Today, never mind achieving the rationality of Peter—many people can’t even achieve the rationality of Paul. They don’t even have the self-awareness of Paul. Although Paul was struck down by the Lord because he oppressed the Lord Jesus, he later had the resolve to work and suffer for the Lord. Jesus gave him an illness, and later on, Paul continued to suffer this illness once he began to work. Why did he say he had a thorn in his flesh? The thorn, in fact, was illness, and for Paul, it was a fatal weakness. No matter how much work he did or how great his resolve to suffer, he could not get rid of that thorn. However, Paul was of much better caliber than you people today, and he also had self-awareness and was possessed of more rationality than you. After Paul was struck down by Jesus, he ceased to persecute Jesus’ disciples, and began to preach and suffer for Jesus. And what inspired him to endure suffering? Paul believed that, since he had beheld the great light, he must bear testimony to the Lord Jesus, must no longer persecute the disciples of Jesus, and must no longer oppose God’s work. In religion, Paul was a very high-ranking figure. He was very knowledgeable and gifted, he looked down on average people, and had a stronger personality than most. But after the “great light” shone upon him, he was able to work for the Lord Jesus, to set his resolve to suffer for God and offer up himself to God, which proved that he possessed rationality. At the time he was persecuting and arresting Jesus’ disciples, Jesus appeared to him and said: “Paul, why do you persecute Me?” Paul immediately fell down and said: “Who are You, Lord?” A voice from the sky said: “I am Jesus whom you persecute.” All at once, Paul awoke, and only then did he know that Jesus was Christ, that He was God. “I must obey. God has given me this grace—I persecuted Him thus, yet He didn’t strike me down, nor did He curse me. I must suffer for Him.” Paul recognized that he had persecuted the Lord Jesus Christ and was now killing His disciples, that God had not cursed him, but shone the light upon him. This inspired him, and he said: “Although I did not look upon His face, I heard His voice and beheld His great light. Only now do I truly see that God really loves me, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the God who has mercy on man and He forgives man’s sins for eternity. I truly see that I am a sinner.” Though, afterward, God used Paul’s gifts to work, forget this for the moment. His resolve at that time, his proper human rationality, and his self-awareness—you are incapable of achieving these things. Today, have you not received much of God’s light? Have many people not beheld that God’s disposition is one of majesty, wrath, judgment, and chastisement? Curses, trials, and refinement have befallen people many times—and what have they learned? What have you gained from being disciplined and dealt with? Smiting and judgment of harsh words have befallen you many times, yet you pay them no heed. You don’t even have the little rationality possessed by Paul—are you not extremely backward? There was also much that Paul didn’t see clearly. He knew only that the light had shone upon him, but was unaware that he had been struck down. In his personal belief, after the light had shone upon him, he must expend himself for God, suffer for God, do everything to pave the way for the Lord Jesus Christ, and gain more sinners to be redeemed by the Lord. This was his resolve, and the only aim of his work—but when he worked, the disease still did not leave him, right up until his death. Paul worked for more than twenty years. He suffered much, and experienced a great deal of persecution and many tribulations, though, of course, these were much less than the trials of Peter. How pathetic is it if you don’t even possess the rationality of Paul? This way, how could God embark upon even greater work in you?
When he spread the gospel, Paul suffered great torment. The work he did, his resolve, his faith, loyalty, love, patience, and humility at the time, and the many other external things he lived out, were higher than you people today. To put it more sternly, there is no proper rationality in you! You don’t even have any conscience or humanity, and there’s no sign of self-awareness—you lack so much! After Paul was struck down, although he suffered bodily illness, he was able to continually work for the Lord, and prayed and sought: “What is this illness, really? I’ve done all this work for the Lord, why does this affliction not leave me? Could it be that the Lord Jesus is testing me? Has He struck me down? If He had struck me down, I would have died then, and been incapable of doing all this work for Him, nor could I have received so much light. He also realized my resolve.” Paul always felt that this illness was God testing him, that it was tempering his faith and willpower—this is how Paul saw it. In reality, his illness was a sequela left from when the Lord Jesus struck him down. It placed him under emotional pressure, and reined in his rebelliousness. If you find yourselves in Paul’s circumstances, what would you do? Could your resolve and ability to suffer match up to Paul’s? Today, if you are inflicted with some minor illness or undergo a great trial, if you experience some suffering, who knows what you’ll be like. If you were shut in a birdcage and given constant provisions, you’d be OK. Otherwise you’d be just like wolves, lacking any humanity. So when you suffer a little constraint or hardship, it’s good for you; if you were given an easy time of it you’d be ruined, and then how could you be protected? Today, it is because you are chastised, judged, and cursed that you are given protection. It is because you have suffered much that you are protected. If not, you would have long since fallen into depravity. This is not making things difficult for you intentionally—man’s nature is hard to change, and it has to be this way for people’s dispositions to be changed. Today, you don’t even possess the conscience or rationality of Paul, nor do you even have his self-awareness. You always have to be pressured, and you always have to be chastised and judged in order to awaken your spirits. Chastisement and judgment are what’s best for your life. And when necessary, there must also be the chastisement of the facts coming upon you; only then will you fully submit. Your natures are such that without chastisement and cursing, you would be unwilling to bow your heads, and unwilling to submit. Without the facts before your eyes, no results would be achieved. You are too lowly and worthless in character! Without chastisement and judgment, it would be difficult for you to be conquered, and hard for your unrighteousness and disobedience to be overcome. Your old nature is so deeply rooted. If you were placed upon the throne, you’d have no idea of heaven’s height and earth’s depth, much less of where you were headed. You don’t even know where you came from, so how could you know the Lord of creation? Without the timely chastisement and curses of today, your final day would have long since arrived. That’s to say nothing of your fate—wouldn’t that be even more in imminent danger? Without this timely chastisement and judgment, who knows how arrogant you would grow, or how depraved you would become. This chastisement and judgment has brought you to today, and it has preserved your existence. If you were still “educated” using the same methods as those of your “father,” who knows what world you’d enter into! You have absolutely no ability to control and reflect upon yourselves. For people like you, if you just follow and obey without causing any interference or disruptions, My aims will be achieved. Should you not do better in accepting the chastisement and judgment of today? What other choices do you have? When Paul saw the Lord Jesus speaking and working, still he did not believe. Later, after the Lord Jesus had been nailed to the cross and then resurrected, he knew this fact, yet he continued to persecute and oppose. This is what is meant by willfully sinning, and so he was struck down. At the beginning, he knew there was a King among the Jews who was called Jesus, he had heard this. Later on, as he gave sermons in the temple and preached across the land, he went counter to Jesus, and he loftily refused to obey any man. These things became a tremendous obstacle to the work at the time. When Jesus was working, Paul did not directly persecute and arrest people, but he used preaching and words to tear Jesus’ work down. Later on, after the Lord Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, he started to arrest the disciples, rushing from place to place and doing all he could to persecute them. Only after the “light” shone upon him did he awaken and experience great regret. After he was struck down, his illness never left him. Sometimes, he felt his affliction had grown worse, and was unable to stand. He thought:[a] “What is going on? Have I really been struck down?” Then, without knowing how it happened, he’d find he was better again, and would start to work once more. But the illness never left him, and it was because of this illness that he did much work. It can be said that Jesus placed this illness in Paul because of his arrogance and willfulness; it was a punishment for him, but also for the sake of God’s greater work—this is the reason Jesus used Paul’s gifts in His work. As a matter of fact, it was not God’s intention to save Paul, but to use him. Yet Paul’s disposition was too haughty and willful, and so a “thorn” was placed in him. Ultimately, by the time Paul finished his work, the illness was no longer such a great torment for him, and when his work was ending, he was able to say the words “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness”—which he said because he did not know God’s work. There are many among you like Paul, but if you truly possess the resolve to follow to the end of the road, you will not be mistreated. We won’t discuss here the ways that Paul was rebellious and resistant, let’s keep to the part of him that was positive and commendable: He had a conscience, and after receiving the “light” once, he was able to devote himself to God and suffer for God. This was a strong point of his; however, if there are those who believe that, because he had strengths, this proves that he was someone who was blessed, who believe that he wasn’t necessarily chastised, then these are the words of people devoid of sense.
When praying and reading God’s words, many people say they are willing to submit to God, but once more become dissolute in private and think nothing of it. God’s words are spoken again and again, revealing layer after layer, and only once the very bottom layer of people is exposed do they “find peace” and become less haughty and willful, less insufferably arrogant. With your states as they are today, you must still be ruthlessly struck and exposed, and judged detail-by-detail, so that you don’t have a chance to catch your breath. For you, it is better for stern chastisement and judgment to not leave you, and for condemnation and curses to not be away from you, allowing you to see that the hand of God’s administrative decrees never departs from you. Just like in the Age of Law when Aaron beheld that Jehovah never left him (what he beheld was Jehovah’s constant guidance and protection; God’s guidance that you behold today is chastisement, curses, and judgment), today the hand of Jehovah’s administrative decrees does not leave you either. However, there’s one thing you can relax about: No matter how you oppose, rebel, and pass judgments, as long as you are not disruptive, there will be no harm whatsoever to your flesh. But if there are people who go too far in their opposition, and obstruct the work, this is not acceptable; there is a limit. Do not interrupt or disrupt the life of the church, and do not interrupt the work of the Holy Spirit. For the rest, you can do what you want. If you say you do not want to pursue life and wish to return to the world, then hurry up and go! You can do whatever you wish as long as it doesn’t obstruct God’s work. Yet there is one more thing you must know: In the end, such willful sinners shall all be eliminated. Today, you may not be reproached, but in the end, only a portion of people will be able to bear testimony for God—and the rest will all be in danger. If you don’t wish to be in this stream, that’s fine. The people of today are treated tolerantly; I do not limit you, provided you are unafraid of the chastisement of tomorrow. But if you are in this stream, you must bear testimony to God, and you must accept chastisement. If you want to refuse it and return to the world, that’s fine—no one’s stopping you! But if you do work that is destructive and disrupts the work of God—you absolutely cannot be forgiven for that! As for what your eyes see and your ears hear about which people are chastised, and whose families are cursed—there are limits and boundaries to all of this. The Holy Spirit does not do things lightly. Based on the sins you commit, if you were to be treated and taken seriously according to your own unrighteousness, which of you would be able to survive? You would all suffer calamity—and would man still be OK then? Yet today, many people are treated with tolerance. Even though you judge, rebel, and oppose, as long as you do not interrupt, then I’ll face you with a smile. If you are truly pursuing life, then you must suffer a little chastisement, and you must endure the pain of parting with what you love to go onto the operating table for surgery; you must endure the pain, just as Peter accepted trials and suffering. Today, you are before the seat of judgment. In the future, you must go on the “guillotine,” which will be when you “sacrifice” yourselves.
During this last stage of work of the last days, perhaps you believe that God won’t annihilate your flesh, and it can be said that you may not suffer any illness even though you oppose Him and judge Him—but when God’s stern words come upon you, when your rebelliousness and resistance and your ugly countenances are all exposed, you will not be able to hide. You won’t know what to do. Today, you must have a little conscience. Do not play the role of evil ones who oppose and rebel against God. You should turn your back on your old ancestor; this is the stature you should have, and this is the humanity you ought to possess. You’re always incapable of putting aside your own future prospects or the enjoyments of today. God says: As long as you do all you can to follow Me and pursue the truth, I shall surely make you perfect. Once you are made perfect, you will have a beautiful destination—you will be brought into My kingdom to enjoy blessings with Me. A beautiful destination has been promised to you, yet the requirements of you can never be lessened. There is also a condition: Regardless of whether you will be conquered or made perfect, today you must be subjected to some chastisement and some suffering; you must be smitten and disciplined; you must listen to My words, follow My way, and do God’s will—this is what you humans should do. Regardless of how you pursue, you must clearly hear this way. If you truly have genuine insights, then you can continue following. If you believe that there are no prospects or hopes here, then you can go. These words have been clearly spoken to you, but if you truly wish to go, this shows only that you have not the slightest conscience; this action of yours is sufficient to prove that you are a demon. Though you say you leave all up to God’s orchestrations, based on your flesh and what you live out, you still live under the domain of Satan. Although Satan is also in God’s hands, you yourself still belong to Satan and have yet to be truly saved by God, for you still live under the influence of Satan. How must you pursue in order to be saved? The choice is yours—you should choose the path you should take. Ultimately, if you can say: “I have nothing better, I repay God’s love with my conscience, and must have a little humanity. I can achieve nothing greater, nor is my caliber so high; I understand not the visions and meaning of God’s work. I merely repay God’s love, I do whatever God asks, and I do all that I can. I perform my duty properly as a creature of God,” then I will feel gratified. This is the highest testimony of which you are capable. This is the highest standard required of a portion of people: performing the duty of a creature of God. Just do as much as you are capable of; the requirements of you are not too high. As long as you do all that you can, then this is your testimony.
a. The original text does not contain the phrase “He thought.”