Not “Attain,” But “Obtain”


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Not “Attain,”* But “Obtain”†
“I am come that they might have life.” —John 10:10 KJV

A young Christian girl told me recently that she entered the life of unbroken fellowship and victory by noticing the distinction between these two words. For years she had been endeavoring to attain to a certain standard of rest, peace and power; but each year she seemed to get further from the mark. One evening, however, she “happened” to go to a little prayer meeting, at which there were only four persons present. A gentleman, while giving out a hymn, quietly looked up and said, “You see, my friends, this is something which we cannot attain, but must obtain.” At that moment she realized that all that was needful for the noblest life had been accomplished and won by the Savior – she had only to receive. An exceedingly great light filled her soul ever since.

Perhaps the distinction will help some of my readers. You will never get the blessedness for which you long by struggling and agonizing; by your vehement cries and prayers; by your determined resolutions and endeavors. Such blessedness can only be received by stilling yourself before God and quietly appropriating the abundance of His grace and the gift of righteousness, which are in Christ Jesus.

Did you attain forgiveness and salvation by any effort of your own? Certainly not! You may have tried to do so for many years, but no peace or joy came. Rather you became more miserable and hopeless; the entry gate and its shining light were further off than ever. At last when you had come to the end of yourself and He offered you forgiveness, righteousness, peace and joy without money and without price, you simply received them. You took what He offered. You obtained as a gift what you could never have attained as a reward. This is precisely the attitude you must adopt with respect to all other gifts and graces in Christian living.

You cannot attain the victory over besetting sin which shall enable you to walk worthy of the gospel and of your Lord. You have fought and wrestled for it in vain over the years. You always lost. But you can obtain it by the up-look of the eye of faith to the Lord Jesus, who has overcome all our foes and holds in His hand the emblem of victory.

You cannot attain that power in service before which hard hearts will break and eyes not accustomed to weeping shall be filled with tears. It is not an acquisition by purchase or an attainment by effort. It will not come by practice or education or any number of eloquent honors and commendations. It is hidden from all who desire it for selfish reasons. But if you will wait before God in silence and patience, your eyes being ever toward the Lord, He will give you your heart’s desire.

You cannot attain some grace of Christian character that you long to possess – but you can obtain it. It is there in the character of Jesus waiting for you; and all that is required on your part is to adopt an attitude of utter and constant dependence. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus and He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the blessed knowledge of the Son of His love (2 Pet. 1:3).

How could I answer such a letter as the following unless I knew this blessed secret? “Five years ago,” the writer says, “I got into a very bad habit that I did not take much notice of but which has clung to me ever since. I find that it has a much, much stronger hold than it used to have, and all my efforts to throw it off seem to be useless. I have made special prayers to God for the past two years, asking Him to give me strength to overcome the temptation. I get very disheartened; for it seems that my prayers are not heard and I seem to be getting worse rather than better. Will you please tell me what I can do?”

There is only one thing to say: “Do not strive to attain the victory by your own efforts, but look to Jesus to give the victory.” “Now thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). “They which receive the abundance of grace … shall reign” (Rom. 5:17).

To live like this is very blessed. The heart is stilled in its great expectancy. It realizes that all it needs is in God; and it endeavors to live with nothing between itself and the source of all its bliss and grace. Then as each emergency, trial or difficulty arises, it simply goes to the everlasting supply, which God has caused to reside in Jesus, and obtains all and more than all its desire.

By Frederick B. Meyer

Attain – “to arrive at with effort or exertion”
† Obtain – “to gain possession of”

(Collins English Dictionary)

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website:


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