I Messed Up Again

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We can't find victory over sin by relying on our own effort. Instead, God wants us to trust in his power alone.

So you did it again, and you're feeling guilty. You're beginning to wonder if you'll ever break out of this vicious cycle. You feel like you've confessed the same sin to God more than a hundred times, and you're sure he must be tired of hearing about it. You promise God and yourself that you'll never let it happen again. But soon you find yourself in the same place—you've messed up, and you're too embarrassed to talk to God about it.

In The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee addresses this common Christian struggle. God uses such testing, he says, to prove to us that we can't find victory over sin by relying on our own effort. Instead, God wants us to trust in his power alone.

As long as we are trying to do anything, [God] can do nothing. It is because of our trying that we fail and fail and fail. God wants to demonstrate to us that we can do nothing at all, and until that is fully recognized, our disappointments and disillusionments will never cease.

A [Christian] brother who was trying to struggle into victory remarked to me, "I do not know why I am so weak." "The trouble with you," I said, "is that you are weak enough not to do the will of God, but you are not weak enough to keep out of things altogether. You are still not weak enough. When you are reduced to utter weakness and are persuaded that you can do nothing whatsoever, then God will do everything." We all need to come to the point where we say: "Lord, I am unable to do anything for Thee, but I trust Thee to do everything in me."

I was once staying in a place in China with some 20 other brothers. There was inadequate provision for bathing in the home where we stayed, so we went for a daily plunge in the river. On one occasion a brother had a cramp in one leg, and I suddenly saw he was sinking fast, so I motioned to another brother, who was an expert swimmer, to hasten to his rescue.

But to my astonishment he made no move. So I grew desperate and called out: "Don't you see the man is drowning?" and the other brothers, about as agitated as I was, shouted vigorously too. But our good swimmer still did not move. Calm and collected, he remained just where he was, apparently postponing the unwelcome task. Meantime the voice of the poor drowning brother grew fainter and his efforts feebler. In my heart I said: "I hate that man! Think of his letting a brother drown before his very eyes and not going to the rescue!"

But when the man was actually sinking, with a few swift strokes the swimmer was at his side, and both were safely ashore. When I got an opportunity I aired my views. "I have never seen any Christian who loved his life quite as much as you do," I said. "Think of the distress you would have saved that brother if you had considered yourself a little less and him a little more." But the swimmer knew his business better than I did. "Had I gone earlier," he said, "he would have clutched me so fast that both of us would have gone under. A drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself."

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