One day while seeking a theme from the Bible before delivering a message, I randomly opened the Bible and Psalm 73:25 appeared before my eyes: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." After reading these words I said to myself, "The writer of this psalm can say that, but I cannot." I discovered then that there was something between me and God.
Since my wife is not present today, I will relate the story to you. About ten years before our marriage, I was in love with her. She was not then saved, and when I spoke with her about the Lord Jesus and tried to persuade her to believe, she laughed at me. I must admit that I did love her, but at the same time I suffered her laughter at the Lord I believed in. I also questioned at that time whether she or the Lord would have first place in my heart. I must say that once young people have fallen in love, they find it very difficult to give up their beloved. I told God of my willingness to give her up, but deep in my heart I was not willing. After reading Psalm 73 again, I said to God, "I cannot say that there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee, because there is one on earth whom I love." At that instant, the Holy Spirit indicated clearly that there was something between God and me.
On that day I delivered a message, but I did not know what I was talking about. I was actually speaking to God, asking Him to be patient and impart strength to me until I could give her up. I asked God to postpone dealing with this matter. But God never reasons with people. I considered going to the frontier of desolate Tibet to evangelize and suggested many other enterprises to God, hoping that He might be moved not to raise again the question of my giving up the one I loved. But once God’s finger has pointed to something, He will not withdraw it. No matter how hard I prayed, I could not get through. I had no enthusiasm for my studies in school, and at the same time I failed to acquire the power of the Holy Spirit, which I was earnestly seeking. I was in great distress. I prayed constantly, hoping that my earnest supplication might change God’s mind. Thank the Lord that all along He wanted me to learn to deny myself, to lay aside human love, and love Him with a single heart. Otherwise, I would be a useless Christian in His hand. He cut down my natural life with a sharp knife so that I might learn a lesson which I had never learned before.
On one occasion I delivered a message and returned to my room with a heavy heart. I told God that I would return to school the following Monday and seek for the filling of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ. During the following two weeks, I found that I still could not say with conviction the words of Psalm 73:25. But thank the Lord, soon afterwards I was filled with His love, and I was willing to lay my loved one down and loudly declare, "I will lay her aside! Never will she be mine!" After this declaration I was at long last able to utter the words of Psalm 73:25. On that day I was in the second heaven, if not the third. The world appeared smaller to me, and it was as if I were mounting the clouds and riding the mists. On the evening of my salvation, the burden of my sins rolled away, but on that day, February 13, 1922, when I laid aside my beloved, my heart was emptied of everything that previously occupied me.
In the following week, people began to be saved. Brother Weigh, who was my classmate, can testify to the fact that up to this time I had been very particular about my dress. I used to wear a long silk gown with red dots. But on that day, I removed my refined clothing and shoes. I went to the kitchen, made some paste, and with a bundle of gospel posters in my arms, went to the street to post them on the walls and to distribute gospel tracts. In those days in Foochow, Fukien, this was a pioneer act.
From my second school term in 1922, I began the gospel work, and many of my schoolmates were saved. I prayed daily for those whose names were in my notebook. From 1923, we began to borrow or rent places for meetings to expand the work of evangelization. Several hundred people were saved at the same time. All but one of those whose names were in my notebook were saved. This is evident proof that God listens to such prayers. It is His way that we must first pray for sinners before they can be saved. In those few years there were many instances to confirm this fact.
(Watchman Nee's Testimony, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)