Xiaoli Weihai City, Shandong Province
Now, some brothers and sisters, when encountering some environments of sufferings or painful trials, often utter these complaints: Why is it that we believe in God but what we encounter are all things painful to the flesh? It is said that God loves man, but where is God’s love? Just look at us these believers in God: We have left our families and given up our careers; we rush about all day; we are rejected by our relatives, slandered by the world, and persecuted by the great red dragon; and we also have to experience God’s chastisement, judgment, dealing, and pruning, and the trials and refining of all kinds of sufferings. What we undergo are all sufferings! Those gentiles who do not believe in God, however, eat well, dress well, and enjoy well, and also they do not need to suffer or be refined. Because of these, they always have complaints and often live in passive states. Some of them even feel they are unable to follow any further, and they start to write themselves off as hopeless and act recklessly.
We can fall into such a disobedient state when encountering the environments of sufferings. On the one hand, this is because our viewpoint of believing in God is incorrect and we do not have a right goal to pursue. We believe in God not in order to pursue the truth or pursue the transformation of our disposition to satisfy God, but in order to pursue fleshly peace and joy and material enjoyment. Therefore, when faced with the work of chastisement, judgment, and refining of sufferings God does today, we always have resistance within, unwilling to obey and accept it. We cannot see God’s great salvation and mercy for us but are full of complaints and misunderstandings about God.
On the other hand, it is mainly because we do not have true knowledge of the means by which God works to save man today, not knowing how God saves man.
Regarding the means by which God works to save man in the end time, let us read a few passages of God’s word: “Today when he saves you, it is the end time to divide people into their kinds, and he does not save you by means of mercy and lovingkindness but saves mankind more thoroughly by chastisement and judgment. … Righteous judgment is for purifying people, merciless refining is for purifying people, and stern words or chastenings are all for purifying and saving people. So, the means of salvation today are different from before. Today, righteous judgment becomes salvation to you and becomes the best tool to divide you into your kinds, and merciless chastisement becomes a great salvation to you. In the face of such chastisement and judgment, what do you have to say? Isn’t what you have been enjoying from beginning to end salvation? You have seen God’s incarnated flesh and also tasted his almightiness and wisdom, and even more experienced the many times of smitings and disciplines. But haven’t you also received exceedingly great grace? Aren’t your blessings greater than those of anyone else?” “You people are all the descendants of Moab, and it is an extremely great salvation to you that God does the conquering work on you. You all live in the sinful and licentious place and are all licentious and sinful people. Today you not only can see God, but more importantly, you have received the chastisement and judgment, such deepest salvation, that is, have received God’s greatest love. All that he does is true love for you without any bad intention; it is because of your sins that he judges you, so that you will examine yourselves and receive this extremely great salvation. All the work is for making men. God has been doing his utmost to save men from beginning to end, and he is not at all willing to entirely destroy the men he created with his own hands. Now he has again come among you to work; isn’t this even more salvation? If he hated you, would he still do such a great work to personally lead you? Why should he undergo such suffering? God does not hate you or have any bad intention toward you. You should know that God’s love is the truest. It is only because of men’s disobedience that he has to save men through judgment; otherwise, men still cannot be saved.”
From God’s words we know that today God works to save man not by bestowing on man fleshly peace and joy and material enjoyment, but instead, it is by chastisement and judgment that God arouses man’s numb and obtuse spirit, purifies man of his inner filthy and corrupt things, and works the truth and the life into man, thereby saving man thoroughly from satan’s influence of darkness and turning man fully to God. This stage of work is a deeper work of salvation after the work of redemption and is for thoroughly saving the people who have been redeemed. Because we have been deeply corrupted by satan and satan’s poisons have long since saturated our marrow and blood, we still live under satan’s domain and are controlled by our satanic nature though we have been redeemed and have enjoyed God’s tremendous grace. And today, although we have followed Almighty God, the corrupt nature within us is deep-rooted and is still directing us and we have no way to overcome or get rid of it by ourselves. For example: We clearly know that fame, gain, and position are things of satan and are hated by God, but in performing our duties, we still scramble for fame and gain in spite of ourselves, so much so that whatever we do is to prove ourselves capable and win good opinions from our leaders. When performing our duties, we clearly know that we should do things strictly according to the requirements in the work arrangements, but, directed by our arrogant and self-conceited nature, we still think that our own imaginations and feelings are reliable and still do things according to our own will. In the coordination, we clearly know that God requires us to have a harmonious coordination, but we still scramble for fame and gain, intrigue against each other, and are jealous of each other for fear that others may surpass us. And many other times, we clearly know that it is loathed by God to live in the thoughts of eating, dressing, and enjoying, or in evil thoughts, yet we are simply unable to free ourselves from these corrupt thoughts and are controlled by them in spite of ourselves. These states and manifestations are sufficient to show that we have been so deeply corrupted by satan that even if God bestows on us enough grace, it will not make us cast off our corruption.
God fully knows the extent to which we have been deeply corrupted by satan, and he even more knows that only through chastisement, judgment, and the trials and refining of all kinds of sufferings can we know the essence of our flesh and know our corrupt nature and our various corrupt states, and thus be delivered from sin and from the corruption of the flesh, being thoroughly saved from satan’s domain. Otherwise, we would only be devoured by sin and become satan’s prey and victim. Hence, we can see that judgment and chastisement are simply what we corrupt mankind need, and that it is because of our disobedience and corruption that God has to purify us and transform us this way. This is similar to such an example. After a child takes to evil ways, his parents, because of knowing the dangerous consequences of his doing so, change their way of teaching. They discipline him strictly and even chasten him. They do so not out of hatred for him, but in order that he may examine himself and mend his ways. They have to treat him this way because they want to put him on the right path and want him to be an upright person. These are the painstaking efforts that the parents spend on the child. In such a way of discipline, what the parents devote to the child is not only love but much more patience, care, and expectation. Today, God saves man by chastisement and judgment, so what come upon us are righteous judgment and merciless refining. Although our flesh undergoes some sufferings, and although we are full of complaints and misunderstandings about this means by which God saves us and even resist and avoid it, nevertheless, God has been working and speaking among us all along and has never given up saving us. And moreover, he will never give up until we are saved. This is sufficient to prove that what God has been doing on us is not of hatred, and it means no harm to us but is an even greater and truer love for us.
Besides, although today we have undergone some sufferings in God’s work of chastisement and judgment, nevertheless, all who have obeyed in God’s chastisement and judgment have fully realized that the very purpose of God’s working in this way is to lead us onto the right way and that having followed God until today, all of us have more or less gained some knowledge of ourselves and some knowledge of God and have found the real goal of life. Aren’t all these gained from God’s chastisement and judgment? It is through chastisement, judgment, the refining of sufferings, and severe chastening and discipline that we have known this dark and evil world, clearly seen the emptiness of the human world, and clearly seen the ugly face of the great red dragon which utilizes all kinds of means to persecute God and resist God; that we have known our true self who is arrogant, self-conceited, self-important, and self-right, and who believes in God but disobeys and resists God in everything, and clearly seen how satan has corrupted and tormented us step by step until today; that we have known God’s work of saving man, known how God has been saving mankind step by step, seen the painstaking effort and the price God has expended to save us, apprehended God’s wisdom, and tasted God’s righteous and majestic disposition which does not tolerate man’s offense…. It is because of having gained such knowledge that we have understood what the true meaning and value of man’s living are, are no longer willing to live under satan’s domain, and begin to seek the right way of human life, progressively break away from satan’s influence of darkness and from the corruption of the flesh, and pursue to be saved by God. From these we see that God loves us too much. It is because he did not have the heart to see us living in the filthy land, being trampled upon and tormented by satan at will, and thus falling into Hades that he has been incarnated and personally works and speaks among us, purifying and transforming us by chastisement, judgment, and the refining of sufferings, so that we can be thoroughly delivered from sin. If today God did not work in such a way but only bestowed on us grace, material enjoyment, love, and mercy, we would never have true knowledge of God or of ourselves, nor would we be purified of the deep-rooted satanic poisons in us, and even less would we have a true and pure love for God. Rather, we would disobey and resist God more and more, the desire of our flesh would become greater and greater, and we would place more and more demands upon God. Eventually we would be ruined because of our satanic nature and die in the disasters through which God punishes people. Thus, we can see that all the works God does on us today are too meaningful and that they are all in order to perfect, transform, and save us and are all the truest and most real love for us.
As followers of God, if we want to be saved and perfected, we must know clearly and see accurately God’s work of today and understand how God saves us and how he expresses his true love for us. Otherwise, when the environments God arranges do not fit our notions, we will not only not see God’s love, but on the contrary, we will be full of notions about God and misunderstand and complain about God, and we will even rebel against God and leave God. For example: When God, through our being persecuted and rejected by our relatives, lets us clearly see the actual relationships between people so that we can get out of the afflictions of emotion, if we do not know God’s work or understand God’s kind intention in saving us, we will have notions about God, thinking that it is our belief in God that causes us to be rejected by our relatives and causes our families to break up, and we will thus live in misunderstandings about God, full of passivity and resistance within, and even give up our belief in God. When God, through the great red dragon’s hunting and persecuting us, adds wisdom to us, tempers our faith and willpower, and makes us clearly see the true face of the great red dragon, if we do not know God’s purpose in doing so and do not understand God’s will, we will not be able to discover God’s love at all, but instead, we will feel that believing in God is so hard and so difficult and lose the faith to pursue, and we will even abandon the true way because of being unable to endure the sufferings of vagrant life—hiding ourselves from place to place without a settled home, or we will even play the role of Judas and as a result lose God’s salvation forever. When God, through dealing, pruning, chastening, and discipline, forces us to come before him to know our disobedience and turn back to him, if we do not know that God’s purpose in doing so is to perfect us, we will feel that what God does is too much and God does not sympathize with our weaknesses at all and feel that we undergo too many sufferings and are wronged too much, thereby living in passivity and misunderstandings and even losing the working of the Holy Spirit and falling into darkness. When God purifies and perfects us through the refining of sufferings, such as illnesses or any kind of misfortune in life, if we do not know God’s work, we will resist and try to escape the environments God arranges, and moreover, because our flesh is bereft of enjoyment, we will utter a stream of complaints against God, feel that believing in God is so hard and so difficult, and thus show passive resistance to God or, even worse, start denying God’s work and return to satan’s camp and resume our old life. From these we can see that it is really too dangerous not to know God’s work when believing in God. If we do not know God’s work of saving man and God’s true love for man, we will always be in danger of rebelling against God and will not be able to stand the testimony in trials at all. Only if we truly know God’s work will we be able to discover God’s lovely aspects more in the environments, trials, and refining of all kinds of sufferings, and be able to pursue the truth and pursue the transformation of our disposition in a down-to-earth manner in the environments God arranges, gradually stepping onto the path of being perfected by God. Because knowing God’s work is the vision by which we follow God and is the foundation, if we do not have this vision as our foundation, we will fall and fail at any time. Then how can we follow God to the end?
Now, let us have a look at Peter. The very reason why Peter could be perfected by God was that he paid special attention to knowing God’s work and discovering God’s loveliness. In his practical experience, through constantly seeking and pondering he came to understand God’s kind intention in saving man, know God’s true love for man, and realize that God’s chastisement and judgment surpass God’s love and mercy. Therefore, in hundreds of painful trials, he could give genuine thanks and praise to God from the bottom of his heart, even to the extent that when he was crucified on the cross, he still could say such words: “God! I cannot love you enough! Even though you let me die, I still cannot love you enough.” Eventually, he bore a strong and resounding testimony for God and became a person perfected by God. Therefore, if we want to step onto the path of being perfected by God, we should imitate Peter to drop our extravagant desires and fleshly enjoyment and pursue to know God’s work, so as to have true knowledge of God’s work of chastisement, judgment, and refining of sufferings, and of God’s love for man. Only if we pursue in this way can our heart of loving God and satisfying God be aroused and can we rebel against our flesh and practice the truth required by God, thereby being perfected by God step by step. Otherwise, we will not be able to go forward at all in our experience of God’s work, much less follow God to the end. Just as God says: “If you fail to know the deeper significance of this stage of work, you cannot at all go further in experiencing. You should be comforted because of such a salvation. Do not be too stubborn to be awakened. Having walked until now, you should see clearly the significance of this conquering work, and you should not have this or that kind of view anymore!”