THE PRINCIPLE OF THIS LIFE—
A GIFT, NOT A REWARD
Please remember that victory is a gift; it is not a reward. What is a gift? A gift is a present; it is something freely given. What we receive as a result of work is a reward. But what we freely receive without doing any work is a gift. The latter is given to us freely; it has nothing to do with what we have done, and we do not have to exert any effort to get it. The former requires our work; we must strive for it before we can have it. The overcoming life which we speak of does not require our own effort. We can look at 1 Corinthians 15:57, which says, "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Victory is something that God has prepared and given to us. Our victory comes to us free of charge; we do not have to earn it by our own effort.
Brothers and sisters, a great mistake is to think that salvation comes to us freely, while victory comes to us as a result of our own effort. We know we cannot trust in any merit or any work of our own for salvation. We simply need to come to the cross and receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior. This is the gospel. While we think that salvation does not require our works, we also think that we should have good works after we are saved. Even though we do not try to be saved through works, we try to overcome through works. But just as one cannot be saved through good works, one cannot overcome through good works. God says that we cannot have any good works at all. Christ has died for us on the cross, and He is living for us within us. What is of the flesh will always be of the flesh, and God wants nothing that is of the flesh. We think that salvation is through the Lord Jesus’ death for us on the cross, but that after salvation, we should try our best to do good and hope for the best. But let me ask, "Though you have been saved for years, are you good yet?" Thank and praise the Lord. We cannot do good. We cannot produce any amount of good. Hallelujah! We cannot do any good. Thank and praise Him that victory is a gift from Him; it is something freely given to us!
First Corinthians 15:56 speaks of sin, the law, and death. First Corinthians 15:57 speaks of God giving us the victory. Victory is a matter not only of overcoming sin, but also of overcoming the law and death. The redemption that God has prepared enables us to overcome not only sin but also the law, and it enables us to overcome not only the law but also death. I wish that I could walk around the meeting hall and say to each one of you that this is a gospel. God has given this victory to every one of us.
Perhaps you are trying to work out a way to overcome temptation. Perhaps you are trying to work out a way to overcome your temper. Perhaps you are trying to work out a way to overcome your pride or jealousy. You may have spent a considerable time to do what you want to do, but you are disappointed every time. I have a gospel for you. The meekness of the Lord Jesus is yours for free. The holiness of the Lord Jesus is yours for free. The Lord’s prayer is yours for free. Everything of the Lord is yours for free. As soon as you receive the Lord Jesus, all that is the Lord’s becomes yours. Hallelujah! If this is not the gospel, what is it then? You may think that you have to strive in order to pray unceasingly. You may think that you have to strive for uninterrupted fellowship with God. You may think that you have to strive in order to deal with all the negative things and stop sinning. You may think that you have to strive in order to control your temper. You can confess your sins, but you cannot stop from committing these sins. You lie often, and in spite of your great effort to kick this habit, you continue to lie. I have met many brothers who told me that they do not want to lie, but they cannot change themselves. As soon as they speak something, lies come out of their mouth. I have a gospel for you today! God has given you the holiness of the Lord Jesus for free, the endurance of the Lord Jesus for free, the perfection, the love, and the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus for free. God gives freely to all those who want these things. God gives to you the intimate fellowship that Christ enjoys with God. He gives you the holy life that Christ lived, and He gives you the beauty of the perfection of Christ. These are gifts. If you tried to overcome by yourself, you could not change even if you tried for another twenty years; your temper would not change, and your pride would still be with you. Twenty years from now, you would still be the same. But God has prepared a full salvation for you. This salvation makes Christ’s endurance your endurance. It makes Christ’s holiness your holiness, and Christ’s fellowship with God your fellowship with God. It makes all of Christ’s virtues your virtues. Hallelujah! This is the salvation that God has prepared for you! God desires to freely give them to you!
Brothers and sisters, have you ever seen a sinner trying to save himself with his works? I have met many such people. When you meet a sinner, you can tell him that he does not need to do anything because Christ has done it all. God has given him the Lord Jesus. All he has to do is receive Him. In the same way, brothers and sisters, I have a message for you today: you do not need to do anything; Christ has done it all for you. God has given Christ to you. All you have to do is receive. Once you receive, you will overcome. Just as salvation does not depend on your work, because it is free grace from God, victory does not depend on your work, because it is free grace from God. Salvation does not require any of your own effort. Similarly, victory does not require any of your own effort.
I have a Bible here. Suppose I want to give it to you. The words in this Bible were not written by you; the book was not bound by you. You did not put the gold foil on the cover. Everything was done by others, but it is now a free gift to you. This is what victory is to us. It is a free gift from God. We do not work ourselves gradually into victory. We do not work ourselves gradually into holiness or perfection. If there is a victorious man on earth, he must have received his victory from the Lord Jesus.
Recently I met a sister who told me that she had spent twenty years trying to overcome her pride and her temper. The result was not only defeat but also a gradual decline during the past twenty years. She could do nothing about herself. I told her, "If you expect to overcome your pride and temper by yourself, you would not make it even if you had another twenty years. If you want to be delivered from your sin, all you have to do is accept God’s gift now. This is God’s free gift to you. You only need to receive and it will be yours. The Lord Jesus is victory. If you receive Him as your victory, you will overcome." Thank and praise the Lord! She has since received this gift of God! We should realize the vanity of our work and the failure in our life. If we accept Jesus Christ, we will overcome.
Romans 6:14 is a familiar verse: "For sin will not lord it over you, for you are not under the law but under grace." How can sin not lord it over us? This can happen only when we are not under the law but under grace. What is the meaning of being under the law? I have said many times that being under the law is for God to demand man to do something. Being under the law means for us to do something for God. What then is the meaning of being under grace? Being under grace means that God is doing something for man. Being under grace is for God to do something for us. If we have to do something for God, the result will be sin lording it over us. The wages of our work is the lording over of sin. If God is doing something for us, sin will not be able to lord it over us. Under the law, we work. Under grace, God works. When God works, sin will not lord it over us. When God works, there will be victory. Everything that comes as a result of our own effort is not victory. Victory is something that comes free.
If there is anyone here who is tired of sinning, who is sick of sinning, who sins so much that he no longer acts like a Christian, and who feels that there is no longer any sense in becoming a Christian, I will tell him that all he has to do is receive this gift, and he will be a victorious man instantly. The principle of overcoming is the principle of grace; it is not the principle of reward. Once you receive this gift, every problem will be solved.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)