THE WAY TO RECEIVE THIS LIFE—
OBTAINED, NOT ATTAINED
The overcoming life is something that is obtained; it is not attained. This matter can only be obtained; it can never be attained. What does it mean to obtain something? To obtain is to acquire something. What does it mean to attain? To attain is to go through a long journey. One has to advance gradually, and there is no assurance of when he will arrive. Hallelujah, Christian victory is not attained by a gradual process. Once I was in Kuling, and Brother Shin-liang Yu was with me. We were climbing up a mountain slowly. The more I walked, the more tired I became. After a while I asked Brother Yu how much longer it would be before we reached our destiny. He told me that it would not be long. But while we plodded on, the destiny was still not in sight. Every time I asked Brother Yu, he would say, "Very soon." Eventually, we reached our destiny. If we had ridden up the mountain on a sedan chair, the situation would have been different; it would have been an "obtaining" instead of an "attaining" to Mount Kuling. Victory is something obtained; it is not something attained. Everything related to the Holy Spirit is received, and everything related to victory is received.
Romans 5:17 says, "For if by the offense of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." According to this verse, victory is a gift and we only have to receive. Victory is not something that is attained through a gradual process. Victory is a gift that is placed in our hand; no effort is required. If I give this Bible to Brother Chang, how much effort does he have to exert to get it? All he has to do is stretch out his hand and he will have it that very second. When I give the Bible to you, it is a gift. Do you have to go home and fast for it? Do you have to kneel down towards Jerusalem three times a day to pray for it? Do you have to make up your mind not to lose your temper? You do not have to do any of these things. Once you receive, everything is yours. What steps do you have to go through to receive this Bible? You do not have to go through any steps. As soon as you stretch out your hand, it is yours. Victory is a gift. You cannot attain it; you can only obtain it.
First Corinthians 1:30 is a very familiar verse to us. I can recite it to you: "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God: both righteousness and sanctification and redemption." Wisdom is the general subject, and we can set it aside for the time being. This verse says that God has made Christ three things to us: (1) righteousness, (2) sanctification, and (3) redemption. When did God make Christ our righteousness? God made Christ our righteousness when Christ died on the cross. We received the Lord Jesus as our righteousness at that time. Did we have to cry for three days before we received it? Did we receive it only after we apologized to God enough? Thank and praise the Lord! The Son of God has died for us. As soon as we believe, we receive. Unfortunately, in the matter of receiving the Lord Jesus as our sanctification, many of us are going around in circles; we are wasting our time and labor. Receiving the Lord as our righteousness was instantaneous. In the same way, receiving the Lord as our sanctification is also instantaneous. If we try to advance slowly, expecting that we will arrive one day at sanctification, we will never attain it. Those who try to establish their own righteousness will never be saved. In the same way, those who try to establish their own sanctification will never overcome.
What is the difference between obtaining and attaining? The only difference between the two things lies in the time. One is instantaneous, while the other is gradual. There is a story about a man who stole chickens. Originally, he stole seven chickens a week. Later, he resolved to behave better, intending to steal one chicken less each week, hoping that by the end of the sixth week he would cease his stealing altogether. He hoped that his stealing would gradually decrease until he stole no more. Stealing no more in this way is a slow attainment; it does not come instantaneously. Yet the victory that is from the Lord is obtained instantaneously.
The last time I was in Chefoo, I met a brother who had a very bad temper. When he lost his temper, everyone in his family would become very fearful of him. His wife, children, and the workers in his shop would all become fearful of him. Even the brothers in the church were afraid of him because he would disturb the meeting when he lost his temper. He told me that he could do nothing about his temper. I told him that if he would take the Lord as his victory, he would immediately overcome. Thank and praise the Lord, he accepted this word, and he overcame. One day he asked me, "Mr. Nee, how long has it been since I have overcome?" We counted and realized that it had been a month. He said, "During this past month, my wife was sick and dying one day. In the past, when my child was sick, I would be so worried that I would walk from one end of the room to the other and my countenance would drop and I would lose my temper. But when my wife was sick and her pulse was beating irregularly, I spoke to God softly, saying, `It is all right if you want to take her away.’ I do not know where my temper has gone." Later his wife’s condition improved a little, and he called in an acupuncturist to give her some treatment. He patiently served his wife all the time. On the day I left, he purposely came to see me off. He said that during the past twenty hours, he felt as if someone else’s wife was sick because he was not worried at all. This brother owned an embroidery factory, and there were many troublesome female workers working for him. During that same month, many things happened in the factory. In the past, he would have reacted and lost his temper over these things. But during this time, he felt as if they were not his problems. He could even smile when he discussed problems with the workers. He said, "I do not know where my temper has gone." This is obtaining. If this were a matter of attainment, I am afraid that he would not attain given another twenty years. Thank and praise the Lord, victory is obtained, not attained. While you are sitting here, you can obtain it as soon as you say that you want it.
A missionary who went to India brought nothing along with her except her temper. She always lost her temper. She told herself she would be the last person in the world who would ever be patient. A friend who had rendered her spiritual help had found the secret of taking Christ as the overcoming life. She wrote to her missionary friend and told her that the overcoming life is something obtained. When the missionary received the letter, she did according to what the letter said. Three months later, her friend received an answer. In the letter she said, "When your letter came, I realized immediately that this is the gospel! Christ is my patience. As soon as I received it, my temper left. But since I had failed so miserably in the past, I did not dare say anything until I had tried it out for three months. The Indian servants here are very undisciplined and foolish. When I was angry with them in the past, I would slam the door to let them know that I was angry. Since I began to practice what you said, I have stopped slamming the door, and I no longer have a heart to do such a thing." This shows us that victory over sin is something the Lord accomplishes for us; there is no need for us to exercise any effort of our own. If we tried to do it by ourselves, we would not succeed even if we tried for a hundred years.
Brothers and sisters, let me repeat: Victory is not attained but obtained.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 24: The Overcoming Life, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)