Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was a Chinese Christian who served the Lord widely in China, often at great personal cost. He was wrongly imprisoned later in his life because the government considered him to be the leader of many Christians and a threat to the Chinese rulers. Nee served the Lord in China most of his life, while giving little consideration to his own comfort or reputation. He died in a remote farm prison after serving twenty years of hard labor and being almost completely cut off from his wife and family. After this time he was frail and sick, and was eventually transported over rough Chinese terrain to a hospital. It is believed that he died during this trip due to its severity on his weak body.
Nee never gave up his faith, though. His possessions from prison, including additional writings and diaries, were not turned over to his family. They were only given his old coat, worn from many beatings. Inside, hidden in the lining, they found a scrap of paper inscribed with these words, “Only God is ever living – only God is everlasting.”
Watchman Nee has written many books that have been translated into English. Many of his spoken messages have also been transcribed and released as books. While he was certainly not perfect, his contribution to Christians world wide is immense.
Angus Kinnear brilliantly captures the life of Watchman Nee in his biography Against the Tide: The Unforgettable Story Behind Watchman Nee. In this book, there is a section about Nee’s thoughts about “how God might more widely win to himself the people of China”. Nee was interested in how God might raise up those who could minister among the Lord’s people to develop local assemblies throughout China.
Developing this thought further, he pointed next to an item in the ark’s contents, namely Aaron’s rod that had once budded. It had been set there as a memorial of a historic occasion: a dark night and a resurrection morning. He believed this hinted at God’s one sure way of fruitfulness for every servant of his. We do not accomplish God’s work merely by yielding to the appeal of open doors and great opportunities. There is sometimes also a darkness to be endured with patience for the sake of a new dawn. When that dawn breaks God will disclose buds and flowers beyond man’s power to produce. In the case of our Lord Jesus that resurrection life blossomed and fruited in its fullest sense when he pleased his Father by assenting to endure, with heaven closed above him, the darkness and death of the cross. “The Son of Man must suffer,” he had said. While in such experiences the disciple follows his Master only at a distance, yet “the servant is in no way greater than his Lord.”
The death of ourselves (what Paul called “the old man” or the “flesh”) is usually quite painful; however, in Christ there is always a resurrection on the other side. This is what is represented by Aaron’s dead staff that God caused to bloom new flowers (see Numbers 17).
While this principle is true for all Christians, my thoughts in this post are primarily aimed at those who are called to the work of giving up themselves completely to serve God’s people. The cross they bear for the Lord’s sake, for the Lord’s spiritual house (that is the church, His living body, not a physical building) can certainly be overwhelming at times. Thankfully, we always have the promise of the NEW life, fruit, and light on the other side of death.
To those of you laboring faithfully for the Lord, you have my utmost respect.
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