Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, by Watchman Nee


The young ruler might have been able to fulfill five, fifty, or even five hundred conditions, but God put one thing in front of him to show him that he was not able. Friends, the first step toward victory is to realize that we are not able. Once we realize that we are not able, we have passed the first step. Everyone who is sitting here has one thing that he is not able to do. It is so strange that we always fail in that one thing. With some it is their temper, their unclean thoughts, their talkativeness, their inability to get up early in the morning, their inordinate suggestions, their jealousy, or their pride. We do not know why, but always there is one thing which a person cannot overcome. Everyone who intends to overcome has to find out before God the one thing that he lacks. Everyone has his particular "one thing." At least he has "one thing." Sometimes there are more. When we are before God, He will show us that we are not able.

One sister desired very much to overcome. She dealt with many things before God. Every day she wrote letters to others apologizing for her wrongdoings, and every day she went up to the mountain to pray. Every time she came down from the mountain, I asked whether she had overcome her hurdle. She would tell me that she had dug another grave on the mountain and had buried something there again. When I asked her the next day, she would tell me that she had found some more sins and had buried and dealt with them. For over twenty days, she dealt with her sins. At the end I asked her, "Are you almost done?" She answered, "After so many dealings, I think I have almost overcome." I then told a co-worker sister in private, "Just wait and see." One day I went to her house and saw her very sad. I did not ask her for the reason. It is always good to be sorrowful, and it is not always a good thing to stop a person from being sorrowful. I did not say anything. This went on for six days. Every day she appeared to be very sad.

After six days a brother among us invited everyone to a meal. The sister was also included in the invitation. She attended the meal but hardly ate anything. She was sitting in front of me and was smiling, but actually, she was very sad in her heart. There were over twenty brothers and only three sisters there on that day. I had written a new song, and after the meal I asked her to play it on the piano. After playing two stanzas, her tears began to roll down. I let her cry and did not do anything. After a while I asked, "What is the matter?" She said, "It is hopeless! I cannot overcome one thing, no matter how hard I try." She was a shy sister, but she wept right there in front of twenty or more brothers. She could not contain herself, and she continued to weep. I asked about what she was not able to overcome. She said that she had been dealing with one matter for a week but was still unable to overcome. She said, "Brother Nee, during the past few weeks, I have been dealing with my sins every day. I have dealt with all my sins." I could testify that she had indeed dealt with her sins. She continued, "But despite all that I did during the past week, I have been unable to deal with this one sin." I thought that it must have been a very serious sin. I asked her what it was that she was not able to overcome. She said, "It is a very small matter. But I cannot deal with it. I have had this habit since my youth. I like to eat snacks. After breakfast I like to snack on something here and there. Before lunch time, I have a craving for some snacks again. After lunch I want something, and before going to bed at night, I again look for a snack. During the past few days, I felt that I had to deal with this matter. I should not be eating snacks constantly. I began to deal with this matter. However, I tried for six days, and I failed every day. I am worse than my three children. As soon as I see some snack food, I put it in my mouth. I cannot stop eating." While she was speaking, she was weeping. But when I heard this, I became very happy. I laughed. I was very happy. As she was weeping, some brothers walked away, and some sisters tried to avoid the scene. She was weeping bitterly, but I was laughing heartily. While she was weeping, I was laughing. She asked me what I was so happy about. I said, "I am very happy. My heart is leaping. Mrs. So-and-so, are you clear that you are not able? Have you realized your inability only after these twenty or more days? Thank God that you have finally learned that you are not able to do something. Let me tell you: Once you are unable, He becomes able. Here lies the principle of victory." An hour later she had a breakthrough and fully entered the overcoming experience.

The way to overcome is to be lacking in one thing. You may think that you are right in this and that matter. You may think that you can do something or that you are capable of doing something, but God has to prove to you that you cannot do anything. Brothers and sisters, everyone who wants to overcome must first find out the one thing that he is not capable of doing. He can only discover his inability through that particular thing. Do you have a particular sin? Do you have a sin that you cannot overcome? Those who are too general can never pass the gate of victory. You must know your own specific weakness. This will serve as a demonstration to you that you need to overcome. With some it is pride. With others it is jealousy. With still others it is gullibility—any slight change affects them. With some it is unclean thoughts. With others it is talkativeness. With still others it is fastidiousness. Some people like to speak behind others’ backs and pass words around. Some people are unable to control their body. There is always one thing which a person cannot overcome. After this afternoon’s meeting, I hope that you will go home and write in your Bible the words: "Still you lack one thing." You have to find out what that one thing is.

The young man in Luke 18 lacked selling all that he had. I am afraid that some among us are also unable to let go of their money. With some people, the problem may not be money, but they still have one thing that they lack. If it is not money for you, what is it? You have to write down the sin which you find impossible to overcome. If you know where your sickness lies, you will be specific before God in overcoming such a sin. Every person has to know where his specific sickness lies. Every person has his specific weakness, and he must ask God to enlighten him and show him his weakness. Every person has at least one thing that he cannot overcome. With some people there may be more than one thing. You have to find the very thing that you cannot overcome. Once you see that you are unable, you will see that God is able. If you do not see your own weakness, you will not see the power of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, why did God leave one or two unsettled things in our life? It is to show us that we are not able to do anything by ourselves. This is a general scriptural principle; it is also a most important principle. When we declare that the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross for us, it is very easy to forget that this very principle is at work at the same time. God knows that you are powerless, and God knows that I am powerless. He knows that no good thing comes out of the flesh. He knew this a long time ago, but we do not know it. We do not know that there is no good thing from the flesh. As a result, we keep hoping and trying our best to please God.

God knows that our flesh is useless. But we do not know it. Therefore, He gave the law to us. The purpose of the law is to prove to us that man is sinful and powerless. The law was not given for us to keep; God knows that we cannot keep the law. The purpose of the law was for us to break it. It was not given for man to keep but for man to break. God knows that we will break the law, but we do not know it. Therefore, He gave the law to us and allowed us to break it. In this way we will come to know what God already knows, and we will become aware of our powerlessness. As Christians, we claim that we are beyond the law. We think that the Ten Commandments are the law. But we forget that all of the New Testament commandments are also the law. Through these commandments, God demonstrates to us that we cannot make it. God has to bring us to the point where we confess that we cannot make it. Only then will we acknowledge God’s wisdom in crucifying us on the cross. Only then will we realize that we are useless, and only then will we realize that the only way to deal with us is death. Otherwise, we would consider it a mistake for God to crucify us, because we would still think that we could do something.

This is why Romans 7 is so precious. The person in Romans 7 was constantly struggling. Why did he struggle? He struggled because he was still filled with hope in himself, even though God had lost hope in him. He tried to please God and keep the law. But the result was total failure. In the end he had to acknowledge God’s wisdom in crucifying him on the cross. It was right for God to crucify him. God said that he should die, and he conceded that he should die.

Many Christians do not overcome because they have not failed enough. Many Christians have not committed enough sins yet. Therefore, they have not overcome. If they committed more sins, it would be easier for them to overcome. If they saw the corruption of the flesh, it would be easier for them to overcome. The person in Romans 7 was so desperate that he eventually sighed and said, "Who will deliver me from the body of this death?" He saw that he could not make it, and he asked if there was anyone who could deliver him from the body of this death. Once he realized that it was a matter of "someone," he was on his way to victory. Once he saw that there was "someone," that someone could come to his rescue immediately. Therefore, brothers and sisters, the first thing we have to see this afternoon is that according to God’s view, we are absolutely useless before Him. God sees us as being absolutely useless. We must likewise see ourselves as being absolutely useless. If we have not seen our absolute uselessness, we will never accept the appraisal of the cross, and we will never be able to say that we are crucified with Christ or that it is no longer we who live. If there is still hope in us, it means that we think we are still useful, and we will not say that it is no longer I.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)