God’s Authority (II)
Today we will continue our fellowship about 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 upon 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. No created or non-created being possesses such characteristic expression and such special substance; 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. Why talk about God’s authority? How is the authority of God Himself different from the authority in man’s 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 is very difficult to get one’s head around, and any discussion of it is likely to be nebulous. So 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, one must gradually come to know God’s authority by means of real-life people, events, things, or phenomena that are within human reach, that humans are capable of understanding. Though the phrase “God’s authority” may seem unfathomable, God’s authority is not at all abstract. He is present with man every minute of his life, leading him through every day. So, in every person’s day-to-day life he will necessarily see and experience the most tangible aspect of God’s authority. This tangibility is proof enough that God’s authority truly exists, and it fully allows one to recognize and to comprehend the fact that God possesses this 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 you come to know God’s authority by understanding the fact that “God is in control of everything”? From the very phrase “God is in control of everything” we should see that what God controls is not a portion of planets, 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 in the universe to the living things on earth, as well as microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye or beings that exist in other forms. This is the precise definition of the “everything” that God is “in control of,” and is the scope over which God wields His authority, the extent of His sovereignty and rule.
Before this humanity came into being, the cosmos—all the planets, 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 does 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 they are in various positions can be quantified precisely and described by special laws. For aeons the planets have followed these laws, never deviating one bit. 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 on their own, under the Creator’s sovereignty and control. On the macro level, it is not hard for man to find out some patterns, some data, as well as some strange and unexplainable laws or phenomena. Though humanity does not admit that God exists, does not 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 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 face up to 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 go 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; and at the same time man must admit that human beings cannot fully understand these laws. And they are not naturally-occurring, but are dictated by a Lord and Master. 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 beholds 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, are controlled by God. Under God’s sovereignty and control, all the things come into being or disappear in accordance with His thoughts, their lives are all governed by certain laws, 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, because of God’s authority. Or, to put it another way, because of God’s thoughts and God’s words; because God Himself does it all. That is to say, it is God’s authority and God’s mind that give rise to these laws; they will shift and change according to His thoughts, and these shifts and changes all occur or disappear 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 humanity resists them by every means possible, they cannot control which people or animals are inevitably affected when epidemics break out. The only thing that 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 that the germs have been brought under control, others say they die out because of changes in the seasons…. As to whether these wild speculations hold water, science can offer no explanation, give no precise answer. What humanity faces is not only these speculations but mankind’s lack of understanding and fear of the 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, but does not recognize the Creator’s authority or accept His sovereignty, they will never have an answer.
Under God’s sovereignty, all things exist and perish because of His authority, because of His management. Some things come and go quietly, and man cannot tell where they came from or grasp the rules they follow, much less understand the reasons why they come and go. Though man can witness, hear, or experience all that come to pass among all things; though they all have a bearing on man, and though man subconsciously grasps the unusualness, regularity, or even strangeness of the various phenomena, he still knows nothing about the Creator’s will and His mind which lie behind them. There are many stories behind them, many hidden truths. Because man has wandered far from the Creator, 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 its sovereignty. For the most part, God’s control and sovereignty exceeds the bounds of human imagination, of human knowledge, of human understanding, of what human science can achieve; the abilities of created humanity cannot rival it. Some people say, “Since you have not witnessed God’s sovereignty yourself, how can you believe that everything is subject to His authority?” Seeing is not always believing; seeing is not 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, 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. From a non-believer to a believer, and from the beginning of believing in God to accepting God’s word and experiencing God’s work, how much knowledge did you have of God’s sovereignty? What insights did you gain 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 as you wished? How many things do not happen as expected? How many things come as pleasant surprises? How many things are you still waiting to bear fruit—unconsciously awaiting the right moment, awaiting the will of Heaven? How many things make you feel helpless and thwarted? Everyone is full of hopes about their fate, and anticipates 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, 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, nor do they care what it is. They live out their lives unthinkingly, like animals, living day by day, not caring about what the fate of humanity is, about why humans are alive or how they ought to live. These people reach old age having gained no understanding of human fate, and till 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 living among all things, people derive enjoyment from the many ways in which the world satisfies their material needs, though they see this material world constantly advancing, 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 it. It 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 feeling 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; at the same time, 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 they develop. In life, these unforeseeable events happen all the time, and they are an everyday occurrence. These daily vicissitudes and the ways they unfold, or the patterns by which they play out, are constant reminders to humanity that nothing happens at random, that these things’ ramifications, and their inevitability, cannot be shifted by human will. Every happening conveys an admonition from the Creator to mankind, and it also sends the message that human beings cannot control their own fates; at the same time 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 ears 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 the 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 cannot be teased apart from the Creator’s authority. Through the laws of all things man comes to understand the Creator’s orchestration and His sovereignty; through the rules of survival he perceives the Creator’s governance; from the fates of all things he draws conclusions about the ways the Creator exercises His sovereignty and control over them; and in the life cycles of human beings and all things man truly experiences the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements for all things and living beings and truly witnesses how those orchestrations and arrangements supersede all earthly laws, rules, and institutions, all other powers and forces. In light of this, humanity is compelled to recognize that the Creator’s sovereignty cannot be violated by any created being, that no force can meddle with 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 and arrangement over their own fate? Who, having believed the fact of the Creator’s sovereignty over all things, will truly believe and recognize that the Creator also dictates the fate of a human life? Who can truly comprehend the fact that man’s fate rests in the Creator’s palm? What sort of attitude humanity should take toward the Creator’s sovereignty, when confronted with the fact that He governs and controls the fate of humanity, is a decision that every human being who is now confronted with this fact must make for himself.
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 milestones that every person must pass in the course of his or her life.
Birth: The First Juncture
Where a person is born, what family he or she is 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 has any choice about these parts in 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 that the Creator has predetermined. 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, nor do they in any way affect the Creator’s sovereignty over it.
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, inherits a certain family tree. One has no choice at this first life juncture, but 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 which 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, have no real home. But because of the Creator’s meticulous arrangements, it begins the journey of its life with a place to stay, parents, a place it belongs to, and relatives. Throughout this process, the advent of this new life is determined by the Creator’s plans, and everything it will come to possess will be 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 that 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 that a person is born likewise means that he or she will receive all things necessary for survival from the Creator, that from that point on he or she 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 are under many illusions about their birth and are often 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—this purpose will never change. In the Creator’s eyes, the place one is born, one’s gender, 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 ending are not determined by his or her birth in any particular phase, but by the mission that he or she fulfills in every life, by the Creator’s judgment upon them when His management plan is complete.
It is said that there is a cause for every effect, that no effect is without a cause. And 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, the location, family, gender, appearance, and other such factors, which are associated with one’s birth, are all necessarily related to them. This means that the factors of a person’s birth are not only influenced by one’s previous life, but determined by one’s destiny in the present one. This 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, 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 the present life 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 the circumstances of[a] their birth, and no one can choose their own fate.
Growing Up: The Second Juncture
Depending on what kind of family they are born into, people grow up in different home environments and learn different lessons from their parents. This determines the conditions under which a person comes of age, and growing up[b] 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 Circumstances Under Which One Grows Up Are Fixed by the Creator
A person cannot choose the people or factors under whose edification and influence he or she grows 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 this rests in the hands of the Creator. Just as the Creator arranges the particular circumstances of every person’s birth, He also arranges the specific circumstances under which one grows up, needless to say. If a person’s birth brings changes to the people, events, and things around him or her, 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, the bottom line is that they are predestined for a person’s fate by the Creator, they are determined by the Creator’s sovereignty over, and His plans for, that person’s fate.
2. The Various Circumstances Under Which People Grow Up Give Rise to the 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 his or her birth. During this time one begins to learn language, and one’s mind begins to encounter and assimilate many new things, in the process of which one is constantly growing. The things a person hears with one’s ears, sees with one’s eyes, and takes in with one’s mind gradually enrich 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 one is influenced by, inculcated with, 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, siblings, and other people, events, and things around him or her. 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 under 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 is decided according to the Creator’s plans, determined by the Creator’s careful arrangements, by the Creator’s sovereignty over a person’s fate in life. So the people that any person encounters in the course of growing up, and the things one comes into contact with, are all inevitably connected with the orchestration and arrangement of the Creator. People cannot foresee these kinds of complex interrelationships, nor can they control them or fathom them. Many different things and many different people have a bearing on the environment in which a person grows up, and no human being is capable of arranging and orchestrating such a vast web of connections. No person or thing except for the Creator can control the appearance, presence, and disappearance of all the various people, events, and things, and it is just such a vast web of connections that shape a person’s development as predestined by the Creator, form the various environments in which people grow up, and create the various roles necessary for the Creator’s work of management, laying solid, strong foundations for people to successfully fulfill their missions.
Independence: The Third Juncture
After a person has passed through childhood and adolescence and gradually and inevitably reaches maturity, the next step is for them to completely bid farewell to their youth, say goodbye to their parents, and face the road ahead as an independent adult. At this point[c] they must confront all the people, events, and things that an adult must face, confront all the links in the chain of their fate. 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 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 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 all their chances to receive a higher education, and seem fated never to achieve success, their very first aspiration in the journey of their lives dissolving into thin air. Not knowing[d] 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 hope 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? Do they accord with their desires and decisions? Most people wish they could work less and earn more, not to toil in the sun and rain, dress well, glow and shine everywhere, tower above others, and bring honor to their ancestors. People’s desires are so perfect, but when people 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, though one may harbor audacious fantasies, no one has the ability or the power to realize his or her own dreams, no one is in a position to control his or her 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 even go to any length imaginable, will put forth great efforts and make great sacrifices for the sake of their livelihoods and future, in 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, IQ, and willpower, people are all equal before fate, which makes no distinction 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 one’s mission in life ceases to be foggy and 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 slowly breaks down as a person gradually becomes independent. From a biological perspective, people still cannot help being dependent upon parents in subconscious ways, but objectively speaking, once they are 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 a child’s life is simply to provide him or her 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 his or her 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 amidst which a person fulfills his or her mission. And so no one’s parents can assist one in accomplishing one’s mission in life, 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 the mission of a person, which is predestined by the Creator. All people become mature in their own particular growing-up environments, then gradually, step by step, set off down their own roads in life, fulfill the destinies planned for them by the Creator, naturally, involuntarily entering the vast sea of humanity and assuming 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.
Marriage: The Fourth Juncture
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 one begins to seek a direction for one’s life and pursue one’s own life goals in a way of life 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: a spouse, a person with whom one’s fate is intimately entwined. In this way, the first major event that one faces following independence is marriage, the fourth juncture one must pass through.
1. One Has No Choice About 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, begins gradually to fulfill various kinds of missions. People harbor many illusions about marriage before they experience it themselves, and all these illusions are 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 finally become their true other half, and one’s own notions count for little. After meeting a person you like, you can pursue that person; but whether he or she is interested in you, whether he or she is able to become your partner, 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 quietly enters your life and becomes your partner, becomes 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, every one is different: How many marriages are unsatisfactory, how many are happy; how many span East and West, how many North and South; how many are perfect matches, how many are of equal rank; how many are happy and harmonious, how many painful and sorrowful; how many are the envy of others, how many are misunderstood and frowned upon; how many are full of joy, how many are awash of tears and cause despair…. In these myriad marriages, humans reveal loyalty and lifelong commitment toward marriage, or love, attachment, and inseparability, or resignation and incomprehension, or betrayal of it, even hatred. Whether marriage itself brings happiness or pain, everyone’s mission in marriage is predestined by the Creator and will not change; everyone must fulfill it. And the individual fate that lies behind every marriage is unchanging; it was determined long in advance by the Creator.
2. Marriage Is Born of the Fates of Two Partners
Marriage is an important juncture in a person’s life. It is the product of a person’s fate, 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 is completely determined by the fates of the two parties, by the Creator’s arrangements and predeterminations regarding the fates of the couple. On the surface of it, 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 fulfilling one’s mission. The roles that people play in marriage are not merely those of rearing the next generation; they are the various roles that one assumes and the missions one must fulfill in the course of maintaining a marriage. Since one’s birth influences the change of the people, events, and things around one, one’s marriage will also inevitably affect them, and furthermore, will transform them in various different 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 related to one’s marriage; and at the same time, the other person who will make up that marriage is approaching, step by step, toward those same people, events, and things. Under the Creator’s sovereignty, two unrelated people who share a related fate gradually enter into a 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 fate in life. In other words, human fates are interconnected, and no one can fulfill one’s mission in life or perform one’s role completely independently 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 maintains in a vast and complex web of human connections, involving every member 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.
Progeny: The Fifth Juncture
After marrying, one begins to nurture 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 fill the role of another’s child, then one rears the next generation in order to fill the role of another’s parent. This shift of roles makes one experience different phases of life from different perspectives. It also gives one different sets of life experiences, in which one comes to know the same sovereignty of the Creator, as well as 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 deliver various kinds and different degrees of disappointment. Some people are dissatisfied with their families or their physical appearances; some dislike their parents; some resent or have many bones to pick with the environment in which they grew up. And for most people, among all these disappointments marriage is the most dissatisfactory. Regardless how dissatisfied one is with one’s birth, one’s growing up, or one’s marriage, everyone who has gone through them knows that one cannot choose where and when one was born, what one looks like, who one’s parents are, and who one’s spouse is, but must simply accept the will of Heaven. But when it comes time for people to raise the next generation, they will project all their unrealized desires in the first half of their lives onto their descendants, hoping that their offspring will make up for all the disappointments they experienced in the first half of their 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, their sons intelligent, capable, and sensitive. They hope that be it daughters or sons, they 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, another hope, to stand out from others, 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 their children’s fates do not at all rest in their palms? 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 go to any length for the sake of their offspring, but in the end, how many children one has, and what one’s children are like, do not answer to their plans and desires. Some people are penniless but beget many children; some people are wealthy yet have no 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 bright, 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 crafty 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 marry do so around age thirty, and at this point in life one does not have any understanding of human destiny. But when people begin to raise children, as their offspring grow, they watch the new generation repeat the life and all the experiences of the previous generation, and they see their own pasts reflected in them and realize that the road walked by the younger generation, just like theirs, 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 gutter and die out…. During this period of time, one has for the most part passed the important milestones in life and has 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? 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 an attitude that “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 the worldly people’s conclusion and realization about human fate, though it expresses humanity’s helplessness and could be said to be penetrating and accurate, it is a far cry from an understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty, and is simply no substitute for a knowledge of the Creator’s authority.
3. Believing in Fate Is No Substitute for a Knowledge of the Creator’s Sovereignty
After being a follower of God for so many years, is there a substantial 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 in the least bit believe in God’s sovereignty, do not believe that a 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, floating 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 come to know God’s sovereignty on their own initiative, 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 just recognition of this fact and this outer phenomenon, which is different from knowing how the Creator rules humanity’s fate, from recognizing that the Creator is the source of dominion over the fates of all things, and even more from submitting to the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements for humanity’s fate. If a person only believes in fate—even feels deeply about it—but is not thereby able to know, recognize, submit to, and accept the Creator’s sovereignty over the fate of humanity, then his or her life will nonetheless be a tragedy, a life lived in vain, a void; he or she will still be unable to become subject to the Creator’s dominion, to become a created human being in the truest sense of the phrase, and enjoy the Creator’s approval. A person who truly knows and experiences the Creator’s sovereignty should be in an active, not passive or helpless state. While at the same time accepting that all things are fated, he or she should possess an accurate definition of life and fate: that every life is subject to the Creator’s sovereignty. When one looks back upon the road one has walked, when one recollects every phase of one’s journey, one sees that at every step, whether one’s road 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’s attitude toward fate is passive, it proves that he or she is resisting everything that God has arranged for him or her, that he or she does not have a submissive attitude. If one’s attitude toward God’s sovereignty over human fate is active, 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 of the determination and confidence to let God orchestrate one’s fate, 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 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 smart 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, instead of continuing to struggle against fate and pursue their so-called life goals in their own manner. When one has no 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 irrelievable suffering, such that one cannot bear to look back. Only when one accepts the Creator’s sovereignty, submits to His orchestrations and arrangements, and seeks true human life, will one gradually break free from all heartbreak and suffering, shake off 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, with a rebellious attitude, and 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; they are thwarted at every turn. This struggle, which takes place deep in one’s soul, is painful; the pain is unforgettable; and all the while one is frittering away one’s life. 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 because of the paths people take, the ways people 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 and decided for you is a great benefit, and is a great protection, then you feel your pain gradually lighten, and the whole of you become relaxed, free, liberated. Judging from the states of the majority of people, though on a subjective level they do not want to keep on living as they did before, though they want relief from their pain, objectively they cannot truly come to grips with the practical value and meaning of the Creator’s sovereignty over human fate; they cannot truly recognize and submit to the Creator’s sovereignty, much less 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 things of human, if they cannot truly submit to the Creator’s dominion, then it will be difficult for them not to be driven by, and fettered by, the notion 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. There is a simplest way to free oneself from this state: 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, philosophy, 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 human likeness. When you repeatedly investigate and carefully dissect the various goals of life that people pursue and their various different ways of living, you will find that not one of them fits the Creator’s original intention when 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, try only to submit to God’s orchestrations and guidance, to have no 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, are still not reconciled to laying their fates in God’s palm and submitting to God’s sovereignty, and 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 under their own power, to see whether they can overstep the bounds of God’s authority and rise above God’s sovereignty. The sadness of man is not that man seeks 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, without the slightest shred of contrition, and only when he lies broken and bleeding does he at last decide 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 escape are pig-headed.
Death: The Sixth Juncture
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 passes the important milestones in life without notice, and all in a flash one finds oneself in one’s waning years. The marks of time are stamped all over one’s body: One can no longer stand erect, a head of dark hair turns white, bright, lucid eyes grow dim and cloud over, and smooth, supple skin becomes wrinkled and spotted. One’s hearing weakens, one’s teeth loosen and fall out, one’s reactions become delayed, one’s movements slow…. At this point, one has completely bid 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 is unexpected, 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. Just as much can be said about one’s birth, every person’s death will occur under a different set of special circumstances, hence people’s varying lifespans and the different manners and times of their deaths. Some people are strong and hale and yet die early; others are weak and sickly yet live to an old age, and pass away peacefully. Some perish of unnatural causes, others of natural ones. Some end their lives far from home, others shut their eyes 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 overstep 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, yet still, unbeknownst to them, death silently draws near. No one knows when they will perish or how they will do so, 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 Dogged 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 the period at the end of one’s own existence. 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, one they know nothing about. This makes people afraid to face death head-on, afraid to confront it as they ought, and 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, casts 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 more lonely and helpless, and at this point one asks oneself: Where did man come from? Where is man going? Is this how man is going to die, with his life having breezed 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 wants to probe into, what it is that he is sentimental about and what he is reluctant to leave behind. …
Because they fear death, people worry far too much; because they fear death, there is so much that 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 on, 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 an inchoate 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, used to the company of its loved ones, is reluctant to release its grip and depart, all alone, for an unknown, unfamiliar world.
3. A Life Spent Seeking Fame and Fortune Will Leave 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; and it also gains the chance to experience the Creator’s sovereignty, to know the marvelousness of the creation by the Creator, and most of all, to know and become subject to the Creator’s authority. But 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; 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 questions that it is most imperative to examine and understand: why man is alive, how man should live, what the value and meaning of life is. All of their lives, however many years that may be, they just rush about seeking fame and fortune, until their youth has fled, until they become gray and wrinkled; until they see that fame and fortune cannot stop one’s slide toward senility, that money cannot fill the emptiness of the heart; until they understand that no one is exempt from the law 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 millions in property, even if one is privileged and of high rank, no one can escape death, every person will return to his or her original position: a solitary soul, with nothing to its name. When one has parents, one believes that one’s parents are everything; when one has property, one thinks that money is one’s mainstay, that it is one’s asset in life; 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 way back; and least of all, none of which can give a person salvation, allow them to transcend death. Fame and fortune one gains in the material world give one temporary satisfaction, passing pleasure, a false sense of ease, and make one 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 subsumed again and again beneath the waves. When people have yet to figure out the questions that it is 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, controlled by them, irrevocably lost. Time flies; years pass in an eyeblink; 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 the things one possessed; then one truly feels that one still owns nothing at all, like a wailing infant that has just emerged into the world. 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 at this point, one increasingly wants to know whether there really is an afterlife, 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 why people behave this way as they approach death: First, they are about to lose the fame and wealth upon which their lives have depended, are about to leave behind everything visible 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 a panic and a sense of helplessness that they have never known before. Only when people actually reach this point do they realize that the first thing one must understand, when one sets foot on this earth, is where human beings come from, why people are alive, who dictates human fate, who provides for and has sovereignty over human existence. These are the true assets in life, 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 or 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 one’s heart true peace and consolation, but instead make people constantly lose their direction, have difficulty controlling themselves, miss every opportunity to learn the meaning of life; and they create an undercurrent of trouble about how to properly face death. In this way, people’s lives are ruined. 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 the specter of death hangs over one, 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 keep on living, could exempt themselves from death. But only when they are close to dying 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 is, no matter how lofty his or her position is, all people are equally poor and inconsequential 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 when 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 under the laws of fate laid out for them by the Creator, and for any rational person with a conscience, coming to terms with the Creator’s sovereignty and knowing His authority over the course of their several decades on earth is not a difficult thing to do. Therefore it should be very easy for every person to recognize, through his or her own life experiences over the several decades, that all human fates are predestined, and to grasp or to sum up what it means to be alive. At the same time that 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, what the mission and goal of a human life ought to be; and one will gradually recognize that if one does not worship the Creator, if one does not come under His dominion, then when one confronts death—when a soul is about to face the Creator once more—one’s heart will be filled with boundless dread and unease. If a person has existed in the world for a handful of decades and yet not come to know where human life comes from, not yet recognized in whose palm human fate rests, then it is no wonder that he or she will not be able to face death calmly. A person who has gained the knowledge of the Creator’s sovereignty after experiencing several decades of life, is a person with a correct appreciation for the meaning and value of life; a person with a deep knowledge of life’s purpose, with real experience and understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty; and even more, a person who 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; such a 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 lay aside all of one’s worldly possessions calmly, accept and submit happily to all that follows, and welcome the last life-juncture arranged by the Creator rather than blindly dread it and struggle 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 fulfill one’s mission, then one will necessarily have the correct outlook on life, will live a life blessed and guided by the Creator, will walk in the light of the Creator, know the Creator’s sovereignty, come under His dominion, become a witness to His miraculous deeds and to His authority. Needless to say, such a person will necessarily be loved and accepted by the Creator, and only such a person can hold a calm attitude toward death, can joyfully welcome life’s final juncture. Job obviously held this kind of attitude toward death; he was in a position to happily accept the final juncture of life, and having brought his life’s journey to a smooth conclusion, having completed his mission in life, he returned to the Creator’s side.
5. Job’s Pursuits and Gains in Life Allow Him to Calmly Face Death
In Scripture 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 when he was alive; God commended his righteous deeds, people remembered them, and his life, more than anyone’s, had worth and significance. 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. During the several 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; because of his righteous deeds, God appeared to him and spoke to him directly. So, during 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 certain knowledge of how the Creator gives and takes away His blessings. The Bible 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, had nothing to regret, and of course did not fear death; for he spent all his life walking the God-fearing, evil-shunning way, and 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 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 happy, not painful. 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 gradual knowledge and true understanding of the Creator’s sovereignty that he attained through fearing God and shunning evil, and moreover, because of the wondrous deeds of His that Job experienced personally during his time as a subject to the Creator’s sovereignty, and the warm and unforgettable experiences and memories of the coexistence, acquaintance, and mutual understanding between man and God; because of the comfort and happiness that came from knowing the Creator’s will; because of the reverence that arose after seeing that He is great, wondrous, lovable, and faithful. The reason that Job was able to face death without any suffering was that he knew that, in dying, he would return to the Creator’s side. And it was his pursuits and gains in life that allowed him to face death calmly, to face the prospect of the Creator taking back his life, with an even heart, and moreover, to stand up, unsullied and free from care, before the Creator. Can people nowadays achieve the kind of happiness that Job possessed? Are you yourselves in a position to do so? Since people nowadays are, why are they unable to live happily, like Job did? Why are they unable to escape the suffering from the fear of death? When facing death, some people wet themselves; others shiver, faint, lash out against Heaven and man alike, even wail and weep. These are by no means the sudden reactions that occur 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; because people want nothing but to arrange and govern everything themselves, to control their own fates, their own lives and death. 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 a 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 all this rests in God’s palm, do not realize that God is in control of and holds sovereignty over them, do not recognize that man cannot cast off or escape such sovereignty; and so when facing 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, and all this causes them to fear death. For any person born into this world, their birth is necessary and their death inevitable, and no one can surpass this course. 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 strifes, from evil, from Satan’s bondage; 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 be tried and deprived by the Creator, submit 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, pass every one of life’s junctures in light, smoothly complete one’s journey in light, successfully achieve one’s mission—to experience, learn, and come to know the Creator’s sovereignty as a created being—and pass away in 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 that every normal person must undergo in his or her life. Every one of these junctures is real; none of them can be circumvented, and all bear a relationship to the Creator’s predestination and His sovereignty. So for a human being, each of these junctures is an important checkpoint, and how to pass through each of them smoothly is a very serious question that all of you now face.
The handful of decades that make up a human life are neither long nor short. The twenty-odd years between birth and coming of age pass in an eyeblink, and though at this point in life a person is considered an adult, people in this age group know close to nothing about human life and human fate. As they gain more experience, they stride gradually into middle age. People in their thirties and forties acquire a nascent experience of life and fate, but their ideas about these things are still very foggy. It is not till age forty that some people begin to understand mankind and the universe, which were created by God, 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 do not 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 so have not entered into a bit of the practical lesson of submitting to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. Such people are thoroughly foolish; such people live their lives in vain.
If a human life is divided up according to one’s degree of life experience and one’s knowledge of human fate, it will roughly break down into three phases. The first phase is youth, the years between birth and middle age, or from birth till thirty. The second phase is maturation, from middle age to old age, or from thirty till sixty. And the third phase is one’s mature period, from old age, beginning at sixty, till one departs from the world. In other words, from birth to middle age, most people’s knowledge of fate and life is limited to parroting others’ ideas; it 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 all very 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, does one—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 maturation period. When one has ceased to struggle against fate, and when one is no longer willing to be drawn into strifes, but knows one’s lot, submits to Heaven’s will, sums up one’s own achievements and errors in life, and is awaiting the Creator’s judgment on one’s life—this is one’s mature period. Considering the different kinds of experiences and gains that 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 is long enough, if one is able to live 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 to when one is able to recognize the fact of the Creator’s sovereignty, and from then till 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; they cannot discern where the essence of human life lies, do not grasp the importance of knowing the Creator’s sovereignty, and so they do not cherish this precious opportunity to enter into the human world to experience human life, experience the Creator’s sovereignty, and do not realize how invaluable 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 could immediately behold His real person and soon be blessed, are guilty of the worst kind of disobedience and foolish in the extreme. And those who desire, during their limited time, to grasp this unique opportunity to know the Creator’s sovereignty, are the wise people, the brilliant ones. These two different desires expose two vastly different outlooks and pursuits: Those who seek blessings are selfish and base; they show no consideration for God’s will, never seek to know God’s sovereignty, never desire to submit to it, simply want to live as they please. They are blithe degenerates; they are the ones to 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 arrangements; they try to be the kind of people who are submissive to God’s authority and satisfy God’s desire. Such people live in light, live in the midst of God’s blessings; they will surely be commended by God. No matter what, human choice is useless, 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, to submit to His sovereignty. If you do not put yourself at His mercy, what can you do? Will God suffer a loss? If you do not put yourself at His mercy, if you try to be in charge, you are making a foolish choice, and you are the only one who will suffer a loss in the end. 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, will their lives not be lived in vain, 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 simply, 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 him or her. This is the insuperability of the Creator’s authority, the manner in which His authority controls and governs the universe. It is this insuperability, this form of control and governance, that are responsible for the laws that dictate the lives of all things, that allow humans to transmigrate 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; the depth of your understanding depends upon your experience and knowledge of the truth, and your knowledge of God. How well you know the reality of the truth, how much you have experienced God’s words, how well you know God’s substance and disposition—this represents the depth of your understanding of God’s sovereignty and arrangements. Is the existence of God’s sovereignty and arrangements dependent upon 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, His wishes. This will not change because humans change, and 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, does not in the slightest way change 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, do not change in accordance with man’s preferences and choices. God’s authority is everywhere, at every hour, at every instant. If heaven and earth were to pass away, His authority would never pass away, for He is God Himself, He possesses the 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 always; at all times He rules all things, provides for all things, orchestrates all things, just as He always did. 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, 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 do not know how to understand, handle, and experience these problems, what attitude should you adopt to show your intention, your desire, and your reality of submitting 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 gradually reveal itself 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 keep, 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 into 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, you should learn to submit. This is the attitude that every person who wants to submit to God’s authority must take, the basic quality that 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; and only thus can you 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 that every person must pass in life, on man’s knowledge of God’s sovereignty and the attitude with which he 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 take God’s authority seriously, when you accept God’s sovereignty, you will gradually come to realize and understand that God’s authority truly exists. But if you never recognize God’s authority, 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, your knowledge of God’s sovereignty over human fate will inevitably be zero. 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 is, first you must recognize God’s authority and take it seriously, 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, is the key to knowing human life and attaining the truth, is the daily life and basic lesson of knowing God that everyone faces, and which no one can evade. If some of you wish to take shortcuts to reach this goal, then I say to you, that is impossible! If some of you want to escape God’s sovereignty, that is even more impossible! 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 surpass it. No matter how great one’s abilities, one cannot influence, much less orchestrate, arrange, control, or change the fates of others. Only the unique God Himself 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 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 human or thing can change. If some of you are still dissatisfied with things as they stand, believing that you have some special skill or ability, and still thinking you can get lucky and change your present circumstances or else escape them; if you attempt to change your own fate by means of human effort, and thereby stand out from others 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 that you made the wrong choice, that your efforts were 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 right now you do not see the severity of the consequence, as you experience and appreciate more and more deeply the truth that God is the Master of human fate, you will slowly come to realize what I am talking about today and its real implications. Whether you truly have a heart and a spirit, 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. And 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 recognize and accept God’s authority, then you will be utterly worthless, you will be without a doubt the object of God’s detestation and rejection, thanks 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, and 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 and submission to the fact of God’s sovereignty over human fate is real and accurate. When they face death they will be able, like Job, to have a mind undaunted by death, to 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.
March 26, 2015
a. The original text omits “the circumstances of.”
b. The original text reads “this.”
c. The original text omits “At this point.”
d. The original text omits “Not knowing.”