"But to this kind of man will I look, to him who is poor /And of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isa. 66:2).
"Contrite" in the original text has the meaning of "beaten." God is pleased when the spirit of the believer is very careful, as if it is always under rebuke and beating, fearing God and His word. A believer’s spirit must reach a stage of constantly fearing God. The presumptuous and self-willed heart must be completely broken, allowing the word of God to be the guide in all things. A believer must have this holy respect, having absolutely no trust in himself. Since his spirit has already been beaten, he dares not lift up his head; instead, he always obeys the command of God. A hardened spirit is always an obstacle in obeying the will of God. Only after the cross has accomplished a thorough work in enabling the believer to clearly know the unreliability of his ideas, feelings, and desires does he dare not become presumptuous. He becomes extremely cautious in all things, knowing that they will doubtlessly fail without the intervening and keeping power of God. We must not become independent of God. Whenever our spirit ceases to tremble, it will have an independent (presumptuous) intent. We rely on God only when we realize that we are in a completely helpless situation. A trembling spirit keeps us from failing and causes us to really know God.
"To be of an humble spirit with the lowly" (Prov. 16:19).
"Honor shall uphold the humble in spirit" (Prov. 29:23).
"I will dwell...with the contrite and lowly of spirit,/To revive the spirit of the lowly" (Isa. 57:15).
Being humble is not despising oneself; rather, it is not looking at oneself. An attitude of self-conceit in a believer’s spirit is the proof of his fall. Humility is not only before God, it is also before man. A humble spirit can be seen in communicating with the lowly. Only a humble spirit will not despise any man created by God. The presence and glory of God are manifested in the man with a humble spirit.
A humble spirit is one which can be taught, one which can be exhorted, and one which can receive explanation. Many believers are too haughty in spirit; therefore, they can only teach others and cannot be taught. Many believers are so immovably stubborn in spirit that it is hard for them to be taught. Even though they realize that they are wrong, they still hold on to their own view. Many believers are too hard in spirit to listen to others’ explanation regarding a misunderstanding. Only a humble spirit has the receiving capacity. God needs a humble spirit to manifest His virtues. How can a proud spirit listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and co-labor with the Holy Spirit? The spirit must be void of any trace of pride and must always be soft, tender, and flexible. A spirit with any amount of hardness is unlike that of the Lord; therefore, it is unable to fellowship with the Lord. The spirit must be humble, always waiting on the Lord, and without any resistance towards the Lord before it can walk with Him.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3).
Being poor in spirit is realizing that one has absolutely nothing. The danger for a believer is that there are too many things in his spirit. Only those who realize that they are poor in spirit can be humble. A believer’s experience, growth, and progress very often become self-valued treasures in his spirit, causing it to lose its poverty. To meditate on one’s gains and pay attention to one’s experiences are very subtle dangers. The believer, however, often does not realize this. What is being poor? Being poor is having nothing. If a believer has the deepest experience and constantly remembers the experience, it is like cargo in his spirit and becomes a snare to him. Only an empty spirit will cause a believer to lose himself in God. A rich spirit will cause a believer to become self-centered. Complete salvation frees a believer out of self and back to God. If a believer retains something for himself, his spirit will immediately turn inward and be unable to "reach out" to be joined in God.
"A spirit of meekness" (Gal. 6:1).
This is a very important condition for the spirit. Meekness is the opposite of hardness and stubbornness. God requires a meek spirit of us. An unyielding spirit will often lose the leading of God. A meek spirit can forsake one’s will and obey God in the shortest time. Whoever has a meek spirit can immediately stop, according to the Lord’s leading, without any previous notification from God, even when he is in the midst of utter prosperity in his work. Philip was like this when he was called in Samaria to go to the wilderness. A meek spirit turns freely in God’s hands as God wills. A meek spirit does not know how to resist God and follow one’s own will. God needs such a submissive spirit to accomplish His will.
A meek spirit is not any less important towards man. A meek spirit is a spirit which is like a lamb, a spirit of the cross. "Who being reviled did not revile in return; suffering, He did not threaten" (1 Pet. 2:23); this is a meek spirit. A meek spirit is willing to be wronged. Even though one is protected by the law and able to take revenge, he would by no means use his fleshly arm to redress himself. This spirit, though suffering pain and damage, causes no harm to others. Whoever has such a spirit conducts himself in righteousness but does not demand righteousness from others. He is filled with love, grace, and kindness; therefore, he is able to melt those who are surrounding him.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 13: The Spiritual Man (2), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)