The Experience of Life, by Witness Lee

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The position of the discipline of the Holy Spirit in the entire work of God is firstly outward, not inward. Although the discipline of the Holy Spirit deals with things within us, the discipline itself is in our outward environment. The Holy Spirit uses all kinds of environments outside of us to discipline us and break us.

Secondly, the discipline of the Holy Spirit is negative, not positive. We have said that the positive work of God through the Holy Spirit is the inner anointing, guidance, enlightening, strengthening, etc. The Bible speaks much about these aspects, which are all glorious, sweet, and of chief importance in the eyes of God. However, within us there are many natural elements which must be removed; therefore in the work of God there is an accessory part, which is the environmental dealing or discipline. According to our experience, these dealings and disciplines are extremely vital; however, they are painful and shameful and, in God’s eyes, are not of chief importance; thus, they are negative.

Furthermore, the positive work of the Holy Spirit within us is always accomplished through the Spirit of God, whereas the negative discipline of the Holy Spirit in our environment is brought about by the deeds of Satan. All the people, things, and happenings used in the discipline of the Holy Spirit are of Satan’s manipulation. For example, if someone is opposing us and causing us trouble, this opposition or trouble is definitely not directly of God, but directly from Satan. Again, a thief who steals our clothing, or a fire which burns our house, is definitely not sent directly by God, but by Satan. If someone is obstinate, rebellious, and sins against God, and as a result becomes seriously ill, this sickness is not sent directly from God, but from Satan. Therefore, all the people, things, and happenings involved in the discipline of the Holy Spirit are measured to us by God according to our need. But the one who is acting behind the people, things, and happenings in order to harm us is Satan. Therefore, this is another major reason why we say that the discipline of the Holy Spirit is not sweet.

Since the position of the discipline of the Holy Spirit is outward and negative, we should not consider it more important than the positive anointing of the Holy Spirit within. The purpose of our experiencing the discipline of the Holy Spirit is that we may experience the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If there were only the discipline of the Holy Spirit, but not the anointing of the Holy Spirit, it would be meaningless.


There are two characteristics of the discipline of the Holy Spirit: one is temporal, the other of long duration. The temporal discipline is only for a short period of time and usually comes suddenly and passes quickly. Take for example someone who is hit by an automobile and is seriously injured, but who does not die. After two weeks in the hospital he recovers, and the discipline is ended. This is temporal discipline.

The discipline of long duration is of a longer period of time, the least lasting several years, and the longest following us throughout our entire life. Thus, the pain is great and the breaking severe. Suppose, for example, that God gives a brother a quarrelsome wife, or that He gives a sister a most unreasonable husband, causing them to suffer daily, perhaps unbearably. Since, as Christians, they cannot be divorced, the wife becomes the life-long discipline to the husband, and, likewise, the husband to the wife.

The disciplines of long duration are mostly in an environment which we contact regularly, such as our family, job, church, or relatives. Among these, the family discipline is of the longest duration and is the most severe. Many in China say that a family is a cangue.* This is very meaningful. The people of this world take marriage as an enjoyment; but practically speaking, when we marry, we receive a painful dealing, and we must prepare to carry the cangue and wear a lock. There is nothing which binds people so much as the family. He who has a family is one who receives a bondage and discipline from God. The husband is a life-long discipline to the wife, and the wife to the husband.

The children in the family are also a means of discipline. Those who are childless always wish to have children, but in spite of their wish, some remain childless. Others, who have many children, do not want anymore; yet the more they do not desire them, the more they have. A certain sister may wish to have a child as gentle as Jacob, but unfortunately the child is as wild as Esau and creates much trouble in the home every day. She is made to feel that her home is like a kiln. Servants can be dismissed, but children must be kept whether she likes them or not. They follow her all through her life and serve as discipline of long duration to her.

The church is also a place where man is severely disciplined. God ordains that we cannot be isolated Christians; we must be in the church and in the Body, serving the Lord and being coordinated with the brothers and sisters. However, God also arranges some very peculiar brothers and sisters to be with us. They love the Lord and are consecrated, but they have such peculiar dispositions. They always conflict with us and make us suffer. This also is the Holy Spirit’s discipline of long duration.

Throughout our lifetime there are many instances of this kind of discipline. Some, like Paul, live continually with a thorn in the body—it may be weakness of the physical body or a certain disablement. This is a discipline of long duration. Temporal discipline lasts only for a short period of time, so we may hope for deliverance; but the discipline of long duration is of a long period of time and does not leave or change its flavor; it always remains the same. Therefore, when the discipline of long duration comes upon us, we should not hope for its passing; rather we must give up all hope and be willing to accept it all through our life. Actually, the discipline of long duration is the most precious; it alone can give us lengthy and severe breaking. Good lessons are learned by going through the discipline of long duration. Therefore, we should pay attention not only to temporal discipline, but even more to the discipline of long duration.

(The Experience of Life, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)