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


I think we have to go one step further to consider something more. Many brothers and sisters already know that they are not able to do anything. Perhaps you know that you are not able to do anything. But I must ask once again: Are you able, or are you not able? Brothers, have you died to any hope in yourself? Do you still think that you can overcome? We saw objective facts yesterday. We are seeing something subjective for the first time this afternoon. There is no doubt that Christ will overcome for you, but there is a condition for His overcoming for you: You must not consider yourself able. Are you able or not? God has allowed you to fail many times in the past, but your heart is still not dead. Are you able or not? Everything hinges on this crucial question. Whether or not you will advance in the future hinges on this. If you continue to say in your heart that you are able and that you can make it in yourself, Christ cannot live for you. Christ can only live for those who are absolutely unable. Victory awaits only those who have completely failed. Only those who have completely failed can overcome. If a man has not failed completely, God will not overcome for him. This is the first condition. The first condition is to confess that we are not able.

It is one thing to say that we cannot make it, and it is another thing to give up trying to make it. Have we seen that there are these two things? We cannot make it, and we should not try to make it. Many times, we know that we cannot make it, yet we continue to try to make it. The first condition to victory is to realize that we cannot make it, and the second is to give up trying to make it. If we will admit that we cannot make it and give up trying to make it, we will overcome. The problem is that although we know that we cannot make it, we try our best to make it. We want to use our own effort and strength. We think that if we prayed more, we would make it, or if we made more resolutions, we would stand. Even though we cannot make it, we try to make it.

Suppose that there is an object weighing three hundred catties [a Chinese unit of weight]. Suppose further that you know that you can only lift two hundred catties. There is no way for you to lift a weight of three hundred catties. However, many people try to lift a weight that they know very well they cannot lift. They say, "I know I cannot make it, but why don’t I give it a try?" They cannot make it, yet they want to try. It is one thing for a person to be unable to make it, and it is another thing for him to give up trying to make it. Since we cannot make it, we might as well not try to make it. "Lord, I cannot make it, and I do not intend to try to make it. I will not try anymore." Your hands have to let go completely. Letting go is a big thing. Since you know that you cannot make it, you should stay in that position and not try to make it. Recently, I have met many brothers who have repeatedly committed some sins. They confessed that they could not overcome. But I asked whether they were still trying to overcome. Eventually, they conceded and said, "What more can we do? We give up." God has crucified you on the cross and has given up hope in you. But you must also admit that you cannot make it. You must also acknowledge this.

Unfortunately, we still try to make it by ourselves. What does it mean to try to make it? Let me take temper as an example. Suppose you are a quick-tempered person, and you cannot control your temper. The more you try, the more you fail. You admit that you can do nothing about your temper. What should you do? You know with certainty that there is no way to control your temper, yet you still try to control it. Then what do you do? You try to be more careful when you speak with others. You try to avoid those with whom you cannot get along well, and you try to talk to those with whom you can get along well. You avoid fellowship with those who agitate you and run away from their face. Every time you are about to lose your temper, you try your best to suppress it. You try to suppress it with more prayers. What is this? This is being unable, yet at the same time trying to be able. You cannot make it, yet at the same time you try to make it. You cannot make it, yet you exert some effort in an attempt to make it. This kind of person will never overcome. He will never be able to say, "I am crucified with Christ."

Brothers and sisters, please remember that the condition of victory is acknowledging that we are unable, and the greatest barrier to victory is trying to be able. Victory is from Christ; it is Christ who is living on our behalf. The overcoming life requires that we take a stand and declare, "I cannot make it and I do not intend to make it. Please make it for me. I will not fabricate my own victory." If we do this, we will overcome. God cannot deal with people who always try to make it. God can do nothing for them. If we try to make it and if we resolve to make it, God will stop as soon as we start. Christ lives within us in order to live Himself out of us. The problem is that we try to preserve the wholeness of our own work. We must completely deny our own work before Christ can express His life through us. If we try to help Him a little and try to bring in man’s work, God’s grace will go away. If Christ does not overcome for us, whatever victory there is will be our own victory. Christ’s power is not for the purpose of making up our lack. Christ’s life is not for the purpose of patching the holes in our lives. He wants to live instead of us. If we want Christ to live instead of us, we ourselves must not live. We must first know that we cannot make it, before God will have His way. Do not try to linger on in the battle. The minute we fight we will lose. We hope to make it, and we think it would be wonderful if we could make it. But while we are struggling, Christ is not living within us.

In human endeavors there is always the possibility of overlapping. I have a servant in my home. When he quits, I have to hire another one, but I ask the first servant to stay for another two weeks and teach the new servant all the chores before he quits. There is always the need for overlapping with man. Before the first servant can go away, the new servant has to come two weeks prior to his departure. But Christ will not do this. If we do not go away on our part, He will never take any step on His part. Whenever we stop, He begins. If we think that He will do something while we are still doing things, it will never happen. Whenever we stop our work entirely, Christ will begin His work. Whenever we are still doing something, Christ will not move an inch. Yesterday we saw that "it is no longer I...but...Christ." But when will it be "but...Christ"? This will happen only when there is "no longer I." If we hope to see some overlap between Christ and us, it will never happen. We must not make it, and we must not try to make it. Our hands must let go completely. Everything must be in the Lord’s hands; we have to hand over everything to Him. We cannot make it, and we should not try to make it. If we do this, we will overcome.

But this is not enough. Many people realize that they cannot make it; they weep and cry. Of course, it is good to weep. Many times, our sins can only be washed away by our weeping; they can only be washed away with tears. We often shed too few tears before the Lord. But we should also realize that many Christians follow the example of the young ruler by going away in sorrow when they try to overcome, because they only see their problems and only see that they lack one thing. Since they cannot make it, they think that God cannot make it either. They think that they are therefore without hope because they cannot distribute all their possessions to the poor. No, there is still hope.

I often consider it very significant that Luke 18 is followed by Luke 19. Do you know what is spoken of in chapter nineteen? Chapter nineteen is the story of Zaccheus. Who was Zaccheus? He was an old man. The ruler in chapter eighteen was a young man. The young man was rich, and Zaccheus was also rich. Humanly speaking, a young man should be more generous, while an old man should be more stingy. But when Zaccheus came down from the tree, it is amazing that he volunteered to restore four times as much as he had taken from others by false accusation and also to give half of his possessions to the poor, even though the Lord did not ask him to give away his money. He gave away his money immediately. The Lord Jesus asked the young man to give away his money, and he could not do it. But this old man was never asked by the Lord to give away his money, yet he did it on his own. Why was there this difference? It is because the things that are impossible with men are possible with God. With the young man, we see that it is impossible with man. With Zaccheus, we see that it is possible with God. It is possible with God to do what? The Lord Jesus said that Zaccheus was also a son of Abraham and that salvation had come to his house. This means that God had saved him. The young man knew that it was impossible with him. But he did not ask for God’s salvation. With man it is impossible, but with God it is possible.

What does a Christian do when he realizes his temper, unclean thoughts, or carnal or spiritual sin? He aspires for the day when he will be free from these problems. I have heard a few sisters who remarked to me, "Brother Nee, it would be wonderful if my temper could improve a little." I always tell them, "You have to thank the Lord for your quick temper. It is wonderful for you to see that you cannot make it. You should rejoice in the fact that you cannot make it."

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