THE INITIATION OF SPIRITUAL WORK
It is not a small matter to initiate anything. A believer should not rashly do something just because it is good, needful, and profitable to others. These are not sufficient reasons to prove that a work is according to the will of God. Perhaps God wants to raise up others to do the work, or He may prefer to allow the work to stop temporarily. Although it may be hard to let go from the human point of view, God knows how to take care of it. Therefore, goodness, necessity, and profitableness are altogether insufficient to be the guidelines to our work.
The book of Acts is the best pattern for our work. In Acts we do not see someone "consecrating to be a preacher," "deciding to do the Lord’s work," "becoming a missionary," or "becoming a pastor," etc. Rather, we see the Holy Spirit Himself appointing people and sending people to work. God does not recruit men to give themselves for the work; God only sends the persons whom He wants. We do not see anyone choosing to do a work himself; only God selects the laborers for His work. There is no place for the thought of man’s flesh. If God wants something, even a Saul will not be able to resist. If God does not want something, even a Simon will not be able to buy it with money. As the Lord of all, God controls His own work, not allowing even a little part of man to be mixed in with it. Man does not come to work; rather, God "sends out" the laborers. Therefore, spiritual work must begin with a personal calling from the Lord Himself. One must not go forth to work because of the entreaty of preachers, the urging of relatives and friends, or the affinity of his own nature to the holy Word. Only those who are not wearing fleshly shoes can stand upon the holy ground of God’s work. Much failure, waste, and confusion happen because man himself comes to work rather than being sent to work.
Even if a man is selected, he cannot then begin to act freely. From the viewpoint of the flesh, no other work in the world is more constricting than spiritual work. We read in Acts phrases such as: "the Holy Spirit said," "the Lord said to him," "the Holy Spirit said to him," "sent out by the Holy Spirit," "forbidden by the Holy Spirit." Other than obeying, the worker has no authority to offer any opinion. At that time the work of the apostles was nothing other than knowing the mind of the Holy Spirit in their intuition and then following it. How simple this was! If spiritual work needs a believer to somehow use his own effort to devise, calculate, maneuver, and worry about it, then only those who are naturally gifted, intelligent, and educated will be able to work. However, God has completely put aside everything which is of the flesh. As long as a believer’s spirit towards God is holy and clean, lively and full of power, he will be able to follow the Lord’s direction and do a very effective work. God has never given believers the authority to control the work; He only wants them to listen to what He says in their spirit.
Samaria had a "great revival," but Philip was not responsible for the continuing work of nourishing. He had to leave immediately and go to the wilderness to save a Gentile eunuch. Ananias had never heard of Saul’s conversion, and according to his reasoning, it meant death to go and intercede for him; however, he did not decide for himself. The Jewish rule prohibited Jews from going to a Gentile home to associate with them, but when the Holy Spirit spoke, Peter could not resist. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit still had the authority to forbid them from going to Asia and the authority to later lead Paul to Asia to establish the church in Ephesus. All the work is in the hands of the Holy Spirit; a believer should just obey. If the work was according to human thought, likes, and dislikes, then in the early days, they would not have gone to many places where they should have gone, and they would have gone to many places where they should not have gone. These experiences show us that we should not follow our own thought, reason, preferences, and decisions; rather, we should follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our spirit. They also show us that the Holy Spirit does not lead through our thoughts, preferences, and decisions; on the contrary, our thoughts, preferences, and decisions are completely opposite to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our spirit. If the apostles could not work according to their mind, emotion, and will, how can we?
All the work that God calls us to do is revealed in the intuition of the spirit (see Section Five, Chapter One). When a believer acts according to the thoughts of the mind, the activities of the emotion, and the ambitions of the will, he goes outside of the will of God. Only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; all the other things are not. All of a believer’s work must only come from receiving revelation in the spirit after trusting and waiting upon God; otherwise, the flesh will come in. God will surely give us the spiritual power to do everything that He calls us to do. Therefore, there is an important principle of never working beyond the strength in our spirit. If we work beyond our spirit, we will draw on our own power for assistance. This is the beginning of misery. Overstretching in the work will prevent us from walking according to the spirit and from doing real spiritual work.
Almost everyone today uses rationality, thoughts, reasons, emotions, feelings, likes, wishes, desires, etc., as the standard for work. But all of these are from the soul and have no spiritual value. We should know that these things are good servants, but they are not good masters; if we follow them, we will fail. Spiritual work must come forth from the spirit. God will not reveal His will in any place other than in the spirit.
Furthermore, when people need spiritual help, the worker should never allow soulish feelings to overcome the spiritual relationship. Besides a completely pure desire to help their spirituality, other soulish feelings are damaging. This is often a danger and snare to a worker. Love, affection, concern, worry, interest, fervency, etc., must all be completely guided by the Holy Spirit. When they do not obey this law, some workers for Christ have moral and spiritual failures. On the one hand, we may let natural attraction and human desire control our work; on the other hand, we may let natural hatred and a lack of human affection control our work. In both cases the result will be failure, and the life of the worker will be desolate. Many times, even regarding the loved ones who are most dear to us, a relationship based upon the flesh must be placed in a secondary position, sometimes even completely disregarded, before spiritual results can be obtained. Our intentions and wishes must be completely consecrated to the Lord.
We should work only when we know in the intuition that the work is according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The flesh does not have a possibility of joining in God’s work. The extent of our spiritual usefulness depends on how deeply we let the cross cut our flesh. Superficial accomplishments matter little; only the work that is done by God, through men and women who have been crucified, matters. Even works that are done in the name of the Lord Jesus with fervency and labor, for the sake of some good cause or for the mission of the kingdom of the heavens, are not sufficient to cover up the flesh. God only wants Himself to do the work; He does not want the flesh to interfere with Him. We should realize that even in the matter of serving God, there is the possibility of offering "strange fire" and of being "not spiritual." This will stir the wrath of God. All of the fire that is not kindled in our spirit by the Holy Spirit is strange fire and sin in the eyes of God. Every work which is done for God is not necessarily the work of God. Doing something for Him is not enough. The real question is who is doing it? If God Himself does not work from the spirit of the believer, and there is only the activity of a believer using his own strength, then the work cannot count before God. Everything out of the flesh will decay with the flesh. Only that which comes from God will last forever. Only doing the work which God commanded will not be in vain.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)