THE DEEPER WORK OF THE CROSS
We may think that the cross’s most complete work is accomplished when we forsake outward, physical happiness and worldly pleasures. Little do we know that in God’s work of eliminating our old creation, there remains an even deeper work of the cross for us. He wants us to die to His joy and live to His will. While we may feel happy because of Him and His closeness, rather than any fleshly or worldly matter, God’s goal is not for us to enjoy His joy but to obey His will. The cross must work until only the will of God remains. If a believer desires the joy which God gives him but dislikes the suffering He gives, he has not gone through the deeper work of the cross.
There is a big difference between God’s will and God’s joy. God’s will is present any time and any place because we see it in all of His arrangements. However, God’s joy is not always present. It is experienced occasionally in certain situations. If a believer seeks after God’s joy, he merely desires that part of God’s will which makes him happy; he does not desire the entire will of God. When God makes him happy, he obeys His will; when God causes him to suffer, he resists His will. If the believer takes God’s will as his life, he obeys no matter how God causes him to feel because he recognizes God’s arrangement both in happiness and in sorrow.
During the initial stage of a believer’s spiritual life, God allows him to enjoy His joy. However, God withdraws the sensation of joy as the believer advances in life because this is profitable to him. He knows that if the believer continues to seek and enjoy this kind of joy for a considerable length of time, he will not live by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth. Rather, he will live by the words which make him happy. He lives in the comfort of God and not in the God of comfort. Therefore, God must withdraw all the joyous sensations so that he will live wholly by Him.
At the start of a spiritual journey, when a believer suffers for the Lord, the Lord will comfort him and cause him to sense His presence, see His smiling face, feel His love, and perceive His care in the hope that the believer will not become weary or be discouraged. At this time, if the believer knows the will of God and does it, God will fill his heart with joy as he is doing His will. In spite of the price he has paid for the Lord, God will make him feel that the joy he has received is ten thousand times better than what he has lost. Therefore, he is pleased to do God’s will. However, God also sees a danger in this. A believer, who has received comfort and joy after suffering for the Lord and doing His will in the past, may strive for just comfort and joy when he has to suffer again for Him or do His will. As soon as he begins to once again suffer for the Lord or do His will, he may expect the Lord’s comfort and joy to help him. Hence, the believer may suffer for the Lord and do the will of God merely for the sake of obtaining a reward—comfort and joy—rather than for the sake of God Himself. Then if he does not have comfort and joy as a crutch, he will not be able to go on. If this is the case, God’s will becomes inferior to the joy which He gives for obeying His will.
God knows that when He comforts a believer, he is very willing to suffer for Him; when God grants him happiness, he delights to do His will. However, God wants to know his motive. Is he suffering for the sake of the Lord or for the sake of receiving the comfort which comes with the suffering? Is he doing God’s will because it is His will or because by doing it, he is made happy? Therefore, when he has advanced somewhat in his spiritual journey, God will withdraw all such comfort and happiness. Thus the believer no longer feels God’s comfort when he is suffering for Him. Without the comfort, it is a suffering not only outwardly, but inwardly as well. When he is doing God’s will, he has not the slightest interest. He feels dry and pleasureless. Now God will know why the believer suffers for Him and does His will. God is asking him, "If you do not receive any of My comfort, can you bear it simply because you are bearing it for My sake? Are you willing to do something because it is My will even though it does not interest you at all? When you feel pained, tasteless, and dry, can you work for Me because this is My work? When I send you physical suffering, unaccompanied by any soothing feeling, will you gladly accept it because it is given by Me?"
This is a practical cross. Through this the Lord reveals to us whether we are living for Him by faith or whether we are living for ourselves by feeling. Often we hear people say, "I live for Christ." What does this mean? Many believers think that living for the Lord is just working for Him or loving Him. Far from it. Living for the Lord is living for His will, for His interest, and for His kingdom. In this kind of life there is nothing for the self. There is no room reserved for our own comfort, joy, and glory. We are not allowed to do God’s will if we are merely after comfort and happiness. We are not allowed to retreat, cease obeying, or delay our obeying just because we feel pained, uninterested, and discouraged. It does not mean that whenever the body is suffering for the Lord, the suffering is for His sake. Many times, even though the body is suffering, the heart is still full of joy. If we live for the Lord, we continue to press onward, not only when we suffer bodily, but even when our heart suffers pain and is absolutely unwilling. The believer must know that living for the Lord means not leaving any place for the self but willingly delivering the self fully to death. One who can ignore himself and gladly receive all things from the Lord, even when things are dark, dry, tasteless, or in disarray, is one who lives for the Lord.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)