Back From the Brink
By Zhao Guangming
At the beginning of the 1980s, I was in my 30s and was working for an architectural design company. I considered myself to be young and fit, treated people with loyalty and respect, and did my work responsibly. My architect skills were also top-notch, and I was sure that I was going places in the company and that once my career really took off I would be living like a prince. This was my goal and so I stayed with the company and worked hard for many years. But despite my impeccable caliber, in both character and professional skills, my efforts never seemed to be recognized by the company, which is something I never understood. The top salary grade in our company was grade 6, but my salary never got above grade 3. I watched a number of colleagues, who had neither my skills nor my time served in the company, get pay raises, but it never happened to me. I was puzzled and resentful about why they got raises and I didn’t. Finally, one of the colleagues who I got along with quite well gave me a tip: “In this company, the most important thing is to butter up the manager by giving him gifts at Chinese New Year and other festivals.” On hearing this, I finally understood the real reason why I had been overlooked by the company, and the injustice of it made me furious. But although I hated those ass kissers in the company, and had even less time for the colleagues who did little work but still got ahead by using underhand methods, I needed to firm up my standing and so I had to adapt to these unwritten rules. So the next time Chinese New Year came along I “expressed my heartfelt good wishes” to the manager and was immediately promoted to team leader.
As team leader, I worked even harder and more conscientiously. I would go to the construction sites to strictly supervise and guide the work and make sure the project targets were met. I also made worker safety one of my top concerns, and my work attitude and professional guidance were universally praised by the workers in my team. But none of this mattered much when it came to keeping or firing team leaders—what counted most was the value of the gifts each team leader gave to the manager. To survive in the company I had no choice but to be a part of this culture, which gave me first-hand experience of the cruelty and helplessness embodied in the law of nature that “Natural selection ensures only the fittest survive.”
In the years following, economic reforms and a loosening of restrictions by the government led to large-scale construction projects being undertaken all over China. My company thus began to allocate projects to individuals, which meant that the team leaders had to compete for the contracts. This meant even more giving of gifts and building of connections, and whenever we team leaders heard that a government unit had a project up for tender we would scramble to get our gifts to the officials in charge as soon as possible. In order not to put these senior officials in a difficult position, we gift givers went to great lengths to find out what they wanted and how it should be delivered. Sometimes we put gold inside of fish or chickens; sometimes we gave cash; sometimes it was gold jewelry or diamond rings. I also got caught up in this culture of bribery, and spent many hours thinking of what gifts to give to toady up to these officials. Eventually, I won a contract with much difficulty, but no sooner had we started work than officials from the Construction Bureau, the Construction Design Institute, and the General Administration of Quality Supervision—as well as local government officials—all came along to “supervise” the work. They said there was this or that problem with the site, that such and such was not up to standard, and after a whole morning of inspections we still couldn’t start work. I immediately invited them all out for a boozy lunch at a classy restaurant, a meal which cost me thousands of yuan. And at the end of the meal I gave bribes to each one of them: 2,000 yuan for the junior officials and 5–10,000 yuan to the senior ones. It was the only way to get their approval for work to continue. But even after work started these supervisory agencies still regularly sent inspectors to inspect the project. They called these inspections “routine” but in fact they were just another excuse to squeeze us for more money. Every time they visited the site, I was busy, before and after, arranging meals and drinks to entertain them, and these cadres from the supervisory agencies even found reasons to get me to go with them to shopping malls where they would shop for designer garments and expect me to pick up the bill. Sometimes they were even bold enough to say they were hard up and ask me directly for cash to spend. In order to keep the project on track, all I could do was grind my teeth, swallow my anger, and be nice to them. Even worse was that for a long time I had to go drinking with these cadres in the red-light districts and often didn’t get enough rest, with the result that I got stomach problems, high blood pressure, and always felt exhausted. When the project was finally completed and I had been paid, I discovered that I’d hardly made any money. At that time I really wanted to cry. Faced with such a hard way to make a living I thought: “Why is it so difficult for me to make money by relying on my skills and hard work? How come these department leaders, part of the national government, are so corrupt?” I felt extremely helpless in the face of these issues but I had no other choice but to pin all my hopes of making money onto these officials. I had originally reckoned that building good relationships with them would also be building the foundations for the development of my career, and it never occurred to me that all I was doing was sinking deeper into a slimy pit of evil and bringing about my own downfall.
In 1992, after a complex and difficult process I won the contract for a construction project in the city, expecting that the project would earn some money for me. Just when I was enthusiastically putting my all into preparations for the start of work my manager told me that I had to first build a villa for each of 4 city officials. He said this was a good opportunity regarding my career development, and that doing a favor for the city officials would guarantee that I would never be short of projects in the future and would soon be living the good life. With a heart brimming with hope I took out a loan from the bank, and also borrowed money from friends and relatives and other sources to raise enough capital to build the 4 villas. But just as the building work was nearing completion officials from the Commission for Discipline Inspection showed up, and I had to spend more money to smooth things over and protect the 4 city officials. But in the end all of my efforts were unable to keep the long arm of the law away from them: Because of accepting bribes they were prosecuted by the prosecutor’s office. So all of my fine plans went up in smoke, and the 4 unfinished villas were confiscated by the authorities. I lost several hundred thousand yuan, and the inexpressible bitterness sat in my belly like a heavy rock.
In my state of helplessness I could only pin my hopes on another construction project. In order to pay off my debts I started to do something that I’d never done before in my whole career, the thing I was most unwilling to do—cutting corners and using inferior materials. Instead of using national standard steel I started using 2nd grade stuff, and instead of bundles of 6 rebars in the concrete I started using bundles of 4, thus reducing my steel costs by a third. I also mixed inferior concrete to further reduce my overall costs. To be honest, every time I did this my heart was in my mouth because I was terrified that the quality of the finished construction would be seriously affected. And when I heard reports of shoddy constructions all over China that had collapsed and killed, injured and bankrupted so many ordinary citizens I would get particularly anxious and have nightmares. It even got to the point where the sound of thunder was like an announcement of my impending doom, perhaps by being struck by lightning or something. Fear stalked me every day. This situation caused me to eventually fall ill, and my high blood pressure led to frequent dizziness, headaches, insomnia etc. I was tormenting myself, both physically and spiritually, and life became a living hell for me. This is how I lost myself in worldly trends and sank deeper and deeper into that slimy pit of evil. But I never expected that when the project was half done the unit I was doing it for would refuse to pay me as agreed in the contract. The loan I’d gotten from the bank wasn’t enough to cover the workers’ wages, so I had no choice but to take out a high-interest loan with a loan shark. After more twists and turns, I finally found out that the contracting unit was already heavily in debt and had no way to finance that construction project. So another of my projects failed, and I racked my brains for a way to make some good of it. I was totally exhausted and was living in absolute desperation. Then I heard news about a team leader in another company who had taken out a huge loan and was unable to repay it and had ended up hanging himself. It felt like I too was standing at the gates of hell with no way out. Following that, the creditors started coming to my house to get repaid: Some of them lay on my bed and refused to leave; some of them kicked up a fuss and threatened me. I was as polite and humble as I could be with them, and felt totally humiliated. Even my closest relatives thought that I was not going to repay them and started giving me the cold shoulder. It was during those days that I truly experienced how cold society can be. I recalled all those years of hustle and bustle that had not only left me penniless but had also left me physically and mentally exhausted and with debts of several hundred thousand yuan to boot. I looked up at the sky and let out a long sigh while saying: “Old Man in the Sky, this is just too hard. I really don’t want to live any longer!”
Just when I was loitering at the gates of hell, the kingdom gospel of Almighty God reached my ears. When I saw these words of Almighty God: “Today, since I have led you to this point, I have made fitting arrangements, and have My own aims. If I were to tell you of them today, would you truly be able to know them? I am well acquainted with the thoughts of man’s mind and the wishes of man’s heart: Who has never looked for a way out for themselves? Who has never thought of their own prospects? Yet even though man is possessed of a rich and prismatic intellect, who was able to predict that, following the ages, the present would turn out as it has? Is this really the fruit of your own subjective efforts? Is this the payment for your tireless industry? Is this the beautiful tableau envisaged by your mind? If I did not guide all mankind, who would be able to separate themselves from My arrangements and find another way out? Is it the thoughts and wishes of man that have brought him to today? Many people go their whole lives without having their wishes fulfilled. Is this really because of a fault in their thinking? Many people’s lives are filled with unexpected happiness and satisfaction. Is this really because they expect too little? Who of the whole of mankind is not cared for in the eyes of the Almighty? Who does not live in the midst of the Almighty’s predestination? Whose birth and death come from their own choices? Does man control his own fate?” (“Chapter 11” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh) I was utterly convinced. I really felt that our fates are definitely not in our own hands. I thought back over the previous years, and how I’d planned and calculated for my own career but nothing had worked out for me. I’d been dedicated to earning lots of money and living a superior lifestyle, but not only did I not have money but I’d also wasted heaps of it. And I’d never expected that I—who was once someone of note—could end up in such a pitiful state of insolvency. Why was it that I’d worked so hard for my future and yet had encountered one failure after another? It was because the fate of every person is not in their own hands but is in the hands of God. Everything is ruled over and predestined by God; good fortune or misfortune is all controlled by God. From the bottom of my heart I could feel that this was all God’s words, and I couldn’t help but cry out to Almighty God: “O God! In the past I didn’t know You. I tried to rely on myself and the influence I had but ended up in a hopeless situation. Today, I have finally understood that the fate and survival of every person is in Your hands. That I can arrive at this point in my life is also part of Your governance and predestination, because without this situation I wouldn’t have come before You. O God! I thank You for saving me from the brink of death and giving me the courage to face life anew. In future I will submit to Your arrangements for the path in life I should follow.”
After that, I started my church life. The environment in The Church of Almighty God was completely different from that of the outside world: The brothers and sisters had simple, straightforward relationships with each other, and treated each other honestly without any sign of pretense, infighting or scheming. During the gatherings, all the brothers and sisters read God’s words; sang hymns in praise of God; honestly and openly fellowshiped their own experiences, deficiencies and difficulties; and also shared their understanding of God’s words. I felt that every gathering I attended was novel and full of vitality. There was no separation or suspicion between the brothers and sisters; everyone understood each other and knew each other well. I felt an unprecedented sense of relief and freedom there and always felt relaxed and happy in their company. At the same time, God also guided me to understand why I had lived in such suffering over the past few decades. I read these words of Almighty God: “There is an enormous secret in your heart. You never become aware of it because you have been living in a world without light shining. Your heart and your spirit have been taken away by the evil one. Your eyes are covered by darkness; you cannot see the sun in the sky, nor the twinkling star in the night. Your ears are clogged with deceptive words and you hear not the thunderous voice of Jehovah, nor the sound of the rushing waters from the throne. You have lost everything that should have belonged to you and everything that the Almighty bestowed upon you. You have entered an endless sea of bitterness, with no strength of a rescue, no hope of survival, left only to struggle and to bustle about…. From that moment, you are doomed to be afflicted by the evil one, kept far away from the blessings of the Almighty, out of reach of the provisions of the Almighty, and you embark on a road of no return. … You sleep deeply in the hands of the evil one, who has lured you into the boundless realm, with no direction, with no road signs. Henceforth, you have lost your original purity, innocence, and started to hide from the care of the Almighty. The evil one steers your heart in every matter and becomes your life. You no longer fear him, no longer avoid him, no longer doubt him. Instead, you treat him as the God in your heart. You begin to enshrine him, worship him, be inseparable like a shadow of his, and mutually commit to each other in life and death. You have no idea at all from where you originate, why you exist, or why you die” (“The Sighing of the Almighty” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Satan corrupts people through the education and influence of the national governments and the famous and great. Their nonsense has become man’s life and nature. ‘Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost’ is a well-known satanic saying that has been instilled into everyone and become the human life. There are some other words of life philosophy that are also like this. Satan educates people through each nation’s fine traditional culture and causes humanity to fall into and be engulfed in an expansive abyss of destruction, and in the end people are destroyed by God because they serve Satan and resist God” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks). So the reason why I’d exhausted myself and made myself bitter while fumbling around in the darkness the last few decades was because I’d been living by Satan’s rules of life, such as, “One’s destiny is in his own hand,” “Money makes the world go round,” “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Flattery will get you everywhere,” etc. By living by these satanic philosophies I had no idea of the existence of God, and didn’t know that God rules over and arranges the fate of everyone. I drifted with the tides of this dark world, and had no direction in my life or principles of behavior. I certainly couldn’t see that this dark world is part of Satan’s domain, and that human society is full of Satan’s temptation, ensnarement and deceit. In order to make money in this dark and evil world, I learned how to flatter and toady up to those in charge, and even illegally used shoddy materials in my construction projects. My conscience disappeared bit by bit, and I was left without an iota of integrity. The deeper I slipped into those evil ways the less I felt like a human being. In the end, I didn’t make any money and was left with a pile of debt, and felt so helpless that I almost committed suicide. I thought of that team leader who had killed himself because of his huge debts—wasn’t he a sacrificial offering to Satan? And how many other similar tragedies are being played out every day of every year? At that point I realized that the reason why people get in such a state is because of the harm caused by Satan’s poisons and because of the worldly trends brought on by Satan’s rule. When I thought of all this, a surge of gratitude for God filled my heart and I was so grateful for God’s mercy and salvation. God had saved me from the dark world and brought me back to God’s house where I could enjoy His care and protection.
After a period of time, I once again had to face my creditors, and my heart was in great turmoil. When I thought of all my debts, I once again wanted to take on construction projects but I was also aware that my abilities didn’t match my ambitions. My high blood pressure problem flared up again, and I was at a total loss about what to do. At one of the gatherings, one of the brothers read some of God’s words for me: “True faith in God means experiencing the words and work of God based on a belief that God holds sovereignty over all things. So you shall be freed of your corrupt disposition, shall fulfill the desire of God, and shall come to know God. Only through such a journey can you be said to believe in God” (Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh). The brother then fellowshiped this: “Since we believe in God then we should have true faith in God. From the bottom of our hearts we must believe in God’s authority and ability to control everything. We should hand everything in our lives over to God. Most importantly, we should learn to rely on God, look up to God, experience God’s work, seek God’s leadership, and not hurry around busily thinking we can do it all ourselves. Paying off debts is something that all reasonable and conscientious people do, so we have to face up to this problem bravely. We must believe that everything is in God’s hands; that there isn’t any mountain that we can’t climb. Concerning your debts, you should pray more to God and seek His intention.”
Through the assistance of the brother I now had a way to practice. I found a job on a construction site nearby that didn’t interfere with my attending gatherings or fulfilling my duties, and began to earn some money to pay off my debts. I no longer just relied upon myself to get ahead. When my creditors came to me for money I would practice being honest with them and give them whatever I had. I was also able to make some money by selling the crops that I harvested from my farmland. I made a solemn promise to all of my creditors that I definitely would repay all my debts, and after that they didn’t make life difficult for me anymore. When the bank sent people to push me to repay the loan I prayed to God and entrusted Him to deal with it. If I had had to do time in prison because of being unable to repay that large loan I would have done so willingly because that would have been God’s decision. I was willing to obey all of God’s orchestrations and arrangements. And it was when I submitted to God while experiencing His work that I saw how miraculous His deeds can be in the way He opened up a way forward for me: Soon after, the government announced that all bank loans taken out before 1993 would not have to be repaid because none of them had been digitally recorded on computers and incomplete information meant that some of the loans could never be repaid. I thanked and praised God with all my heart, because my loan was pre-1993 and so my debt of several hundred thousand yuan was canceled. I thought: “If I had to earn that amount I’d probably die of exhaustion before I made it all.” This allowed me to personally experience that the fate of every person really is in God’s hands, as is described in these words of God: “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite always rushing and busying about for himself, man remains incapable of controlling himself. … And so, regardless of how He chastises and judges man, it is all for the sake of man’s salvation. Even though He strips man of his fleshly hopes, it is for the sake of purifying man, and the purification of man is for the sake of his existence. The destination of man is in the hands of the Creator, so how could man control himself?” (“Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
During my experiences I was able to further verify the reality of Almighty God’s work and my faith became more solid. In the years that followed, I continued to go to gatherings and fulfill my duties while also working for local construction teams to make the money to repay my debts. Whenever I met someone who had enough humanity to be a suitable candidate to hear the gospel, I would talk about it with them, and I also brought some of the people I had good relationships with before God. Although I was still busy every day, life was different because I no longer relied upon Satan’s philosophies and rules. I no longer followed the evil trends of the world and sought to have a superior lifestyle. Instead, I lived in submission to God’s rule and according to His requirements, conducting myself according to the truth, being honest and humane, fearing God and shunning evil. This way of behaving felt open and straightforward, and I began to feel more substantial and brighter inside. Gradually, I began to recover my conscience and rationality and the various ailments that I suffered from began to disappear. This year I turned 75, but I’m healthy, have my wits about me, and have repaid all of my debts. People who know me well all say they admire me and that I’m blessed. But I know without doubt that all this is Almighty God’s salvation and benevolence. It was Almighty God who saved me from the brink of death, who gave me back my life in my hour of need, and who pointed out the right direction for the rest of my life. During all these experiences I truly felt that without God’s leadership people will inevitably be harmed and swallowed up by Satan. Only Almighty God can save people; only Almighty God’s words can lead people away from the bondage of sin and show us how to live as true human beings. Only by accepting the truths that Almighty God has expressed and submitting to and worshiping Almighty God can mankind live in true happiness and have a good future and final destination!