In our practice, every time and anywhere the Lord burdens us to testify for Him, we should drive away afresh any desire that is in us to rely upon our natural abilities. We should set aside our emotions and pay no attention to our own feelings. Even at times when we have no feelings at all, or when our emotions are as cold as ice, we need to kneel down before the Lord and ask Him to do a deeper work of the cross in us so that we can be able to direct our emotions and can act according to the Lord’s command, regardless of whether our emotions are cold or hot. We can ask the Lord to strengthen our spirit and apply a fatal blow to our soul on the cross. If we do this, the Lord will be gracious to us and will defeat our cold emotions. Even though we already know what we are going to preach, we do not try to dig out such teachings from our head or our mind. Rather, we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to freshly enlighten us with the teachings that we have known before and to freshly impress such teachings upon our spirits so that what we preach does not become merely a recollection of our old experience but a fresh encounter in our life. In this way, the Holy Spirit will confirm what we preach with power. It is best for us to spend a long time before the Lord prior to our preaching to allow His word (some of which we have been familiar with for a long time already) to be impressed upon our spirit afresh. Sometimes it does not take a long time. The Lord can impress His message upon our spirit within a few minutes. In order to do this, our spirit must be very open to the Lord and be intimately connected to Him at ordinary times.
We must pay attention to this point. It has much to do with our success or failure. One can ask a backslidden saint to deliver a message. He can speak of his former experience by exercising his memory. He may even speak persuasively. However, we know that the Holy Spirit cannot possibly work with him. All the works done by us through the exercise of our memory are more or less equivalent to the preaching of backslidden believers. We have to realize that many times the work we accomplish through our mind is a waste of energy. The mind can only reach others’ minds; it can never move their spirit or give life to them. Old experiences can never equip us for fresh works. We must let God renew in our spirit the old experiences.
The same is more true in the matter of preaching the salvation of the cross to sinners. We may have been saved many decades ago. If we work from our memory, is not our message too old and tasteless? Only when we realize afresh in our spirit the evil of sin, taste afresh the love of the cross, and sympathize with Christ in His intense desire for sinners to come to Him, will we be able to portray the cross vividly before men (Gal. 3:1) and cause men to believe. Otherwise, if we try to persuade others by our love and zeal, we may end up being hardened and cold ourselves! It is possible that while we are preaching the suffering of the cross, our hearts are not at all touched by the sufferings and are not melted by them!
We should open up our spirit before the Lord and should allow the Holy Spirit to pour out His words and His message through our spirit, so that we may first be infused in our spirit by the Lord’s word and by the message we preach. We should not depend on our feelings, natural abilities, and thoughts, but should trust solely in the power of the Holy Spirit and should allow His message to be impressed upon our spirit as well as the spirit of the audience. Every time we preach, we should be like Isaiah, who received first a burden for prophecy and then uttered his prophecy. In Isaiah 13—23, the phrase "the burden concerning such and such which such and such saw" is very meaningful. Every time before we preach God’s word, we should first receive God’s burden in our spirit. Every time we preach, we should bear the burden of the message we preach in our spirit and should not consider this burden relieved until our work is done. We should pray that the Lord would give us this burden so that our work would not be of the emotions, the natural abilities, and the mind. We should also have the experience of Jeremiah, who said, "If I say, I will not mention Him / Or speak any more in His name, / Then it is in my heart like a burning fire, / Shut up in my bones, / And I am weary of holding it in, / Nor can I" (20:9). We should not preach His words carelessly or foolishly. Rather, we should first let His words burn in our spirit to the extent that we are compelled to speak. However, if we are not willing to put our soul-life and its strength to death, we will never be able to receive the word of the Lord afresh in our spirit.
Therefore, brothers, if we want to be used by the Lord to save sinners, to revive the saints, and to announce the word of the cross, we should let this cross work in us. Through this working, on the one hand, we become willing to be put to death for the Lord’s sake, and on the other hand, we become willing to put our soul-life to death. At the same time, we no longer rely on ourselves or on anything that issues from us. Instead, we hate all our natural strength. In this way we will see the life of God and His power flowing into others’ spirits through our speaking.
However, although as the preacher of the gospel we are ready on our side, we may still fail. Of course we may not fail completely, but why do we fail? It is because there is:
(The Messenger of the Cross, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)