9 – The Triumphant Ministry (2)

From chapter nine of The Ministers in the Lord’s Recovery – Genuine Ministers of the New Covenant

The Triumph of the Ministry in the Lord’s Recovery

The ministry in the Lord’s recovery is likewise a triumphant celebration of Christ’s victory—first over the ministers themselves and then over those under their ministry. Before Brother Nee was captured by the Lord, he was recognized by both his classmates and professors as an exceedingly intelligent and capable young man. He harbored many grand dreams and plans for his future, and he despised Christians and preachers in particular, considering preaching a base profession with a meager income. At the age of seventeen, however, he entered a period of conflict over whether to receive Christ or not, knowing that if he did, he would have to resign all other pursuits to serve the Lord. Eventually, as his inner turmoil peaked, he knelt to pray and received a vision in which he saw himself as an unclean sinner and the Lord Jesus hanging on the cross as the gracious Savior welcoming him with outstretched arms (cf. Gal. 3:1-2). Overwhelmed by the Lord’s dying love, Brother Nee received Him as his Savior, confessing his sins with tears. From that day he decided to serve the Lord. Fully conquered by the Lord’s love, he discarded all his cherished worldly ambitions and his promising future to answer the Lord’s call (2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15). Thus was Watchman Nee defeated and added to Christ’s triumphal procession.

As a captive of the Lord, wherever Brother Nee went for the Lord’s ministry, he participated in His victory. Shortly after he was saved, Brother Nee was burdened and led by the Lord to preach the gospel to his schoolmates and countrymen. For a period of time he fasted every Saturday so that he might be empowered by the Lord to preach the gospel the next morning. As a result of his labor, by 1923 almost all of his schoolmates at Trinity College and hundreds of people in his hometown of Foochow had been led to salvation, thus bringing in a great revival. In the early 1920s he saw the revelation in the Bible concerning God’s intention to raise up local churches as a practical expression of the universal Body of Christ according to the scriptural principle of one church in one city. As a captive, he obeyed the Lord to carry out this vision, bearing and scattering the fragrance of Christ, which became to some a savor out of death unto death and to others a savor out of life unto life (Acts 26:19). Because he abandoned the denominations for being unscriptural, he was opposed by many denominational Christian leaders, including Western missionaries and Chinese preachers. However, he continued to minister Christ and establish local churches throughout China. Even though only a small number of Western missionaries listened to Brother Nee’s messages, those who did were astonished by his spiritual insight and weight, and some who had a pure heart were captured for the Lord’s recovery. Through Brother Nee’s spoken and published ministry countless believers were stirred up to consecrate themselves to the Lord for His move on earth, thereby joyfully entering into the triumphal train of the Lord’s vanquished foes (Rom. 12:1). By the time Brother Nee was arrested in 1952, more than one thousand co-workers had been brought into coordination with his ministry, which had raised up about four hundred local churches throughout mainland China and more than thirty local churches in Southeast Asia.

The crowning act of Brother Nee’s obedience to the Lord was his decision to remain in China for the work of the Lord’s recovery, knowing that this decision would cost him his life. Like the apostle Paul, Brother Nee considered his life of no account as if precious to himself, in order that he might finish his course and fulfill the ministry that he had received from the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:24). During his last visit to Hong Kong in January 1950, the brothers there implored him not to return to the mainland, fearing for his safety. However, Brother Nee determined to go back in order to care for the churches, co-workers, and believers in China, knowing that he would almost surely be sacrificed for the Lord’s testimony (Rev. 1:9; 2:13; 20:4). In so doing, Brother Nee lived out the reality of the hymn he wrote describing the spirit of a true captive of Christ:

  • Every moment, every member,
  •    Girded, waiting Thy command;
  • Underneath the yoke to labor
  •    Or be laid aside as planned.
  • When restricted in pursuing,
  •    No disquiet will beset;
  • Underneath Thy faithful dealing
  •    Not a murmur or regret.

  • Ever tender, quiet, restful,
  •    Inclinations put away,
  • That Thou may for me choose freely
  •    As Thy finger points the way.
  • Live Thyself, Lord Jesus, through me,
  •    For my very life art Thou;
  • Thee I take to all my problems
  •    As the full solution now.76

From the moment he was captured by Christ as a young man to his martyrdom after two decades of imprisonment, Brother Nee was manifestly a sweet fragrance of Christ wherever he went. The Christ who had been wrought into Brother Nee became both a pleasant aroma to God for His enjoyment and a savor of life unto life in the countless believers who joined themselves to this ministry and thus became part of Christ’s triumphant and fragrant procession.

76 Hymns, #403

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