The Believer’s Mistake

The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 3, Part 9 THE ANALYSIS OF THE SOUL-THE WILL, Ch. 3, Watchman Nee

WE MUST NOT FALL under the misapprehension that those believers who are deceived by evil spirits must be the most defiled, degenerate, and sinful. They are on the contrary oftentimes fully surrendered Christians spiritually more advanced than ordinary believers. They strive to obey God and are willing to pay any cost. Unwittingly do they stumble into passivity because of the fact that although they are wholly consecrated they know not how to cooperate with God. Those who are less serious about spiritual matters do not face the danger of passivity, for how could anyone sink into inactivity and eventually into the grip of the enemy when, though professing to be utterly consecrated, he persists in living according to his own ideas? He might give ground to evil spirits in other respects but certainly not in the matter of yielding to God’s will by delivering a passive ground to the enemy. Only those committed ones who disregard their own interests are open to passivity. Their will can easily slip into this state since they are most eager to obey all orders.

Many will wonder why God does not protect them. Is not their motive pure? How can God permit such faithful seekers of His to be deceived by evil spirits? Many people will contend that He ought to safeguard His Own children under any circumstance; they do not realize that to enjoy God’s protection one must fulfill His conditions for protection. Should a person fulfill the conditions for the working of the evil spirits God cannot forbid the latter to work, for He is a law-abiding One. Because the Christian intentionally or unintentionally has surrendered himself to the evil spirits God will not hinder them from the right to control that one. How many hold to the idea that a pure motive safeguards them from deception! Little do they realize that the people most deceived in the world are those with good intentions. Honesty is no condition for not being deceived; but knowledge is. Should the believer neglect the teaching of the Bible, failing to watch and pray even though trusting his pure motive to keep him from deception, he shall be deceived. How can he expect God to protect him when he is providing the pre-requisites for the working of evil spirits?

Countless saints consider themselves beyond deception because they have had frequent spiritual experiences. This very element of self-confidence betrays the deception they are in already. Unless they are humble enough to acknowledge the possibility of being deceived, they shall be deceived perpetually. Deception is neither a matter of life nor of intention but one of knowledge. It is difficult for the Holy Spirit to point out the truth to that person who has absorbed too many idealistic teachings in the early stages of his Christian experience. Equally hard is it for others to supply him with necessary light if he already has developed a prejudiced interpretation of the Scriptures. The danger of such false security is to give opportunity for the evil spirits to work or to continue to work.

We saw earlier how ignorance is the cause of passivity and passivity, the cause of entrenchment. The latter condition would never occur if a Christian had the right knowledge. Actually passivity is a mistaken obedience or consecration. It may additionally be said to be an excessive obedience or consecration. Had he recognized how the evil spirits require man’s inertia for their working he would not have allowed himself to descend into passivity. Had he realized that God does not reduce man to a marionette in order to work, then he would not wait passively to be moved. Ignorance accounts for today’s tragic plight among the saints.

A Christian requires knowledge in order to distinguish God’s working from that of Satan’s. He should know the principle of divine operation as well as the condition for satanic operation. He who possesses such knowledge guards himself from the powers of darkness. Since Satan assails the believer with lies, he must be met with the truth. Because he intends to keep the believer in darkness, he must be countered with light. Let us learn by heart that the principle governing the working of the Holy Spirit and that of the evil spirit are diametrically opposite. Let us also remember that each operates according to his respective principle. Although the evil spirits are skillful in a variety of camouflages, their working principle remains the same. By examining the inward principles we are able to differentiate what is of the Holy Spirit from what is of the evil spirit, for each invariably acts in accordance with his particular principle.

Let us now consider in some detail a number of erroneous conceptions which Christians more than not commonly hold.

A Mistaken Notion Concerning Co-Death with Christ

The conditions for passivity in a believer may come about through a wrong interpretation concerning the truth of “death with Christ.” Paul says that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2.20). Some misconstrue this to connote self-effacement. What they deem to be the summit of spiritual life is “a loss of personality, an absence of volition and self control, and the passive letting-go of the ‘I myself’ into a condition of machine-like, mechanical, automatic ‘obedience’.” (Penn-Lewis, WOTS, 86)* They thereafter must harbor no feelings; they should instead renounce all consciousness of personal wishes, interests and tastes. They must aim at self-annihilation, reducing themselves to corpses. Their personality must be totally eclipsed. They misapprehend the command of God to mean a demand for their self-effacement, self-renunciation and self-annihilation so they may no longer be aware of themselves or their needs but may be conscious only of the movement and operation of

*See previous Chapter for full bibliographical citation.

God in them. Their misconception about being “dead to self” means for them the absence of self-consciousness. So they endlessly deliver their self-consciousness to nought till they sense nothing but the presence of God. Under this mistaken notion they assume they must practice death; on each occasion therefore when they become aware of “self” or are conscious of personal wants, lacks, needs, interests or preferences they consistently consign these to death.

Since “I have been crucified with Christ,” they argue, then I no longer exist. And since it is “Christ who lives in me,” then I no longer live. I having died, I must practice death—that is, I must not harbor any thought or feeling. Because Christ is alive within me, He will think or feel in my place. My personality is annihilated, therefore I will obey Him passively, permitting Him to think or feel for me. Unfortunately these people overlook what Paul further said about “the life I now live in the flesh.” Paul died, and yet he has not died! This “I” has been crucified, nevertheless “I” still lives in the flesh. Paul, upon having passed through the cross, still declares of himself that “I now live”!

This confirms that the cross does not annihilate our “I”; it exists forever. It is “I” who will one day go to heaven. How can salvation ever benefit me if somebody else goes instead of me? The true purport of our accepting co-death with Christ is that we are dead to sin and that we deliver our soul life to death; even the most excellent, most righteous and most virtuous soul life we deliver to death. God beckons us to deny the desire to live by our natural power and to live instead by Him, leaning upon His vitality moment by moment for the supply of every need. This does not in anyway imply that we are to destroy our various functions and settle into passivity. Quite the reverse is true: such a walk with God requires us to exercise our will daily in an active, consistent and believing manner for the denial of our own natural energy and the appropriation of divine energy. Just as neither the death of today’s physical body means annihilation nor the death of the lake of fire suggests extermination, so co-death with Christ in the spirit cannot denote effacement. Man as a person must exist; his will must continue: only his natural life must die. This is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.

The consequences of a misconception of the truth such as this are (1) the believer himself ceases to be active; (2) God cannot use him because he has violated His operating principle; therefore (3) the evil spirits seize the opportunity to invade him since he unwittingly has fulfilled the prerequisites for their working. Due to his misinterpretation of the truth, and his practicing of death, he becomes a tool of the enemy who has disguised himself as God. Alas and alack, this misapprehension of the teaching connected with Galatians 2 has come to be in many cases the prelude to deception.

After such a “death” as this the individual is deprived of any feeling. He cannot feel for himself, nor can he feel for others. He gives those around him the impression of being like iron and stone, utterly devoid of feeling. He does not sense the suffering in others nor is he sensitive to how much pain he has given people himself. He has no ability to sense, to distinguish or to discern things within or without. This person is totally unaware of his own manner, attitude, and action. He speaks and acts without exercising his will and knows not from whence his words, thoughts and feelings originate. Without having made any decision through his own volition these words and feelings nonetheless flow like a river. All his actions are mechanical; no knowledge has he of their sources; he is only spurred on by an alien power. Strange to say, however, unconscious of self as he is, yet is he most sensitive to the treatment accorded him by others. He tends to misunderstand and hence to suffer. In any case, this “unconsciousness” forms both the condition and the consequence of the enemy’s penetration. By. it the evil spirits are enabled to work, to attack, to suggest, to think, to press or to suppress without the slightest resistance from the believer who is completely unaware of anything.

Let us consequently keep in mind that what people commonly term “death to self” in essence signifies death to the life, power, exercise and activity of self; in no way does it refer to the death of one’s personality. We must not efface ourselves and render our personalities non-existent. This is a distinction we must comprehend. When we say without self, we mean without any self-activity, not without self-existence! If a Christian accepts the interpretation which envisages a loss of personality and refuses to think, feel or move, he shall live as one in a dream. Though he conceives himself to be truly dead, entirely selfless, and intensely spiritual, his consecration is ‘not towards God but is as to the evil spirits.

God’s Working

Another text easily mishandled is Philippians 2.13: “it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure” (ASV). To some this passage seems to teach that God performs both the willing and the working; that is, that He puts into His child what He has willed and worked. Since God wills and works instead of him, he himself need not do so. The believer has become a kind of superior creature having no need to will and to do work now that God has done so for him. He is like a mechanical toy which exercises no responsibility of its own to will and do. These saints do not see that the correct substance of this verse is that God works in us up to the point of our readiness to will and to work. He undertakes only to that point and no farther. He never wills or acts in place of man. He merely endeavors to bring man to the position of being disposed to will and to do His excellent will.

Man himself must perform the willing and the working. The Apostle carefully states, “you both to will and to work”—not God wills and works, but you; your personality continues to exist and hence you yourself must will and act because the responsibility is yours. God is indeed at work, but never does He substitute Himself for us. To choose and to do belong to the man. God wants to move us, melt us and encourage us, so that our hearts may bend towards His will, yet he does not will instead of us to do His will. He turns us towards His desire, then leaves us to make up our will. What the Word teaches here is that one’s volition requires the support of God’s power. How ineffectual and fruitless are deeds done according to one’s own volition apart from Him. God does not will in man’s stead, but neither does He desire man to will independently. He calls him to will in His power, which is to say, to will according to His working in man.

Not comprehending the correct meaning of this passage the believer surmises that he need not will. He thus allows another volition to control his being. He dare not decide any issue, choose any action, or even resist any power, but passively waits for the will of God to come to him. When an external volition decides for him he passively accepts it. He quenches whatever proceeds from his own volition. And the result: neither he himself uses his volition nor God uses it to choose and decide for him, since He requires active co-operation. But the evil spirits seize his passive will and act instead of him.

We need to see the difference between God willing for us and our volition cooperating with God. If He were to choose and decide in lieu of us we would have no real connection with the act or deed done because our hearts would not have been exercised towards it. And when we come to ourselves afterwards we would know that it was not done by us. But if we exercise our volition and actively cooperate with God, we undertake to do the thing ourselves though in the divine power. A person under deception may consider himself the doer, speaker and thinker, but when enlightened by God he realizes he does not really want to so do, speak and think. He knows he has no connection with these acts because they were performed by the enemy.

It is not God’s purpose to annihilate our volition. If we say we henceforth shall have no volition of our own but shall let His will be manifested in our body we have not offered ourselves to God; instead, we have covenanted with the evil spirit since God never substitutes His will for ours. The right attitude is this: that I have my own will, yet I will the will of God. We should put our volition on His side—and even this is to be done not by our own strength but by the life of God. The truth of the whole matter is that the life which formerly energized our volition has now been committed to death so that now we engage our volition in the energizing life of God. We do not eliminate our will; it is still there; only the life has changed. What has died is our own life; the function of the will continues although renewed by God. Hereafter the volition is energized by the new life.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Those believers are numberless who have plunged into passivity and enslavement because of not understanding the work of the Holy Spirit. What follows are some of the most common misunderstandings.

1. Obey the Holy Spirit. Believers think Acts 5.32 suggests that they must obey the Holy Spirit—“the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” But they fail, according to the command given in the Bible, to test all the spirits to see if they are of truth or of error (1 John 4.1,6 ). They instead accept as being the Holy Spirit every spirit which comes to them. They think this obedience must be highly pleasing to God. What they do not know is that the Scripture here does not teach us to obey the Holy Spirit but to obey God the Father through the Spirit. In verse 29 of Acts 5 the Apostles when under questioning by the council replied that they “must obey God.” Should anyone make God the Spirit his object of obedience and forget God the Father he tends to obey the spirit in him or around him instead of obeying through the Holy Spirit the Father Who is in heaven. This will set him on the road to passivity and in addition provide the evil spirits the chance for counterfeit. Overstepping the bounds of the Word of God ushers in countless perils!

2. The Rule of the Holy Spirit. We will recall from our past discussion how God rules our spirit through the Holy Spirit and how our spirit rules our body or the entire person through the soul (or will). This may sound simple, yet the spiritual implication is enormous. The Holy Spirit influences our intuition alone to make His will known. Only our spirit does he fill and nowhere else. Never does He control or fill our soul or body directly. This point should be carefully underscored. We should not therefore expect God’s Spirit to think through our mind, feel through our emotion, or decide through our volition. He makes His will known to our spirit’s intuition in order that we ourselves may think and feel and act according to His will. It is a grave blunder to think we must offer our mind to the Holy Spirit to let Him think through it. The truth is He never uses man’s mind directly instead of man. He never asks him to offer himself passively to Him. What God wishes is cooperation with him. He does not work for man, because even His movement in working for him could be quenched by the believer. He never forces anyone to do anything.

The divine Spirit does not directly control man’s body either. If man desires to speak he has to engage his own mouth—to walk, his own feet—to work, his own hands. The Spirit of God never interferes with man’s freedom of will. Aside from working in man’s spirit (which is God’s new creation), He does not use any part of man’s body apart from the consent of the latter’s own volition; nay, even if man is willing, He does not exercise any of his bodily parts for him. Man should be his own master. He must exercise his own body. This is God’s law which He will not violate.

We often say that “the Holy Spirit rules over man.” By this we mean He works in us to make us obedient to God. But if we should mean that He directly controls our total being we are in complete error. We can distinguish right here between the work of the Holy Spirit and that of evil spirits. The Holy Spirit indwells us to witness that we belong to God whereas evil spirits manipulate people to reduce them to robots. God’s Spirit asks for our cooperation; evil spirits seek direct control. Hence it is plain that our union with God is in the spirit and not in the body or soul. Should we misunderstand the truth and expect God to move our mind, emotion, volition, and body directly, we open wide the door to the counterfeit of evil spirits. While a Christian should not follow his own thought, feeling or preference, nevertheless after he has received revelation in his spirit he ought to execute with his mind, emotion and will this charge which has come to his spirit.

Spiritual Life

Among the various misconceptions relating to spiritual life can be found the following.

1. Speaking. The text used is Matthew 10.20: it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Christians often assume that God will speak for them. Some imagine that while delivering a message in a meeting they must not employ their mind and will but simply offer their mouths passively to God, letting Him speak through them. Needless to say, however, the words of Jesus recorded in this particular passage are to be applied only to the time of persecution and trial. It does not suggest that the Holy Spirit will speak instead of the believer. The experience of the Apostles Peter and John in the council fulfills this prediction.

2. Guidance. Text: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it’ “ (Is. 30.21). Saints do not perceive that this verse refers specifically to the experience of God’s earthly people, the Jews, during the millennial kingdom when there shall be no satanic counterfeit. Unaware of this fact they view supernatural guidance in a voice to be the highest form of guidance. They esteem themselves more spiritual than the rest and hence receive supernatural guidance of this type. They neither listen to their conscience nor follow their intuition; they merely wait in a passive manner for the supernatural voice. These believers hold that they do not need to think, ponder, choose or decide. They simply need to obey. They permit the voice to be substituted for their intuition and conscience. And the consequence is that “(a) he does not use his conscience; (b) God does not speak to him for automatic obedience; (c) evil spirits take the opportunity and supernatural voices are substituted for the action of the conscience.” (Penn-Lewis, WOTS, 121) The outcome is that the enemy gains more ground in the believer. And “from this time (forward) the man is not influenced by what he feels or sees, or by what others say, and he closes himself to all questions, and will not reason. This substitution of supernatural guidance for the action of the conscience explains the deterioration of the moral standard in persons with supernatural experiences, because they have really substituted the direction of evil spirits for their conscience. They are quite unconscious that their moral standard is lowered, but their conscience has become seared by deliberately ceasing to heed its voice; and by listening to the voices of the teaching spirits, in matters which should be decided by the conscience in respect to their being right or wrong, good or evil.” (Penn-Lewis, WOTS,121-22 )

3. Memory. Text: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14.26). Christians do not grasp that this verse means the Counselor will enlighten their mind so that they may remember what the Lord has spoken. They instead think it instructs them not to engage their memory because God shall bring all things to their minds. They accordingly allow their memory to degenerate into passivity; they do not exercise their wills to remember. And what is the outcome?—“(a) the man himself does not use his memory; and (b) God does not use it, because He will not do so apart from the believer’s co-action; (c) evil spirits use it, and substitute their workings in the place of the believer’s volitional use of his memory.” (Penn-Lewis, WOTS,121)

4. Love. Text: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5.5). Believers misconstrue this to signify that they are not themselves to love but to let the Holy Spirit dispense God’s love to them. They petition God to love through them that His love may be supplied abundantly so as to fill them with divine love. They no longer will love for hereafter it is God Who must make them love. They cease to exercise their faculty of affection, permitting its function to sink into total paralysis. With the result that (a) the believer himself does not love; (b) God will not bestow supernatural love upon him in disregard of the man or the operation of his natural affection; and so (c) evil spirits substitute themselves for the man and express their love or hate through him. And once he has abandoned the use of his will to control his affection the evil spirits put their counterfeit love in him. Thereafter he behaves like wood and stone, cold and dead to all affections. This explains why many saints, though holy, are scarcely approachable.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” says the Lord Jesus (Mark 12.30). Now whose love is this? Exactly whose heart, soul, mind and strength is brought into view here? It is of course ours. Our natural life needs to die, but these natural endowments and their functions remain.

5. Humility. Text: “Not that we venture to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves” (2 Cor. 10.12 ff.). Believers misjudge this long passage from verse 12 to 18 as signifying a call to hide themselves to the extent that they are left without a proper self-regard, one which God unquestionably permits us to have. Not a few instances of self-abasement are essentially a disguise for passivity. Consequently: (a) the believer effaces himself; (b) God does not fill him; and (c) evil spirits exploit his passivity to render him useless.

When the Christian is self-abased under the enemy’s penetration his surroundings appear entirely dark, hopeless and desolate to him. He gives the impression of being deadly cold and dishearteningly melancholic to all who are in contact with him. He himself easily faints and is discouraged. At critical moments he deserts the fight and withdraws, thus embarrassing others. God’s work is not too important to him. In speech and work he tries bard to hide himself, but this only manifests his self the more—to the great sorrow of the truly spiritual. Due to his excessive disregard for himself he stands by watching when there is such great need in the kingdom of God. He exhibits perpetual inability, hopelessness, and wounded feelings. While he may envisage this to be humility he does not realize it is but the work of the evil spirits. True humility is able to look at God and proceed on.

God’s Ordering

We know that besides man’s will there are two other totally antagonistic wills in the world. God calls us to obey Him and to resist Satan. Twice in the Bible do we find these two sides mentioned together: (1) “submit yourselves therefore to God,” exhorts James, and then he follows immediately with “resist the devil” (4.7); (2) “humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,” enjoins Peter, and continues by charging his readers to “resist (the devil), firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5.6,9). This is the balance of truth. A believer certainly must learn to submit himself to God in all matters, acknowledging that what He orders for him is the best. Though he suffers, yet he heartily submits to the will of God. This, however, is just half the truth. The Apostles understood the danger of being lopsided; hence we find them right away warning the Christian to resist the devil once he submits to God. This is because there is another will besides His, that of Satan’s. Frequently the devil counterfeits the will of God, especially in the things which happen to us. If we are unaware of the presence of a will other than God’s, we can easily mistake Satan’s to be God’s and so fall into the devil’s trap. For this reason God wants us to resist the devil when we submit to Him. Resistance is done by the will. Resistance means our volition opposes, disapproves, and withstands. God wishes us to exercise our volition, therefore He exhorts us to “resist the devil.” He will not resist for us; we ourselves must do so. We have a will; we should use it to take heed to God’s Word. So teaches the Bible. Thinking that God’s will is revealed in His orderings, the Christian may accept anything which comes to him as His will. In that event he naturally will not employ his volition to choose, decide or resist. He just quietly accepts everything. This sounds good and appears right, but it contains a serious fallacy.

Now we do acknowledge the hand of God behind everything, and we do confess we must submit fully under His hand. But the point at issue here is more one of attitude than of conduct. If what happens to us is the direct will of God, would we object to it? This is a matter of our heart intention. But after we are assured of our obedience to God we should inquire further: does this emanate from the evil spirit or is it but God’s permissive will? If it is His commanded will, we have no objection; if otherwise, we will resist it together with God. Hence this never implies that we should submit to our environment without daily examination and testing. Our attitude remains the same at all times, but our practice comes only after we are sure of God’s will, for how could we submit to Satan’s will?

A Christian ought not act as one who is without a brain, passively driven by his environment. He actively and consciously should examine the source of every item, test its nature, understand its meaning, and decide the course to take. It is important to obey God, but not blindly. Such active investigation is not a sign of rebellion against God’s ordering, because our heart’s intent continues to be one of submission towards God. We only wish to be sure that in our submission we are verily obeying God. A definite lack in an obedient attitude exists among believers today. Though they perceive God’s will, they nevertheless fail to yield. Contrariwise, those who have been broken by God run to the other extreme by unquestioningly accepting whatever occurs to them. The truth lies in the center; obey in heart and accept after being assured of the source.

How sad, though, that many fully consecrated believers do not discern this difference. Such a Christian therefore passively submits to his environment, surmising that everything happens to him by the order of God. He gives ground to the evil spirits to torment and hurt him. These spirits provide environment (their snares) by which to trap the saint into performing their will or raise up circumstances to trouble him. Believers may misunderstand this to be what Matthew 5.39 enjoins when it says “do not resist one who is evil,” not recalling that God summons them to struggle against sin (Heb. 12.4). By overcoming environment they are overcoming the spirit of this world.

The factors in such a misapprehension of God’s ordering are that (a) believers do not use their will to choose and decide; (b) God certainly does not oppress them with environment; and (c) the evil spirits utilize the environmental circumstances as a substitute for their passive will. Rather than obeying God these believers actually are obeying the evil spirits.

Sufferings and Weaknesses

Having fully surrendered to God the Christian naturally concedes that he should walk in the way of the cross and suffer for Christ’s sake. He additionally acknowledges the futility of his natural life and is willing to be weak in order that he may be strengthened by the power of God. These two attitudes are commendable but they can be utilized by the enemy if they are not rightly understood.

Having recognized that there is something of great profit in suffering, the Christian following consecration may submit passively to whatever comes to him without question. He simply believes he is suffering for the Lord and that therefore it is both profitable and rewarding. Little does he understand that, unless he intentionally exercises his will both to accept what God allots and to resist what the enemy dispenses, his passive acceptance of all suffering will surely afford an excellent opportunity to the evil spirit to torment him. Suffering at the hand of the evil spirit while believing the satanic lie that his suffering emanates from God merely gives the enemy the right to prolong the assault. The person is unaware that his suffering does not arise from God but arises out of his fulfilling the conditions for the working of evil spirits. He still pictures himself as suffering for the church that he may complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body. He conceives himself a martyr whereas in fact he is a victim. He glories in these sufferings, yet they constitute but symptoms of the adversary’s entrenchment.

We should notice that all these afflictions which flow from the work of the evil spirits are meaningless—positively fruitless and purposeless. Apart from the fact that one is suffering, there is no sense to it. The Holy Spirit does not bear witness in our intuition that this proceeds from God.

Should the believer investigate a little he may discover that he did not encounter such experiences before he offered himself to the Lord and chose to suffer. Having made the choice, he automatically accepted all sufferings as from God, although most are triggered by the power of darkness. He has surrendered ground to the evil spirits; he has believed their lies; and his life is consequently marked by unreasonable and ineffectual sufferings. Knowing the truth concerning the deep workings of the evil spirit helps the individual not only to overcome sins but to eliminate unnecessary afflictions as well.

The child of God may hold this same erroneous concept concerning weakness. He thinks he should maintain a condition of weakness if he is ever to possess God’s strength. For has not the Apostle Paul asserted that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12.10)? He accordingly wills to be weak that he too may be strong. He does not observe that the Apostle has not willed to be weak but that he is merely relating to us his experience of how the grace of God strengthens him in his frailty for the accomplishment of God’s purpose. Paul has not desired this infirmity; yet he is strengthened by God in that infirmity. Paul is not to be found persuading a strong believer to purposely choose weakness in order that God may strengthen him afterwards. He simply is showing the weak believer the way to strength!

Choosing weakness and choosing suffering both fulfill the requirements for the operation of evil spirits since by so doing man’s will is placed on the enemy’s side. This explains why countless children of God who enjoyed good health in the beginning find themselves weakened daily after they have chosen to be weak. The strength they expect does not emerge: they soon become a burden to others: they are useless in God’s work. Such a choice does not draw down God’s power; rather does it furnish the evil spirits ground for attack. Unless these saints persistently resist this debility they shall encounter prolonged weakness.

The Vital Point

What we have described may be applied primarily to serious cases; many other people have not gone to such an extreme. The principle involved is nonetheless the same for all. The devil does not fail to act whenever there is passivity of will or a fulfillment of his working conditions. Although some Christians may not specifically choose suffering or weakness, they nevertheless unwittingly allow themselves to sink into passivity, thus ceding place to the enemy and falling into a perilous situation. Let anyone who has the above experience ask himself whether he has fulfilled the operating requirements of the evil spirits. This will save him from many counterfeit occurrences and unnecessary sufferings.

We know the enemy makes use of the truth, yet he overextends it beyond its bounds. Which of the following is not of truth: self-denial, submission, waiting for God’s ordering, suffering, and so forth? Even so, evil spirits exploit the believer’s ignorance of the principle of spiritual life to divert him into fulfilling their operating requirements. If we fail to judge the underlying principle of any teaching, as to whether it meets the conditions of the Holy Spirit or that of evil spirits, we shall be deceived. Any overextension of the truth is most precarious. Let us be Very cautious in this regard.

By now we should be acquainted fully with the basic distinction between the working of God and that of Satan: (a) God wants the believer to cooperate with Him by exercising his will and using all his abilities in order that he may be filled with the Holy Spirit, but that (b) to facilitate his work the evil spirit demands the believer to be passive in his will and to deny the use o f either part or all o f his abilities. In the first case, God’s Spirit fills the spirit of man and imparts life, power, release, enlargement, renewal, and strength to the man that he may be free and unshackled. In the second case, Satan occupies man’s passive organs and, if undetected, proceeds to destroy his personality and will by reducing him to a puppet, subduing his soul and body, and leaving him bound, oppressed, ravaged and imprisoned. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to know the will of God in his intuition so that he may understand it afterwards with his mind and carry it out later by freely exercising his will. The satanic spirit, however, so puts the person under the oppression of an external power that it appears to him to represent God’s will and compels him to act like a machine devoid of thought or decision.

Today many of God’s children have fallen unknowingly into passivity: their will and mind cease to function; hence they experience untold sufferings. All simply happens according to law. Just as there is a law to everything in the natural realm, so is there also a law to everything in the spiritual realm: certain actions produce certain results. God Who establishes these laws is Himself law-abiding. Whoever violates one of these laws, willfully or unintentionally, must reap the corresponding consequence. But if man exercises his will, mind and strength to cooperate with God, His Spirit will then work, for this too is a law.