next morning I checked on him again, and the answer was the same. Everything was all right with him. That afternoon when I met him, he told me that he was debating with his wife. His wife had complained to him for over ten years about his smoking, but he had never been able to quit. After he spoke with God, his cigarette smoking was gone within half an hour. He said, "I did not smoke yesterday, and I did not smoke today." When I was about to leave, I asked again, "Do you think that you, Dr. Shi, can quit smoking?" He said no. I asked, "What then are you going to do?" He said, "The Lord will quit for me." At that word, I left in peace.
Brothers and sisters, do not think that you will change. Five years from now, you will still lose your temper. Victory is a matter of Christ living for you. You can declare, "Thank and praise the Lord that I cannot make it, but Christ can." I wish I could tell the whole world about this. I am not afraid of a bad temper. I am not afraid of quick dispositions. I am not afraid of inordinate pride. I am only afraid of those who do not see their own inability and do not see that Christ is able.
Brothers and sisters, it is good that you praise God for your victory. But you must also praise God for your weaknesses. Your weaknesses work all the more to manifest Christ’s power. I thank God that Watchman Nee is corrupt beyond hope. I thank Him that Christ’s power is once more perfected through me. I tell the Lord that I have no goodness, righteousness, holiness, patience, or calmness in me. Thank and praise God that I do not have any of these things, and that I do not try to have them anymore. "O Lord, from now on, I commit everything to You. From now on, it is Your Son who will overcome for me." If you will do this, you will immediately overcome. You can overcome within a minute, even within a second.
IMPOSSIBLE WITH MAN BUT POSSIBLE WITH GOD
Luke 18 shows us a young man who could not make it, while Luke 19 shows us Zaccheus who made it. "Lord, Behold, the half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four times as much" (v. 8). He made it right there. Zaccheus did what the young man could not do. Luke 18 shows us that with men it is impossible, while Luke 19 shows us that with God everything is possible. The old man in Luke 19 was able to do what the young man in Luke 18 could not do. In Luke 18, the young man could not do what the Lord told him to do. In Luke 19, the Lord did not say much to the old man, but he believed. The young man did not make it, because he did not believe in God. The old man and his household were the sons of Abraham; they had faith, and salvation came to that house. This was God’s work.
Brothers and sisters, we have to thank and praise the Lord. We cannot love. We cannot endure. We cannot be humble. We cannot be meek. But there is not one verse in the Bible, not one word from God, that tells us that we should live a life which we are capable of living or that we should do what we are capable of doing. God always tells us to do what we cannot do and to live a life which we cannot live. Every morning, I wake up to thank and praise God, because it is another day for Him to perform His miracles. In the evening, I thank and praise Him for the miracles He has performed that day. Today God is enabling me to endure what I otherwise could not endure. He is enabling me to love what I otherwise could not love. He is enabling me to do what I otherwise could not do and act the way which I otherwise could not act. Thank and praise Him! Every day we experience the words: "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God"!
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)