Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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In this world, in addition to man’s will, two other wills are entirely opposite to each other. God not only wants us to obey Him; He also wants us to withstand Satan. Hence, God puts these two matters together two times in the Bible. James 4:7a says, "Be subject therefore to God," and 4:7b says, "Withstand the devil." First Peter 5:6-9 says, "Therefore be humbled under the mighty hand of God...Your adversary, the devil...Him withstand, being firm in your faith." This is balance in the truth. A believer should submit himself to God in everything he encounters. He should confess that God’s ordering for him is the best. Though he suffers, he willingly obeys because this is the will of God. This is what we have spoken of in chapter one. This is half of the truth. The apostles knew that we are in danger of being biased, so they immediately said that we have to withstand the devil after we submit. The reason for this is that in addition to God’s will, there is also the devil’s will. Many times he counterfeits God’s will, particularly in our circumstances. If we are misled to think that there is only God’s will in this world, we will be deceived by the devil and take his will as God’s will. Hence, God wants us to obey Him and, at the same time, withstand the devil. To withstand is a work of the will. To withstand is for the will to oppose, to be unwilling, to decline, and to disagree. God wants us to use our will. This is why He says, "Withstand." God will not withstand on our behalf; we ourselves have to withstand. We still have a will, and we still should use our will to obey God’s word. This is the teaching of the Bible.

But the believer misunderstands and supposes that God’s will is manifested in His arrangement of the environment. To him, everything that comes upon him is fully God’s will. Consequently, there is no need for his will to have any further selection, consideration, determination, resistance, or anything else. He merely accepts everything in silence. This sounds good and right. But unavoidably, there can be misunderstanding. It is true that we acknowledge God’s hand behind everything. We also know that we should fully submit under God’s hand. But this is more a matter of attitude than a matter of conduct. If whatever befalls us is God’s commanded will, do we have anything to say? This is a matter of attitude. When we become willing to obey God, we can further examine and ask: Are these matters from evil spirits? Or are they permitted by God? If they are ordained by God, we have nothing to say. But if they are not, we should work with God to withstand them. We should not submit to every circumstance without daily examining and testing it. Our attitude should be the same all the time, but our practice should be carried out only after we understand the circumstance. Otherwise, we may be obeying the devil’s will.

Believers should not be people without a mind. They should not be entirely passive and controlled by the circumstance. Rather, whenever they encounter anything, they should always vigorously, actively, and consciously examine its source, test its nature, understand its content, and then decide on a course of action. Being submissive to God is important, but this does not mean blind submission. A vigorous investigation does not mean that we can disobey God in our circumstance. Rather, it means that we have the intention to submit to God, but we want to know if it is God that we are submitting to. Today few believers are submissive in their attitude. This means that even if they know something is of God, few will submit. Yet when they have been broken by God, they still do not discern if a matter is from God; as long as something comes to them, they accept it without any question. The balanced truth is to be submissive in attitude yet, at the same time, to accept something only after one is clear about its source.

Many fully consecrated believers do not understand this difference. They just passively submit to the circumstance, assuming that everything is God’s arrangement. This gives evil spirits the opportunity to utilize and afflict them. Evil spirits prepare the circumstances as traps in order to cause the believers to accomplish their will. They may stir up storms and may cause the believers to be afflicted by them. In this way, they make believers suffer the sin of others, while considering this to be an example of not resisting "him who is evil" (Matt. 5:39). Little do they realize that God also wants them to be "struggling against sin" (Heb. 12:4), to overcome the spirit of this age through overcoming the circumstances.

The results of such a practice are: (1) they no longer use their will to choose and decide; (2) God will not pressure them through their environment; and (3) evil spirits will utilize the circumstance to take over their passive will. Then the believers will be submitting to evil spirits and think that they are submitting to God.

(Spiritual Man, The (3 volume set), Chapter 37, by Watchman Nee)