God Himself, the Unique III
God’s Authority (II)
Today we will continue our fellowship on the topic of “God Himself, the Unique.” We have already had two fellowships on this subject, the first concerning God’s authority and the second concerning God’s righteous disposition. After listening to these two fellowships, have you gained a new understanding of God’s identity, status, and substance? Have these insights helped you achieve a more substantive knowledge and certainty of the truth of God’s existence? Today I plan to expand on the topic of “God’s authority.”
Understanding God’s Authority From the Macro- and Micro-Perspectives
God’s authority is unique. It is the characteristic expression of, and the special substance of, the identity of God Himself, such as is not possessed by any created or non-created being; only the Creator possesses this kind of authority. That is to say, only the Creator—God the Unique—is expressed in this way and has this substance. So, why should we talk about God’s authority? How is the authority of God Himself different from “authority” as man conceives of it in his mind? What is special about it? Why is it particularly significant to talk about it here? Each of you must carefully consider this issue. For most people, “God’s authority” is a vague idea, one that requires a great deal of effort to understand, and any discussion of it is likely to be abstract. Therefore, there will invariably be a gap between the knowledge of God’s authority that man is capable of possessing and the substance of God’s authority. To bridge this gap, everyone must gradually come to know God’s authority through the people, events, things, and various phenomena that are within the reach of humans and within their capacity to understand in their real lives. Though the phrase “God’s authority” may seem unfathomable, God’s authority is not at all abstract. He is present with man through every minute of man’s life, leading him through every day. So, in real life, every person will necessarily see and experience the most tangible aspect of God’s authority. This tangible aspect is proof enough that God’s authority truly exists, and it fully allows one to recognize and to comprehend the fact that God possesses such authority.
God created everything, and having created it, He has dominion over all things. In addition to having dominion over all things, He is in control of everything. What does this mean, the idea that “God is in control of everything”? How can it be explained? How does it apply to real life? How can understanding the fact that God is in control of everything lead to an understanding of His authority? From the very phrase, “God is in control of everything,” we should see that what God controls is not a portion of planets nor a portion of creation, much less a portion of mankind, but everything: from the massive to the microscopic, from the visible to the invisible, from the stars of the cosmos to the living things on earth, as well as microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye and beings that exist in other forms. This is the precise definition of the “everything” that God is “in control of”; it is the scope of His authority, the extent of His sovereignty and rule.
Before this humanity came into being, the cosmos—all the planets and all the stars in the heavens—already existed. On the macro level, these heavenly bodies have been orbiting regularly, under God’s control, for their entire existence, however many years that has been. What planet goes where at what particular time; what planet performs what task, and when; what planet revolves along what orbit, and when it disappears or is replaced—all these things proceed without the slightest error. The positions of the planets and the distances between them all follow strict patterns, all of which can be described by precise data; the paths along which they travel, the speed and patterns of their orbits, the times when they are in various positions—all of these can be quantified precisely and described by special laws. For eons the planets have followed these laws, without the slightest deviation. No power can change or disrupt their orbits or the patterns they follow. Because the special laws that govern their motion and the precise data that describe them are predestined by the Creator’s authority, they obey these laws of their own accord, under the Creator’s sovereignty and control. On the macro level, it is not hard for man to discover some patterns, some data, and some strange and unexplainable laws or phenomena. Though humanity does not admit that God exists nor accept the fact that the Creator made and has dominion over everything, and moreover does not recognize the existence of the Creator’s authority, human scientists, astronomers, and physicists are nonetheless finding more and more that the existence of all things in the universe, and the principles and patterns that dictate their movements, are all governed and controlled by a vast and invisible dark energy. This fact compels man to confront and acknowledge that there is a Mighty One in the midst of these patterns of movement, orchestrating everything. His power is extraordinary, and though no one can see His true face, He governs and controls everything at every moment. No man or force can reach beyond His sovereignty. Faced with this fact, man must recognize that the laws governing the existence of all things cannot be controlled by humans, cannot be changed by anyone; he must also admit that human beings cannot fully understand these laws, and they are not naturally occurring, but are dictated by a Sovereign. These are all expressions of the authority of God that mankind can perceive on a macro level.
On the micro level, all the mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, and landmasses that man may behold on earth, all the seasons that he experiences, all the things that inhabit the earth, including plants, animals, microorganisms, and humans, are subject to God’s sovereignty and control. Under God’s sovereignty and control, all things come into being or disappear in accordance with His thoughts; laws arise that govern their existence, and they grow and multiply in keeping with them. No human being or thing is above these laws. Why is this? The only answer is this: It is because of God’s authority. Or, to put it another way, it is because of God’s thoughts and God’s words; because of the personal actions of God Himself. This means that it is God’s authority and God’s mind that give rise to these laws, which shift and change according to His thoughts, and these shifts and changes all occur or fade away for the sake of His plan. Take epidemics, for example. They break out without warning. No one knows their origins or the exact reasons why they happen, and whenever an epidemic reaches a certain place, those who are doomed cannot escape calamity. Human science understands epidemics to be caused by the spread of vicious or harmful microbes, and their speed, range, and method of transmission cannot be predicted or controlled by human science. Though people resist epidemics by every means possible, they cannot control which people or animals are inevitably affected when epidemics break out. The only thing human beings can do is try to prevent them, resist them, and research them. But no one knows the root causes that explain the beginning or ending of any individual epidemic, and no one can control them. Faced with the rise and spread of an epidemic, the first measure humans take is to develop a vaccine, but often the epidemic dies out on its own before the vaccine is ready. Why do epidemics die out? Some say the germs have been brought under control, while others say they die out because of the change of seasons…. As to whether these wild speculations are tenable, science can offer no explanation and can give no precise answer. Humanity must not only reckon with these speculations, but also with mankind’s lack of understanding and fear of epidemics. No one knows, in the final analysis, why epidemics begin or why they end. Because humanity has faith only in science, relies entirely upon it, and does not recognize the Creator’s authority or accept His sovereignty, they will never obtain an answer.
Under God’s sovereignty, all things exist and perish because of His authority and His management. Some things come and go quietly, and man cannot tell where they came from or grasp the patterns they follow, much less understand the reasons why they come and go. Though man can see, with his own eyes, all that comes to pass among all things, and can hear it with his ears, and can experience it with his body; though it all has a bearing on man, and though man subconsciously grasps the relative unusualness, regularity, or even strangeness of the various phenomena, he still knows nothing about what lies behind them, which is the Creator’s will and mind. There are many stories behind these phenomena, many hidden truths. Because man has wandered far from the Creator and because he does not accept the fact that the Creator’s authority governs all things, he will never know and comprehend everything that happens under the sovereignty of the Creator’s authority. For the most part, God’s control and sovereignty exceed the bounds of human imagination, of human knowledge, of human understanding, and of what human science can achieve; it is beyond the ken of created humanity. Some people say, “Since you have not witnessed God’s sovereignty yourself, how can you believe everything is subject to His authority?” Seeing is not always believing, and neither is it always recognizing and understanding. So, where does belief come from? I can say with certainty, “Belief comes from the degree and depth of people’s apprehension of, and experience of, the reality and root causes of things.” If you believe that God exists, but you cannot recognize, much less perceive, the fact of God’s control and God’s sovereignty over all things, then in your heart you will never admit that God has this kind of authority and that God’s authority is unique. You will never truly accept the Creator to be your Lord and your God.
The Fate of Humanity and the Fate of the Universe Are Inseparable From the Creator’s Sovereignty
You are all adults. Some of you are middle-aged; some have entered old age. You have gone from not believing in God to believing in Him, and from beginning to believe in God to accepting His word and experiencing His work. How much knowledge do you have of God’s sovereignty? What insights have you gained into human fate? Can one achieve everything one desires in life? How many things over the few decades of your existence have you been able to accomplish in the way you wished? How many things have happened that you never anticipated? How many things come as pleasant surprises? How many things do people still wait on in the expectation that they will bear fruit—unconsciously awaiting the right moment, awaiting the will of Heaven? How many things make people feel helpless and thwarted? Everyone is full of hopes about their fate, anticipating that everything in their life will go as they wish, that they will not want for food or clothing, that their fortunes will rise spectacularly. Nobody wants a life that is poor and downtrodden, full of hardships and beset by calamities. But people cannot foresee or control these things. Perhaps for some, the past is just a jumble of experiences; they never learn what the will of Heaven is, and nor do they care what it is. They live out their lives unthinkingly, like animals, day by day, not caring about the fate of humanity or why humans are alive or how they ought to live. Such people reach old age having gained no understanding of human fate, and until the moment they die they have no idea what life is about. Such people are dead; they are beings without spirit; they are beasts. Although people live within creation and derive enjoyment from the many ways in which the world satisfies their material needs, and though they see this material world constantly advancing, yet their own experience—what their hearts and their spirits feel and experience—has nothing to do with material things, and nothing material is a substitute for experience. Experience is a recognition deep in one’s heart, something that cannot be seen with the naked eye. This recognition lies in one’s understanding of, and one’s perception of, human life and human fate. And it often leads one to the apprehension that an unseen Master is arranging all things, orchestrating everything for man. In the midst of all this, one cannot but accept fate’s arrangements and orchestrations; one cannot but accept the path ahead that the Creator has laid out, the Creator’s sovereignty over one’s fate. This is an undisputed fact. No matter what insight and attitude one holds about fate, no one can change this fact.
Where you will go every day, what you will do, who or what you will encounter, what you will say, what will happen to you—can any of this be predicted? People cannot foresee all these occurrences, much less control how these situations develop. In life, these unforeseeable events happen all the time; they are an everyday occurrence. These daily vicissitudes and the ways they unfold, or the patterns they follow, are constant reminders to humanity that nothing happens at random, that the process of each event’s occurrence, each event’s ineluctable nature, cannot be shifted by human will. Every occurrence conveys an admonition from the Creator to mankind, and it also sends the message that human beings cannot control their own fates. Every event is a rebuttal to humanity’s wild, futile ambition and desire to take its fate into its own hands. They are like powerful slaps about humanity’s face, one after another, forcing people to reconsider who, in the end, governs and controls their fate. And as their ambitions and desires are repeatedly thwarted and shattered, humans naturally arrive at an unconscious acceptance of what fate has in store—an acceptance of reality, of the will of Heaven and the Creator’s sovereignty. From these daily vicissitudes to the fates of entire human lives, there is nothing that does not reveal the Creator’s plans and His sovereignty; there is nothing that does not send the message that “the Creator’s authority cannot be exceeded,” that does not convey this eternal truth that “the Creator’s authority is supreme.”
The fates of humanity and of the universe are intimately entwined with the Creator’s sovereignty, inseparably tied to the Creator’s orchestrations; in the end, they are inseparable from the Creator’s authority. In the laws of all things, man comes to understand the Creator’s orchestrations and His sovereignty; in the rules of survival of all things, he comes to perceive the Creator’s governance; in the fates of all things, he comes to infer the ways the Creator exercises His sovereignty and control over them; and in the life cycles of human beings and all things, man truly comes to experience the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements for all things and living beings, to witness how those orchestrations and arrangements supersede all earthly laws, rules, and institutions, all other powers and forces. This being so, humanity is compelled to recognize that the Creator’s sovereignty cannot be violated by any created being, that no force can usurp upon or alter the events and things predestined by the Creator. It is under these divine laws and rules that humans and all things live and propagate, generation after generation. Is this not the true embodiment of the Creator’s authority? Though man sees, in the objective laws, the Creator’s sovereignty and His ordination for all events and all things, how many people are able to grasp the principle of the Creator’s sovereignty over the universe? How many people can truly know, recognize, accept, and submit to the Creator’s sovereignty over and arrangement of their own fate? Who, having believed in the fact of the Creator’s sovereignty over all things, will truly believe and recognize that the Creator also dictates the fates of the lives of men? Who can truly comprehend the fact that man’s fate rests in the Creator’s palm? What sort of attitude should humanity take toward the Creator’s sovereignty, when confronted with the fact that He governs and controls the fate of humanity? That is a decision that every human being who is now confronted with this fact must make for themselves.
The Six Junctures in a Human Life
In the course of one’s life, every person arrives at a series of critical junctures. These are the most fundamental, and the most important, steps that determine a person’s fate in life. What follows is a brief description of these waymarkers that every person must pass in the course of their life.
The First Juncture: Birth
Where a person is born, what family they are born into, one’s gender, appearance, and time of birth—these are the details of the first juncture of a person’s life.
No one may choose certain details of this juncture; they are all predestined long in advance by the Creator. They are not influenced by the external environment in any way, and no manmade factors can change these facts, which are predetermined by the Creator. For a person to be born means that the Creator has already fulfilled the first step of the fate He has arranged for that person. Because He has predetermined all of these details long in advance, no one has the power to alter any of them. Regardless of a person’s subsequent fate, the conditions of one’s birth are predestined, and remain as they are; they are not in any way influenced by one’s fate in life, and nor do they in any way affect the Creator’s sovereignty over one’s fate in life.
1. A New Life Is Born Out of the Creator’s Plans
Which details of the first juncture—the place of one’s birth, one’s family, one’s gender, one’s physical appearance, the time of one’s birth—is a person able to choose? Obviously, one’s birth is a passive event. One is born involuntarily, in a certain place, at a certain time, into a certain family, with a certain physical appearance; one involuntarily becomes a member of a certain household, a branch of a certain family tree. One has no choice at this first life juncture, but rather is born into an environment that is fixed according to the Creator’s plans, into a specific family, with a specific gender and appearance, and at a specific time that is intimately linked with the course of a person’s life. What can a person do at this critical juncture? All told, one has no choice about any single one of these details concerning one’s birth. Were it not for the Creator’s predestination and His guidance, a life newly born into this world would not know where to go or where to stay, would have no relations, belong nowhere, and have no real home. But because of the Creator’s meticulous arrangements, this new life has a place to stay, parents, a place it belongs, and relatives, and hence that life sets out on the course of its journey. Throughout this process, the materialization of this new life is determined by the Creator’s plans, and everything it will come to possess is bestowed upon it by the Creator. From a free-floating body with nothing to its name, it gradually becomes a flesh-and-blood, visible, tangible human being, one of God’s creations, who thinks, breathes, and senses warm and cold; who can participate in all the usual activities of a created being in the material world; and who will undergo all the things a created human being must experience in life. The predetermination of a person’s birth by the Creator means that He will bestow upon that person all things necessary for survival; and, likewise, the fact that a person is born means they will receive all things necessary for survival from the Creator, and from that point on, they will live in another form, provided for by the Creator and subject to the Creator’s sovereignty.
2. Why Different Human Beings Are Born Under Different Circumstances
People often like to imagine that if they were reborn, it would be into an illustrious family; if they were women, they would look like Snow White and be loved by everybody, and if they were men, they would be Prince Charming, wanting for nothing, with the whole world at their beck and call. There are often those who labor under many illusions about their birth and are very dissatisfied with it, resenting their family, their appearance, their gender, even the time of their birth. Yet people never understand why they are born into a particular family or why they look a certain way. They do not know that regardless of where they are born or how they look, they are to play various roles and fulfill different missions in the Creator’s management, and this purpose will never change. In the Creator’s eyes, the place one is born, one’s gender, and one’s physical appearance are all temporary things. They are a series of minuscule jots, tiny symbols in each phase of His management of the whole mankind. And a person’s real destination and outcome are not determined by their birth in any particular phase, but by the mission they fulfill in their life, and by the Creator’s judgment upon them when His management plan is complete.
It is said that there is a cause for every effect, and that no effect is without a cause. So, one’s birth is necessarily tied both to one’s present life and one’s previous life. If a person’s death ends their current term of life, then a person’s birth is the beginning of a fresh cycle; if an old cycle represents a person’s previous life, then the new cycle is naturally their present life. Since one’s birth is connected to one’s past life as well as one’s present life, it follows that the location, family, gender, appearance, and other such factors that are associated with one’s birth are all necessarily related to one’s past and present lives. This means that the factors of a person’s birth are not only influenced by one’s previous life, but are determined by one’s destiny in the present life, which accounts for the variety of different circumstances into which people are born: Some are born into poor families, others into rich families. Some are of common stock, while others have illustrious lineages. Some are born in the south, others in the north. Some are born in the desert, others in verdant lands. Some people’s births are accompanied by cheers, laughter, and celebrations; others bring tears, calamity, and woe. Some are born to be treasured, others to be cast aside like weeds. Some are born with fine features, others with crooked ones. Some are lovely to look upon, others are ugly. Some are born at midnight, others beneath the blaze of the noonday sun. … The births of people of all stripes are determined by the fates the Creator has in store for them; their births determine their fates in their present lives as well as the roles they will play and the missions they will fulfill. All this is subject to the Creator’s sovereignty, predestined by Him; no one can escape their predestined lot, no one can change their birth, and no one can choose their fate.
The Second Juncture: Growing Up
Depending on what kind of family they are born into, people grow up in different home environments and learn different lessons from their parents. These factors determine the conditions under which a person comes of age, and growing up represents the second critical juncture of a person’s life. Needless to say, people have no choice at this juncture, either. It too is fixed, prearranged.
1. The Creator Planned the Fixed Conditions for Each Person’s Coming of Age
A person cannot choose the people or factors under whose edification and influence they grow up. One cannot choose what knowledge or skills one acquires, what habits one forms. One has no say in who one’s parents and relatives are, what kind of environment one grows up in; one’s relationships with the people, events, and things in one’s surroundings, and how they influence one’s development, are all beyond one’s control. Who decides these things, then? Who arranges them? Since people have no choice in the matter, since they cannot decide these things for themselves, and since they obviously do not take shape naturally, it goes without saying that the formation of all these things and events rests in the hands of the Creator. Of course, just as the Creator arranges the particular circumstances of every person’s birth, He also arranges the specific circumstances under which one grows up. If a person’s birth brings changes to the people, events, and things around them, then that person’s growth and development will necessarily affect them as well. For example, some people are born into poor families, but grow up surrounded by wealth; others are born into affluent families but cause their families’ fortunes to decline, such that they grow up in poor environments. No one’s birth is governed by a fixed rule, and no one grows up under an inevitable, fixed set of circumstances. These are not things that a person can imagine or control; they are the products of one’s fate, and are determined by one’s fate. Of course, at their root, these things are determined by the fate that the Creator predestines for each person; they are determined by the Creator’s sovereignty over that person’s fate and His plans for it.
2. The Various Circumstances Under Which People Grow Up Give Rise to Different Roles
The circumstances of a person’s birth establish on a basic level the environment and circumstances in which they grow up, and the circumstances in which a person grows up are likewise a product of the circumstances of their birth. During this time, one begins to learn language, and one’s mind begins to encounter and assimilate many new things, a process during which one is constantly growing. The things a person hears with one’s ears, sees with one’s eyes, and absorbs with one’s mind gradually fill and animate one’s inner world. The people, events, and things that one comes into contact with; the common sense, knowledge, and skills one learns; and the ways of thinking that influence one, with which one is inculcated or taught, will all guide and influence a person’s fate in life. The language that one learns as one grows and one’s way of thinking are inseparable from the environment in which one spends one’s youth, and that environment consists of parents and siblings, and the other people, events, and things around them. So, the course of a person’s development is determined by the environment in which one grows up, and also depends on the people, events, and things that one comes into contact with during this period of time. Since the conditions in which a person grows up are predetermined long in advance, the environment in which one lives during this process is also, naturally, predetermined. It is not decided by a person’s choices and preferences, but according to the Creator’s plans, determined by the Creator’s careful arrangements and His sovereignty over a person’s fate in life. So, the people that any person encounters in the course of growing up, and the things they come into contact with, are all naturally connected with the orchestrations and arrangements of the Creator. People cannot foresee these kinds of complex interrelationships, nor can they control them or fathom them. Many different things and people have a bearing on the environment in which a person grows up, and no human being is capable of arranging or orchestrating such a vast web of connections. No person or thing except the Creator can control the appearance of all people, things and events, nor can they maintain them or control their disappearance, and it is just such a vast web of connections that shapes a person’s development as predestined by the Creator and builds the various environments in which people grow up. It is what creates the various roles necessary for the Creator’s work of management, laying solid, strong foundations for people to successfully fulfill their missions.
The Third Juncture: Independence
After a person has passed through childhood and adolescence and gradually and inevitably reaches maturity, the next step is for them to part completely from their youth, say goodbye to their parents, and face the road ahead as an independent adult. At this point, they must confront all the people, events, and things that an adult must face, confront all the parts of their fate which will soon present themselves. This is the third juncture that a person must pass through.
1. After Becoming Independent, a Person Begins to Experience the Sovereignty of the Creator
If a person’s birth and growing up are the “preparatory period” for one’s journey in life, laying the cornerstone of a person’s fate, then one’s independence is the opening soliloquy to one’s fate in life. If a person’s birth and growing up are wealth they have amassed in preparation for their fate in life, then a person’s independence is when they begin spending or adding to that wealth. When one leaves one’s parents and becomes independent, the social conditions one faces, and the kind of work and career available to one are both decreed by fate and have nothing to do with one’s parents. Some people choose a good major in college and end up finding a satisfactory job after graduation, making a triumphant first stride in the journey of their lives. Some people learn and master many different skills and yet never find a job that suits them or never find their position, much less have a career; at the outset of their life journey, they find themselves thwarted at every turn, beset by troubles, their prospects dismal and their lives uncertain. Some people apply themselves diligently to their studies, yet narrowly miss every chance to receive a higher education; they seem fated never to achieve success, their very first aspiration in the journey of their lives having dissolved into thin air. Not knowing whether the road ahead is smooth or rocky, they feel for the first time how full of variables human destiny is, and so regard life with expectation and dread. Some people, despite not being very well educated, write books and achieve a measure of fame; some, though almost totally illiterate, make money in business and are thereby able to support themselves…. What occupation one chooses, how one makes a living: do people have any control over whether they make a good choice or a bad choice in these things? Do these things accord with people’s desires and decisions? Most people have the following wishes: to work less and earn more, not to toil in the sun and rain, to dress well, to glow and shine everywhere, to tower above others, and to bring honor to their ancestors. People hope for perfection, but when they take their first steps in the journey of their lives, they gradually come to realize how imperfect human destiny is, and for the first time they truly grasp the fact that, though one can make bold plans for one’s future and though one may harbor audacious fantasies, no one has the ability or the power to realize their own dreams, and no one is in a position to control their own future. There will always be some distance between one’s dreams and the realities that one must confront; things are never as one would like them to be, and faced with such realities, people can never achieve satisfaction or contentment. Some people will go to any length imaginable, will put forth great efforts and make great sacrifices for the sake of their livelihoods and future, in an attempt to change their own fate. But in the end, even if they can realize their dreams and desires by means of their own hard work, they can never change their fates, and no matter how doggedly they try, they can never exceed what destiny has allotted them. Regardless of differences in ability, intelligence, and willpower, people are all equal before fate, which does not distinguish between the great and the small, the high and the low, the exalted and the mean. What occupation one pursues, what one does for a living, and how much wealth one amasses in life are not decided by one’s parents, one’s talents, one’s efforts or one’s ambitions, but are predetermined by the Creator.
2. Leaving One’s Parents and Beginning in Earnest to Play One’s Role in the Theater of Life
When one reaches maturity, one is able to leave one’s parents and strike out on one’s own, and it is at this point that one truly begins to play one’s own role, that the fog lifts and one’s mission in life gradually becomes clear. Nominally, one still stays closely tied to one’s parents, but because one’s mission and the role one plays in life have nothing to do with one’s mother and father, in actuality this intimate tie breaks down as a person gradually becomes independent. From a biological perspective, people cannot help still being dependent on their parents in subconscious ways, but objectively speaking, once they are fully grown, they have entirely separate lives from their parents and will perform the roles they assume independently. Besides birth and childrearing, the parents’ responsibility in their children’s lives is simply to provide them with a formal environment to grow up in, for nothing except the predestination of the Creator has a bearing on a person’s fate. No one can control what kind of future a person will have; it is predetermined long in advance, and not even one’s parents can change one’s fate. As far as fate is concerned, everyone is independent, and everyone has their own fate. So, no one’s parents can stave off one’s fate in life or exert the slightest influence on the role one plays in life. It could be said that the family into which one is destined to be born and the environment in which one grows up are nothing more than the preconditions for fulfilling one’s mission in life. They do not in any way determine a person’s fate in life or the kind of destiny within which a person fulfills their mission. And so, no one’s parents can assist one in accomplishing one’s mission in life, and likewise, no one’s relatives can help one assume one’s role in life. How one accomplishes one’s mission and in what kind of living environment one performs one’s role are entirely determined by one’s fate in life. In other words, no other objective conditions can influence a person’s mission, which is predestined by the Creator. All people become mature in the particular environments in which they grow up; then gradually, step by step, they set off down their own roads in life and fulfill the destinies planned for them by the Creator. Naturally, involuntarily, they enter the vast sea of humanity and assume their own posts in life, where they begin to fulfill their responsibilities as created beings for the sake of the Creator’s predestination, for the sake of His sovereignty.
The Fourth Juncture: Marriage
As one grows older and matures, one grows more distant from one’s parents and the environment in which one was born and raised, and instead begins to seek a direction in life and to pursue one’s own life goals in a style different from one’s parents. During this time, one no longer needs one’s parents, but rather a partner with whom one can spend one’s life, that is, a spouse, a person with whom one’s fate is intimately entwined. So, the first major life event after independence is marriage, the fourth juncture one must pass through.
1. Individual Choice Does Not Enter Into Marriage
Marriage is a key event in any person’s life; it is the time when one starts truly to assume various kinds of responsibilities, and gradually to complete various kinds of missions. People harbor many illusions about marriage before they experience it themselves, and all these illusions are quite beautiful. Women imagine that their other halves will be Prince Charming, and men imagine that they will marry Snow White. These fantasies go to show that every person has certain requirements for marriage, their own set of demands and standards. Though in this evil age people are constantly bombarded with distorted messages about marriage, which create even more additional requirements and give people all sorts of baggage and strange attitudes, any person who has experienced marriage knows that no matter how one understands it, no matter what one’s attitude toward it is, marriage is not a matter of individual choice.
One encounters many people in one’s life, but no one knows who will become one’s partner in marriage. Though everyone has their own ideas and personal stances on the subject of marriage, no one can foresee who will truly, finally become their other half, and one’s own ideas on the matter count for little. After meeting someone you like, you can pursue that person; but whether they are interested in you, whether they are able to become your partner—that is not yours to decide. The object of your affections is not necessarily the person with whom you will be able to share your life; and meanwhile, someone you never expected may quietly enter your life and become your partner, the most important element in your fate, your other half, to whom your fate is inextricably bound. And so, though there are millions of marriages in the world, each and every one is different: So many marriages are unsatisfactory, so many are happy; so many span East and West, so many North and South; so many are perfect matches, so many are of equal social rank; so many are happy and harmonious, so many painful and sorrowful; so many arouse the envy of others, so many are misunderstood and frowned upon; so many are full of joy, so many are awash with tears and bring despair…. In these myriad types of marriage, humans reveal loyalty and lifelong commitment toward marriage; they reveal love, attachment, and inseparability, or resignation and incomprehension. Some betray their marriage, or even feel hatred toward it. Whether marriage itself brings happiness or pain, everyone’s mission in marriage is predestined by the Creator and will not change; this mission is something that everyone must complete. The fate of each person that lies behind every marriage is unchanging, determined long in advance by the Creator.
2. Marriage Is Born of the Fates of Both Partners
Marriage is an important juncture in a person’s life. It is the product of a person’s fate and a crucial link in one’s fate; it is not founded on any person’s individual volition or preferences, and is not influenced by any external factors, but completely determined by the fates of the two parties, by the Creator’s arrangements and predeterminations for the fates of both members of the couple. On the surface, the purpose of marriage is to continue the human race, but in truth, marriage is nothing but a ritual that one undergoes in the process of completing one’s mission. In marriage, people do not merely play the role of rearing the next generation; they adopt all the various roles involved in maintaining a marriage and the missions those roles require one to complete. Since one’s birth influences the changes undergone by the people, events, and things that surround it, one’s marriage will also inevitably affect these people, events, and things, and furthermore, will transform them all in various ways.
When one becomes independent, one begins one’s own journey in life, which leads one, step by step, toward the people, events, and things that have a connection to one’s marriage. At the same time, the other person who will be in that marriage is approaching, step by step, toward those same people, events, and things. Under the Creator’s sovereignty, two unrelated people with related fates gradually enter into a single marriage and become, miraculously, a family: “two locusts clinging to the same rope.” So, when one enters into a marriage, one’s journey in life will influence and touch upon one’s other half, and likewise one’s partner’s journey in life will influence and touch upon one’s own fate in life. In other words, human fates are interconnected, and no one can complete one’s mission in life or perform one’s role in complete independence from others. One’s birth has a bearing on a huge chain of relationships; growing up also involves a complex chain of relationships; and similarly, a marriage inevitably exists and is maintained within a vast and complex web of human connections, involving every member of that web and influencing the fate of everyone who is a part of it. A marriage is not the product of both members’ families, the circumstances in which they grew up, their appearances, their ages, their qualities, their talents, or any other factors; rather, it arises from a shared mission and a related fate. This is the origin of marriage, a product of human fate orchestrated and arranged by the Creator.
The Fifth Juncture: Progeny
After marrying, one begins to raise the next generation. One has no say in how many and what kind of children one has; this too is determined by a person’s fate, predestined by the Creator. This is the fifth juncture through which a person must pass.
If one is born in order to fulfill the role of someone’s child, then one rears the next generation to fulfill the role of someone’s parent. This shift in roles makes one experience different phases of life from different perspectives. It also gives one different sets of life experience through which one comes to know the sovereignty of the Creator, which is always enacted in the same way, and through which one encounters the fact that no one can overstep or alter the predestination of the Creator.
1. One Has No Control Over What Becomes of One’s Offspring
Birth, growing up, and marriage all bring disappointment of various kinds and in different degrees. Some people are dissatisfied with their families or their own physical appearance; some dislike their parents; some resent or have complaints about the environment in which they grew up. And for most people, among all these disappointments, marriage is the most dissatisfactory. No matter how dissatisfied one is with one’s birth, maturation, or marriage, everyone who has gone through these things knows that one cannot choose where and when they were born, what they look like, who their parents are, and who their spouse is, but must simply accept the will of Heaven. Yet when it comes time for people to raise the next generation, they will project all the desires they failed to realize in the first half of their lives onto their descendants, hoping that their offspring will make up for all the disappointments of the first half of their own lives. So people indulge in all kinds of fantasies about their children: that their daughters will grow up to be stunning beauties, their sons dashing gentlemen; that their daughters will be cultured and talented and their sons brilliant students and star athletes; that their daughters will be gentle, virtuous, and sensible, and their sons intelligent, capable, and sensitive. They hope that their offspring, whether they be daughters or sons, will respect their elders, be considerate of their parents, be loved and praised by everyone…. At this point, hopes for life spring afresh, and new passions are kindled in people’s hearts. People know that they are powerless and hopeless in this life, that they will not have another chance or another hope to stand out from the crowd, and that they have no choice but to accept their fates. And so they project all their hopes, their unrealized desires and ideals, onto the next generation, hoping that their offspring can help them achieve their dreams and realize their desires; that their daughters and sons will bring glory to the family name, become important, rich, or famous. In short, they want to see their children’s fortunes soar. People’s plans and fantasies are perfect; do they not know that the number of children they have, their children’s appearance, abilities, and so forth, are not for them to decide, that not a bit of their children’s fates is in their hands? Humans are not the masters of their own fate, yet they hope to change the fates of the younger generation; they are powerless to escape their own fates, yet they try to control those of their sons and daughters. Are they not overestimating themselves? Is this not human foolishness and ignorance? People will go to any length for the sake of their offspring, but in the end, one’s plans and desires cannot dictate how many children one has or what those children are like. Some people are penniless but beget many children; some people are wealthy yet have not a single child. Some want a daughter but are denied that wish; some want a son but fail to produce a male child. For some, children are a blessing; for others, they are a curse. Some couples are intelligent, yet give birth to slow-witted children; some parents are industrious and honest, yet the children they raise are indolent. Some parents are kind and upright but have children who turn out to be sly and vicious. Some parents are sound in mind and body but give birth to handicapped children. Some parents are ordinary and unsuccessful yet have children who achieve great things. Some parents are of low status yet have children who rise to eminence. …
2. After Raising the Next Generation, People Gain a New Understanding of Fate
Most people who enter wedlock do so around age thirty, a time in life at which one does not yet have any understanding of human fate. But when people begin to raise children, and as their offspring grow, they watch the new generation repeat the life and all the experiences of the previous generation, and, seeing their own pasts reflected in them, they realize that the path walked by the younger generation, just like their own, cannot be planned and chosen. Faced with this fact, they have no choice but to admit that every person’s fate is predestined, and without quite realizing it, they gradually lay aside their own desires, and the passions in their hearts sputter and die out…. People in this period, having essentially passed the important waymarkers of life, have achieved a new understanding of life, adopted a new attitude. How much can a person of this age expect from the future and what prospects do they have to look forward to? What fifty-year-old woman is still dreaming of Prince Charming? What fifty-year-old man is still looking for his Snow White? What middle-aged woman is still hoping to turn from an ugly duckling into a swan? Do most older men have the same career drive as young men? In sum, regardless of whether one is a man or a woman, anyone who lives to this age is likely to have a relatively rational, practical attitude toward marriage, family, and children. Such a person has essentially no choices left, no urge to challenge fate. As far as human experience goes, as soon as one reaches this age, one naturally develops a certain attitude: “One must accept fate; one’s children have their own fortunes; human fate is ordained by Heaven.” Most people who do not understand the truth, after having weathered all the vicissitudes, frustrations, and hardships of this world, will summarize their insights into human life with two words: “That’s fate!” Though this phrase encapsulates worldly people’s realization of human fate and the conclusion to which they have come, and though it expresses humanity’s helplessness and could be described as incisive and accurate, it is a far cry from an understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty, and is simply no substitute for knowledge of the Creator’s authority.
3. Believing in Fate Is No Substitute for Knowledge of the Creator’s Sovereignty
Having followed God for so many years, is there a substantive difference between your knowledge of fate and that of the worldly people? Have you truly understood the predestination of the Creator and truly come to know the Creator’s sovereignty? Some people have a profound, deeply felt understanding of the phrase “that’s fate,” yet they do not believe in God’s sovereignty in the least; they do not believe that human fate is arranged and orchestrated by God, and are unwilling to submit to the sovereignty of God. Such people are as if adrift on the ocean, tossed by the waves, drifting with the current, with no choice but to wait passively and resign themselves to fate. Yet they do not recognize that human fate is subject to God’s sovereignty; they cannot on their own initiative come to know God’s sovereignty and thereby achieve knowledge of God’s authority, submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements, stop resisting fate, and live under God’s care, protection, and guidance. In other words, accepting fate is not the same thing as submitting to the Creator’s sovereignty; belief in fate does not mean that one accepts, recognizes, and knows the Creator’s sovereignty; belief in fate is mere recognition of its truth and its superficial manifestations. This is different from knowing how the Creator rules humanity’s fate, from recognizing the Creator is the source of dominion over the fates of all things, and certainly a far cry from submitting to the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements for humanity’s fate. If a person only believes in fate—even if they feel deeply about it—but is not thereby able to know and recognize the Creator’s sovereignty over the fate of humanity, to submit to it and accept it, then their life will nonetheless be a tragedy, a life lived in vain, a void; they will still be unable to come under the Creator’s dominion, to become a created human being in the truest sense of the term, and to enjoy the Creator’s approval. A person who truly knows and experiences the Creator’s sovereignty should be in an active state, not a state that is passive or helpless. While such a person would accept that all things are fated, they should possess an accurate definition of life and fate: Every life is subject to the Creator’s sovereignty. When one looks back on the road one has walked, when one recollects every phase of one’s journey, one sees that at every step, whether one’s journey was arduous or smooth, God was guiding one’s path, planning it out. It was God’s meticulous arrangements, His careful planning, that led one, unknowingly, to today. To be able to accept the Creator’s sovereignty, to receive His salvation—what great fortune that is! If a person has a negative attitude toward fate, it proves that they are resisting everything that God has arranged for them, that they do not have a submissive attitude. If one has a positive attitude toward God’s sovereignty over human fate, then when one looks back upon one’s journey, when one truly comes to grips with God’s sovereignty, one will more earnestly desire to submit to everything that God has arranged, will have more determination and confidence to let God orchestrate one’s fate and to stop rebelling against God. For one sees that when one does not comprehend fate, when one does not understand God’s sovereignty, when one gropes their way forward willfully, staggering and tottering through the fog, the journey is too difficult, too heartbreaking. So when people recognize God’s sovereignty over human fate, the clever ones choose to know it and accept it, to bid farewell to the painful days when they tried to build a good life with their own two hands, and to stop struggling against fate and pursuing their so-called “life goals” in their own way. When one does not have God, when one cannot see Him, when one cannot clearly recognize God’s sovereignty, every day is meaningless, worthless, miserable. Wherever one is, whatever one’s job is, one’s means of living and the pursuit of one’s goals bring one nothing but endless heartbreak and suffering without relief, such that one cannot bear to look back on one’s past. Only when one accepts the Creator’s sovereignty, submits to His orchestrations and arrangements, and seeks true human life will one gradually begin to break free from all heartbreak and suffering, and to be rid of all the emptiness of life.
4. Only Those Who Submit to the Creator’s Sovereignty Can Attain True Freedom
Because people do not recognize God’s orchestrations and God’s sovereignty, they always face fate defiantly and with a rebellious attitude, and they always want to cast off God’s authority and sovereignty and the things fate has in store, hoping in vain to change their current circumstances and alter their fate. But they can never succeed and are thwarted at every turn. This struggle, which takes place deep in one’s soul, brings profound pain of the sort that carves itself into one’s bones, as one fritters away their life all the while. What is the cause of this pain? Is it because of God’s sovereignty, or because a person was born unlucky? Obviously, neither is true. At bottom, it is caused by the paths people take, the ways they choose to live their lives. Some people may not have realized these things. But when you truly know, when you truly come to recognize that God has sovereignty over human fate, when you truly understand that everything God has planned for you and decided for you is a great benefit and protection, then you feel your pain begin to lighten, and your whole being becomes relaxed, free, liberated. Judging from the states of the majority of people, they objectively cannot truly come to terms with the practical value and meaning of the Creator’s sovereignty over human fate, even though on a subjective level, they do not want to keep on living as they did before and want relief from their pain; objectively, they cannot truly recognize and submit to the Creator’s sovereignty, and still less do they know how to seek out and accept the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements. So, if people cannot truly recognize the fact that the Creator has sovereignty over human fate and over all human matters, if they cannot truly submit to the Creator’s dominion, then it will be difficult for them not to be driven and fettered by the idea that “one’s fate is in one’s own hands.” It will be difficult for them to shake off the pain of their intense struggle against fate and the Creator’s authority, and, needless to say, it will also be hard for them to become truly liberated and free, to become people who worship God. But there is an exceedingly simple way to free oneself from this state, which is to bid farewell to one’s former way of living; to say goodbye to one’s previous goals in life; to summarize and analyze one’s previous lifestyle, view of life, pursuits, desires, and ideals; and then to compare them with God’s will and demands for man, and see whether any of them is consistent with God’s will and demands, whether any of them delivers the right values of life, leads one to a greater understanding of the truth, and allows one to live with humanity and the likeness of a human being. When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals that people pursue in life and their myriad ways of living, you will find not one of them conforms to the Creator’s original intention with which He created humanity. All of them draw people away from the Creator’s sovereignty and care; they are all pits into which humanity falls, and which lead them to hell. After you recognize this, your task is to lay aside your old view of life, stay far from various traps, let God take charge of your life and make arrangements for you; it is to try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to live without individual choice, and to become a person who worships God. This sounds easy, but is a hard thing to do. Some people can bear the pain of it, others cannot. Some are willing to comply, others are unwilling. Those who are unwilling lack the desire and the resolution to do so; they are clearly aware of God’s sovereignty, know perfectly well that it is God who plans out and arranges human fate, and yet they still kick and struggle and remain unreconciled to laying their fates in God’s palm and submitting to God’s sovereignty; moreover, they resent God’s orchestrations and arrangements. So there will always be some people who want to see for themselves what they are capable of; they want to change their fates with their own two hands, or to achieve happiness by their own power, to see whether they can overstep the bounds of God’s authority and rise above God’s sovereignty. The tragedy of man is not that he seeks a happy life, not that he pursues fame and fortune or struggles against his own fate through the fog, but that after he has seen the Creator’s existence, after he has learned the fact that the Creator has sovereignty over human fate, he still cannot mend his ways, cannot pull his feet out of the mire, but hardens his heart and persists in his errors. He would rather keep thrashing in the mud, vying obstinately against the Creator’s sovereignty, resisting it until the bitter end, all without the slightest shred of contrition. It is only when he lies broken and bleeding that he at last decides to give up and turn back. This is true human sorrow. So I say, those who choose to submit are wise, and those who choose to struggle and flee are foolish indeed.
The Sixth Juncture: Death
After so much hustle and bustle, so many frustrations and disappointments, after so many joys and sorrows and ups and downs, after so many unforgettable years, after watching the seasons turn time and again, one has passed the important waymarkers in life without noticing, and in a flash, one finds oneself in one’s twilight years. The marks of time are stamped all over one’s body: One can no longer stand tall, one’s hair turns from dark to white, while eyes once bright and lucid turn dim and cloudy, and smooth, supple skin becomes wrinkled and spotted. One’s hearing weakens, one’s teeth loosen and fall out, one’s reactions become sluggish, one’s movements slow…. At this point, one has bid a final farewell to the passionate years of one’s youth and entered the twilight of one’s life: old age. Next, one will face death, the last juncture in a human life.
1. Only the Creator Holds the Power of Life and Death Over Man
If one’s birth was destined by one’s previous life, then one’s death marks the end of that destiny. If one’s birth is the beginning of one’s mission in this life, then one’s death marks the end of that mission. Since the Creator has determined a fixed set of circumstances for a person’s birth, it goes without saying that He has also arranged a fixed set of circumstances for one’s death. In other words, no one is born by chance, no one’s death arrives abruptly, and both birth and death are necessarily connected with one’s previous and present lives. The circumstances of one’s birth and death are both predetermined by the Creator; this is a person’s destiny, a person’s fate. Since there are many explanations for a person’s birth, it is also true that a person’s death will naturally occur under its own, special set of various circumstances. This is the reason for people’s varying lifespans and the different manners and times of their deaths. Some people are strong and healthy, yet die young; others are weak and sickly, yet live to an old age and pass away peacefully. Some perish of unnatural causes, others die naturally. Some end their lives far from home, others shut their eyes for the final time with their loved ones by their side. Some people die in midair, others beneath the earth. Some sink beneath the water, others are lost in disasters. Some die in the morning, others at night. … Everyone wants an illustrious birth, a brilliant life, and a glorious death, but no one can reach past their own destiny, no one can escape the Creator’s sovereignty. This is human fate. Man can make all kinds of plans for his future, but no one can plan the manner and time of their birth and of their departure from the world. Though people do their best to avoid and resist the coming of death, still, unbeknownst to them, death silently draws near. No one knows when they will perish or how, much less where it will happen. Obviously, it is not humanity that holds the power of life and death, not some being in the natural world, but the Creator, whose authority is unique. Mankind’s life and death are not the product of some law of the natural world, but a consequence of the sovereignty of the Creator’s authority.
2. One Who Does Not Know the Creator’s Sovereignty Will Be Haunted by the Fear of Death
When one enters old age, the challenge one faces is not providing for a family or establishing one’s grand ambitions in life, but how to bid farewell to one’s life, how to meet the end of one’s life, how to put a period at the end of the sentence of one’s life. Though on the surface, it seems that people pay little attention to death, no one can avoid exploring the subject, for no one knows whether another world lies on the far side of death, a world that humans cannot perceive or feel, that they know nothing about. This makes people afraid to face death head-on, afraid to confront it as they ought; instead, they do their best to avoid the subject. And so it fills every person with dread about death, and adds a veil of mystery to this inevitable fact of life, casting a persistent shadow over every person’s heart.
When one feels one’s body deteriorating, when one senses that one is drawing nearer to death, one feels a vague dread, an inexpressible fear. Fear of death makes one feel ever lonelier and more helpless, and at this point, one asks oneself: Where did man come from? Where is man going? Is this how man dies, with his life having rushed past him? Is this the period that marks the end of man’s life? What, in the end, is the meaning of life? What is life worth, after all? Is it about fame and fortune? Is it about raising a family? … Regardless of whether one has thought about these specific questions, regardless of how deeply one fears death, in the depths of every person’s heart there is always a desire to probe the mysteries, a feeling of incomprehension about life, and mixed in with these, sentimentality about the world, a reluctance to leave. Perhaps no one can clearly articulate what it is that man fears, what it is that man seeks, what it is that he is sentimental about and what he is reluctant to leave behind …
Because they fear death, people have so many worries; because they fear death, people have so much they cannot let go of. When they are about to die, some people fret about this or that; they worry about their children, their loved ones, their wealth, as if by worrying, they can erase the suffering and dread that death brings, as if by maintaining a kind of intimacy with the living, they can escape the helplessness and loneliness that accompany death. In the depths of the human heart there lies a vague fear, a fear of being parted from one’s loved ones, of never again laying eyes upon the blue sky, of never again looking upon the material world. A lonely soul, accustomed to the company of its loved ones, is reluctant to release its grip and depart, all alone, for a world that is unknown and unfamiliar.
3. A Life Spent Seeking Fame and Fortune Leaves One at a Loss in the Face of Death
Because of the Creator’s sovereignty and predestination, a lonely soul that started out with nothing to its name gains parents and a family, the chance to become a member of the human race, the chance to experience human life and see the world. This soul also gains the chance to experience the Creator’s sovereignty, to know the marvelousness of the Creator’s creation, and more than that, to know and become subject to the Creator’s authority. Yet most people do not really seize this rare and fleeting opportunity. One exhausts a lifetime’s worth of energy fighting against fate, spends all of one’s time bustling about, trying to feed one’s family and shuttling back and forth between wealth and status. The things that people treasure are family, money, and fame, and they view these as the most valuable things in life. All people complain about their fates, yet still they push to the back of their minds the issues that are most imperative to examine and understand: why man is alive, how man should live, what the value and meaning of life are. They spend their entire lives, however long they may last, merely rushing about seeking fame and fortune, until their youth has fled and they have become gray and wrinkled. They live in this way until they see that fame and fortune cannot stop their slide toward senility, that money cannot fill the emptiness of the heart, that no one is exempt from the laws of birth, aging, sickness, and death, that no one can escape what fate has in store. Only when they are forced to confront life’s final juncture do they truly grasp that even if one owns vast wealth and extensive assets, even if one is privileged and of high rank, one still cannot escape death and must return to their original position: a solitary soul, with nothing to its name. When people have parents, they believe their parents are everything; when people have property, they think that money is one’s mainstay, that it is the means by which one lives; when people have status, they cling tightly to it and would risk their lives for its sake. Only when people are about to let go of this world do they realize that the things they spent their lives pursuing are nothing but fleeting clouds, none of which they can hold onto, none of which they can take with them, none of which can exempt them from death, none of which can provide company or consolation to a lonely soul on its journey back; least of all, none of these things can save a person and enable them to transcend death. The fame and fortune that one gains in the material world give temporary satisfaction, passing pleasure, a false sense of ease; in the process, they cause one to lose one’s way. And so people, as they thrash about in the vast sea of humanity, craving peace, comfort, and tranquility of heart, are engulfed by wave after wave. When people have yet to figure out the questions that are most crucial to understand—where they come from, why they are alive, where they are going, and so forth—they are seduced by fame and fortune, misled and controlled by them and irrevocably lost. Time flies; years pass in the blink of an eye, and before one realizes it, one has bid farewell to the best years of one’s life. When one is soon to depart from the world, one arrives at the gradual realization that everything in the world is drifting away, that one can no longer hold onto possessions that originally were theirs; then one truly feels that one is like a wailing infant that has just emerged into the world, with nothing yet to their name. At this point, one is compelled to ponder what one has done in life, what being alive is worth, what it means, why one came into the world. And it is at this point that one increasingly wants to know whether there really is a next life, whether Heaven really exists, whether there really is retribution…. The nearer one comes to death, the more one wants to understand what life is really about; the nearer one comes to death, the more one’s heart seems empty; the nearer one comes to death, the more helpless one feels; and so one’s fear of death grows greater by the day. There are two reasons such feelings manifest in people as they approach death: First, they are about to lose the fame and wealth upon which their lives have depended, about to leave behind all that the eye beholds in the world; and second, they are about to confront, all alone, an unfamiliar world, a mysterious, unknown realm where they are afraid to set foot, where they have no loved ones and no means of support. For these two reasons, everyone who faces death feels uneasy, experiences panic and a sense of helplessness such as they have never known before. Only when someone has actually come to this point do they realize that when one sets foot on this earth, the first thing they must understand is where human beings come from, why people are alive, who dictates human fate, and who provides for and has sovereignty over human existence. This knowledge is the true means by which one lives, the essential basis for human survival—not learning how to provide for one’s family or how to achieve fame and wealth, not learning how to stand out from the crowd nor how to live a more affluent life, much less learning how to excel and to compete successfully against others. Though the various survival skills that people spend their lives mastering can offer an abundance of material comforts, they never bring true peace and consolation to one’s heart, but instead make people constantly lose their direction, have difficulty controlling themselves, and miss every opportunity to learn the meaning of life; these survival skills create an undercurrent of anxiety about how to face death properly. People’s lives are ruined in this way. The Creator treats everyone fairly, giving everyone a lifetime’s worth of opportunities to experience and know His sovereignty, yet it is only when death draws near, when its specter looms, that one begins to see the light—and then it is too late!
People spend their lives chasing after money and fame; they clutch at these straws, thinking they are their only means of support, as if by having them they could live on, exempt from death. But only when they are about to die do they realize how distant these things are from them, how weak they are in the face of death, how easily they shatter, how lonely and helpless they are, with nowhere to turn. They realize that life cannot be bought with money or fame, that no matter how wealthy a person may be, no matter how lofty their position, all are equally poor and insignificant in the face of death. They realize that money cannot buy life, that fame cannot erase death, that neither money nor fame can lengthen a person’s life by a single minute, a single second. The more people feel this way, the more they yearn to keep on living; the more people feel this way, the more they dread the approach of death. Only at this point do they truly realize that their lives do not belong to them, are not theirs to control, and that one has no say over whether one lives or dies—that all of this lies outside of one’s control.
4. Come Under the Creator’s Dominion and Face Death Calmly
At the moment a person is born, one lonely soul begins its experience of life on earth, its experience of the Creator’s authority which the Creator has arranged for it. Needless to say, for the person—the soul—this is an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge of the Creator’s sovereignty, to come to know His authority and to experience it personally. People live their lives within the laws of fate laid out for them by the Creator, and for any rational person with a conscience, coming to terms, over the decades of their life, with the Creator’s sovereignty and coming to know His authority is not a difficult thing to do. Therefore, it should be very easy for every person to recognize, through their own life experiences over several decades, that all human fates are predestined, and it should be easy to grasp or to summarize what it means to be alive. As one embraces these life lessons, one will gradually come to understand where life comes from, to grasp what the heart truly needs, what will lead one to the true path of life, and what the mission and goal of a human life ought to be. One will gradually recognize that if one does not worship the Creator, if one does not come under His dominion, then when the time comes to confront death—when one’s soul is about to face the Creator once more—one’s heart will be filled with boundless dread and turmoil. If a person has been in the world for several decades yet has not understood where human life comes from nor recognized in whose palm human fate rests, then it is no wonder that they will not be able to face death calmly. A person who has gained, in their decades of experience of human life, knowledge of the Creator’s sovereignty is a person with a correct appreciation for the meaning and value of life. Such a person has a deep knowledge of life’s purpose, with real experience and understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty, and beyond that, is able to submit to the Creator’s authority. Such a person understands the meaning of God’s creation of mankind, understands that man should worship the Creator, that everything man possesses comes from the Creator and will return to Him some day not far in the future. This kind of person understands that the Creator arranges man’s birth and has sovereignty over man’s death, and that both life and death are predestined by the Creator’s authority. So, when one truly grasps these things, one will naturally be able to face death calmly, to calmly lay aside all one’s worldly possessions, accept and submit happily to all that follows, and welcome the last life-juncture, arranged, as it is, by the Creator, rather than blindly dreading it and struggling against it. If one views life as an opportunity to experience the Creator’s sovereignty and come to know His authority, if one sees one’s life as a rare chance to perform one’s duty as a created human being and to complete one’s mission, then one will surely have the correct outlook on life, will surely live a life blessed and guided by the Creator, will surely walk in the light of the Creator, will surely know the Creator’s sovereignty, will surely come under His dominion, and surely become a witness to His miraculous deeds, a witness to His authority. Needless to say, such a person will surely be loved and accepted by the Creator, and only such a person can hold a calm attitude toward death and welcome life’s final juncture with joy. One person who obviously held this kind of attitude toward death is Job. Job was in a position to accept the final juncture of life happily, and having brought his life’s journey to a smooth conclusion and completed his mission in life, he returned to be at the Creator’s side.
5. Job’s Pursuits and Gains in Life Allow Him to Calmly Face Death
In the scriptures it is written about Job: “So Job died, being old and full of days” (Job 42:17). This means that when Job passed away, he had no regrets and felt no pain, but departed naturally from this world. As everyone knows, Job was a man who feared God and shunned evil while he was alive. His deeds were commended by God and memorialized by others, and his life may be said to have had worth and significance that exceeded all others’. Job enjoyed God’s blessings and was called righteous by Him on earth, and he was also tried by God and tested by Satan. He stood witness for God and deserved to be called a righteous person by Him. In the decades after he was tried by God, he lived a life that was even more valuable, meaningful, grounded, and peaceful than before. Because of his righteous deeds, God tried him, and also because of his righteous deeds, God appeared to him and spoke to him directly. So, in the years after he was tried, Job understood and appreciated life’s value in a more concrete way, attained a deeper understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty, and gained a more precise and definite knowledge of how the Creator gives and takes away His blessings. The Book of Job records that Jehovah God bestowed even greater blessings upon Job than He did before, putting Job in an even better position to know the Creator’s sovereignty and to face death calmly. So Job, when he grew old and faced death, certainly would not have been anxious about his property. He had no worries, nothing to regret, and of course did not fear death, for he spent all his life walking the way of fearing God and shunning evil. He had no reason to worry about his own end. How many people today could act in all the ways Job did when he confronted his own death? Why is no one capable of maintaining such a simple outward bearing? There is only one reason: Job lived his life in the subjective pursuit of belief, recognition, and submission to God’s sovereignty, and it was with this belief, recognition, and submission that he passed through the important junctures in life, lived out his last years, and greeted his life’s final juncture. Regardless of what Job experienced, his pursuits and goals in life were not painful, but happy. He was happy not only because of the blessings or commendation bestowed on him by the Creator, but more importantly, because of his pursuits and life goals, because of the growing knowledge and true understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty he attained through fearing God and shunning evil, and moreover, because of his personal experience, as a subject of the Creator’s sovereignty, of the wondrous deeds of God, and the tender yet unforgettable experiences and memories of man and God’s coexistence, acquaintance, and mutual understanding. Job was happy because of the comfort and joy that came from knowing the Creator’s will, and because of the reverence that arose after seeing that He is great, wondrous, lovable, and faithful. Job was able to face death without any suffering because he knew that, in dying, he would return to the Creator’s side. It was his pursuits and gains in life that allowed him to face death calmly, allowed him to face the prospect of the Creator taking back his life calmly, and moreover, allowed him to stand unsullied and free from care before the Creator. Can people nowadays achieve the kind of happiness that Job possessed? Do you have the conditions necessary to do so? Since people nowadays do have these conditions, why are they unable to live happily, as Job did? Why are they unable to escape the suffering of the fear of death? When facing death, some people urinate uncontrollably; others shiver, faint, lash out against Heaven and man alike; some even wail and weep. These are by no means natural reactions that occur suddenly when death draws near. People behave in these embarrassing ways mainly because, deep in their hearts, they fear death, because they do not have a clear knowledge and appreciation of God’s sovereignty and His arrangements, much less truly submit to them. People react in this way because they want nothing but to arrange and govern everything themselves, to control their own fates, their own lives and deaths. It is no wonder, therefore, that people are never able to escape the fear of death.
6. Only by Accepting the Creator’s Sovereignty Can One Return to His Side
When one does not have clear knowledge and experience of God’s sovereignty and of His arrangements, one’s knowledge of fate and of death will necessarily be incoherent. People cannot see clearly that everything rests in God’s palm, do not realize that everything is subject to God’s control and sovereignty, do not recognize that man cannot cast off or escape such sovereignty. For this reason, when their time comes to face death, there is no end to their last words, worries, and regrets. They are weighed down by so much baggage, so much reluctance, so much confusion. This causes them to fear death. For any person born into this world, birth is necessary and death inevitable; no one can rise above this course of things. If one wishes to depart from this world painlessly, if one wants to be able to face life’s final juncture with no reluctance or worry, the only way is to leave no regrets. And the only way to depart without regrets is to know the Creator’s sovereignty, to know His authority, and to submit to them. Only in this way can one stay far from human strife, from evil, from Satan’s bondage, and only in this way can one live a life like Job’s, guided and blessed by the Creator, a life that is free and liberated, a life with value and meaning, a life that is honest and openhearted. Only in this way can one submit, like Job, to the trials and deprivation of the Creator, to the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements. Only in this way can one worship the Creator all one’s life and win His commendation, as Job did, and hear His voice, see Him appear. Only in this way can one live and die happily, like Job, with no pain, no worry, no regrets. Only in this way can one live in light, like Job, and pass every one of life’s junctures in light, smoothly complete one’s journey in light, successfully complete one’s mission—to experience, learn, and come to know, as a created being, the Creator’s sovereignty—and pass away in the light, and for ever after stand at the Creator’s side as a created human being, commended by Him.
Do Not Miss the Opportunity to Know the Creator’s Sovereignty
The six junctures described above are crucial phases laid out by the Creator, through which every normal person must pass in their life. From a human perspective, every one of these junctures is real, none can be circumvented, and all bear a relation to the Creator’s predestination and sovereignty. So, for a human being, each of these junctures is an important checkpoint, and you now all face the serious question of how to pass through each of them successfully.
The several decades that make up a human life are neither long nor short. The twenty-odd years between birth and coming of age pass in the blink of an eye, and though at this point in life a person is considered an adult, people in this age group know next to nothing about human life and human fate. As they gain more experience, they step gradually into middle age. People in their thirties and forties acquire a fledgling experience of life and fate, but their ideas about these things are still very vague. It is not until the age of forty that some people begin to understand mankind and the universe, which God created, and to grasp what human life is all about, what human fate is all about. Some people, though they have long been followers of God and are now middle-aged, still cannot possess an accurate knowledge and definition of God’s sovereignty, much less true submission. Some people care about nothing other than seeking to receive blessings, and though they have lived for many years, they do not know or understand in the least the fact of the Creator’s sovereignty over human fate, and have not taken even the smallest step into the practical lesson of submitting to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. Such people are thoroughly foolish, and their lives are lived in vain.
If the periods of a human life are divided according to people’s degree of life experience and knowledge of human fate, they can roughly be broken into three phases. The first phase is youth, which is the years between birth and middle age, or from birth until the age of thirty. The second phase is maturation, from middle age to old age, or from thirty until sixty. And the third phase is one’s mature period, which lasts with the start of old age, beginning at sixty, until one departs from the world. In other words, from birth to middle age, most people’s knowledge of fate and life is limited to imitating the ideas of others, and has almost no real, practical substance. During this period, one’s outlook on life and how one makes one’s way in the world are quite superficial and naive. This is one’s juvenile period. Only after one has tasted all the joys and sorrows of life does one gain a real understanding of fate, and—subconsciously, deep in one’s heart—gradually come to appreciate the irreversibility of fate, and slowly realize that the Creator’s sovereignty over human fate truly exists. This is one’s period of maturation. A person enters their mature period when they have ceased to struggle against fate, and when they are no longer willing to be drawn into strife and, instead, know their lot in life, submit to Heaven’s will, summarize their achievements and errors in life, and await the Creator’s judgment on their life. Considering the different experiences and acquisitions people obtain during these three periods, under normal circumstances, one’s window of opportunity to know the Creator’s sovereignty is not very large. If one lives to be sixty, one has only thirty years or so to know God’s sovereignty; if one wants a longer period of time, that is only possible if one’s life lasts long enough, if one is able to live for a century. So I say, according to the normal laws of human existence, though it is a very long process from when one first encounters the subject of knowing the Creator’s sovereignty until the time when one is able to recognize the fact of that sovereignty, and from then until the point when one is able to submit to it, if one actually counts up the years, there are no more than thirty or forty during which one has the chance to gain these rewards. And often, people get carried away by their desires and their ambitions to receive blessings, so that they cannot discern where the essence of human life lies and do not grasp the importance of knowing the Creator’s sovereignty. Such people do not cherish this precious opportunity to enter into the human world to experience human life and the Creator’s sovereignty, and they do not realize how precious it is for a created being to receive the Creator’s personal guidance. So I say, those people who want God’s work to end quickly, who wish God would arrange man’s end as soon as possible so that they may immediately behold His real person and gain blessings as soon as possible—they are guilty of the worst kind of disobedience and they are foolish in the extreme. Meanwhile, the wise among men, those possessed of the utmost mental acuity, are those who desire, during their limited time, to grasp this unique opportunity to know the Creator’s sovereignty. These two different desires expose two vastly different outlooks and pursuits: Those who seek blessings are selfish and base and show no consideration for God’s will, never seek to know God’s sovereignty, never desire to submit to it, but simply want to live as they please. They are blithe degenerates, and it is this category of people that will be destroyed. Those who seek to know God are able to set aside their desires, are willing to submit to God’s sovereignty and God’s arrangement, and they try to be the kind of people who are submissive to God’s authority and who satisfy God’s desire. Such people live in the light and in the midst of God’s blessings, and they will surely be commended by God. No matter what, human choice is useless, and humans have no say in how long God’s work will take. It is better for people to put themselves at the mercy of God and submit to His sovereignty. If you do not put yourself at His mercy, what can you do? Will God suffer any loss as a result? If you do not put yourself at His mercy, but instead try to put yourself in charge, then you are making a foolish choice, and ultimately you will be the only one who suffers a loss. Only if people cooperate with God as soon as possible, only if they make haste to accept His orchestrations, know His authority, and understand all He has done for them, will they have hope. Only in this way will their lives not have been lived in vain, and will they attain salvation.
No One Can Change the Fact That God Holds Sovereignty Over Human Fate
After listening to everything I have just said, has your idea of fate changed? How do you understand the fact of God’s sovereignty over human fate? To put it plainly, under God’s authority, every person actively or passively accepts His sovereignty and His arrangements, and no matter how one struggles in the course of one’s life, no matter how many crooked paths one walks, in the end one will return to the orbit of fate that the Creator has traced out for them. This is the insuperability of the Creator’s authority and the manner in which His authority controls and governs the universe. It is this insuperability, this form of control and governance, that is responsible for the laws that dictate the lives of all things, that allow humans to reincarnate again and again without interference, that make the world turn regularly and move forward, day after day, year after year. You have witnessed all these facts and you understand them, whether superficially or deeply, and the depth of your understanding depends on your experience and knowledge of the truth, and on your knowledge of God. How well you know the reality of the truth, how much you have experienced of God’s words, how well you know God’s substance and disposition—all of these represent the depth of your understanding of God’s sovereignty and arrangements. Does the existence of God’s sovereignty and arrangements depend on whether human beings submit to them? Is the fact that God possesses this authority determined by whether humanity submits to it? God’s authority exists regardless of the circumstances. In all situations, God dictates and arranges every human fate and all things in accordance with His thoughts and His wishes. This will not change as a result of human change; it is independent of man’s will, cannot be altered by any changes in time, space, and geography, for God’s authority is His very substance. Whether man is able to know and accept God’s sovereignty, and whether man is able to submit to it—neither of these considerations alters in the slightest the fact of God’s sovereignty over human fate. That is to say, no matter what attitude man takes toward God’s sovereignty, it simply cannot change the fact that God holds sovereignty over human fate and over all things. Even if you do not submit to God’s sovereignty, He still commands your fate; even if you cannot know His sovereignty, His authority still exists. God’s authority and the fact of God’s sovereignty over human fate are independent of human will, and do not change in accordance with man’s preferences and choices. God’s authority is everywhere, at every hour, at every instant. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His authority will never pass away, for He is God Himself, He possesses unique authority, and His authority is not restricted or limited by people, events, or things, by space or by geography. At all times, God wields His authority, shows His might, continues His management work as He always has; at all times, He rules all things, provides for all things, orchestrates all things—just as He always has. No one can change this. It is fact; it has been the unchanging truth since time immemorial!
The Proper Attitude and Practice for One Who Wishes to Submit to God’s Authority
With what attitude should man now know and regard God’s authority and the fact of God’s sovereignty over human fate? This is a real problem that stands before every person. When confronting real-life problems, how should you know and understand God’s authority and His sovereignty? When you are faced with these problems and do not know how to understand, handle, and experience them, what attitude should you adopt to demonstrate your intention to submit, your desire to submit, and the reality of your submission to God’s sovereignty and arrangements? First you must learn to wait; then you must learn to seek; then you must learn to submit. “Waiting” means waiting for the time of God, awaiting the people, events, and things that He has arranged for you, waiting for His will to reveal itself gradually to you. “Seeking” means observing and understanding God’s thoughtful intentions for you through the people, events, and things that He has laid out, understanding the truth through them, understanding what humans must accomplish and the ways they must adhere to, understanding what results God means to achieve in humans and what accomplishments He means to attain in them. “Submitting,” of course, refers to accepting the people, events, and things that God has orchestrated, accepting His sovereignty and, through it, coming to know how the Creator dictates man’s fate, how He supplies man with His life, how He works the truth within man. All things under God’s arrangements and sovereignty obey natural laws, and if you resolve to let God arrange and dictate everything for you, you should learn to wait, you should learn to seek, and you should learn to submit. This is the attitude every person who wants to submit to God’s authority must adopt, the basic quality every person who wants to accept God’s sovereignty and arrangements must possess. To hold such an attitude, to possess such a quality, you must work harder. This is the only way you can enter into the true reality.
Accepting God as Your Unique Master Is the First Step in Attaining Salvation
The truths regarding God’s authority are truths that every person must regard seriously, must experience and understand with their heart; for these truths have a bearing on every person’s life; on every person’s past, present, and future; on the crucial junctures through which every person must pass in life; on man’s knowledge of God’s sovereignty and the attitude with which one should face God’s authority; and naturally, on every person’s final destination. So, it takes a lifetime’s worth of energy to know and understand them. When you look squarely at God’s authority, when you accept His sovereignty, you will gradually come to realize and understand the truth of the existence of God’s authority. But if you never recognize God’s authority and never accept His sovereignty, then no matter how many years you live, you will not gain the slightest knowledge of God’s sovereignty. If you do not truly know and understand God’s authority, then when you reach the end of the road, even if you have believed in God for decades, you will have nothing to show for your life, and you will naturally not have the least knowledge of God’s sovereignty over human fate. Is this not a very sad thing? So, no matter how far you have walked in life, no matter how old you are now, no matter how long the rest of your journey may be, first you must recognize God’s authority and take it seriously, and accept the fact that God is your unique Master. Attaining clear, accurate knowledge and understanding of these truths regarding God’s sovereignty over human fate is a mandatory lesson for everyone; it is the key to knowing human life and attaining the truth. Such is the life of knowing God, its basic course of study, that everyone must face each day, which no one can evade. If someone wishes to take shortcuts to reach this goal, then I tell you now, it is impossible! If you want to escape God’s sovereignty, that is even less possible! God is man’s only Lord, God is the only Master of human fate, and so it is impossible for man to dictate his own fate, impossible for him to step outside of it. No matter how great one’s abilities, one cannot influence—much less orchestrate, arrange, control, or change—the fates of others. Only God Himself, the unique, dictates all things for man, for only He possesses the unique authority that holds sovereignty over human fate, and so only the Creator is man’s unique Master. God’s authority holds sovereignty not only over created humanity, but also over non-created beings that no human can see, over the stars, over the cosmos. This is an indisputable fact, a fact that truly exists, which no person or thing can change. If one of you is still dissatisfied with things as they stand, believing you have some special skill or ability, and thinking still that by some stroke of luck you can change your present circumstances or otherwise escape them; if you attempt to change your own fate by means of human effort, and thereby distinguish yourself from your fellows and win fame and fortune; then I say to you, you are making things hard for yourself, you are only asking for trouble, you are digging your own grave! One day, sooner or later, you will discover you have made the wrong choice and your efforts have been wasted. Your ambition, your desire to struggle against fate, and your own egregious conduct will lead you down a road of no return, and for this you will pay a bitter price. Though at present you do not see the severity of the consequences, as you continue to experience and appreciate more deeply the truth that God is the Master of human fate, you will slowly come to realize what I speak of today and its real implications. Whether you truly have a heart and a spirit and whether you are a person who loves the truth depends on what kind of attitude you take toward God’s sovereignty and toward the truth. Naturally, this determines whether you can truly know and understand God’s authority. If you have never in your life sensed God’s sovereignty and His arrangements, much less recognized and accepted God’s authority, then you will be utterly worthless, and you will without a doubt be the object of God’s loathing and rejection, due to the path you have taken and the choice you have made. But those who, in God’s work, can accept His trial, accept His sovereignty, submit to His authority, and gradually gain real experience of His words will have attained real knowledge of God’s authority, real understanding of His sovereignty; they will have truly become subject to the Creator. Only such people will have truly been saved. Because they have known God’s sovereignty, because they have accepted it, their appreciation of the fact of God’s sovereignty over human fate, their submission to it, is real and accurate. When they face death, they will have, like Job, a mind undaunted by death, and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements in all things, with no individual choice, with no individual desire. Only such a person will be able to return to the Creator’s side as a true, created human being.
December 17, 2013