83. I Can Finally Live Out a Bit of Human Likeness
By Xiangwang, Sichuan Province
God’s words say: “Cruel mankind! The connivance and intrigue, the snatching and grabbing one from another, the scramble for fame and fortune, the mutual slaughter—when will it ever end? Despite the hundreds of thousands of words God has spoken, no one has come to their senses. People act for the sake of their families, sons and daughters, for their careers, future prospects, position, vainglory, and money, for the sake of food, clothing, and the flesh. But is there anyone whose actions are truly for the sake of God? Even among those who act for the sake of God, there are but few who know God. How many people do not act out of their own interests? How many do not oppress or ostracize others in order to protect their own position? And so, God has been forcibly sentenced to death innumerable times, and countless barbaric judges have condemned God and once more nailed Him to the cross” (“The Wicked Will Surely Be Punished” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I feel deeply chastised in my heart every time I see these words from God. I think back to how, in the past, I did not pursue the truth, in fulfilling my duty I competed against my working partners time and time again, and I would oppress or discriminate against others for the sake of my own reputation and benefit. Not only did I suffer losses in my own life, but I also caused the church work to suffer losses. It was God’s repeated chastisement and judgment that made me awaken, and I then saw clearly the emptiness of fame and gain and its harm to me, I put aside my pursuit of reputation and status and began to live out a bit of human likeness.
I accepted God’s work of the last days in 1999. At the time I fulfilled the duty of hosting others. I saw how wonderfully some brothers and sisters fellowshiped, how they were able to find words from God to resolve any issue. I was happy to engage with them, and I would communicate openly with them on any issue. I also envied them very much, thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could be like them one day, solving many problems that bothered my brothers and sisters, and being at the center of them all?” Thereafter, I began to read God’s words, attend meetings and perform my duty more proactively. In 2007, I was assigned to perform the duty of church leader. Any wrong state or difficulty a brother or sister had, and all the various problems that cropped up in the church, were reported to me. I would then search for God’s words in relation to their problems and give them fellowship to resolve their problems. After a while, I felt that I could resolve some difficulties that my brothers and sisters had through fellowshiping about the truth, and my heart felt much enjoyment; I felt like all my hard work over the past few years was paying off. I behaved in a positive manner when performing my duty so that I could hold on to the position and fulfill my own vanity. No matter what work was assigned by the upper-level leaders, I always actively catered to them, even if my co-workers felt it was difficult or were unwilling to go along with it, I never complained. Even if there were things I did not understand I played along, thus winning the praise of the leaders.
In order to gain the upper-level leaders’ praise and stand out from my co-workers, I changed the way I worked: When my brothers and sisters reported any difficulties in their work, I no longer fellowshiped about the truth and patiently guided them, but instead I would often prune and deal with them. I started to micromanage and press them in work. After I began to practice in this way, work results improved very quickly, which delighted me. I thought that better results meant I was among the best of my co-workers and I became enamored with myself. Not long after Brother Wang was transferred over to partner with me. He was good-looking, and his communication of the truth was clear. The brothers and sisters in our church all praised him. This upset me. I thought: “My brothers and sisters all praised his fellowship—that must mean mine is no good! It would have been better if Brother Wang hadn’t been sent here. Now that he’s come, there is no place for me anymore in the hearts of my brothers and sisters.” Measuring myself against him I found he really was better than me, but I was unwilling to give up. At that time I was concerned with reputation and benefit and was uninterested in the problems of the church. I started to worry about what I wore, how I spoke and acted. In gatherings I deliberately showed off my cleverness so my brothers and sisters would think highly of me. Sometimes I would belittle Brother Wang with what I said and observe the attitude our brothers and sisters had toward me. So I was living in an incorrect state that I was unable to extricate myself from. I compared myself to Brother Wang at every turn and had completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit. Not long after, I was replaced. When I heard the news it was like a knife twisting in my heart—what about my face, my status, my future? God was judging and chastising me, yet I did not reflect on or know myself. On the contrary, I was full of suspicion: “The leaders and co-workers would certainly go through the particulars of my situation and my performance in the church. How would I show my face, and what would those brothers and sisters who knew me think?” Trapped in Satan’s web, I started to complain against God, regretting that I had fulfilled my duty as a leader. The more I thought about it the more I suffered. I felt like I was becoming increasingly distant from God, to the point where I felt my life to be meaningless. I knew I was in a dangerous state, but I did not have the strength to free myself. Then I came before God and prayed: “Oh God! At this moment I am living in darkness, fooled by Satan and suffering greatly. I have not been willing to accept everything that has happened to me now, I have wanted to escape Your chastisement and judgment, and I have complained against and betrayed You. Oh God! I beg You to protect my heart, to make me able to examine and come to know myself, to take pity on me.” After this I saw this sermon: “Some people God treats with particular grace and elevation. They are promoted to become leaders or workers, given important tasks. But these people do not return God’s love, they live for their own flesh, for status and reputation, seeking to testify of themselves and gain respect. Are these acts good deeds? They are not. These people do not understand how to comfort God’s heart, they have no consideration for God’s wishes. They seek only to satisfy themselves. These are people who harm God’s heart, who do only evil, who cause so much harm, too much harm, to God’s heart. God promotes them as leaders, as workers, to foster them, so they will become perfect. But they have no consideration for God’s wishes and work only for themselves. They do not work to bear witness to God or work so those God has chosen can enter into life. They work to testify of themselves, to achieve their own aims, to have status in God’s chosen people’s hearts. These are the people who are most resistant to God, who harm God’s heart most. This is a betrayal of God. In man’s words it is a failure to appreciate what is done for them, in spiritual terms these people are wicked individuals resisting God” (“The Important Meaning Behind Preparing Good Deeds” in Sermons and Fellowship II). This passage felt like a sword stabbing into my heart, leaving me deeply chastised. It was by God’s grace and His exaltation of me that I had become a leader, and it was a God-given opportunity to be perfected. But I had no consideration for God’s intent and did not know to repay His love. I lived for status and reputation, to show myself off and to give testimony for myself so that other people would think highly of me; the essence of this was resisting and betraying God. Now I had come to realize that God detested everything I did and so put an end to my service. It is God and the truth that reign in God’s house. I thought back on what I had revealed in the course of fulfilling my duty: In order to gain my upper-level leaders’ praise, and keep my position, I bowed and scraped to the leaders and agreed with their every word. With my brothers and sisters, I condescendingly lectured them, and I even tried to use them to achieve my aim of standing out from the crowd; I did not fulfill my responsibilities toward the lives of my brothers and sisters. I micromanaged and pressed them in my work to the point where they all feared me and avoided me, not daring to bare their hearts to me. When God had placed Brother Wang and me together, I failed to learn the lessons in this situation or learn Brother Wang’s strengths, but instead intensified my struggle for reputation and benefit to satisfy my own ambitions and desires. This resulted in God becoming disgusted with me and I lost the Holy Spirit’s work. And my replacement was God’s righteous disposition coming upon me: It was the judgment of me, the best salvation, and God’s great love. During that time, whenever I sang the hymn “God’s Mercy Brought Me Back to Life,” I would cry, tears streaming down my face. I regretted that my perspective in my seeking was wrong, leading to my current failure. The hymn is: “Though God exalted me to perform my duty, I did not pursue the truth, and I always coveted the blessings of status. Filled with extravagant demands, I never considered God’s will, and was unaware that I defied God. God has always supplied and shepherded me, but I didn’t cherish it. I avoided judgment and chastisement, and stubbornly rebelled against God. I hurt God’s heart. I missed so many chances to be perfected. I really didn’t live up to God’s good intention. My heart is filled with regret. How can I repay God’s love and bring comfort to God’s heart? Oh God, Almighty God! I wish to be a new person and start all over again. God’s words of life influence my heart. God’s exhortations give me limitless strength, and make me stand up once again from failures and falls. I now see hope for my life and know why I was created. Faced with God’s requirement, how could I run and hide again? I wish to repay God’s love with my loyalty and obedience. I will practice the truth and live by God’s word, never again will I make God worry about me. Whether I am blessed or I meet with disaster, I seek only to satisfy God. I wish to give my true heart to God. Even if I have no destination, I still wish to render service to God all my life. I’ll make up for all my past debts and bring comfort to God’s heart.” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). This refinement was with me for over a year. Even though I was hovering between life and death during this refinement, and I felt like a layer of skin was being stripped off, unknowingly I found my desires for status and future prospects were weakened, and I saw how valuable this refinement was.
The time passed in the blink of an eye, and in 2012, the brothers and sisters in our church voted me and Brother Zhao to be in charge of the church work. Because I had not done church work for a long time, there were some difficult problems in the church that I had no idea how to deal with. But Brother Zhao had been doing church work all along and made up for what I lacked, and this was what I had to learn from him. I knew this was God’s love—He did not place an unbearable burden upon me. Throughout our cooperation, Brother Zhao was responsible for reporting on our work, and he took on the lion’s share of the fellowship regarding those important issues. When we held gatherings with our brothers and sisters, he was the first to share fellowship and over time it became as if I did not exist. I thought: “Your fellowship is clearer than mine, but I am better at gospel work. You talk and talk and talk, showing off. It’d be better if we separate so I can also display my strengths. Even though I am not very good at fellowship, I’m better at practical work than you, and managing gospel work is my strength.” Right at that point we received a letter from the sister in charge of our work—for operational reasons we were to separate, each taking responsibility for one area. And although the results for all types of work in the area I was responsible for were not as good as those in Brother Zhao’s area, I was still delighted, and I thought: “I finally got the chance to show my talents. Although the results aren’t very good right now, just wait until I’ve worked on that, and I’ll prove how capable I am.” Once we were working separately, I threw myself into my work and started to organize things, communicating the work arrangements with brothers and sisters so that they were able to grasp what we needed to do, and fellowshiping God’s words to solve current issues and difficulties. After putting in some serious efforts, things did start to improve. I couldn’t help but think: “How is Brother Zhao doing? Is he doing better than I am?” When we had a gathering and I learned that the results of the gospel work within the area I was responsible for really were better than his, I was secretly pleased: “Finally, I’m better than you and can feel proud.” And just as I was feeling pleased, I felt self-reproach arise in my heart: “Aren’t you stealing God’s glory?” My heart sank. “Yes, spreading the gospel, bearing witness to God and leading even more true believers before God is the duty and responsibility of every one of God’s chosen people. And it was thanks to the cooperation of my brothers and sisters, to God’s blessings, that we had gained those people. What did I have to boast about? My face grew red as I thought of this. I felt that I was so contemptible and I saw that God’s holiness did not permit me to contain such filth. When I realized what my state was, I was deeply grateful for God’s enlightenment. I also wished to turn back to God and not pursue fame or status ever again. In the days that followed, I focused on reading more of God’s words and, whenever I encountered an issue, I would focus on seeking the truth to resolve my own corruption. Imperceptibly, my inner desire to vie for fame shrank, and I was able to work together with my co-workers, drawing on each other’s strengths to make up for what we lacked.
One day in August 2012, the sister in charge of our work communicated with me, assigning me to fulfill my duty in another location. At the time I eagerly agreed, but before I left she said: “When you work there, Brother Zhao will work with you, it’ll be better for the work. …” I said: “That’s fine, I’m willing to work with him.” And when we saw each other at a meeting, he was open with me: “I wasn’t entirely happy when they chose you, as I think your fellowship isn’t as good as mine.” That one off-hand statement left me in great turmoil. I couldn’t help but think: “I really shouldn’t have agreed to perform my duty with him. He knows all my failings. I had thought that on arrival in my new post I would benefit from the novelty of being a newcomer! But now there’s nothing to be done.” I forced a smile and acted as if there was nothing wrong, but I was thinking: “I’m not good at fellowship, but me being chosen proves that I’m better than you. Let’s wait and see!” We traveled to our new place of work and threw ourselves into doing our duty.
Initially, when meeting our brothers and sisters, I prayed to be able to forsake the flesh, to limit myself to working harmoniously with Brother Zhao. I listened carefully to how he fellowshiped with brothers and sisters on their states and I prayed for him. And I shared fellowship on gospel work. After some time, I started to feel that his fellowship was clearer than mine. So during gatherings I didn’t want to share a single word in fellowship. I was hoping for those gatherings to wrap up quickly and wanted to get away. We were responsible for a large area then, and I thought: “If we worked separately I wouldn’t be so constrained.” When I shared this idea to my brother he agreed: “Since the size of the area makes work difficult, it’d be ok to split up.” Hearing this made me very happy and I felt that this time I’d finally be able to really bring my abilities into play. After splitting up, at every gathering I was able to speak at great length, I shared fellowship and organized work, taking on a great “burden” for my brothers’ and sisters’ lives. Soon I saw results in all aspects of my work, while Brother Zhao was not doing particularly well. I didn’t do anything about it, as if it was none of my business. Later, our leader learned we were working separately and fellowshiped with us on the responsibilities of our work and the truth of harmonious partnership. I was willing to accept this and no longer maintain separate “households.” But we continued to work apart, using the excuse that we both knew our own work better. So that my leader would not criticize me, I did go to Brother Zhao’s area to give fellowship to the brothers and sisters there, but I felt that this was not within the scope of my responsibility. If they benefited from my fellowship, others would think that Brother Zhao had done a good job and would give him all the credit, and then wouldn’t he seem more capable than me? And so, when I went to a meeting about things that fell under Brother Zhao’s area of responsibility, I just acted perfunctorily, saying I had some administrative task to do, and rushed off. Brother Zhao continued to see no results in all aspects of his work, yet I did not blame myself or feel afraid at all, and I even ignored several communications from our leader. This continued until we were reporting on our work, at which point I was stunned: Although my area had gained many people, when both our areas were added up the number was low. Only then did I feel afraid. In order to prove that I was better than Brother Zhao, I became dominated by the wrong motive of showing how well I could work. Although I was better than him at gospel work, the gospel work in his area had nearly come to a halt. This totally went against the work arrangement. I had become the obstacle preventing God’s will being carried out. I had no choice but to look for God’s words to see the root cause of these circumstances. I saw the following words from God: “Each of you, as people who serve, must be able to defend the interests of the church in all things you do, rather than looking out for your own interests. It is unacceptable to go it alone, where you undermine him and he undermines you. People acting this way are not fit to serve God! The disposition of this sort of person is so bad; not an ounce of humanity remains in them. They are one hundred percent Satan! They are beasts! Even now such things as this still occur among you, going so far as to attack each other during fellowship, intentionally seeking pretexts, getting all red in the face arguing over some little thing, neither person willing to put himself aside, each person hiding what’s inside from the other, watching the other party intently and being on guard. Can this kind of disposition befit service to God? Can such work as yours give supply to the brothers and sisters? Not only are you unable to guide people onto a correct life course, you actually inject your corrupt dispositions into the brothers and sisters. Are you not hurting others? Your conscience is so bad, rotten to the core! You do not enter into reality, and do not put the truth into practice. Moreover you shamelessly expose your devilish nature to other people, you absolutely know no shame! The brothers and sisters have been entrusted to you, but you take them to hell. Aren’t you a person whose conscience has gone rotten? You are utterly shameless!” (“Serve As the Israelites Did” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s harsh words exposed my nature and essence, leaving me ashamed. It was due to God’s elevation and grace that I was able to fulfill that duty; God had entrusted me to bring my brothers and sisters to Him. But I did not show consideration for God’s will, I did not practice the truth, and for reputation and status I ignored the interests of God’s house. I fought both openly and in secret with my brother, working alone. Now is the time to spread the gospel, and God hopes those who truly believe in God will soon return to God’s house. God also hopes we will bring those who seek the true way to Him. Instead, I always sought reputation and status, which were worthless. In order to prove that I was more capable in my work than my brother, when I saw that his work was not yielding results, I didn’t help him. I did not communicate with him about problems in our work, always hoping my brother would fall behind me. I was envious of him when I saw he was better than me, and even rejected him, treating our church work as a game. I was too evil and malicious, without any humanity. If I did not change how could I serve God? If I did not enter into reality how could I bring my brothers and sisters to God? In tears, I came to God and prayed: “Oh God! I was wrong. Because of my rebelliousness, my failure to show consideration for Your will, and my intention to prove myself better than my brother, I ignored my conscience and did not fulfill my responsibilities. And now the gospel work has been harmed and I have committed a transgression in front of You. But I wish to repent and change, to work harmoniously with Brother Zhao to resolve the stagnation in our gospel work. If I strive to gain status again, punish me, God. I am willing to accept Your observation, Amen!” After praying I immediately took the bus to see my brother and communicated openly with him, admitting how I had behaved rebelliously in front of God and how I planned to improve in our work. Brother Zhao also shared what he was thinking in his heart. Afterward we worked together with God as one and started to improve on the failings of our work, looking for oversights and errors, summing up the successful experiences I had, and working strictly according to the work arrangements. Our gospel work soon improved. After this experience, I felt that God is so holy and His disposition is so righteous! When I was always pursuing reputation and status, He created an environment to chastise and judge me, to strike and discipline me. This made me reflect on and know myself, freeing me from Satan’s influence. When I turned back toward God, He once again had mercy on me. I saw that whether God was judging or chastising me, or whether He was merciful and loving, all of this was His love and salvation. I resolved in my heart to do better in my pursuit of the truth and to no longer rebel against God, to be fully loyal in all that God entrusted to me.
I read these words of God: “When you are working together, few of you say: ‘I would like to hear you fellowship with me about this aspect of truth, because I am not clear about it.’ Or to say: ‘You have more experiences than I have on this matter; can you give me some direction, please?’ Wouldn’t this be a good way of doing it? You on the upper levels hear a lot of truth, and understand a lot about service. If you people who coordinate to work in the churches do not learn from each other, and communicate, making up for each other’s shortcomings, from where can you learn lessons? When you encounter anything, you should fellowship with each other, so that your life can benefit. And you should carefully fellowship about things of any sort before making decisions. Only by doing so are you being responsible to the church and not being perfunctory. After you visit all the churches, you should get together and fellowship about all the issues you discover and problems encountered in work, and communicate the enlightenment and illumination that you have received—this is an indispensable practice of service. You must achieve harmonious cooperation for the purpose of the work of God, for the benefit of the church, and for spurring the brothers and sisters onward. You coordinate with him and he coordinates with you, each amending the other, arriving at a better work outcome, so as to care for God’s will. Only this is a true cooperation, and only such people have true entry” (“Serve As the Israelites Did” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Within God’s words I found the path to practice and entering in, and I came to know how to serve alongside others to meet God’s wishes. Everyone has their strengths, and God wants everyone to use those strengths to perform their duties, and in doing so everyone’s weaknesses will be compensated for through working together. God arranging that brother to work with me was just what I needed. I was weaker in fellowshiping on the truth, and his strengths could compensate for my weaknesses. But I did not see this, and when I was with my brother I failed to ask for his assistance when I did not understand. Sometimes when he communicated with me I was unwilling to listen. I intrigued against him, harming both my own life as well as the gospel work. In the days that followed I started to practice entry into this aspect of the truth, consulting my brother on things I did not understand or could not see clearly. I also consulted with him on difficulties in my work. From then on, we learned from and complemented each other when we went to the churches, and when we encountered a problem we communicated with each other, finding God’s words to solve the churches’ problems together. Sometimes our views would differ, but as long as principles that benefited the lives of our brothers and sisters and the work of God’s house were put into practice, even if we lost some face, we could set our own wishes aside. This is how we became spiritual partners in life and were able to have mutual tolerance and understanding. We worked together happily, and every aspect of our work improved.
I thank Almighty God for changing me through His judgment and chastisement, for making me see how Satan harms me through fame, gain and status, have proper pursuits, and live out a bit of human likeness. Although I still have much corruption within me that must be purified and I must go through more judgment and chastisement, I have seen God’s judgment and chastisement is man’s best salvation, God’s truest love for man. I want to experience this more, I want God’s judgment and chastisement to accompany me as I progress, until I am fit to be God’s servant.