THE CESSATION OF SPIRITUAL WORK
Spiritual work often flows with the current of the Holy Spirit without any constraint and without the need for the strength of the flesh. This is not to say that there is no opposition from the world or attack by the enemy; rather, it means that in the Lord there is always the sense of having the Lord’s anointing. When a believer’s work is needed by God, he will feel the flow of the Holy Spirit no matter what kind of difficulty. The Holy Spirit has always been for the expression of the life of the spirit. This kind of work is very spontaneous. It is expansive, and it expands the life in the spirit.
However, many of God’s servants who are urged by the environment (or other reasons) unconsciously let the work they are doing become mechanical. Whenever a believer feels this way, he must search to see whether this kind of "mechanical work" is still needed by the Holy Spirit or if it has accomplished His purpose so that now God is calling His own vessels to go on. The servants of the Lord must know that what is begun as a spiritual work, a work of the Holy Spirit, may not always continue to be spiritual. Many works originally come from the Holy Spirit, but subsequently He, not man, may not need this work. Yet man still continues, thinking that what the Holy Spirit has begun must be spiritual forever. This will cause what is spiritual to become fleshly.
A spiritual believer will never see the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit in a mechanical work. God may no longer need a certain kind of work. If a believer continues to do that work because of the outward organization (which may not necessarily be visible), then he must draw on his own power, apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, as the supply to meet the demand of the work. When spiritual work needs to stop and the believer does not stop, he has to use his soulish strength and physical strength to work. In true spiritual work, the believer must completely reject his own mental power, natural ability, gift, etc., before he can do a fruitful work for God. But a work which is not led by the Holy Spirit will fail immediately unless the believer exercises his mental power, natural ability, gift, etc.
A worker must be watchful to see on which part of his work the Holy Spirit is applying the ointment. Then he will know how to co-labor with the Holy Spirit and work according to the flow of the Holy Spirit’s power. The responsibility of a believer is to fix his sight on the "flow" of the Holy Spirit and then follow that flow. If a work no longer has God’s application of the ointment, if it is outside of the flow of the Holy Spirit, if it causes the worker to have a feeling of depression and obstruction, and if he is able to obtain the flow apart from this work, the work must be stopped. Those with spiritual discernment will discern faster than others. The question is: where is the "flow" of the Holy Spirit and where is it flowing? Any work which suppresses the life of the spirit, fails to support the expression of the life of the spirit, or hinders the Holy Spirit from flowing out in life and victory is a hindrance, no matter how it was in the beginning. If the work is not completely abolished, then either it must be corrected to let it obey the life in the spirit, or the relationship of the believer to this work must be changed.
In the spiritual experience of believers, there are many people who can serve as examples of being entangled in the "organization," both those with form and those without, until they have damaged their own life. At the start a servant of God receives the power of the spirit, and God greatly works. Many are saved and edified. Then there has to be a kind of "organization" or "method" to preserve the grace. Because of needs, requests, and maybe even commands, the servant will have to do the labor of "nourishing." Consequently, he is bound by the environment and can no longer follow the Holy Spirit freely. His spirit’s life gradually recedes, but the outward work with organization still continues very prosperously. This is the story of failure for many persons.
Today among spiritual works there is a distressing situation in which the worker considers his work to be a heavy burden. Many people often say, "I am so busy with things and with work that I have only a little time for fellowship with the Lord. I hope that I will have an opportunity to stop the work temporarily to have a time for some spiritual nurturing, and then I will come back to work." This is really dangerous. Our work must be the result of the fellowship of our spirit with the Lord. All the work must be a joy; it must all be the overflow of the life of the spirit. If the work becomes a tiresome thing, separating the life of the spirit from the Lord Jesus, then this work must be stopped immediately. Since the flow of the Holy Spirit has changed course, one must find out where it is and follow it there.
The Holy Spirit’s stopping of our work is very different from Satan’s blocking of our work. Yet people often confuse the two. If God has said to stop and the believer still continues, then he will fall from working by the spirit to using his own mental power, ability, and effort as support. Even though he may resist the enemy, there is no anointing of the Holy Spirit. He cannot overcome because this battle is actually false. As soon as a believer sees that there is a blockage in the nature of the spirit, then he should discern whether in fact this comes from God or from the enemy. If the blockage is from the enemy, then he can resist the enemy in the spirit and go forward together with God through prayer, releasing his own spirit. If this is not the case, God will cause the believer’s spirit to be more oppressed and to feel heavy laden and without freedom if he goes forward.
Therefore, at the present time the servants of God must get rid of all the work which God has not given, the work which he should have left long ago, the monopolizing work, the work which does not come from the Holy Spirit, the work which suppresses the spirit, the work which causes the believer to depart from the spirit, and the work which may be good, but which keeps the believer from being more noble.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)