Joseph Herrin (08-09-09)
Watchman Nee was seventeen years old when he became a Christian. He was a citizen of mainland China, and the year of his salvation was 1920. He began writing and teaching almost immediately. For about thirty years he served freely as a minister to the Chinese church, and he made trips abroad, visiting with believers in England and elsewhere. In 1952 he was imprisoned by the Communist government of China because of his Christian beliefs and teaching, and he remained in prison until his death in 1972.
The Following testimony is taken from the book Watchman Nee as written by Witness Lee.
LIVING BY FAITH
From the very beginning, Watchman Nee realized fully that he should live by faith, not only for his living, but also for the Lord’s work. Thus he learned to trust in the Lord for all his needs. This forced him to pray much, to consecrate himself to the Lord absolutely, to thoroughly deal with the Lord, and to obey the Lord in everything. In order to trust God in a living and practical way, he needed to keep his conscience free of offense. He would often say that a hole in our conscience would cause our faith to leak out.
Living by faith kept him in the Lord’s will. When living and working by our own means, we do not need to be restricted and limited by the Lord’s will. We can do whatever we like, whenever we like, without needing to seek the Lord’s will or to wait for His guidance. But to live by faith requires us to be restricted to the Lord’s will; otherwise, when we pray in faith He will not answer. He will never support us and supply our need in anything we are doing according to our own preference. Through living by faith, Watchman Nee was preserved from being distracted by the outward appearance of the work. What he cared for was the Lord’s will, not a booming work. His desire was to live by a faith that God would honor. He knew that if he performed any work which was not done in life and according to God’s will, God would never respond to his faith. For this reason, both his personal life and his work were continually under restriction.
Down through the years, he continually exercised himself to live such a life of faith. In China he pioneered such a life. He became a strong example for all his close associates who had been called by the Lord to live and work for Him by faith…
WATCHMAN NEE’S PERSONAL TESTIMONY GIVEN AT KULANGSU, FUKIEN,
OCTOBER 20, 1936
Matters concerning Money
The matter of money can be either a small or a big problem. When I began to serve the Lord, I was somewhat anxious about the question of my livelihood. Had I been a preacher in a denomination, I would have been on a large monthly salary. But since I was to walk in the Lord’s way, I would only rely upon Him to support me; I could not depend upon a monthly salary. In the years 1921 and 1922, very few preachers in China lived in sole reliance on the Lord. It was difficult to find even two or three; the great majority lived on salary. At that time many preachers were not bold enough to devote their entire time to serving the Lord; they felt that if they were not receiving a regular salary, they would not know how to face a situation in which they had nothing to live on. I also had such thoughts. In China today  there are approximately fifty brothers and sisters in fellowship with us who live by relying solely on the Lord. Such a situation is more common now than it was in 1922. Brothers and sisters in various places today also care for the workers more than before. I think that after ten years or so, brothers and sisters will show even greater concern for the need of the servants of the Lord. But it was not very common ten years ago.
Declaring to My Parents My Desire to Live by Faith
I have pointed out in a previous testimony that after I was saved I continued to study in school and at the same time work for the Lord. One evening I spoke with my father concerning the matter of receiving financial assistance. I said, “After praying for several days, I feel that I must tell you that I will no longer spend your money. I appreciate that you have spent so much on me in accord with your sense of fatherly responsibility. But you will expect me to earn money in the future and support you in return, and I must tell you beforehand that since I am going to be a preacher, I will not be able to repay you in the future nor pay you interest. Even though I have not completed my studies, I wish to learn to depend solely upon God.”
When I said this, my father thought I was joking. However, from then on, when my mother would occasionally give me five or ten dollars, she would write on the envelope: “To Brother Nee To-sheng.” She was not giving me money as a mother.
After I had expressed myself thus to my father, the devil came to tempt me by saying, “Such an act is very dangerous. Suppose one day you are unable to maintain your living and you again approach your father for money. Won’t that be disgraceful? You have spoken to your father too soon; you should have waited until there was more progress in your work, until many people had been saved and you had many friends, before you began to live a life of faith.” But thank the Lord, ever since I expressed my decision to discontinue receiving my father’s support, I have never asked him for money.
Looking to God for Sustenance while Working
To the best of my knowledge, Sister Dora Yu was the only preacher at that time who did not receive a salary and who depended wholly upon God for her living. She was my spiritual elder sister, and we knew each other very well. She had many friends, Chinese and foreign, and the field of her work was very wide since she preached everywhere. But my condition was just the opposite; few cared for me, so I found it rather difficult. Yet when I looked to the Lord, He said to me, “If you cannot live by faith, you cannot work for Me.” I knew that I needed living work and living faith to serve a living God.
When once I found that there was only about ten dollars in my wallet, which before long would be fully spent, I suddenly recalled the widow of Zarephath, who had only a handful of meal in the barrel and a little oil in the cruse (1 Kings 17:12). There were not two handfuls of meal. I did not know by what means God sustained her, but I knew He had the means.
In 1921 two co-workers and I went to a place in Fukien province to preach, intending to go from there to another place. In my pocket were only four dollars, an insufficient amount for three bus tickets. But, thank the Lord, a brother gave us three tickets.
Again, at Kulangsu, in the south of Fukien province, my money was stolen from my pocket, so that I had no traveling expenses to return home. We were then staying in someone’s house and preached once a day in a small chapel. We finished and were ready to leave. My two co-workers had money to return home, but mine had been stolen. (At that time each of us was spending his own money.) They made the decision to leave on the following day. When I heard this I was embarrassed, but I was not willing to borrow money from them. That evening I prayed to God, beseeching Him to provide the needed money for traveling expenses. Nobody knew this. That afternoon some people had come to speak with me about the Word, but I was in no mood to do so. At that time the devil came to tempt me and shake my faith, but I was firm in believing that God would not let me down.
I was then merely a youth, just embarking on serving the Lord by faith; I had not yet learned the lesson of living by faith. I continued praying to God that evening, thinking that perhaps I had done something wrong. The devil said, “You could ask the co-workers to buy your ticket, then repay them when you reach the provincial capital.” I did not accept this suggestion and continued looking to God. When the time came for us to leave, there was still no money in hand. I packed my luggage as usual and hired a rickshaw. At that moment, I recalled the story of a brother who had no train ticket when the train was about to leave, but at that very instant, God ordered someone to give him a ticket.
We were all ready and boarded the rickshaws, of which there were three. I took the last one. When the rickshaw had been pulled about forty yards, an old man in a long gown came from behind shouting, “Mr. Nee, please stop!” I ordered the rickshaw boy to halt. After handing me a parcel of food as well as an envelope, the old man departed. I was then so grateful for God’s arrangement that my eyes were filled with tears. When I opened the envelope, I found four dollars inside, just sufficient for a bus ticket. The devil kept speaking to me, “Don’t you see how dangerous it is?” I replied, “I was indeed a little anxious about it, but it is by no means dangerous, for God has supplied my need in time.” After arriving in Amoy, another brother gave me a return ticket.
In 1923 Brother Weigh Kwang-hsi invited me to preach in Kien-ou in the north of Fukien province. I had only about fifteen dollars in my pocket, one-third of the traveling expenses. I decided to leave on Friday evening and continued my prayer on Wednesday and Thursday. The money, however, did not come in. I prayed again Friday morning. Not only was no money forthcoming, but also I had a feeling within that I should give five dollars to a certain co-worker. I recalled the Lord’s words: “Give, and it will be given to you.” I had not been a money lover, but on that day I really loved money and found it extremely difficult to give. I prayed to the Lord again, “O Lord, if You really want me to give away five dollars, I will,” but I was still rather unwilling inwardly. I was deceived by Satan into thinking that after praying I would not have to give away the five dollars. That was the only time in my life that I shed tears over money. Eventually, I obeyed the Lord and gave the five dollars to that co-worker. After the money was given, I was filled with heavenly joy. When the co-worker asked why I gave him the money, I said, “You need not ask; you will know later.”
Friday evening I prepared to begin my journey. I said to God, “Fifteen dollars was already insufficient, and You wanted me to give away five dollars. Won’t the sum be even more inadequate? Now I don’t know how to pray.” I made up my mind to go first to Shui-Kow by steamer and then to Kien-ou by a small wooden boat. I spent only a little for the journey to Shui-Kow. As the steamer was about to arrive, I felt that if I would not pray according to my own concept, the result would be much better. So I said to the Lord, “I do not know how to pray; please do it for me.” I added, “If You will not give me the money, please provide a boat for me with a little fare.”
When I arrived in Shui-Kow, many boatmen came to solicit business. One asked only seven dollars for my passage. This price was beyond expectation; the usual fare was several times more. I asked the boatman why his price was so low, and he replied, “This boat is hired by the magistrate, but I am allowed to take one passenger only for the space at the stern, so I do not care how much the fare is. But you have to provide your own food.” Originally, I had fifteen dollars in my pocket. After giving five dollars to a co-worker and spending a few dimes for the journey by steamer, seven dollars for the small wooden boat, and a dollar or so for food, there was still a dollar thirty left when I reached Kien-ou. Thank the Lord! Praise Him that His ordering is always good.
After I completed my work at Kien-ou and was ready to return to Foochow, the problem arose again: I did not have sufficient funds for traveling expenses to return. I had decided to leave on the following Monday, so I continued praying until Saturday. This time I had a feeling of certainty in my heart, recalling that before I left Foochow, God had asked me to give five dollars to a co-worker, which I then begrudged giving. At that time I read Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you,” and I laid hold of this sentence. I said to God, “Since You have said this, I beseech You to provide me with the necessary money for traveling expenses according to Your promise.”
On Sunday evening a British pastor, Mr. Philips, a true brother, assuredly saved and loving the Lord, asked Brother Weigh and me to dinner. At dinner Mr. Philips told me that he and his church had received great help through my messages, and they offered to be responsible for my traveling expenses both ways. I replied that there was already someone who had accepted this responsibility, meaning God. Then he said, “When you get back to Foochow, I will give you The Dynamic of Service written by Mr. Paget Wilkes, a gospel messenger greatly used by the Lord in Japan.” I soon felt that I had missed a great opportunity; what I needed then was money for traveling expenses, not a book. I somewhat regretted that I had not accepted his offer.
After dinner Brother Weigh and I returned home together. I had refused Mr. Philips’s offer for my traveling expenses so that I might look solely to God for help; nevertheless, there was joy and peace in my heart. Brother Weigh was unaware of my financial situation. I had a slight thought of borrowing money from him for my expenses and then reimbursing him when I returned to Foochow, but God would not allow me to divulge this matter to him. I was under full conviction that God in heaven is forever dependable, and I wished to see how He was going to provide for me.
When I left the following day, I had only a few dollars in my pocket. Many brothers and sisters came to see me off, and some carried my luggage. While walking I prayed, “Lord, surely You wouldn’t bring me here without taking me back.” Halfway to the wharf, Mr. Philips sent someone with a letter. The letter read, “Though someone else has assumed the responsibility for your traveling expenses, I feel that I should have a share in your work here. Would it be possible for me, an aged brother, to have such a share? Please be good enough to accept this small sum for this purpose.” After reading the letter, I felt I should accept the money, and I did. It was not only sufficient for my return expenses to Foochow, but also for printing one issue of The Present Testimony.
Upon my return to Foochow, the wife of the co-worker who received the five dollars said to me, “I have the feeling that when you left you did not have enough money yourself. Why did you suddenly give five dollars to my husband?” I then asked her what had occurred in connection with the five dollars, and she replied, “We had only one dollar left in the house on Wednesday, and that had been spent by Friday. On Friday we prayed all day. Afterwards my husband felt that he should go for a walk, and then he met you, and you gave him five dollars. The five dollars lasted us through five days; then God provided for us from another source.” At this point she continued with tears, “If you had not given us the five dollars on that day, we would have suffered hunger. It does not matter that we suffer hunger, but what about God’s promise?” Her testimony filled me with joy. The Lord had worked through me to supply their need with the five dollars. The Word of the Lord is indeed faithful: “Give, and it will be given to you.”
This is the lesson I have learned in my life. I have now experienced that the less money I have in my hand, the more God will give. This is a difficult path to follow. Many people may feel that they are able to live the life of faith; but when the trial comes, they are in fear. Unless you can believe in the real and living God, I do not advise you to take this path. I can bear testimony today that God is the One who gives. To be sustained by means of ravens as Elijah was at his time is still possible today. I am going to mention something to you which you may find difficult to believe. It has been my experience that God’s supply arrives when I have spent my last dollar.
I have had fourteen years of experience. In each experience God wanted to get the glory for Himself. God has supplied all my needs and has not failed me once. Those who used to give do not do so now. There is a constant change of offerers; one lot of people replaces another. All this does not matter, for God in the highest is a living God. He never changes! I say this today for your benefit. I must say this that you may go straight forward in the path of living a life of faith. There are ten to twenty more cases like these that I have already related to you…
Looking to God for Sustenance for the Publication Work
Some people would never enter a meeting place to listen to the gospel. For this reason, in 1922 I began printing gospel tracts. The gospel must be delivered to them. After writing the tracts, I began praying and asking for provision for the printing and distribution expenses. God said to me, “If you wish Me to answer your prayer, you must first rid yourself of all hindrances.”
On the following Sunday, I preached on the theme, “Removal of All Hindrances.” At that very time many people were criticizing the wife of one of my co-workers, who was a sister among us. After the meeting she stood at the door. When I entered the meeting to deliver the message, I looked at her and inwardly criticized her, considering others’ criticism of her to be true. When I left the meeting hall after delivering the message, I greeted her. Later, when I again supplicated God for printing expenses, saying that I had removed all hindrances, God said to me, “What is the message which you have delivered? You have criticized that sister; that is a hindrance to prayer, a hindrance which you ought to deal with. You must go to her and confess your guilt.” I replied, “It is not necessary to confess to others sins that are in the mind.” God answered, “Yes, that is right, but your condition is different.”
Afterward, when I considered confessing to her and came face to face with the issue, I hesitated five times. Even though I wished to do it, I was concerned that she, who had always greatly admired me, would then despise me. I said to God, “If you order me to do anything else, I will do it, but I am unwilling to confess to her.” I continued to ask God for the printing expenses, but He would not listen to my reasoning. Rather, He insisted on my confessing. The sixth time, through the Lord’s grace, I confessed to her. With tears we both confessed our faults and then forgave each other. We were filled with joy and thereafter loved each other all the more in the Lord.
Shortly after this, the postman delivered a letter containing fifteen U.S. dollars. The letter read, “I like to distribute gospel tracts and feel constrained to assist you in the matter of printing gospel tracts. Please accept my gift.” As soon as all hindrances were removed, God answered my prayer. Thank the Lord! This was my first experience of God’s answering my prayer in the matter of printing. We were then handing out more than a thousand tracts daily. Two or three million copies were printed and distributed annually to supply the churches in various places. In the few years after the publication work was begun, God always answered my prayers and supplied all our needs.
The Lord also wanted me to publish the magazine The Present Testimony and to give it out free of charge. At that time all spiritual periodicals throughout China were for sale; only what I published was free. The editing room where I wrote the manuscripts was a small cubicle. When the manuscripts were completed, they were sent to the press. When there were no funds available, I would pray to God for His provision for printing. When I considered what I was doing, I laughed because the manuscripts were being sent to the press without the necessary funds.
As long as I live, I will never forget the time when I had no sooner finished laughing than there was a knock at the door. Upon opening the door, I saw a middle-aged woman who constantly came to the meetings, but to whom my heart was unusually cool. She was wealthy, but she loved money and treated a dime as a dollar. I wondered how she could possibly be the one who would give money for printing the magazine. Then I asked her why she had come. She replied, “About an hour ago I began feeling inwardly uneasy. When I prayed to God, He told me that I am not like a Christian, for I have never done well in the matter of offering, and that I love money too much. I asked Him what He wanted me to do, and He said, `You should offer some money for the use of My work.’ ” Then she took out thirty silver dollars and placed them on the table, saying, “Spend it on whatever you feel the need is.”
As I looked at the table, I saw two things, the manuscripts and the money. I thanked the Lord without thanking her. She left, and I went immediately to the printers to negotiate the printing. The money she had given was sufficient to print fourteen hundred copies of the magazine. Others gave money for the packing expenses and postage. Now about seven thousand copies of each issue are being printed. All the finances required are provided by God at the right time and in the way I have been relating. I have never solicited contributions from anyone. At times people have even begged me to accept money. In all of these matters I have been looking solely to Him…
In his Narration of the Past, given on December 4, 1932, he gave more personal testimonies concerning living by faith:
After we had been holding meetings for about a month, some young brothers among us felt that we should have a proper place to meet in the future. But since we were short of money, it was beyond our means to do so. I went to school to talk the matter over with several brothers, that is, with brothers Faithful Luk, Simon Meek, and Wang Tze, and we agreed that we should continue our work among the students. Then for the first time I rented some premises, a place owned by a family named Ho, all the members of which had been saved. They agreed to rent the place to me for a monthly amount of only nine dollars. I then prayed with several brothers, asking God to supply the three months’ rent which was needed in advance before we could move in.
Every Saturday I went to Ma-Kiang, Fukien, to listen to Miss Margaret Barber’s preaching. This time when I saw her, she said, “Here is twenty-seven dollars, which a friend asked me to give you for your work.” This sum was exactly sufficient for three months’ rent at nine dollars per month—not too much and not too little. On my return, without hesitation, I paid the three months’ rent in advance. Later, we prayed again, and the Lord provided again…
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