Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), by Watchman Nee


We have seen something concerning the matter of sickness in a general way. Now we want to pay particular attention to the source of the believers’ sicknesses.

The apostle said, "Because of this many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we discerned ourselves, we would not be judged. But being judged by the Lord, we are disciplined that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:30-32). The apostle considered sickness as a kind of chastisement from the Lord. Because believers have made some mistakes before the Lord, the Lord allows them to become sick. This is for the purpose of chastising them so that they would judge themselves and correct their mistakes. God is gracious to His children by chastising them so that they will not be condemned with the world. If the believers repent, God will not chastise them again. If we are willing to judge ourselves, we will avoid sickness.

We often think that sickness is only a problem of the body and that it has nothing to do with God’s righteousness, holiness, and judgment. But the apostle tells us most vividly that sickness is the result of our sin and that it is a chastisement from God. Because of the story of the blind man in John 9, many believers do not consider that sickness is a chastisement from God because of sin. They do not realize that the Lord Jesus never said that sin and sickness were unrelated. He was merely warning His disciples not to use sin to blame each and every person who was sick. If Adam had not sinned, that man would not have been blind. Furthermore, he was "born" blind; therefore, his case is completely different from that of the believers’ sicknesses. Perhaps all our "born" sicknesses have nothing to do with our sin. But the sicknesses that we incur after we have believed in the Lord, according to the Bible, are related to sin. James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed." One has to confess his sins before he can receive healing. Sin is the root of sickness.

Hence, sickness is usually God’s disciplining so that we would pay attention to the sin that we have neglected and repudiate it. God allows sicknesses to come upon us in order to chastise us and cleanse us, so that we may see our mistakes. Perhaps we have some unrighteousness in us and owe someone something. Perhaps we have offended someone and not corrected it. Perhaps we have pride and a love for the world. Perhaps we have harbored a presumptuous and covetous heart in the work, or have become disobedient after God has spoken. When these happen, God’s hand comes heavily on us to make us pay attention to them. Hence, sickness is God’s clear judgment on sin. This does not mean that whoever becomes sick have sinned more than others (cf. Luke 13:2). On the contrary, those who are chastised by God are mainly the most holy ones. Job is one example.

Every time a believer is disciplined by God and becomes sick, there is the potential of receiving great blessings. "The Father of spirits...discipline[s]...for what is profitable that we might partake of His holiness" (Heb. 12:9-10). Sometimes sickness makes us recall and examine our life; it makes us aware of any hidden sin and any indomitableness and self-will that would cause God to discipline us. Only during such a time will we see what kind of barrier there is between Him and us. Only then will we search the deepest part of our heart and realize how much our past life has been filled with self and how much is incompatible with God’s holy life. In this way, we will be able to advance in the spiritual life and receive God’s healing.

Therefore, a sick believer should not hastily seek after healing or methods of healing at first. He does not need to be terrified or afraid. He should put himself fully in the light of God and sincerely examine and find the shortage in himself that has led to God’s discipline. He should judge himself and condemn himself. Then the Holy Spirit will reveal to him the area where he failed. Whatever he sees he must repudiate immediately, and he must confess the sin to God. If this sin has caused a loss to others, he should do his best to compensate and believe that God is pleased with this. He must consecrate himself anew to God and be willing to do all of His will.

God "does not afflict willingly/Or grieve the children of men" (Lam. 3:33). When the self-conviction that He wants has been achieved, He will cease His scourging. When His chastisement becomes no longer necessary, He will be very happy to withdraw it. The Bible tells us that if we judge ourselves in this way, He will not condemn our sins. God wants us to be rid of sin and self. Therefore, when this is achieved, the sicknesses will end because they have accomplished their mission. The great need of a believer today is to know that God chastens with a specific purpose. Therefore, he should allow the Holy Spirit to point out his sin so that God’s purpose can be fulfilled. When God’s goal is achieved, discipline is not needed anymore; God can and will heal him.

After a believer confesses and eliminates his sin and believes that his sin has been forgiven, he can believe in God’s promise and know with boldness that God will raise him up. His conscience will not accuse him anymore. Hence, he has the boldness to come to God to ask for grace. When we are far away from God, we have difficulty believing, or we are unable to believe. However, by obeying the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, by eliminating sin and evil, and by obtaining forgiveness, we will be led to the presence of God. Once the source of the sickness is removed, the sickness will subsequently go away. Since it is not hard for a sick believer to believe that the Lord has scourged his body because of sin, and since his sin has been forgiven, his body will also obtain forgiveness and grace. At such times, the Lord’s presence will become more obvious, and His life will enter the body to enliven it.

Do we not know that our heavenly Father is not satisfied with us in many areas and wants to correct us? By means of sicknesses He helps us understand our own shortcomings. If we do not suppress the voice of our conscience, the Holy Spirit will surely tell us the reasons for our chastisement one by one, through our conscience. God is happy to forgive our sins and heal our sicknesses. The great work of the Lord Jesus’ redemption includes both the forgiveness of sins as well as the healing of sicknesses. Nevertheless, He does not want to have any distance between us and Himself. He wants us to live by Him. Therefore, now is the time that we should completely obey and trust Him. The heavenly Father would rather not scourge us. He is so willing to heal us and bring us into a more intimate fellowship with Himself through our further perception of His love and power.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)