Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), by Watchman Nee


If we understand the significance of this experience which God gives us and walk according to His will, there is no danger at all. However, when the believer fails to understand God’s goal and lives by this kind of feeling—intently pursuing in the presence of feeling while refusing to move in its absence—there is inevitably a spiritual danger. He is exposed to many dangers because he makes feeling his principle of life.

If a believer lives by this happy feeling, his will remains weak and is of no use to the spirit. The sense of the spirit also has no way of developing, since intuition in the spirit is being replaced by feeling. The person walks according to his emotion. As a result, the intuition in the spirit is suppressed by the emotion on the one hand, and on the other hand, his idled and unused intuition is hardly able to grow. We can know the intuition only when the emotion is quiet. The intuition is strengthened only when it is constantly in use. When a believer continues to live by his emotion, the will never has the ability to make decisions, and the intuition never gives a clear voice. Because the will is paralyzed, the believer needs feelings all the more to push the will into action. Consequently, the will turns according to feeling, proceeding when a feeling is present and halting when it is not. It is not able to function without the feeling. It constantly requires the feeling’s encouragement. Hence, the believer’s spiritual life declines day after day. In fact, from then on, it seems that there can be no spiritual life without the effect of the emotion. The emotion carries the same effect as a shot of morphine to the believer. What a pity that he remains unaware and still considers it as the peak of spiritual life and something that should be pursued!

Many believers are erratic because when this feeling comes, they not only feel the Lord’s love but also feel their own fervent love toward the Lord. Must we deny even the feeling which generates a love for the Lord in us? Can the feeling which causes us to fervently love the Lord be harmful? These types of questions only indicate the believer’s foolishness.

Let us ask some more questions. When the believer is filled with happiness, does he truly love the Lord or does he love the feeling of happiness? No doubt this kind of happiness is given to us by God, but is it not also God who withdraws it? If we genuinely love God, we will still fervently love Him no matter what circumstance He puts us in. If we only love when the feeling is present but not when it is absent, perhaps we only love our feeling, not God.

The believer, however, interprets such a feeling as being God Himself. He does not realize that God and God’s joy are not the same. The Holy Spirit must instruct a believer before he realizes that he has been desperately seeking God’s happiness and not God Himself when he feels dry. He does not love God; he loves the feeling which causes him to be happy. Although this feeling brings him the sense of God’s love and presence, he does not love God directly. This feeling, which causes him to sense God’s love and presence, refreshes him, enlightens him, and uplifts him. When he loses these sensations, he will pursue this feeling again. His heart’s delight is God’s happiness, not God. If he genuinely loves God, he should still love Him even when he is suffering through "many waters and floods."

This is a very difficult lesson. We must have happiness, and the Lord delights in giving us His happiness. If we enjoy His happiness according to His will (i.e., we do not seek it for ourselves but are thankful when God causes us to feel happy and just as thankful when He causes us to feel dry, not forcing the issue), this enjoyment will be profitable rather than harmful. However, if we find so much pleasure in this experience that after enjoying God’s happiness, we seek it every day, we have departed from God in pursuit of the happiness which He gives. God’s happiness cannot be separated from God Himself. If we enjoy the happiness which He gives apart from Him, our spiritual life is in danger. This means that our joy is not God but instead the happiness He gives, and we will not advance spiritually. How often we love God not for His sake but for our own sakes! As we love Him, our heart feels happy, and so we continue to love Him. This clearly shows that we do not truly love God; we love happiness, even though the happiness is of God.

This is esteeming God’s gift higher than God, the Giver of the gift. This shows that we are still living by the soul and do not understand what a true spiritual life is. We make the feeling of happiness our god and erroneously take pleasure in it. Because of our mistake, God withdraws this happiness according to His will. He changes it to suffering to make us realize that He Himself is desirable, not His happiness. When a believer joys in God, he still exalts Him and loves Him even in suffering. Otherwise, he will sink into darkness. God withdraws this happiness not to destroy the believer’s spiritual life but to destroy all the idols he is worshipping in place of God Himself. He destroys everything that is harmful to our spiritual life. He wants us to live in Him, not in His feeling.

When a believer lives by feeling and not by the spirit through the will, there is another danger that he will be deceived by Satan. We have briefly mentioned this earlier, but let us explain again.

We must know one thing. Satan can give the believer feelings which are counterfeits of those that are from God. When the believer seeks to walk completely according to the spirit, Satan confuses him with different kinds of feeling. How much more opportunity does he have to apply his tricks to the believer who walks according to his feeling! If the believer persistently goes after feeling, he will fall right into Satan’s scheme. Satan will give him different kinds of feeling, leading him to believe that they are from God.

Evil spirits can excite people or depress them. Once the believer is deceived into accepting Satan’s feeling, Satan gains ground in the soul. Thereafter, he can further deceive the believer until he fully takes over his feeling. Occasionally, he gives the believer supernatural sensations that cause his whole being to shake, be touched, feel hot or cold, sense a kind of leading, be filled, feel a lightness as though floating in the air, feel as if one is burned by fire from head to toe, or feel that one is dealt with and cleansed in his whole being. When a believer is cheated by the evil spirits to such an extent, he continues to exist by these feelings. His will becomes totally numb, and his intuition is fully surrounded. He lives altogether in the outer man, and his inner man is bound. At this point, his every move is according to Satan’s will. When the enemy wants him to do something, he only has to give him a certain feeling. The believer, however, is not aware of this. On the contrary, he thinks that he has been granted some marvelous experiences which definitely make him more spiritual than others.

Supernatural experiences are the most damaging things to a believer’s spiritual life today. Countless numbers of God’s best children have fallen into the snare of thinking that these miraculous experiences must be from the Holy Spirit because they make their body feel the activity of the Spirit’s power. They make them feel sad, happy, hot, or cold; they make them laugh or cry; and they offer them visions, dreams, voices, flames, and indescribable, wonderful sensations. To them, this must be the highest point to which believers can attain. They have never realized that these are works of the evil spirits. It never occurs to them that, apart from the Spirit, evil spirits can move the same way. They are ignorant of the fact that the work of the Holy Spirit is always within man’s spirit. What one feels in his body is mostly from evil spirits. Why have so many believers fallen into this condition? They are in this condition because they do not live in the spirit, preferring instead to live in their feeling! Therefore, they afford evil spirits the opportunity to exercise their tricks. Hence, a believer must reject a life of feeling; otherwise, he leaves ground for evil spirits to deceive him.

We must seriously warn all of God’s children to take note of their physical sensations. We should never allow any spirit to produce any feeling in our body against our will. We must reject all the feelings of the body. Do not believe in any physical feeling or act according to it. Rather, we should forbid it because this is the beginning of Satan’s deception. We must follow our intuition which is in the depths of our being.

After we have carefully considered a believer’s life of feeling, we can find an underlying principle in this kind of experience. The principle is none other than "for the self." Why are we after the feeling of happiness? It is for the self. Why do we dread dryness? It is because of the self. Why do we seek different kinds of physical sensations? It is for the self. Why do we want supernatural experiences? It is for the self. Oh, may the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see that there is still so much selfishness in what we consider as a very spiritual life—a life of feeling! May the Lord show us that when we are full of feelings of happiness, our life is still centered on the self and still craves amusement for the self. We can test whether or not our spirituality is genuine by the way we treat the self.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 15, by Watchman Nee)