"For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). This verse is also very easily misunderstood. A believer may think that only God is the One who wills and works, that God puts the willing and the working into him, and that God wills for him and works for him. This means that he need not will or do anything; God wills and works for him. He is a super believer and has no need of willing and working anymore; God is the one who wills and works. He is merely an unconscious machine and has nothing to do with willing and working.
These believers do not know that this verse means that God will only work within us to the extent that we are willing to will and work. God will not work further than this; He will only work to this point. God will not will and work for man. Rather, God will only work when man becomes willing to will and work according to His good pleasure. The willing and the working should still be of man himself. The apostle was very cautious. This is why he said, "It is God who operates in you both the willing and the working." God is not willing and working alone, but "in you"; your person still remains. You still have to will and work yourself. To will and work is still your own affair. Though God operates, He is not a substitute. To will and work is man’s affair. The meaning of God’s operation is that God works within us, moves within us, softens us, and encourages us in order to produce in us a heart that is inclined to obey His will. He does not will for us to obey His will. He only causes us to be inclined toward His will. Then we ourselves still have to will to obey. This verse teaches that man’s will needs the support and help of God’s power. Apart from God, whatever man determines and does according to his own will is of no use. God does not will for man; neither does He want man to will on his own. He wants man to rely upon His power to will. It is not that God takes our place in the willing, but that we will by His working.
However, a believer may not realize this. He may think that since God is operating within him, he does not need to move. He only needs to passively allow God to operate and go along with Him without and within. Since God operates to will, he need not exercise his will; all he has to do is allow another will to come upon him and use him. Hence, he dare not determine, choose, or resist anything; rather, he passively waits for the descent of God’s will. When an outside will makes a decision for him, he accepts it. He extinguishes everything out of his own will. As a consequence of this action: (1) the believer does not use his own will; (2) God also does not use His will to make any proposal for him, because He wants the believer to actively co-labor with Him; (3) evil spirits take the opportunity to seize his passive will and act on his behalf so that he either becomes paralyzed, without any progress, or burns with the "fire of demons"; and (4) at this time, the believer may think that God is thinking for him. In actuality, the authority of darkness has become lord to him.
We must see the difference between God "willing" in place of us and our cooperation with God through the exercise of our will. If God determines on our behalf, a matter will have absolutely nothing to do with us. Though our hands may do something, our hearts have not proposed it. When we become sober, we will realize that these things were not done by us. However, if we use our will to actively work with God, we will see that, even though something is done by relying on God’s strength, it is actually done by us. A person who is utterly possessed by demons is not conscious of any of his actions when the demons "come." He may become crazy for a while, but afterwards he is entirely ignorant of what he has done. This tells us that all the crazy things were done by demons through his will and on his behalf. When a believer is deceived, he may think at that time that he has done everything, spoken every word, and thought every idea. But as soon as he is enlightened by God’s light and starts to ask himself whether he really wants to do, speak, and think these things, he will realize these have nothing to do with him. Rather, the things that are attached to him are doing it for him.
God’s will is not to annihilate our will. If we say, "Henceforth, I will not have my own will. I will just let God’s will be manifested from me," we have not consecrated ourselves to God; rather, we have made a covenant with evil spirits because God will not use His will to replace our will. The correct attitude should be, "I have my own will, but my will wants God’s will." We should put our will on God’s side, not by our own strength, but by the life of God. The real truth is that the life that used our will in the past has been put to death. Now we use our will by the life of God. We have not annihilated our will; it is still there—only the life has changed. The natural life is dead, but the function of the will still exists. It is renewed by God, and our new life is now using it.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)