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


What must we do before we can know the condition of man’s spirit? We have to pay special attention to this point. All of the discipline we receive from the Holy Spirit is a lesson from God. Whenever the Holy Spirit disciplines us, we become more broken. As we receive more discipline, we experience more breaking. In whatever matter we receive the Spirit’s discipline, we are broken in that same matter. This discipline and breaking is not once for all. Many areas in our lives require repeated discipline and breaking before we can become useful to the Lord. When we find that we can touch a brother with our spirit, it does not mean that we can touch every brother with our spirit, nor does it mean that we can touch every spiritual aspect of a brother with our spirit. It only means that as we have been disciplined by the Holy Spirit and broken in a certain aspect, we are able to touch a brother in that same aspect. If we have not been broken by the Lord in a certain matter and our spirit is insensitive or unprofitable in that matter, we cannot minister to the brother’s need. In other words, the discipline we receive from the Holy Spirit is proportional to our spiritual sense. The more breaking we receive, the more our spirit will be released. In whatever matter we experience the breaking, our spirit will be released in that matter. This is a spiritual fact; it can never be artificially engineered. If we have it, we have it. If we do not have it, we do not have it. This is the reason we must accept the discipline and breaking of the Holy Spirit. Those who have much experience will be able to render much service. Only those who have gone through much breaking will acquire much feeling. Only those who suffer much loss will have much to give others. If we try to save ourselves in a certain matter, we will lose our spiritual usefulness in that matter. If we try to protect or excuse ourselves in a certain matter, we will lose our spiritual sense and supply in that matter. This is a very basic principle.

Only those who have learned their lessons can participate in the service. A man can learn the lessons of ten years in one year, or he can drag out the lessons of one year for twenty or thirty years. If a man delays his learning, he delays his service. If God has given us a heart to serve Him, we must be clear about our way. The way of our service is the way of breaking; it is a way acquired through the discipline of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for those who have never experienced the discipline of the Holy Spirit and who have never been broken to participate in the service. The amount of discipline by the Spirit and the amount of our breaking determine the amount of service. No one can change this. If a person has this experience, he has it. If he does not have it, he does not have it. Human affection and wisdom have no place here. The degree of God’s work on us determines the capacity of our service. The more we are dealt with, the more we will know people. The more we experience the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the more we will be able to touch others with our spirit.

It hurts me very much to see many brothers and sisters so lacking in discernment in many spiritual things. Some are of the Lord, yet they do not know it. Others are of the natural man, yet they are ignorant of this as well. They do not know when a person is exercising his mental strength or working by his own emotion. They do not have the discernment because they are too poor in their learning. God has given us His Spirit once for all, but learning lessons in our spirit is a lifetime endeavor. The more we learn, the more we see. Once the Lord gives us a severe blow in a certain matter, we immediately will be alerted when the same seed sprouts in other brothers. It does not have to develop into a big plant; a little sprout is all that is needed for us to detect it. The extent of the Lord’s work on us is the extent to which we acquire such discernment. Spiritual senses are acquired one by one, time after time. A man can only have feelings as often as he has been dealt with. Suppose a person condemns pride in his mind. He may even be able to preach on the subject of pride. But in his spirit he does not feel the evil of pride. When others are proud, he does not feel sickened. On the contrary, he seems to be full of sympathy for them. When God’s Spirit operates on him, he will see what pride is. He will experience God’s dealing, and the very matter of pride itself will be burned away from him. When he opens his mouth to condemn pride again, the teaching may be the same, but a basic difference will be evident. As soon as a proud spirit comes out of a brother, he will feel that something is wrong. In fact, he will feel sickened. What he has learned and seen from God will give him a sick feeling. No other word describes this feeling better than the word sick. From that point onward he will be able to serve this brother because he knows his illness; he has passed through the same illness and has received healing from it. Although he cannot say that he is completely healed, he can say that he has been healed a little. This is how we acquire our spiritual knowledge.

God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is once for all. But acquiring spiritual senses is a continual process. The more we learn, the more feelings we acquire. The less we learn, the less feelings we have. What use is there in trying to save ourselves or preserve ourselves? Those who will save their own life will lose it. If we try to save ourselves from pain in a certain matter, we will lose the chance of gaining what the Lord wants us to gain in that same matter. We have to ask the Lord not to release us from His hand. May He work on us time after time. The saddest thing is to see the Lord working on us once, twice, with no result at all. Time after time, we are ignorant of the work of the Lord’s hand. We do not pay attention to what He is doing. We even oppose His work. A man is short of spiritual understanding and discernment because he is short in spiritual learning. May we realize before the Lord that the more dealings we receive, the more knowledge we will acquire concerning men and many things, and the more we will have to offer others. In order to expand the sphere of our service, we must expand the sphere of our dealings. It is impossible to have an expanded sphere of service without an expanded sphere of dealing.

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