The Life That Wins
by Watchman Nee
I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present. (Rom. 7.21)
All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)
The Life Ordained for Christians
From the Holy Scriptures we may see that the life as ordained by God for Christians is one full of joy and rest, one that is uninterrupted communion with God, and is in perfect harmony with His will. It is a life that does not thirst and hunger after the world, that walks outside of sins, and that transcends all things. Indeed, it is a holy, powerful and victorious life, and one that constitutes knowing God's will and having continuous fellowship with Him.
The life which God has ordained for Christians is a life that is hid with Christ in God. Nothing can touch, affect or shake this life. As Christ is unshakable, so we are unshakable. As Christ transcends all things, we also transcend all things. As Christ is before God, so we too are before Him. Let us never entertain the thought that we should be weak and defeated. There is no such thing as weakness and defeat; for "Christ is our life" as declared in Colossians 3.4. He transcends all; He cannot be touched by anything. Hallelujah! This is the life of Christ.
The life ordained for Christians is full of rest, full of joy, full of power, and full of the will of God. But let us inquire of ourselves as to what sort of life we are living today. If our life is not what God has ordained it to be, then we need to know victory. Hence, we shall look into this matter of our experience. And what we shall relate here may not be pleasing to our ears, because some of us are rather pathetic; yet we need to humble ourselves in order that we may see our lack and receive grace from God. Eight Kinds of Failures among Christians
What kind of life are we living? Do we live under the bondage of the law of sin? Is it true in our experience that "to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not" (Rom. 7.18)? Is our life defeated and bound by sin? God gives us such a glorious life, and yet we live in defeat. According to the record of the Scriptures and as concurred in by our experience, we may conclude from our investigation that there are eight different kinds of failure or sin to be seen in Christians.
1. Sins of the Spirit. Pride, jealousy, unbelief, fault-finding, lack of prayer, and an inability to commit oneself to Godall these are sins of the spirit. Though some Christians are spiritually victorious, others find themselves defeated in this particular area.
Pride itself had once troubled me. All who are proud have committed this sin of the spirit. A proud person is unable to consider others as more excellent than he. This is not only true in worldly matters but is also true in spiritual ones. If anyone else seems to be superior to the proud person in spiritual things, the latter will always try to find fault with that one. He will attempt to put him down.
Jealousy is sin, whether it appears in work or in spiritual matters.
Some are filled with an evil heart of unbelief. If a person is asked if he believes, he will answer that he believes in every word of God. But if he be questioned as to whether he really believes in God's promise, he finds himself unable to believe. A little trial will upset him, because he cannot trust God's word. On one occasion Martin Luther's wife had put on mourning dress and then challenged her husband with these words: "I have put on mourning dress today because you worry so much as though to say that your God is dead." Is the same true of us in our day?
Many do not live before God and maintain good communion with Him. They live carelessly day after day. They may spend days on end without prayer and Bible reading. They can exist a whole week without ever seeing God's face in fellowship with Him. Day after day they live without any fear of the Lord. This shows that they lack living before God. They have no spiritual life. They have never learned the lesson of dealing with self. They have never denied themselves.
Once, two brothers quarreled over a rather small matter. As they would eat together, one brother would always pick out a few of the best-looking pieces of meat first. The other brother noticed this act. He kept silence for a day or two, but after two weeks this other brother could bear it no more and separated himself from his brother. Let me observe that the kind of person one is is often revealed not in the large but in the small things. In this regard, I am reminded of the biography of Hudson Taylor, which I love to read. As he would travel here and there to preach the gospel, the worst room and the worst bed would always seemingly turn out to be his. Yet this missionary servant of God never murmured or complained. Though this was but a small issue, nonetheless, one's reaction to such small matters reveals what kind of life one lives before God.
2. Sins of the Flesh. There are not only sins of the spirit, there are also sins of the flesh such as adultery, unrestrained eyes, and unatural relationships. Many fail in these matters. How many sin with their eyes, for they never control their looking. Many maintain improper friendships. Some sins of the flesh pertain to the body, whereas other sins do not.
Have you ever controlled your eyes? I acknowledge that there is much opportunity to see with the eyes in these days. We must deal with this matter before God. I know many Christians who cannot enter into victory because they fail to deal with their eyes,
Friendship is also a matter to be reckoned with here. A certain brother maintained a friendship with an unbeliever above all others. Such conduct is not viewed as a sin in the eyes of the world, but to us who are Christians it is a sin. A missionary once testified that he refused someone's friendship because the latter asked for a friendship above all others.
3. Sins of the Mind. Many may not commit sins of the spirit, and they also may have their flesh dealt with; yet they have no victory in their mind. Their thoughts drift, wander, and are scattered. Some find their thoughts to be unclean or too imaginative or full of doubt or full of curiosity. They want to know everything; they cannot abide the unknown. Those who have this kind of mind have not entered into victorious living. As a matter of fact, few actually experience victory in their mind at all. Once I met a sister who wondered why her thoughts always drifted. I also met a brother who confessed that his thoughts were continually unclean. We must deal with this area if we want to live out the life of God.
Imagination or doubt damages many Christians. Suppose, for example, you meet a brother on the street whose face appears to be somewhat unpleasant; immediately you surmise that he must be unhappy with you. But upon reaching his home, you come to learn that he has not slept well and his head is aching. You had imagined he had something against you, but actually it was not that at all.
How we are hurt by imagination, yet we consider ourselves to be most discerning. Let us remember that only our Lord "searcheth the reins and hearts" (Rev. 2.23). Many falsely imagine so and so is such and such. By so doing, we have sinned in our mind. We pronounce too much judgment and imagine too much for our own good. We must deal with our minds before God, else how can we possibly enter into the life that wins?
One brother was filled with an inordinate desire to know. And because he had to know the reason for everything, he analyzed everything. His mind was truly overactive; but because he knew everything, he could not trust God. Such desire for knowledge, like these other areas of the mind, truly needs to be dealt with.
4. Sins of the Body. Certain activities centering upon the physical body may be overlooked by the world, but to spiritually sensitive Christians they may nonetheless be sinful. Some pay too much attention to eating or sleeping or hygiene or adornment or life itself. These can be sinful in God's sight.
Many Christians just have to eat; they have never fasted once since becoming Christians. Eating with them will tell you immediately what kind of person they are. As they lift up the knife and fork, you know at once what they really are. One brother I have met, for example, said that his appetite was big and special. Yet I must say here that a lack of self-control in the matter of eating can also be a sin.
Some sleep just a little less than usual and they automatically look unhappy. And consequently, they become hasty in works and muddled in speech. This too is sin.
Some love to munch on food; so they spend lots of money on snacks. Others like to adorn themselves at all times. And there are some who are so hygienically minded that they are continually obsessed with a sense of danger. What is all this? It is loving of one's own life. Many love their own life so much that they cannot bear the slightest suffering or to come too near the sick. To put it quite frankly, they are under bondage to their body. Yet Paul said this: "I buffet my body, and lead it captive!" (see 1 Cor. 9.27) If we allow our body to dominate us, that is sin. Our body should be under us, not above us. Many sacrifice morning prayer because they want to sleep. Many sacrifice the time for reading the Bible because they want to eat. Many cannot serve God because they covet snacks and indulge in adornment. Lack of control over these areas of the body is sinful.
5. Sins of Disposition. Disposition makes an individual. Everyone is born with a particular kind. This constitutes his special character. Nevertheless, the Lord comes to save us from our disposition as well as from our sins. Some people are born with hard and brittle characters, while others are born with a most righteous attitude. The latter kind of person acts as though he were the judge of the supreme court in all matters for all people at all times. He may indeed be most righteous in his constitution, but he lacks gentleness and sweetness in his dealings with brethren. He is very righteous but he is too hard. Let me say that this also is sin.
Just the opposite to the righteous man who is hard is the person who is very weak and most fearful of anything. So that to him everything is all right. People may deem such a "goodie goodie" person as this to be holy, but we need to ask how many such persons have been used by God? Was the Son of God a "goodie-goodie" while on earth? The answer obviously is no. Such sins in disposition as represented by these two kinds of people need to be dealt with.
Then again, though, some brother may be neither hard nor soft but desires to be head. Wherever he is, he must display himself. No matter what the circumstance, he always has to speak or to be the center of attention. He will not be satisfied until he is noticed by people. He wants to project himself constantly; he cannot be a hidden person.
Still another believer is most timid and withdrawn. Wherever this person is, he or she always sits in the corner and refuses to come forth. This too is a sinful disposition and needs to be dealt with.
Some Christians are quick-tempered. One brother once said, "I thank God that though I lose my temper quickly, I also stop quickly. In the morning I may lose my temper, but after five minutes it is all over. I forget it all when I arrive at my office." Yet in the wake of his hot temper, his wife and children must suffer the entire day. And when he returns home he wonders why his wife is miserable, whereas he himself has felt quite good. This conduct is sinful and must be dealt with.
Now while some people are quick-tempered, others are never hasty. They can let a thing go undone for a day or even ten days. This is a form of laziness and should be dealt with.
Everybody has his own particular disposition or temperament. Though a person may be saved, he may be very sharp in his reaction. He is strict and tight in relation to every matter. Though he would never defraud others, he will make very sure that others will not be allowed to defraud him. He would never hurt a person's eye or tooth, but should anyone ever try to hurt his eye or tooth, then it will become for him a matter of eye for eye and tooth for tooth!
Others may not be as sharp as this man, but they may turn out to be very mean. They may not actually rob people; nonetheless, if an opportunity presents itself for them to take advantage of others, they will do so, even if it would only be a matter of a few pennies involved.
By nature some persons may be very talkative. When such people are present there can be no silence, and what is worse they always talk about other people. If they know anything, they must speak out. Though they have no intention of telling a lie, they will nonetheless often exaggerate. Such is their disposition in speech. Let us all understand that if we desire to be overcomers, we must allow the Lord to deal with us on these matters of personal character.
Why do I speak about these things? It is because the life lived by many Christians is too unlike the life of God. Some brethren can only see people's faults; they cannot see any of the good qualities in others. They always talk about the shortcomings of their fellow-brethren. For instance, a brother who had finally gained victory over this matter confessed beforehand that he did not understand why he always found fault with his brethren. He would look at a brother and find six or seven faults in him; he would look at another brother, and again, he would find in that brother six or seven faults. I told him that the reason why he did this was because he himself had these same faults: that this was how his own disposition was.
All these faults in disposition, character and temperament are sins, and every Christian must live victoriously above these things, not be defeated under them.
6. No Heart to Keep God's Word. From the viewpoint of the Scriptures what some of us lack before God is not having a heart to keep His word. This too is a sin. Let us ask ourselves how many of God's commands we have read and obeyed. For instance, how many husbands love their wives, and how many wives are subject to their husbands? One wife confessed that she knew she should submit to her husband, but in every instance she submitted only after she had first quarreled with him. She today realizes that she had never really submitted according to God's command.
How many Christians know that worry is sin? "Rejoice in the Lord always," declares the Scripture (Phil. 4.4). How many Christians have kept this commandment? We should acknowledge that worry or anxiety is sin. All who refuse to rejoice have committed sin, for the commandment of God is that "in nothing" are we to "be anxious" (Phil. 4.6). If you worry, you sin. Though worry is not considered sinful in man's eyes, it is a sin according to the word of God.
We ought to give thanks in all things, for such is God's cornmandment. In all things we should pray: "0 God, I thank You, and I praise You." Even if we have met with difficulty, we still should say: "0 God, I praise You." There was a story about a woman with nine children. She argued that surely the word "in nothing be anxious" could not possibly be applied to a mother like her, since to her, not to worry was sin. She had first had two children for whom she had continually worried until they died; and she then had had seven more to worry about concerning their progress towards maturity. Alas, this woman failed to see that worry was indeed a sin, whereas she had falsely imagined worry to be her Christian duty.
It is God's commandment that we "rejoice always" (1 Thess. 5.16). It is also His will that we do not worry about anything. It is equally His will that "in everything" we are to "give thanks" (1 Thess. 5.18a). All who overcome have the strength to keep God's commandment. Only those who do not overcome cannot keep His will.
Many Christians are fearful lest God trouble them. Once a believer who was afraid of offering himself to the Lord said, "If I offer myself to God, and He makes me suffer, what can I do?" To which I replied quite seriously: "Who do you think God is? Suppose a child who used to disobey his parents said to them that hereafter he will obey them. Do you think his parents will deliberately require him to do what he cannot do so as to make him suffer? If so, they are not parents, but judges. Being parents, they doubtless will be especially merciful to their child. How, then, can you suggest that God would purposely cause you to suffer? Do you really think He would intentionally destroy you? You forget that He is your Father"
Let me make clear to you that the consecrated one alone has power. He places his business in God's hand; he puts his parents, wife and children in His hand also. His wealth too is in God's hand. The consecrated one could never take what the Lord has given him and deposit it in the world. On the contrary, he offers himself and all that he has to God. Whoever is afraid to lay all (including people, things and affairs) before God in consecration cannot be an overcomer. The more a person offers to the Lord, the greater will be that person's power. For the one who willingly offers to the Lord seems to press things into His hand, asking Him to take more in. Consecration makes life powerful as well as joyful. He who is unwilling to offer to God is powerless, joyless, and sinful.
8. Unrepentant of Sins That Require Confession. Some may have dealt with many other matters, but they refuse to confess with their heart that there are sins in their lives. This is what is meant by the phrase in Psalm 66.18 to "regard iniquity in [the] heart." The heart not only longs for but even loves the sin, and is thus unable to get rid of it. There is that secret love in the heart for this or that sin, and an unwillingness to confess it. Though one may not speak out loud that he loves the sin and may not even move towards it with his feet, his heart is nonetheless already there. Oftentimes sin is not a matter of outward conduct but of inward desire. Whoever regards iniquity in his heart needs victory.
Many not only love sin in their hearts, they also have sins which remain unconfessed. How often you sin against a brother, and whenever you think about it you acknowledge to yourself that you have offended him. So that henceforth you try to change your outward attitude towards him by being especially kind to him: you shake his hand when you meet, and you receive him with diligence. Let me say that changing your attitude is your best way, but it is not at all God's way. His way is not a change in your outward attitude. What God expects is for you to confess your sin.
Now with regard to confessing sin, the Bible does not teach that we must confess in detail. It only instructs us to confess the sin, not to tell the detailed story of it to others. "If thy brother sin against thee" (Matt. 18.15a). He may sin against you in a number of things. But when he comes to confess, he only needs to say, "Brother, I have sinned against you, " and you must forgive him. There is no need for the one who comes to you to tell the hidden stories, because no human ear is worthy to hear all these stories.
Let me ask you, how many sins do you still regard in your heart? How many iniquities are yet there? If there are such sins, you need victory, else you will not be able to live a life that wins.
Victory Is Necessary As Well As Possible
If you have these eight kinds of sin as just outlined above, you need victory for sure. I do not know how many of these eight kinds of sin you may have. Perhaps only one or two of them continues to entangle you, perhaps more. Nevertheless, God will consent to allow either many or one of these sins to entangle you. Such a situation ought not to exist; it is clearly unnecessary. I thank and praise God, because whatever sin it may be, it is under your feet. Thank the Lord that no sin is so strong that you have to yield to it. Thank Him that no temptation is too great to overcome.
The life which the Lord has ordained for us is one of unshadowed communion with Him, of doing the will of God, and of total detachment from all contrary things. Every Christian is absolutely able to overcome sins of the mind, body, flesh and spirit, our contrary disposition, unbelief, and even the love of sin. Thank and praise God, this is not an unobtainable, ideal life under consideration here. This is a totally practical way of living which all of us may have in experience.
Honest in Heart, Not Deceiving Oneself
We must ask God to deliver us from deceiving ourselves. For He can only bless one class of people those who possess an honest heart before Him. It is said that God will bless those who do not lie to Him. If you honestly say to Him, "0 God, I did lie before, but I ask Your forgiveness," He will immediately bless you.
Perhaps you as an unsatisfied Christian are asking God to satisfy you. Let me frankly tell you that the one who is unsatisfied may not necessarily be the hungry one. In order to be satisfied, we must first be hungry. The prodigal left his father's home, wasted all he had, and later longed to fill his belly with the husks which the swine were eating; but no one gave to him. This is a being unsatisfied. Some, though, may be filled with husks, yet they remain unsatisfied every day. Hence being unsatisfied is one thing, whereas being hungry is another. How can we be satisfied if we are often weak and frequently defeated? We may be unsatisfied, yes; but we still live such a life from dawn to dusk. Consequently, it is better that we be hungry instead of being merely unsatisfied. For God can only bless those who are hungry. He has no obligation to fulfill the merely unsatisfied.
Let us today stop lying, for we have lied long enough before God. Let us acknowledge that we have failed before Him. Our confession before men will glorify God's name. Praise and thank the Lord, all who are honest will receive blessing. May many be met by God and be blessed.