The Ministry of God's Word, CFP, ch. 15, pp. 207-218
As was mentioned earlier, a minister of the word must be attentive to four things. Two of these come from God: enlightenment and inward words. Two come from the minister himself: thought and memory. Moreover, in the process of speaking he is in need of two more things: a usable feeling and a usable spirit.
In reading the Bible we discover that those who were used to write its words shared a common characteristic, which is that their feelings did not obstruct them. On the contrary, their feelings were expressed in their writings. One thing worth noticing is that whether or not the spirit is able to come forth is often determined by our feeling. If manís feeling is unusable his spirit has no way of flowing freely. The outflowing of manís spirit depends not so much on his will or on his mind as upon his emotions, for the spirit flows mainly through the channel of the feelings. If the feeling is blocked the spirit is obstructed. If the feeling is cold the spirit is likewise cold; if the feeling is dry so is the spirit; if the feeling is calm the spirit too is calm.
Why do Godís children frequently mix up spirit and feeling? They can distinguish spirit from will, since that difference is great. They can also divide spirit and mind, because the distinction in this case is quite sharp. But to discern what is of the spirit and what is of emotion seems to be extremely difficult. Why? Because the spirit cannot come out independently; it often flows through feelings. What the spirit relies on in expressing itself is not manís thought or will, but his emotion. Hence many find it hard to distinguish spirit from feeling. Though these are two absolutely different faculties, nonetheless one is expressed through the other. Let us use an illustration. That which lights up is the bulb. Electricity and bulb are two entirely distinct things, yet they cannot be separated. In like manner is the relationship between spirit and feeling. They are two separate entities; even so, the spirit frequently is expressed through the feeling; they are inseparable. Yet this does not imply that spirit and feeling are one and the same thing. Only to those unlearned in the Lordís way does feeling seem to be one and the same with spirit and vice-versa, just as someone might consider electricity and the bulb as one.
When a minister is speaking, his inner man must be released; but this in turn depends upon his feeling. If the latter is unusable the spirit is stuck. No matter how much electricity may be stored in the power company, if there is no electric bulb there will be no light. And by the same token, no matter how excellent is the condition of our spirit, it will be severely hampered if our feeling is unusable. The spirit flows through the channel of emotion. A minister of the word must therefore have a usable feeling as well as a free spirit. If emotion refuses to listen to the spirit or fails to cooperate with it, the spirit is inevitably arrested. For the sake of letting his inner being come out freely, man must have a usable feeling. Now we shall see how a feeling can be useful.
We human beings have a will, but the will of man is rather rugged. So have we a mind, which, though more refined than the will, is nevertheless quite rugged too. But the emotion which we possess is the most delicate part in us. We may ruthlessly make a decision with our will, we may carefully think over a matter, but we touch the tenderest spot when something touches our feeling. Accordingly, in the Old Testament, especially in the Song of Songs, the Spirit of God employs fragrance or savor to express the tender feeling of man, for it can only be smelled with the nose. Smelling is a most delicate act. It represents manís tender feeling. ďNoseĒ in the Scriptures stands for feeling. Manís feeling is most delicate, though it may or may not be useful.
Every time a minister speaks he needs to mix his feeling with the words spoken, else his words are dead. Before he speaks, he must have memory and thought; when he speaks, the first thing to be added is his feeling. If it fails to flow together with his words, he is finished.
The Lord Jesus told his disciples a parable. ďTo what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market place and calling to their playmates, ĎWe played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we (wailed), and you did not mourníĒ (Matt. 11.16,17). This implies that if there is feeling, one has to dance when he is piped to or has to mourn when wailed at. Even so, a minister of the word cannot afford to have his feeling different and separate from his words. Otherwise, this will disqualify him from speaking before God. You cannot speak mournful words without mournful emotion. If you do not possess the right emotion you cannot be a minister of the word.
Now of course the emotion we here mention is not a matter of performance. In any theatrical performance the feeling is something put on. A minister should never use human ingenuity in putting on a show while speaking. As he is speaking he must actually have the feeling of each word. He should have a mournful feeling when he uses sad words. How does a manís spirit give expression to its mourning? Through his mournful feeling. And when happy words are said his feeling should be one of happiness, for the joy of the spirit comes through a joyful emotion.
Let us understand that the coming forth of words alone is not enough; the spirit must also come out, and when it does it will do so together with feeling. If our feeling lags behind, our words are stripped of the spirit. If our feeling is too hard, it renders itself unusable. Feeling is the most delicate part of man. A little hardening will deprive the word of its spirit. To be useful, a certain kind of word must be accompanied by the same kind of spirit. If it does not agree with the word the latter is damaged and becomes useless.
In speaking, we must send forth the right kind of spirit with the right kind of word. Any discrepancy will render the word ineffectual and the ministry void. The word and the spirit must be one. Yet the spirit cannot express itself alone; it needs to be expressed through feeling. How, then, can your spirit flow out if you have a feeling other than that of the spirit? It is necessary for both our feeling and our spirit to be one with Godís word.
Not because we have word can we therefore begin to speak. If there is any obstruction in the realm of the emotions it must be removed before our words can be effective. It presents a real difficulty if Godís word requires one kind of feeling but we have in us another kind of feeling. Today we are not touching the feeling of the Bible from the outside; we are speaking the words of the Bible from the inside, out from our feeling. Godís feeling is embodied in His word; He demands us to have the same feeling in ourselves. Then as we speak, our feeling will be one with our words. Thus shall we be able to impart our feeling to others. Hence our feeling goes out with our words and the Holy Spirit goes out with our feeling.
Where does our problem arise today? It is this: that we have both revelation and word and yet we see no fruit. Why is this so? Because our spirit fails to go forth. This in turn is due to the failure of our feeling. The Holy Spirit does not find the proper emotion in us upon which He ďmay ride.Ē There can be no fruit if the emotion is unusable, even though we may have light and word. Bear in mind that feeling is most necessary in the delivery of the word. Before the delivery, we touch enlightenment, thought, inward words, memory, and spoken words; later, at the time of delivery, feeling must follow suit.
The Holy Spirit touches men through right feeling. We would repeat that trying to move men with only our emotion is a mere performance, resulting in a dead ministry. Yet we use emotion to move people as our spirit is released and as the Holy Spirit too is released. To put it another way, the going forth of the word is powerful only when it is coupled with a corresponding emotion, for then the Holy Spirit will work in people. The first hurdle for a minister of the word to overcome when speaking lies within himselfóhis own difficulty in the matter of feeling.
A brother may stand up to speak when he has a burden to discharge, yet he meets his first hindrance in himself. His word does not go far; it is obstructed; it is not free; it has no outlet. His main difficulty is himself. He may be speaking on the love of the Lord, yet he does not feel the love. The question is not as to whether he has seen the Lordís love but whether he senses the loveliness of the Lord while speaking. Or, to take another example, he may have seen the hatefulness of sin, but when he stands to speak on it he lacks a corresponding feeling. His emotion is not one with his word. The lack of feeling on his part will result in a lack of feeling on the part of his audience.
Just precisely what is the purpose of supplying people with words? Is it not because they are lacking in a particular feeling, thought, light? You have seen the abhorrence of sin; they have not; and you want them to see it. Even so, unless you have the sense of the abhorrence of sin as you speak, your words will not produce the same sense in others. You purpose to try to get through to their feeling that they too may see. How can you pierce their feeling, though, if you yourself lack this feeling or if your feeling is not usable?
George Whitefield specialized in the topic of hell. Once he was speaking on that subject at a certain place. Before he had finished his message some were found holding tight to the pillars of the hall lest they fell into hell. This was because when he spoke he saw sinners falling away into hell. As his words were sent out with his feeling, the Holy Spirit as well as his own spirit sallied forth to convict people of hell.
If you are careless about speaking you will not sense the inadequacy of your feeling, for everything is basically wrong. But if you truly come to minister the word you will see first of all that your feeling will not do. You will then know that the most formidable obstacle to your word lies in your own self. You may have a weighty word in you, yet you find yourself defeated as you speak on, since your feeling lags behind. Your words may be serious, nevertheless the longer you speak the less serious they become. You simply are lacking in that serious feeling. As you continue on you seem less and less concerned. Since your emotion does not correspond to the words, you try to raise your voice and shout. Many brothers shout with their voices. However, they shout not to be heard by others but to be heard by themselves. You are helpless, so you shout. You are aware that your feeling is inadequate.
Many spend half their strength convincing themselves while speaking on the platform. This is because their feeling is so unusable. We need to bring our own feeling into conviction before we can communicate Godís word to others. Though our words seem to be directed at them we are actually speaking to ourselves, because we are the real obstacle to that word. How necessary it is for us to discover on the platform that we are the hindrance. We truly wish to deliver Godís word; but we lack its corresponding feeling. Our feeling is unusable, with the result that we hinder the word from going out.
How absolutely needful a usable feeling is to a minister of the word. Any inadequacy there will hinder the outgoing of the word. This is most serious. Frequently the trouble is that though we have the word, our feeling is at variance with that word. We know quite well the seriousness of the word, yet our feeling is not so serious. In speaking, the feeling ought to come forth with the words; but our feeling fails to follow. Who will believe us if we speak without feeling it? We may raise our voice ever louder, yet all is of no avail. We ourselves sense how tasteless it is; we may even feel like laughing, for it appears to be a performance. How, in that event, can we expect others to believe in our words? Only when we feel our own words and believe our own words can we hope that others may do so also. Otherwise our words are powerless; neither the Holy Spirit nor our spirit is released.
We need to know not only how to use our feeling but also how to secure a usable feeling. This leads us back to the foundational experience of having our outward man broken by the Lord. When we were on the topic of the minister himself we especially noted the significance of our outward man being broken. This alone insures the going forth of the Lordís word through us. If our outward man is not broken the Lord can use very little of us. Here too must we emphasize the necessity for the Lord to break our outward man that our emotion may be made ready for the ministry of the word.
For the one who is under His dealing God orders all sorts of circumstances by which to break him. Each stroke opens in him a wound which gives him pain. His feeling is automatically wounded, becoming more delicate than before. Manís emotion is naturally the most sensitive area of the soul. It is more tender than will and mind. Nonetheless it does not possess enough sensitivity to be useful to God. It does not possess the degree of tenderness which is demanded of Godís word. If His word is to come through, we must be filled with the feeling of His word. We must match our feeling with that of Godís word. Our feeling must be able to cope with our words. Whatever emotion the word requires must be fully supplied, else the word will not be strong in others.
Upon our having received much dealing we begin to see how very coarse our feeling is. Though it is the most sensitive facet of our soul it is still too rough to be employed by God. Because of the coarseness of our feeling the word of God which comes from our lips is unevenly backed with feeling.
When a painter mixes some paint the powder must be fine. If it is coarse it cannot be spread smoothly. With fine powder the paint can be spread over all surfaces evenly. In like manner shall this happen to a minister of the word. If his feeling is coarse he may speak ten sentences, but eight out of the ten are void of proper feeling. If his feeling is delicate each sentence will be accompanied by its appropriate feeling. The Bible figuratively uses fine flour to speak of the life of the Lord Jesus. This shows how very sensitive is our Lordís feeling. How terrible it is for a brother to say many words without communicating the corresponding feeling. His emotion is not usable. It does not follow the word. It is not delicate enough. Always remember, Godís word will not be strong in its delivery if our feeling is not sufficiently responsive.
We need the Lord to so work in our lives that our feeling is brought to a delicate state. We will have to be broken before our feeling will turn tender. In reading the Bible we not only see the life experiences of the writers and the thoughts of the Holy Spirit; we touch many of their spiritual feelings as well. The emotions of those who ministered the word of the Bible came forth with their words. This ought to be the same with us.
Should our feeling fail to accompany our word, we cannot expect our audience to hear us attentively. If our outward man has not been broken by the hand of God our feeling cannot be tender and delicate, for there is no wound, there has been no suffering. Where there is tender feeling, there must be wounds and suffering. The grain must be ground and broken before the powder can be fine. Under pressure, the one grain of wheat is no longer a single grain. It has become three, five, seven, even a hundred particles. It now is truly fine. The more the wounds and the deeper the suffering, the finer the feeling. Never anticipate fineness in sensitivity if you expect no wound, if you experience no suffering before God. To have wounds you must be dealt with.
Suppose there is a brother here. He has learned something in life. He has advanced in the reading of the Bible and other matters. Yet he has not developed a delicate feeling. Before God he lacks something; there is an area which God cannot use. No matter how much he seems to improve in behaviour or how much light he has seen, all which he has learned thus far is shallow and superficial so long as his feeling remains inadequate. He has not learned enough. One who has had the cross worked into his life has been broken by the Lord. His stubborn will is no longer stubborn; his big brain is no longer inflated. The Lord will deal with our will; He may use a great light to break us down. We consider ourselves clever and capable. The Lord will deal with that big brain of ours. With one sweep of brilliant light He may strike us to the ground.
Nevertheless, our emotion is not transformed by one enlightenment. A fine feeling is the result of many dealings. Before we face a problem, our feeling is not delicate enough. We are careless about that matter. The Lord accordingly arranges our environment so as to refine us in this particular respect. Time after time we are ground like wheat till we are sufficiently broken.
We need to have a broken spirit before God. What is a broken spirit? It means that in us there is a broken feeling, for the spirit is expressed in feeling. The Lord wishes us to live with a broken spirit because He wants us to have a fine feeling. This we will not have until we have been stricken. We must continually experience ourselves so broken as though we were just stricken. The meaning of being stricken will always be with us. Thus shall we have a godly fear, a trembling feeling. We will not dare to be careless or flippant. Each strike, every dealing, is for the purpose of making our emotion more tender and more keen than before. This is one of the deepest lessons in the breaking of the outward man. The breaking of feeling is not as dramatic and prominent as that of will or mind, but it certainly is deeper than either of them.
If we live with a stricken spirit we will have a wound in us and sense its pain. This pain in turn will create in us a godly fear and render our feeling delicate. After many such dealings you will be able in your feeling to express fully and exactly what your heart is. You will truly be glad when your heart is glad, and you will actually grieve when your heart is grieved. Whenever the word of God comes to you, and whatever the flavor of that word is, you will have the corresponding emotion in you. Your feeling is able to catch up with the word. How glorious this is!
The effectiveness of being stricken is shown in our oneness with Godís word. What God intends to say is matched by a kindred feeling of yours. As soon as Godís word comes, you immediately sense it. When God moves, you respond. Your feeling is able to follow Godís word right up to this point. And as the Lord increases His dealings, you are progressively being ground until all your emotions are made suitable to God. After you have been so trained in the area of feeling, you will discover a marvelous thing, which is, that you not only speak Godís word, you also begin to feel Godís word.
With the feeling within there comes the expression without. Peter ďlifted up his voiceĒ when he addressed the audience at Pentecost. His voice was raised because his feeling was deep. Perhaps some have never once lifted up their voice while preaching, showing how inadequate were their feelings. The depth of emotion in Peter made him lift up his voice.
The word of God is full of emotion. It should not be recited verbatim in a mechanical way. It ought to be pressed out through deep feeling. Paul exhorted the church at Corinth ďwith many tears.Ē Some may never have shed any tears in their preaching, for their sensitivity is inadequate. A loud voice is indeed nothing; tears too are nothing; but if one never lifts up his voice nor sheds tears, something inside must be wrong. There is no merit in a loud voice, neither is there any special credit in tears; but it is an indication of unbrokenness if one has never raised his voice or shed his tears.
Oneís emotion must be so refined that he can rejoice when Godís word is joyful and wail when the word of God is sorrowful. His feeling follows the word of God closely. This is not performance. Please never learn to perform. People with discernment immediately recognize a performance that has been falsely manufactured by man. There ought never to be any human manufacturing because it invariably spoils the word of God. What we stress is the need for feeling. Whatever feeling the word of God has, we must have the same feeling. Joy and sorrow are two distinctive examples. When the Bible says rejoice, let us be joyful; when it indicates sorrow, let us be sorrowful. This is normal and proper. Some have been tightly bound in their emotion all their lives. They are so cold that they cannot dance when piped to and cannot weep when wailed at. Because their feeling lags behind, Godís word is obstructed in its delivery.
Why is it that the emotion of many cannot be used? Why must the Lord bring people through so many trials? This is all due to the fact that feeling is essentially the person himself. The issue with emotion is quite different from that of will or mind. The latter are more complicated; the former is simple in that it is used for oneís own self. Most peopleís emotions are spent only on themselves. They can easily feel the things that concern them, but have no sensitivity for things which concern others. Some may be extremely insensitive to all things, yet when it comes to their own affairs they are most keen. A brother may be very rude to others, but suppose you are rude to him; he will deeply resent it and feel hurt. All the feelings of this brother are spent on himself. He just loves himself and lives for himself. If he meets any personal difficulty he will cry, though he has absolutely no feeling toward others.
Brethren, unless the Lord has succeeded in breaking down our feeling how useless we are in the ministry of the word. Often under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the Lordís hand remains on us until we can feel for others. We need to channel all our emotion into the ministry of the word. We have no time to spend them on ourselves. Our feeling must grow in its sensitiveness. It ought not be exhausted. Many people mistakenly believe only in themselves: they reckon themselves as the center of the universe: hence all their feelings revolve around themselves. God must deliver them out of such confines. Feelings are limited by their reserves. If we spend them wantonly we will have nothing left for the ministry of the word. God will strike and deal with us till we do not feel just for ourselves, till our emotion has become sensitive. The secret of a sensitive feeling lies in not making ourselves the center. The finer we are ground the more selfless we become and the more effective will be our feeling.
A minister of the word needs to possess a sufficiently fine and rich feeling for God to use. Simply bear in mind that the richer our emotion the richer will be our word, since the quality of the word is controlled by our emotion. The amount of feeling within determines the effectiveness of the words without. If we have more words than feelings, our words will be restricted by our feeling. A manís word is measured by his brokenness before God. A spiritual man is rich in all
kinds of feeling. The more spiritual a man is, the richer his feeling. It is not true that the more spiritual a man is, the less is his feeling. The more lessons one learns before God the more enriched his feeling will be. Compare the feeling of a sinner with that of Paul. You will immediately see that Paul is superior in spirituality and so is he superior in feeling. Increased dealing creates more feelings. If our feeling is rich we can match whatever feeling the word requires while we speak. Godís word has then found a way whenever the feeling keeps up with the word. Otherwise, no matter what we say it somehow is not good.
One who desires to be a minister of the word must receive thorough dealing. Any negligence here will disqualify him. We must be broken before God, else we cannot undertake any work. No discipline, no work. Even if you are the cleverest person in the world, it is of no avail. Only the broken man is useful. This is an extremely serious matter. Our affections and feelings must go through repeated dealings so that when we speak, our feeling is usable. Suppose the Lord, for example, has dealt with you in the matter of self-love. After several dealings, your feeling can follow the word if you should stand up and speak on self-love. There is no hindrance to the outgoing of the word. Or again, suppose your pride has been broken by the Lord. Your feeling can easily match the word as you speak on how the Lord resists the proud. In short, only after our emotion has been touched by the Lord can it flow together with the word which we speak. This is a necessary requirement for a minister of the word. Match the word with feeling. Equalize the amount of words with the same amount of feeling. The higher our words touch, the finer must be our feeling. May God be gracious to us that all our feelings may be used to support the word.