SUFFERING AND WEAKNESS
Because the believer is totally consecrated, he thinks that he should take the way of the cross and suffer for the sake of Christ. He also thinks that his natural life is of no use. He wants to receive power from God, so he willingly becomes weak, hoping that by so doing, he will become strong. Both suffering and weakness are pleasing to God, yet both can become the basis for evil spirits to work through the believer’s misunderstanding.
A believer may consider it to be the highest gain for him to suffer. After his consecration, he may passively submit to every suffering that befalls him, no matter through what means the suffering comes. He believes that his suffering is for the Lord and that it is with a reward and for a gain. He does not realize that he must explicitly exercise his will to choose what God wants him to choose and withstand everything that the evil spirits give to him. If he passively accepts all the sufferings, evil spirits will have a good opportunity to make him suffer their sufferings. To suffer passively may cause evil spirits to inflict sufferings on the believer. After the believer suffers afflictions and believes that they come from God—believing the lies of the evil spirits—he present evil spirits with an opportunity to put him under suffering for a long time. He may not realize that his suffering is the result of his fulfillment of the condition for evil spirits to work and that his suffering does not come from God. He may think that he is suffering for the sake of the church, to fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ. He may think that he is a martyr, when in reality he is only a victim. He glories in suffering, not knowing that this is a symptom of being possessed!
One thing deserves our attention. Sufferings that come as a result of demon-possession are always meaningless. They produce absolutely no result and are purposeless. They are sufferings that bear no significance whatsoever. Furthermore, there is no witnessing of the Holy Spirit in our intuition that these are from God. These thoughts simply come from the believer.
If the believer investigates a little, he may discover that before his consecration, he did not have this kind of experience. It was only when he consecrated himself to the Lord and chose to suffer that he had this kind of experience. Furthermore, after he chose and accepted all the sufferings, he thought that all of the sufferings were from God. Actually, if not all, at least a majority of them came from the power of darkness. Since he gave ground to evil spirits and believed in their lies, his whole life became full of afflictions. There is no reason for them, he does not know their cause, and there is no merit in them. If the believer knows about demon-possession, he will understand this matter. Just as there are many sins that cannot be removed because of demon-possession, there are many afflictions of unknown source which are caused by demon-possession. After a believer knows the truth about demon-possession, he will be able to remove sins and also remove the meaningless afflictions.
Concerning weakness, the believer can have a similar misunderstanding. He may think that he should be weak for a long time in order to gain God’s power. He considers the apostle’s word, "When I am weak, then I am powerful" (2 Cor. 12:10), and thinks that he has to be weak before he can be strong. He does not realize that the apostle never said, "I have to be weak so that I can be strong." He was just speaking about one of his experiences. He just said that when he was weak, God’s grace strengthened him to accomplish God’s will. Paul did not ask for this weakness. He was actually weak, but God made him strong. This is not an exhortation for believers to choose weakness; Paul had no intention that the strong believer should purposely choose weakness so that God would make him strong. Rather, his intention was to instruct those believers who are already weak that they can be strong!
Choosing weakness on purpose is wrong; it affords a ripe opportunity to evil spirits. Choosing weakness and choosing afflictions both fulfill the condition for evil spirits to work because they put man’s will purposely on the side of evil spirits. Many believers were healthy at one time. But they have chosen weakness, and they think that by so doing, they will be strong in God. To their surprise, they find that the weakness they have chosen becomes more apparent as time goes by, while the strength they expected never materializes. In the end, they become a burden to others and are completely useless in the work of God. This choosing of weakness will never bring God’s strength. On the contrary, it will give evil spirits an opportunity to attack. If a believer does not resist, oppose, and refuse such weakness in a definite way, he will remain weak for a long time.
THE MOST CRUCIAL POINT
Much of what we have covered concerns only the behavior of extreme ones. There are many who do not have this extreme behavior. Nevertheless, the principle is the same. Whoever is passive in the will or fulfills the condition for the work of evil spirits will find demons working in him. Even though many believers have not consciously chosen these things, they unconsciously fall into passivity and give ground to evil spirits. As a result, they sink into a dangerous position. Let all who have the experiences mentioned above ask themselves whether they have been fulfilling the condition for evil spirits to work. This will rescue them from many false experiences and unnecessary sufferings.
We know that evil spirits utilize biblical truth. But the truth they utilize is stretched beyond measure and beyond its original limit. The denial of the self, submission, waiting on God’s ordering, suffering, etc., are all biblical truths. Yet because of the believer’s ignorance of the principle of the spiritual life, evil spirits are able to utilize the foolishness of the believer and cause him to fulfill the condition for them to work. If one does not examine the principle regarding every teaching to see if it corresponds with the working of the Holy Spirit or the working of evil spirits, he will be deceived. Every truth that is stretched a little becomes gravely dangerous. Therefore, we have to be careful.
Now we should be thoroughly clear about the fundamental difference between the principle of God’s work on us and that of Satan’s work on us: (1) God wants the believer to exercise every faculty of his entire being through his own will, cooperating with God to the point of being filled with the Holy Spirit. (2) Evil spirits require that the believer be passive, forsaking every faculty of his entire being, in whole or in part, in order to facilitate their work.
In the former case, the Holy Spirit fills man’s spirit and gives his spirit life, power, liberty, enlargement, and renewal, as well as strengthens his entire being and sets him free from slavery. In the latter case, evil spirits occupy man’s faculties through passivity. If man does not discern it, they cause him to lose his personality and will; they make him their puppet by imprisoning, suppressing, robbing, coercing, and encircling him. They want to conquer man’s soul and body, to bring man into bondage and take away his freedom. In the former case, in addition to understanding God’s will in his intuition, the believer can think and understand with his mind and direct his whole being through the free exercise of his will for the accomplishment of God’s will. In the latter case, the believer is pressured by an external force and assumes that the force is the representative of God’s will; he cannot think or make any decision. He is coerced by a force in a mechanical way.
Today countless numbers of God’s children have subconsciously allowed themselves to fall into passivity. They have stopped the function of their will and mind; consequently, they have become possessed and suffer. No matter how small the degree of passivity is, it is sufficient to cause evil spirits to work. If the degree of passivity is high, it will give place to the manifestation of many supernatural wonders through the body. This manifestation will be similar to manifestations seen in sorcerers when they give place to evil spirits. The only difference is that in the former case, there is the outward form of a Christian. We should not be surprised by the supernatural experiences of many believers, such as tongue-speaking, seeing visions, hearing voices, etc. They merely follow a law. Just as in the natural realm every matter has a law, in the spiritual realm, everything has a law. If there is a certain phenomenon and behavior, there must be a consequence that results from the phenomenon and behavior. The God who establishes the laws will abide by the same laws. Therefore, if a person intentionally or unintentionally transgresses this law, he will experience a predicted consequence. Whether you are a Christian or one who practices sorcery, as long as you are passive, evil spirits will attach themselves to you. If a man cooperates with God through exercising his will, mind, and strength, God’s Holy Spirit will work. This also is a law.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 7, by Watchman Nee)