THE WAY TO KNOW GOD
The prayer of our Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane was for the purpose of knowing God’s will. Gethsemane means the place where oil is pressed. Our Lord knew that He ought to press out the oil there, so He knelt down and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). The Bible tells us that He prayed the same way for a second time and that the words He used in His third prayer were the same. He did not just pray once and then foolishly let it go; He prayed three times. When He finished the third prayer the Bible says, "He rose up from prayer" (Luke 22:45). He left when the prayer was done, and "He came to the disciples and said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour has drawn near, and the Son of Man is being delivered up into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going" (Matt. 26:45-46). When He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, He said, "All things are possible to You; remove this cup from Me" (Mark 14:36). But when Peter cut off the ear of the slave of the high priest with a sword, Jesus said, "The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). When He was praying at Gethsemane, He was unsure of the cup; but when He was walking on His way, He had no doubt about this cup. He was willing to drink it. Through the three prayers, He came to know God. He never assumed anything; He wanted to deal with God and know God through His prayers. He dealt with God and was also dealt with by God.
There was a thorn in the flesh of the apostle Paul. We will not consider what this thorn was, but since it was a thorn, it must have been something that made him uncomfortable, something that stung him all the time. He also said that a messenger of Satan often buffeted him. Therefore, this thorn must have caused him constant discomfort. He could not overcome this thorn without the power of Christ tabernacling over him. He prayed three times to ask the Lord that it might depart from him. But the Lord said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was clear. Did he pray the fourth time? No. While he was praying the third time, God spoke to him, and he was clear. Paul was another person who did not want to make decisions according to his own knowledge. He desired to deal with God through prayer so that he could know God and know His will concerning certain matters.
From the experiences of the Lord and the apostle Paul we can see one principle: if a man desires to know God, he must learn how to deal with God. In other words, we have to deal with God and be dealt with by God. When many Christians encounter difficulties or problems, they let them slip by and are never dealt with by God. They do not know why God gives them such difficulties. When someone else encounters the same problem, they also do not know the reason. This kind of person may read the Bible every day, they may have knowledge and light, but they do not know God’s will. This is grossly inadequate. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we must deal with God and be dealt with by God. Only then will we truly know Him.
HOW TO PRACTICE
For example, every one of us has his own particular sins which he cannot overcome. With some, one sin stumbles them, while with others, another sin stumbles them. Some people cannot overcome pride, and others cannot overcome jealousy. Some cannot overcome their temper or the world or lust. Everyone knows that they have a special sin, but they cannot overcome it. By reading the Bible, some have come to know Romans 6:14, which says, "For sin will not lord it over you," and Romans 8:1-2, which says, "There is now then no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death." They may have scriptural knowledge concerning these matters, but they still cannot overcome their sins. The truth they obtain cannot be carried out in practice. I am afraid that among us today there are some brothers and sisters who are like this! If a believer who has failed to overcome sin comes to them, they can tell him the high teaching of victory over sin, when in fact they may still be in the bondage of sins that they are unable to overcome. Consequently, the brother who came to consult with them will only gain some knowledge of sin, but still will be unable to experientially overcome his own sins. This indicates that they only have the knowledge of the Bible. They have never been dealt with by God and have no knowledge of God’s power.
How do we know God through His dealings? Suppose you lose your temper quite often, and you come to God’s presence and ask God to eradicate the root of your sin. Soon there may be a brother who comes to you asking for help on overcoming this sin. You may tell him to ask God to eradicate the root of his sin of temper, like removing a tooth. (I wish that such a thing could happen. But we have said many times that this is impossible. We cannot eradicate the root of sin; rather, the more we try to eradicate the root, the stronger it becomes.) After the second one learns the teaching, he will also begin to teach others in the same way. However, they will find that not only is the root of sin not removed, but it has actually taken deeper root. If you fear God, you will not easily let the sins that you cannot overcome go by; you will certainly want to deal with God. You must come before God and pray once, twice, three times, asking God to tell you what this is all about. God will then show you the truth in Romans 6:6. God has dealt with the body of sin by crucifying the old man; He has not eradicated the root of sin from the flesh. Instead, He has crucified the old man through the cross.
After a while you find yourself losing your temper again. You may want to ask a brother what has happened. He may tell you that when the Lord Jesus was crucified, your old man was crucified with Him and that you will overcome if you count yourself as dead. In this way you will acquire more new knowledge. However, when temptation comes, no matter how much you reckon yourself dead, it will be useless. Your temper will still be there. You may think that this method does not work. Although the Bible says clearly that this kind of reckoning will make you overcome, you find yourself still being defeated. If you are one who fears God, you will ask God again. By then you will realize that you do not reckon yourself dead with Christ when temptation comes. Rather, you died with Christ more than nineteen hundred years ago. Your heart will rest upon what Christ has accomplished. When temptation comes you will know that your old man died more than nineteen hundred years ago. You will not need to take hold of any particular word; you will only need to rest on the work that God has accomplished.
However, a short time later the temptation will come back, and you will find yourself losing your temper again. If you do not fear God, you will probably stop here. But if you fear God, you will not be satisfied with Bible knowledge. You will ask God again, saying, "God, Your Word tells me that my old man has been crucified with You; why can I not overcome my sin?" You will deal with God again. Perhaps God will tell you that you are wrong in certain things, or perhaps He will tell you that you do not realize the corruption of your flesh and that you are dependent on yourself. This is why He allows you to err or stumble, so that you will realize the corruption of the flesh. You will then learn another lesson; you will know your self and the corruption of your flesh. In this way you will not dare to do anything but humbly ask God to protect you, and you will no longer trust in your flesh.
But before long you will fail again. If you fear God, you will come before God to deal with God, saying, "Why is it that I still cannot overcome my sin? I have reckoned my old man dead and have known the corruption of my flesh. Why do I still fail?" You may pray once, twice, three times, even four or five times. You may ask God to speak to you. In the end God may grant you the revelation to see that sin is like the fruit of a tree. The tree of life bears fruit every month and bears twelve kinds of fruit, but the root of sin produces thousands of different kinds of fruits. There is only one root of sin, but its fruit multiplies day after day. God may say, "If you only deal with one sin and neglect the other sins, the other sins will come back, and you will find yourself committing the same old sinful habits as before." If you only deal with your temper, while the other sins are still there, before long the sin of temper will come back. You have not dealt with your pride or your jealousy, and you have forgotten to deal with other sins like your unclean thoughts. All those who forget to deal with other sins will find their past sins coming back to them. All those who forget to deal with the root of sin will find the miscellaneous sins coming back to them. If you only pay attention to your temper, you will fail. But if you pay attention to dealing with sin itself, God will bless you.
While you are dealing with your sin this way, you may think that you have overcome and are walking on the broad way to victory; you may think that now you can live peacefully. But perhaps not too long afterward, sin will come back again, and you will find yourself failing again. This is a critical time, and you must not relax. You have to come before God once more to ask Him to deal with you. After praying once or twice, God may give you another new revelation. You will realize how you should live after you have overcome. God will show you that all Christ has accomplished on the cross can be maintained only in fellowship with God. God may say that your prayer and reading of the Bible have become lax or that you have been rising too late every day; therefore, your fellowship with God has been frustrated. This does not mean that the work of Christ on the cross has failed. It only means that the accomplishment of Christ on the cross can only be maintained in the atmosphere of fellowship with God.
Perhaps after a few days, you will lose your temper again. You will pray the same way again, asking God to deal with you. Perhaps God will say that you are good in everything but that you still have not obeyed one of His commandments. This may be a specific commandment that God has for you. You have been touched, but you have refused and procrastinated. As a result, God allows you to lose your victory. You have not obeyed, and your old sins begin to come back again. Therefore, brothers and sisters, as long as we disobey once, we will not overcome sin. In the past I have often shared with you the matter of trusting and obeying. This is the secret to victory. If one slackens in his obedience, his faith will be weakened.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 10: The Present Testimony (3), Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)