Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), by Watchman Nee


Soulish believers are not behind others in the matter of works. They are very active, zealous, and willing. However, this is not to say that they labor this way because of God’s command. Rather, they do so as they like and according to their own enthusiasm. They think that it is always good to do God’s work, but they do not know that it is really good only when they do the work which God gives them. They do not have a heart of trusting nor a time of quietness. They have not sincerely sought the will of God. They work according to their own ideas; their mind is full of plans and schemes because they labor in such a way that they consider themselves far more advanced than idle brothers. Little do they know that if they have obtained God’s grace, it is easier for them to have a spiritual walk in life than zealous believers.

The works of soulish believers are mainly based upon feelings. They are able to work when they feel happy within; otherwise, they stop completely. When they have the sensation of a burning in their heart and are thrilled with an unspeakable joy, they can witness to people for hours without feeling weary. However, if they do not have such a feeling and instead feel a coldness in their heart and are not excited, even when facing the greatest need, such as someone dying, they simply speak a few words or even do not speak at all. Once they have the feeling, they can run a thousand miles; otherwise, they will not move even a step. They cannot ignore their feelings and talk to the Samaritan woman with an empty stomach or speak to Nicodemus with weary eyes.

Soulish believers enjoy busy work. However, unlike spiritual believers, whenever there is much to do they cannot maintain the quietness in their spirit to accomplish God’s command unhurriedly. Whenever there is much to do, their heart is greatly disturbed. When there is confusion in outward affairs, their hearts also become confused. Their heart is governed by external matters. "Drawn about with much serving" (Luke 10:40) and "troubled" in heart are the characteristics of the works of every soulish believer.

Soulish believers are easily discouraged in their works. They do not have a steadfast faith to trust God who is able to accomplish His own work. They do not understand God’s "law of faith." They are regulated by their own feelings and the external environment. Whenever they feel they have failed, although this may not necessarily be true, they become discouraged. When they see the outward environment is gloomy, they faint. They have not yet rested in God.

Soulish believers do not have long-range views; therefore, they are easily discouraged. What they see is merely in the present. The present victory causes them to rejoice, and the present defeat makes them sad. They have not yet learned to see the end of a matter with faith. They desire to have some momentary victory to comfort the longing of their heart. Without this, they cannot trust God in the dark and go on unwearily.

It is very easy for soulish believers to find shortcomings in others although they are not necessarily stronger than others. They are apt to criticize others and rarely can forgive. They cannot follow others’ original intentions. When they investigate and correct the shortcomings in others, they often have a sense of self-satisfaction, exaltation, and pride. Sometimes when they help people, what they do may be good and legitimate, but often their motive is not proper.

Soulish believers are often hasty. They cannot wait on God. They always do things in a hurried, flustered, and urgent manner. Even in doing the works of God, they are pushed by their enthusiasm and ardor and simply cannot wait for God’s clear directing, leading, and opening of the way.

The minds of soulish believers are often completely occupied with their works. They consider, plan, deliberate, and anticipate. In their mind they often remember their work—the successes, the failures, or other results. Sometimes they envision the future of their works. When they think of the bright side, they are joyful beyond control. When they think of the dark side, they are overcome by sorrows. In either case, they may even neglect their sleeping and eating. At any rate, their mind is fully occupied with their work. Do they think that much of their Lord? Many times this is not the case. They think more of their work than of their Lord. In their view, the work of the Lord is very important, but often they forget the Lord who gives him work. The work of the Lord becomes the center of everything, while the Lord of the work becomes secondary.

Since soulish believers lack real spiritual insight, their actions unconsciously follow the direction of the "sudden thoughts" of their mind. Hence, they often speak inappropriate words in their work. Their words do not meet others’ need. Nevertheless, because they themselves presume that there "ought" to be such a need in people, they utter useless words in trying to help others. They may reproach when one needs sympathy; they may comfort when one should be admonished. This is because they lack spiritual understanding and depend too much on their own limited thoughts. Even after their words have proven to be futile, they still are not convinced.

Soulish believers make many plans and have many opinions. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to work with others. They have what they themselves presume to be right, so they expect others to fully agree with them. Their condition for working together with others is that others must absolutely agree with their views. To them, even a minor idea is crucially related to the truth once delivered to the saints. They cannot allow others to proceed to work if there is any difference in opinion. They know that there must be no opinion, but if any opinion needs to die, it is not theirs. They realize that sects are not scriptural, but it is not their particular sect that must die. Whatever they do not believe, they consider as heresy. However, those who are soulish as they are reject their belief. Not only so, affection is very important in their work. They love to have their own small clique, their own so-called inner circle. They are not able to work together with other children of God. They love to partition God’s children according to their liking.

In preaching, soulish believers cannot depend completely on God. They rely either on their own illustrations, interpretations, and clever ideas or on their own persuasive power. Perhaps there are a few famous ones who rely completely on themselves—"Because I said so, people must listen." They may depend on God but also on themselves. Therefore, it is necessary for them to have very skillful preparations. The time they spend in prayer, in seeking God’s will, in waiting for the power from above is less than the time they spend on preparing outlines, in gathering materials, and in hard and careful thinking. They memorize the entire message and simply recite it at the time of preaching. The mind occupies the primary place in such work.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 12: The Spiritual Man (1), Chapter 12, by Watchman Nee)