This past weekend, I had the chance to speak to some youth about the gospel. I recounted the following story as told by Watchman Nee:
I was once staying in a place in China with some twenty 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 got a cramp in his 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. Growing desperate I cried 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 soon safely ashore. Nevertheless, 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, I soon discovered, knew his business better than I did. "Had I gone earlier," he said, "he would have clutched me so fast that botgh 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."
A young woman, probably in her mid-twenties, approached me after the sermon. As her eyes watered over, she whispered, "I've been trying to swim for 13 years. I feel a freedom and hope in this moment that I have not felt experienced in all of that time."
The goal is not to figure out how to become a good swimmer. The goal is to grab on to the Good Swimmer who treads in our stead.