The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee


When a doctor diagnoses a patient, he needs the help of many instruments. We, however, do not have any instruments. We do not have any thermometers or X-ray machines. We do not have any physical instruments to measure the spiritual condition of others. How can we decide whether or not a brother is sick? How can we diagnose him? This is where God’s work comes in. God must turn our whole being into the very standard of measurement. God has to work on us to the extent that we can measure others to determine whether they are sick and to determine the nature of their sickness. This is how the Lord uses us. This work is much more difficult than the work of a doctor. We have to have a deep realization of the grave responsibility that faces us.

Suppose a doctor does not have a thermometer. The doctor then would have to feel the patient with his hand to determine whether or not he has a fever. His hand would have to function as a thermometer. If this were the case, his hand would need to be very sensitive indeed. It would not only need to be sensitive but accurate as well. This is exactly what is going on in spiritual work. We are the thermometers; we are the medical instruments. Therefore, we have to go through strict trainings and dealings. What is untouched in us will remain untouched in others. We can never expect to help others in the areas that we ourselves have not first learned the lessons. The first matter we have to settle is whether or not we have learned the lesson before the Lord. The more completely and thoroughly we learn our lessons, the more useful we will be to God’s work. The less we learn, that is, the less price we pay and the more we hold back ourselves, our pride, our narrowness, our opinions, and our joy, the less useful we will be. If we spare and save these things in ourselves, we will be unable to deal with them in others. A proud person cannot deal with a proud person. A narrow person cannot deal with a narrow person. A spurious person cannot deal with a spurious person. A loose person cannot deal with a loose person. If we are a certain kind of person and are afraid of condemning that kind of illness in others, we will be unable to know whether or not others have a similar illness, much less help them. It is possible that a medical doctor can heal others but cannot heal himself. In spiritual matters, however, the same principle does not apply. First the worker is the patient; he must be healed of the sickness before he can heal others who have the same sickness. He cannot make others see what he has never seen himself. He cannot make others experience what he has never experienced himself. He cannot make others learn the lessons that he has never learned himself.

Before the Lord we have to see that we are the very instruments which God uses to discern men. Therefore, our very person must be very reliable. Our feelings and judgment must be very reliable. In order for our feelings to be reliable, we have to pray, "Lord! Do not let me go." In order for our feelings to be reliable, we have to allow God to perform works that we have never dreamed of. We have to allow God to work on us to such an extent that we become useful to Him. If a thermometer cannot accurately gauge temperature, a doctor cannot use it. A thermometer has to be reliable and accurate. When we try to identify others’ spiritual problems, we are facing an issue far more serious than identifying physical illnesses. Yet we have our own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and ways. One minute we try to do one thing and the next minute we try to do something else. Because we are unreliable and unusable, we have to go through God’s dealing before we can become useful.

Do we feel the gravity of our responsibility? God’s Spirit does not work directly on man. He only works through some men. Although the discipline of the Holy Spirit does bring a person what he needs, nevertheless, God works through the minister’s speaking, that is, through the ministry of the word. Without the ministry of the word, the spiritual problems of the brothers and sisters will remain. This responsibility is upon us. This is a very sober matter. Whether or not we, the person, can be used by God directly affects the supply that comes to the church.

Suppose a certain illness always results in a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. We cannot feel the patient with our hand and say, "This roughly feels like 103 degrees." We have to be very accurate and certain that it is 103 degrees before we can say that he has an illness that is associated with this temperature. God is using us, the person, to diagnose others’ sicknesses. It is too risky for us to diagnose others if our feelings, thoughts, opinions, or spiritual understandings are wrong, or if we have not learned enough from the Lord. But if we are accurate and reliable persons, ones whom God can trust, His Spirit will flow out of us.

The beginning of all spiritual work is based on our repeated calibration before the Lord. A thermometer must be made according to certain specifications. It must be carefully checked according to the standard before it will give reliable and accurate readings. We are like the thermometer. If we are not accurate, we will only bring in confusion. In order for us to be accurate, we have to be calibrated through fine dealings. We are the doctors, and we are the instruments as well. Therefore, we have to learn our lessons properly.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)