Adapted from: www.watchmannee.org/ March 14, 2004, 11:00 am
Watchman Nee saw an undeniable vision and received a definite commission from the Lord concerning the church, and he suffered greatly due to his faithfulness to them. Because the vision was so clear and the commission so real, it did not matter to him that he was rejected, opposed, and condemned. He anticipated this response and was determined to pay any price for the commission he had received of the Lord. His faithfulness to this commission ultimately cost him his life. His profound revelation combined with his selfless sufferings issued in a rich ministry of life according to the Lord’s commission to him: the unique New Testament ministry of Christ and of the church.
Watchman Nee endured much suffering for the sake of the New Testament ministry. Due to his absoluteness in following the Lord and his faithfulness in fulfilling the Lord’s commission, he underwent frequent mistreatment as well as lifelong hardships. Because he unwaveringly fought the battle for the Lord’s move, he was under constant attack from God’s enemy. At the same time, he was also under God’s sovereign hand. He recognized the sovereign arrangements of God in his environment not merely as a divinely apportioned “thorn in the flesh,” but more importantly, as a means by which God was able to deal with him. Due to both the enemy’s attacks and God’s faithful environmental dealings, Watchman Nee lived a life of suffering. The majority of his sufferings came from five sources: poverty, ill health, various denominations, dissenting brothers and sisters in the local churches, and imprisonment.
In the early years of Watchman Nee’s ministry, the economic situation in China was desperate. Because of what he saw in the Word, he was exercised to live purely and singly by faith in God not only for his living, but also for every aspect of the Lord’s work. Hence, he steadfastly refused employment by any person or organization. In the early days of his ministry in Shanghai, there were times when all he had to eat each day was a little bread.
Watchman Nee was also frequently afflicted with serious ill health. For the first eleven years of his ministry, beginning in 1922, he suffered alone, with no wife to help him. During this time he contracted tuberculosis and suffered acutely for several years. In 1934 at the age of thirty, however, Watchman Nee married a true “help meet,” Charity Chang, although the Lord was to give them no children. In later years, he was also stricken with a chronic stomach disorder as well as angina pectoris, a serious heart ailment. He was never cured of the heart disease and could have died from it at any moment. In fact, many times he ministered not by physical strength but by resurrection life.
He also suffered for his belief that, according to the Bible, denominations are wrong in that they divide the one Body of Christ. Because his firm stand for the oneness of the Body of Christ was a testimony against the denominations, they caused him much suffering. Some despised, criticized, opposed, and did their best to destroy his ministry. They also spread false rumors about him and misrepresented him to the extent that Watchman Nee once responded, “The Watchman Nee portrayed by them I would also condemn.”
A number of brothers and sisters meeting with the local churches became another source of suffering to Watchman Nee. He found this type of suffering by far the most painful. Some of these believers caused a great deal of trouble due to their dissention, immaturity, incompetence, stubbornness, ambition for position, or rebelliousness. Two years after the church life began to be practiced in Watchman Nee’s hometown in 1922, he was even temporarily excommunicated by his own coworkers because of his stand for the truth of the Scriptures, when he protested the ordination of the leading coworkers by a denominational missionary. Although most of the believers meeting with them sided with Watchman Nee, the Lord would not allow him to do anything to vindicate himself. That was a deep suffering to his natural man.
The final source of suffering was his groundless condemnation and imprisonment. Watchman Nee was arrested during the Communist Cultural Revolution in March 1952 and was judged, falsely condemned, and unjustly sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment in 1956.
Watchman Nee was a man of sorrows and suffering. Along his entire path of following the Lamb, he suffered much. Through all these sufferings, however, he learned many lessons. These sufferings not only helped him learn to trust the Lord; they also benefited him in dealing with his flesh, his self, his soul, and his natural life. Due to his obedience to these dealings, he never passed on mere teachings and doctrines, for his messages contained the reality he had acquired through his sufferings. The experience he gained through his suffering served as an immeasurable help to all those under his ministry and also became a rich heritage to all the local churches, a heritage acquired by him at the ultimate price.
His sufferings also helped him to receive further revelation from the Lord. Certain kinds of suffering often issued in corresponding revelation. His sufferings thus often became the Lord’s revelation to him. He was purified, dealt with, broken, and constituted by the Holy Spirit with the divine life through his sufferings. Through such experiences of Christ within his sufferings, he, like Paul, was prepared and positioned to receive the Lord’s revelation.
Means of MinistryWatchman Nee’s rich ministry of life was the issue of his revelation and suffering. He used eight different means to carry out the ministry wrought into him by the Lord: preaching the gospel, teaching the Bible, traveling, contacting people, corresponding with people, holding conferences, conducting trainings, and producing publications.
Watchman Nee not only spoke frequently both privately and publicly, but he was also a prolific writer. His publications included gospel tracts, periodicals, papers, newsletters, books, hymnals, and a chart of biblical prophecies. For more details on his writings and a list of selected titles, please see Publications.