A LIFE OF THE WILL
This life of faith may be called a life of the will. Faith is not mindful of emotion. Therefore, during periods of dryness it comes forth through the decision of the will and wants to walk according to the will of God. Although the believer may not feel that he should obey God, nevertheless, he wants to obey Him. Here we see two kinds of Christians: one who lives by feeling and the other who lives by the will (referring to the renewed will). The believer who lives by feeling obeys God only when he gets help from feeling, that is, when he feels happy. On the other hand, the believer who lives by the will obeys God whatever the environment and feeling. Our will expresses the opinion of our true self, whereas our feeling is just a reaction to an outward stimulus. Hence, a believer who does the will of God only when he feels happy is not of much value to God, because he is stirred by God’s joy to do God’s will and not by his sincerity. If he is willing and resolves to do God’s will even when he does not feel any amount of happiness or pleasant sensation to help him go on, God considers this truly valuable because it comes out of the believer’s sincerity. It is an indication that he respects and surrenders to God, not caring or living for himself. This is the difference between a spiritual believer and a soulish one. A soulish believer obeys God only when what he feels is sufficient to satisfy his desire. This gives the self primary consideration. A spiritual believer is fully in union with God in his renewed will. He obeys God’s arrangement; even though he does not receive any external help, he remains steadfast.
What is there to boast of if we obey God to the end while we feel physically and emotionally comfortable? What is there to boast of if we obey the Lord while we are receiving God’s comfort in our suffering? It is valuable to God when we suffer and do not feel His comfort, love, help, presence, and joy and yet still decide to obey Him and do His will.
Many believers do not know that living by the spirit is living by the will that is in union with God. (A will that is not in union with God is unreliable and does not last. Only a will that has fully surrendered to God’s will wants what the Spirit wants.) They have heard other believers telling them what a joy it is to obey the Lord and suffer for Him. Because they desire this kind of life, they also consecrate themselves fully to the Lord with the hope of obtaining this "higher" life. Truly, after their consecration, they have many experiences of the Lord’s nearness and love. Therefore, they think they have obtained what they wanted. But shortly afterwards, all these pleasant experiences become history.
Believers suffer endless pains thinking that they have lost their spiritual life because they do not know that the manifestation of a true spiritual life does not depend on the feeling but on the will. However, now that they really do not feel anything, they must determine if their heart of consecration has changed. Has their desire to do God’s will changed? Has their willingness to suffer for the Lord at any cost changed? Has their sincere willingness to do any work and go any place for God changed? If these have not changed, their spiritual life has not regressed at all. If these have changed, their spiritual life has truly regressed.
If a believer has indeed gone backwards, it is not because he has lost his happiness, but because his will is not as willing to obey God as before. And if he has indeed progressed, it is not because he now has many wonderful feelings which he never had before, but because his will is in deeper union with God; he is more willing to do His will and more sympathetic to His will. The standard of a true spiritual life lies in how much our will is in union with God’s will. It is not determined by our good or bad feelings. Even when we feel good, without a heart which unconditionally obeys God, our spiritual life is at its lowest level. Even when we feel dry, if there is the willingness to obey God unto death, our spiritual life is at its highest level. The spiritual life is measured by the will because the will expresses what our "self" is. If the will has already surrendered to God, it means that our "self" has surrendered to God and is no longer the master. Our self and spiritual life stand in opposition to each other. When the self is demolished, the spiritual life will surely grow. When the self remains strong, the spiritual life will surely suffer loss. Hence, we can know a person’s life just by looking at his will. However, the same is not true of the feeling because when the emotion has the most wonderful feeling, the believer can still be full of self—wanting to entertain and please the self.
Therefore, a believer who sincerely seeks progress should not be deceived into thinking that his feeling is his life, eagerly cherishing a feeling of happiness. Instead, he should ascertain whether or not his will has been fully surrendered to God. It makes no difference whether he feels happy or not. God wants us to live by faith. He may want to see us living simply by faith and being satisfied simply by doing His will without the consolation of our feeling for a long time. Are we willing? We should be happy because we have done the will of God, not because we feel happy. His will should suffice to make us happy.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)