How to know God's Will

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By Watchman Nee



The Person Rather Than Techniques

God's children can and should know God's will. The knowledge of God's will has to do with the person; it has nothing to do with techniques. When the Lord draws men to Himself, He draws some through their mind, others through their emotion, and still others through their will. Generally speaking, the least likely means for the Lord to draw men is the will. Many people love the truth of the Bible. They want to know more about these truths, and they hope that others will be edified by these truths. They study the Bible a great deal and know many things about Bible exposition. When they cannot interpret a passage, they feel frustrated. When they think they can interpret a passage, they feel happy. People like these are touching the Bible with their mind. They are not necessarily living a proper Christian Life. Of course, it is difficult to live a proper Christian life without a mind. But those who only have a mental understanding of doctrines are not necessarily those who live a proper Christian life.

There is another group of Christians who are not very smart. They do not know much, but they are very zealous. They laugh and cry easily. They are rich in emotion. When they touch the Bible, they are easily moved to tears or laughter. They work only when they feel a burning within. In their zeal, they preach to whomever they see and do not stop even when their voices become hoarse. Wherever they go they carry an air of excitement, but when their zeal fades away, even ten persons could not move them an inch. These people have a strong soul. They can be stirred up quickly, and they can stir up many people when their hearts are burning. They can cry with others or laugh with others, but when the tide of excitement subsides, they cannot bring anyone to the Lord. They touch others with their emotion. When they are stirred up, they think highly of themselves. But when they become cold, they will not move at all. Such Christians cannot be of much use to the Lord.

Suppose a man has a clear mind before the Lord, a proper emotion, good knowledge of the Bible, and zealousness in serving others. All of these things are wonderful, but if he has never been touched by the Lord, he cannot serve God in a proper way. He needs to be touched in his will. If a man's spirit is dead before God, he is totally useless in the eyes of God. The spirit must be regenerated. Thank the Lord that our spirit today is a new spirit, a regenerated spirit. This regenerated spirit is our inner man. Every Christian has received the same life from God in his spirit; there is no difference between him and others. The same Spirit who dwells in a weak brother also dwelt in Paul. As long as we are the Lord's, the new creation in our spirit is the same as in others. God is not a respecter of persons. However, when the inner man lives out the life of the Lord, there can be a big difference in the degree of expression. This difference has much to do with man's natural constitution. The mind, emotion, and will are the original and natural faculties of man. The Holy Spirit is within him, and his regenerated spirit has become the new man, the inner man. Yet he still has an outward man, the old man, the original man outside of him. This outward man belongs to sin. The old man has been dealt with on the cross, but the life of the old creation still remains. Since the inner new man can only be expressed through the outer man, the expressions and manifestations are different in different persons. The inner life is frustrated by the outer man. Therefore, the outer man must be dealt with. Otherwise, there will always be obstacles that obstruct a man from serving the Lord.

The outer man being dealt with by God

In order for a saved and regenerated believer to live out the Lord's life, there are two steps that he has to take. The first is believing, which is receiving the new life. The second is consecrating himself, which means committing his outer man to the Lord to allow the new life within to be expressed. This is like a property consisting of a house and a plot of land around the house. We can assume that the house is the inner man and the plot around the house is the outer man. If the house belongs to a person, but the plot of land does not, there will be trouble. Consequently, as soon as a man believes, he should consecrate himself to the Lord. Consecration is committing one's outer man to the Lord so that it will belong to the Lord in the same way that the inner man belongs to the Lord. Many believers today are neither in nor out. When you ask if they are saved, they answer yes. They are saved, but their outer man has never been dealt with. Their inner life is frustrated from being expressed. Hence, we must not just believe in the Lord, stopping at salvation and regeneration. We must also consecrate our outer man to the Lord. If a man is willing to consecrate his mind, emotion, and will to the Lord in an absolute way, he will live out the Lord's life.

The problem today is that many have consecrated themselves, yet their consecration is not absolute. They consecrate according to their own preference. They consecrate only when they want to, and they do not consecrate when they do not want to. Most people live in their mind and emotion, living for the satisfaction of their flesh. Many communicate with the Lord through their mind and emotion. Few communicate with the Lord according the their will. We can find many Christians who love the doctrines in the Bible. When someone expounds Matthew 24 or Revelation well, they love to flock around and listen. It does not take much effort to listen to a message and no price is involved. After they hear a good message, they happily return home, but nothing further happens. There are others who are very strong in their emotion. They are always actively working for the Lord. Of course, they are better than the ones without emotion, but they are so unstable that they are like the waves of the ocean. They may zealously prepare a sermon. After delivering the sermon, they may secretly consider in their heart how successful they were, how the people were touched, and how the audience was persuaded. They may be so overjoyed that they cannot sleep that night. (Most people cannot go to sleep because of pain; but these cannot go to sleep because of joy.) They gratify themselves with the activities of the flesh. Although they are serving the Lord outwardly, in reality they are gratifying themselves. They have not committed their will fully to the Lord. They must consecrate their will absolutely to the Lord and be dealt with by Him. Before they can render genuine service to the Lord, they must also allow Him to control their mind and emotion so that they will not act according to their active mind or according to the impulse of their emotion.

Conditions for knowing God's will

I do not like to hear people asking how to know God's will. Every one of us should already be clear about this. God's will is revealed only to those who have consecrated their will to Him. He does not force us. He is always waiting for us to become willing. It does not matter much if a person knows God's will; it is more important that a person be willing to choose God's will. We have to say to the Lord, "Not according to my will, but according to Your will." When we lay down our selves, we will know God's will. Once in a sisters' meeting in Hangchow, two sisters asked me if God's will is based upon circumstance, upon the Bible, or upon other principles. When I heard this, my heart sank, and I answered in a harsh way (although my heart was not harsh), saying, "Knowing God's will is not a matter of method. You may have the right methods, and you may act faithfully according to these methods step by step, but you will still not know God's will." As I was speaking, my eyes were fixed on the two sisters. I then asked, "What kind of persons are you? Who are you? A person's knowledge of God's will has to do with that person himself. If a person is not right, no method will work. Can God reveal His will to persons like you? You do not have to ask many questions, and you do not have to ask God for methods. God can reveal His will in many ways' He can reveal it through the wind, the thunder, a child, or a donkey. You only need to ask whether persons like you are qualified to know God's will."

In Genesis 18 when God was about to destroy the city of Sodom, He came to Abraham because He could not hide this matter from him. Abraham was a friend of God (James 2:23). He was not a slave of God, because a slave does not know the mind of the master; only a friend knows the mind of a friend (John 15:15). There was no barrier between Abraham and God. This is why God could not hide what He was about to do. Lot was Abraham's relative; he might have had a great deal of spiritual knowledge, but God did not speak with Lot. He only told Abraham. It would be a joke if Lot came to me and asked, "How can I know God's will?" Abraham was qualified to know God's will, but Lot was not qualified. It would be useless even if Lot had all the knowledge. Lot was still Lot. Who are you? Are you Abraham or are you Lot? Many people today pay attention to the method of knowing God's will. There is a need of learning the methods, but one must be an Abraham to learn the methods. If a Lot is learning them, the best methods will not work because he is a person living in the world. He has not dealt with the world and his position. Today we must apply God's light to see if there are sins in us, great or small. Have we committed any unrighteousness? Do we owe anyone anything? Have we been loose in our conduct or wrong in our words, gestures, and attitudes? Are we still holding on to something? All of these big and small sins affect our ability to know God's will.

The starting point in knowing God's will


On the subject of knowing God's will, Paul said that we should not be foolish, but should understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17). There is a starting point in knowing God's will, and there is a continuation in knowing His will. If one does not have a proper start, he cannot know God's will. But even if one has a proper start, he still cannot know God's will if he does not have a proper continuation.

Was there one day in your life when you consecrated yourself absolutely to the Lord? I do not mean consecrating yourself to Him to be a preacher, but consecrating yourself to Him to do His will. You do not have to be concerned for what God's will is; you only have to consecrate yourself honestly to Him to do His will. You must realize that you should have a direct relationship to God's will; this relationship should not be affected by the brothers and sisters. If the Lord wants me to go to the east, I will go the the east. I will not be affected by any person, event, or thing. However, my eyes will not be set on the east, but on God Himself. The danger of God's workers today is the danger of making their work the center. We must be directly related to God and set our eyes on Him alone. The seven Spirits in Revelation are sent forth into all the earth, but they do not have anything to do with the earth. The seven Spirits are before the throne of God (1:4; 5:6) and are related to God alone. We must consecrate ourselves fully to God at least once, for the carrying out of His will. This is the starting point in our knowledge of His will. Without this starting point, we can never understand God's will properly.

The continuation in knowing God's will


An absolute consecration is the starting point of knowing God's will. But if you want to advance in His will, you must deal with all the hindrances. If you have any stubbornness, jealousy, pride, or petty problems of a similar nature, you will be spiritually sick and unable to know God's will. If you want to stop your ear from hearing anything, there is no need to plug it with a rod or a desk; all you need is a little finger. The same principle applies in knowing God's will--a little hindrance will stop us from knowing His will. Once I was taking a walk with Miss Barber in a garden. After some time the two of us became tired, and we sat down on some chairs under a tree. She said, "There is a bright star in the sky, but I cannot see it because a leaf has blocked the view. Brother Nee, if someone comes and tells me many ways to see the star, I still could not see it even though the ways he said were good. The reason is that my position is wrong; I am standing on the wrong ground." The words she said that night are still fresh in my mind today. She explained that a little leaf could block the light of a big star. Many times, God's will is frustrated by very small things. When you seek after God's will again and again and are still unclear, you should not change the method, but change the person. If you find that you cannot know God's will, it means that there is some blockage between you and God. It may be that God has spoken to you already, but that you are unwilling to obey Him. You have to remove these hindrances. After you have dealt with these problems thoroughly, you will know God's will. In knowing God's will, we have to pay attention to the person rather than the methods.

The way to know God's will differing according to the person

The same method may not be applicable to every person. David volunteered to fight against Goliath, and Saul gave him his armor. Yet it did not fit David. He could not walk, and he took it off (1 Sam. 17:32, 38-39). When I was in Shanghai once, I gave Brother Luk my coat. It was too small for him. He did not feel comfortable in the coat, and it did not fit him. The same coat, however, fit my body very well. We can only wear something that is made according to our size. Based on man's different conditions, God has ordained different ways for man to know Him. With some the way is difficult and with others it is easy. But God has a way for every man to know His will. For this reason, we do not have to search for a way. All we have to do is consecrate ourselves to the Lord, deal with all the hindrances, and maintain a proper relationship with Him.

God's worker must know His will

I have offended many brothers many times. When they ask me how one can know God's will, I always answer by saying that I do not like such questions. What a blessing it would be if we could consecrate our all to the Lord for the knowledge of His will. What are we? Even though the earth, the solar system, and the universe are vast and immense, they can never be compared with the will of God! What a glorious thing that a sinner, a man of dust, can know His will! Once a man knows God's will, he becomes higher than a mere creature. This is the goal of the New Testament. Those who do not know God's will are not even qualified to be called a Christian; they are wasting His provisions. Those who do not know God's will cannot do God's work. If a servant does not know the will of his master, how can he be a servant? It is possible for an unbeliever to be ignorant of God's will, but it is inexcusable for us to be ignorant of His will. A Christian must first be a friend of Christ--one who knows His will, before he can be a slave of Christ--one who serves Him. We have to ask ourselves, "Are we a friend of the Lord? Is there any barrier between us and the Lord, and do we know His will?" Only after we have become His friends can we be His servants to work for Him.

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