Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), by Watchman Nee


Although God’s children are saved, they have not fully obeyed God’s will. As a result, God has to use many ways to lead the believers into full submission. God moves the believers with His Spirit and stirs them up with His love so that they will submit to His will and not love, pursue, or do anything outside of Himself. It is a pity when God’s moving and stirring do not produce the desired results in the believers. Then God has to stretch forth His hand to bring the believers to the place where He wants them to be. His hand is primarily manifested in circumstances. God applies His hand heavily upon the believers to crush, break, and bind them so that their will can no longer be hardened before Him.

As long as the believer is not deeply united with the Lord, God is not satisfied. The purpose of God’s salvation is to have the saved ones in complete union with His will. In order for God to bring us to this point, He has to use the environment; He causes us to encounter many frustrations. He causes us to be heartbroken, distressed, and afflicted. He causes many practical crosses to come upon us. Through these things, He causes us to bow our head in submission. Our will is very strong, and unless it is hit by God in many ways, it will not submit to Him. If we are willing to come under the mighty hand of God and accept His discipline, the will which occupies our life will experience a cutting work again and again and will be delivered to death again and again. If we resist God, heavier afflictions will come upon us and subdue us.

God wants to strip us of everything. After believers are truly regenerated, they all have one thought --to do God’s will. Some openly make this kind of promise, and some hold this intent in secret. God will prove whether such a promise (or intent) is true or not. He causes the believers to pass through a stripping that they do not like. He causes them to lose material things, health, fame, position, and usefulness. He eventually causes them to lose the happiness and zeal in their feeling, as well as His presence and sympathy. He will bring the believers to the point where everything other than God’s will is expendable to them. He wants them to realize that as long as something is according to His will, they should receive it, even though they may suffer physically or in their feelings. If God delights in afflicting them, stripping them of everything, taking away their "spiritual usefulness," or causing them to become dry, dark, and lonely, they should accept it willingly. God wants the believers to realize that He saved them, not for the purpose that they would enjoy anything, but for His will. Therefore, whether there is gain or loss, happiness or dryness, the feeling of God’s presence or forsaking, believers should always be mindful of God’s will. If it is God’s will to forsake us, can we take pleasure in being forsaken? When a sinner first believes in the Lord, his goal is heaven. This is all right. After being taught in God, he will come to realize that it is for the will of God that he believed in God. Even if the result of believing in God is to go to hell, he would still believe. After the believer has been thoroughly taught, he will no longer be mindful of his own gain or loss. If he can glorify God by going to hell, he is willing to do so. This is, of course, only an example. But believers must see that their believing in the Lord, while living on earth, is not for themselves, but for the will of God. Their greatest happiness, greatest privilege, and greatest glory are to forsake their own corrupted, natural, and fleshly will and unite with the will of God to fulfill God’s heart’s desire. The creature’s gain and loss, glory and shame, bitterness and happiness, are not worthy to be considered. If the Most High One can be satisfied, whatever the lowly one may become is of no concern. This is the unique way for a believer to lose himself in God!


There is a two-step endeavor in the union of the will with God. One step is for God to subdue the activities of our will; the other step is for God to subdue the life of our will. Often our will is subdued by God only in certain particular matters. In these matters we think that we have completely submitted to God. However, there is still a secret tendency for our will to become active once given the chance. God not only wants our will to be restricted by Him in the aspect of its activities, He also wants the tendency of our will to be completely broken, smashed, and destroyed as if its very nature is changed. Strictly speaking, a submissive will and a harmonious will are different. Submission is only in the aspect of activities, but harmony is in the aspect of life, nature, and tendency. A servant, who fulfills all the orders of his master, merely has a submissive will. The will of a son who is intimately sympathetic towards his parents’ heart is harmonious with his father’s will because he not only does what he should do, but he also delights in doing it. A submissive will merely stops its own activities, but a harmonious will is one with God and is of the same heart as God. A will that is in complete harmony with God is one in which one’s whole heart is placed in the will of God. Only those who are in harmony with God can truly comprehend God’s heart. If a believer has not reached the point where his will and God’s will are in complete harmony, he has not yet experienced the highest point of the spiritual life. Submission to God is good, but when grace has completely overcome the natural disposition, the believer will be in complete harmony with God. Indeed, the union of the will is the highest point of the believer’s experience of life.

Many people think that they already have totally lost their will. Little do they know that they are actually far from it. In all the temptations and trials, they only see the submissive will, not the harmonious will. The submissive will is the will without resistance, not the will without the self. Who does not want to gain something for himself, to reserve something for himself? Who does not want to have gold, silver, honor, freedom, happiness, convenience, high position and a little of whatever? A person may think that his heart does not care for these things. But while he still has them, he does not realize how tightly he is bound by them. Only when he is about to lose them will he realize how much he is unwilling to part with them. Sometimes a submissive will is quite compatible with the will of God. But at other times, a person feels that in the life of his own will he is struggling severely against God’s will. If not for the work of God’s grace, it would be hard to overcome.

Hence, a submissive will is still not perfect. Although the will has been broken and no longer has the strength to resist God, it has not reached the point of being one with God. We admit that reaching the point of not being able to resist is already a great mercy of God. Generally speaking, a submissive will is already dead. Strictly speaking, however, it still has a thread of unbroken life within it. There is still a kind of hidden inclination within, affectionately desiring the former way. Hence, it seems that we are quick, happy, and diligent to fulfill God’s will in some matters more than in others. In both cases we are fulfilling God’s will, but there is a difference in the degree of personal preference. If the self-life is indeed put to death completely, the believer will see that he holds the same attitude in all matters concerning the fulfillment of God’s will. The difference in slowness, fastness, bitterness, happiness, as well as the difference in the effort we apply, indicates that our will is not yet in harmony with God.

The two conditions of the will may be illustrated by the examples of Lot’s wife, the Israelites’ coming out of Egypt, and the prophet Balaam. In the experience of Lot’s wife coming out of Sodom, the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, and Balaam’s blessing of the Israelites, they were all carrying out God’s will. They were all subdued by God and not acting according to their own will. Yet the inclination within them was not one with God. Therefore, the results were all failures. Even when the direction of our steps is right, our heart is often privately not in harmony with God. As a result, we become fallen.


God will never be submissive to us. He is not happy with anything but His will and our submission to Him. Things that are fairer, better, greater, and more important cannot replace God’s will. What God will fulfill is His own will. If He does not fulfill His own will, it is hard to expect us to fulfill it. In God’s eyes, all the best things are corrupted as long as they contain the element of man’s self. Many things are wonderful and profitable if they are done according to the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. But if they are done by man himself, their value before God is completely different. Hence, it is not a matter of man’s tendency or a matter of the nature of things; it is a matter of what God’s will is. This is the first point to remember.

Now we need to ask how man’s will can be in harmony with God’s will. How can man be delivered from having the self-will as his center to having God’s will as his center? The key to the whole matter is the soul-life. The degree to which we are severed from the control of the soul-life is the degree of the union between God and us because nothing hinders our union with God besides the soul-life. We seek after God’s will to the extent that we lose our soul-life and to the extent that our will takes God as its center. This is because the new life is naturally inclined toward God and is suppressed only by the soul-life. The way to achieve the goal is to deliver the soul-life to death.

Without God, man perishes. Without God, everything is vain. Everything that is outside of God is of the flesh (the self). Therefore, outside of God, whatever is done by one’s own effort and according to one’s own thought is condemned. A believer must deny all of his own strength and desires. He must not care for himself in anything and not do anything with his self. He must completely trust God in everything and go forward step by step according to God’s ways, waiting upon God’s time, and according to God’s requirement. He must be willing to accept the strength, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, and work that is from God as his own. He must confess that God is the source of everything he has. Only in this way is harmony possible.

This is truly a "narrow way," but it is not a difficult way. It is narrow because each step is regulated by God’s will. This way has only one principle, which is to not reserve any ground for the self. As such, it is a narrow way. A little deviation from God’s will takes us away from this way. However, this is not a difficult way. When the soul-life is consumed, habits, hobbies, desires, and cravings are broken one by one, and nothing opposes God anymore. Consequently, one does not feel that it is a difficult way. Unfortunately, many believers have not even entered the door or walked on this way. There are also some who do not have patience and who leave this way before reaching the point of sweetness. But whether the period of hardship is long or short, one thing is certain: only this way is the way of life. This is the way of God. Therefore, it is true and sure. Whoever wants to have abundant life has no choice but to walk in this way.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 14: The Spiritual Man (3), Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)