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Gospel Reader

I Enjoyed a Rich Banquet


By Xinwei, Zhejiang Province

On June 25 and 26, 2013, most of the leaders and co-workers here were arrested by the CCP police. Only a few of us escaped unscathed. Faced with the destruction and disturbance caused to the church work by the CCP’s mad arrests and persecution, I made a secret resolution to God: No matter how bad the CCP’s persecution gets or how great the difficulties will be for our future work, I will definitely cooperate with God in earnest, and will get all items of work arranged as soon as possible. Subsequently, we started the hectic work of dealing with the aftermath. And after almost a month of hard work, all the arrangements of work were approaching completion. I unwittingly found myself in a state of self-appreciation, thinking how clever I was to have arranged the work so well just when the CCP’s frenzied arrests and cruel persecution were at their height. What a capable worker I was! And it was at this time that God visited His chastisement and judgment upon me.

I Enjoyed a Rich Banquet

One evening, several of us sisters were talking. Sister Wang suggested I write to some brothers and sisters, assigned me some tasks, and added one final word: “Don’t just busy yourself with external things, now is the time to hide and carry out spiritual devotions. Focus on spiritual devotions and entry into life.” As soon as I heard these words my heart rejected them: “I have to write letters, I have to go out and work. When will I have the time for spiritual devotions? You’re an incomer, I’m a local, I’m protecting you by not letting you go out and work, and you’re criticizing me? If I sat at home carrying out spiritual devotions like you do, who’d go and do the work? Things need to be arranged in order of importance, and the situation needs to be taken into account before you start pruning me.” The next morning, everyone was fellowshiping God’s words and the sisters were all talking of their understanding of God’s words, while I was distracted and kept silent. Sister Wang then asked me: “Why aren’t you fellowshiping?” I replied huffily: “I have no insights or understanding.” The sister continued: “I see you are not in a good state.” I replied without thinking: “I haven’t noticed any problem.” But actually, my thoughts were all set to burst out of me. In the end, I couldn’t contain them any longer, and all the thoughts that had been bothering me poured out. Then, another sister said: “In saying so, Sister Wang is worried that if we only work and don’t have any time for our own entry, then we will degenerate….” The more she talked like this, the more I objected in my heart, thinking: “You say I’m degenerating? I think I’m in a very good state, I’m not going to degenerate!” I simply did not agree with her fellowship. After breakfast, I went out to work, and all along the way, I felt annoyed and I thought: “I’ll quit as a leader. Better to just do some routine tasks and be done with it. Seeing as other people are now all saying I’m degenerate and have no entry into life, how can I now lead other brothers and sisters?” The more I thought about it, the more my spirit fell, and in my heart I thought: When these tasks are complete, I’ll resign. Then my whole body felt weak, as if I was ill. I then realized that my state was wrong, and so I came before God and prayed: “Almighty God, I am so arrogant and self-righteous. I don’t love the truth, and I have not been able to accept Your chastisement and judgment, Your dealing with me and pruning. I ask that You help me and protect my heart and my spirit, make me able to submit to Your work and sincerely examine myself, and to have a real understanding of myself.” Later I saw the following words of God: “The key to self-reflection and knowing yourself is this: The more you feel that in certain areas you have done well or have done the right thing, and the more you think you can satisfy God’s will or are worthy of boasting in certain areas, then the more it is worth it for you to know yourself in those areas and the more it is worth it for you to dig deep into them to see what impurities exist in you, as well as what things in you cannot satisfy God’s will. … This story about Paul serves as a warning for everyone who believes in God, which is that whenever we feel we have done especially well, or believe that we are especially gifted in some respect, or think that we do not need to change or need to be dealt with in some respect, we should strive to reflect on and know ourselves better in that respect; this is crucial. This is because you certainly have not unearthed, paid attention to, or dissected the aspects of yourself in which you think you have done well, in order to see whether or not they actually contain anything that resists God” (“Only by Knowing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words reflected my heart as if in a bright mirror. God requires us to know ourselves by understanding where we think we do well, where we think we do right, and to understand and dissect more in those areas where we think we do not need to be dealt with. Thinking of that time, I felt that I had been carrying a burden and that my work had been showing results, and that I had handled many major tasks well, and so I thought that I’d been putting the truth into practice, that these were all positive and active entries and my state was normal—I simply had not come before God to examine and know myself. Thanks to the enlightenment of God’s words, I realized that although I had done my work well during that time, yet my arrogant nature had long been running rampant. I thought the results of my work were all due to my own efforts and that I was a capable worker—I’d been living entirely in a state of self-appreciation. When I thought back to that time, I realized I was only working, doing what I was able to do under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but while working I did not seek truth and I had no entry into life. For a time, I had no understanding of myself, I had no understanding of God, nor did my experience of God’s work bring me a clearer understanding of any aspect of the truth. On the contrary, I became arrogant to the point of listening to no one, and I stole God’s glory for my small part in His great work. The satanic disposition I revealed was enough for Him to name me a sinner. But when God used that sister to remind me to focus on spiritual devotions and to avoid degeneration, I did not accept it. Truly, I did not know right from wrong and was too ignorant of myself. At that time, I felt I was in great danger. If God had not moved that sister to point out my state and have me return to God to reflect upon myself in time, if I had kept being so narcissistic, then unwittingly I would have lost the work of the Holy Spirit. Eventually, I would have committed some grave offense against God, and I fear it would then have been too late to repent, and I would have been discarded. Just then, I saw how badly I was in need of God’s judgment and chastisement and how I needed to be dealt with and pruned to keep me on the forward road. Although judgment and chastisement befell, and I was pruned and dealt with, and I felt I had lost face and was suffering, yet this was indeed God’s salvation, and I became willing to accept more of this type of work from God.

After experiencing that chastisement and judgment, my state was turned around. My behavior and conduct became somewhat low-key, and I understood a little of God’s work that was at odds with man’s conceptions. But soon, God exposed me again, and enabled me to see that my understanding was still too shallow.

In early August, I was elected as a mid-level leader. At the time I secretly made a resolution: “O God! I thank You for elevating me and for giving me such an important commission. I do not want to disappoint Your expectations of me, and I want to do everything in my power to fulfill this duty, and I ask that You guide and lead me.” And so I threw myself into a busy work schedule. I was faced with all the many problems in the letters that brothers and sisters had written, and I had to respond to and provide guidance for each one. I would often stay up late, but I was happy to do so. Sometimes, I would come across a situation which I did not understand that I didn’t know how to handle, so I would pray to God and rely on Him, and I would see His leadership and guidance, and all the work of the church was arranged smoothly. Unwittingly I again became arrogant, thinking: “I’m pretty good at this, I’m a very capable worker.” One day, I came across many difficulties. I did not know how to solve them. So I prayed to God and pondered how to clear my mind to arrange the work well. After I’d sought and contemplated in this way, how to arrange and handle this work became gradually clearer in my mind. So I wrote to my leader to make this suggestion and to ask if it was feasible or not. While I wrote the letter, I thought the leader was sure to think I had taken on a burden and that I was a capable worker. After the letter was sent out, I was constantly waiting for the reply, hoping for their praise. A few days later I received a reply, but on opening and reading it I felt stricken. The leader hadn’t just failed to praise me, but on the contrary, the leader dealt with me and pruned me, saying “You are unprincipled to do this. Now the CCP is frantically arresting God’s chosen people. God’s family now requires leaders of all levels to perform spiritual devotions in hiding, so if you insist on doing so, then you will interrupt God’s work. If the grassroot leaders can handle their own work, then let them, and if not, then just set it aside. You should urgently carry out spiritual devotions and write articles.” After I’d finished reading the letter, I felt incredibly wronged: “How can the leader be like this? Brothers and sisters have difficulties and yet they don’t do anything to resolve them, and they even say that I’m unprincipled in my actions. We have encountered a problem here, and all our work has been thrown into disorder. Don’t we need some organization? If we ask the grassroots leaders to handle their own work, then are we to shut our ears to all these problems?” I completely failed to examine myself and was so upset that I expressed my dissatisfaction to my host sister, and I even thought: “I’ll quit. If I don’t quit, I’ll still interrupt God’s work. What’s the point in exhausting myself if no one appreciates it?”

The next day, I came before God and reflected on my own expressions, and I thought of how it says in the sermons that rejecting being pruned and dealt with shows a failure to love the truth, and people who do not love the truth have a bad humanity. So I consciously read “The Principles of Accepting Being Pruned and Dealt With,” and from it I saw a passage of God’s words: “Some people become passive after being pruned and dealt with; they lose energy in performing their duties, and end up losing their loyalty. Why is this? It is partly due to their lack of awareness of the essence of their actions, and this results in a lack of receptiveness to being pruned and dealt with. This is determined by their arrogant and conceited nature, and by their nature of not loving the truth. It is also partly due to their not having understood the significance of being pruned and dealt with, and believing that it determines their outcome. As a result, people believe that if they give up their families, expend themselves for God, and have some loyalty to Him, then they should not be dealt with and pruned; and that if they are dealt with, then that is not God’s love and righteousness. Why do they not accept being pruned and dealt with? To put it plainly, it is all because people are too arrogant, conceited, and self-righteous, and they do not love the truth; it is because they are overly deceitful—they do not want to suffer hardship but just want to obtain blessings the easy way. People are not remotely aware of God’s righteous disposition. It is not that God has not done anything righteous; it is simply that people never believe that everything God does is righteous. In human eyes, if the work of God does not conform to the will of humanity, or if it is not in line with what they expected, then He must not be righteous. People never realize that their actions do not conform to the truth, and that they resist God” (“The Meaning Within God Determining People’s Outcomes by Their Performance” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words exposed my internal state. I did not accept being pruned and dealt with because I did not understand the essence of my actions. I thought there was nothing wrong in what I did, but my work and my duty had long strayed from the work arrangements, yet I still thought I was fully devoted. I thought of how it says in the work arrangements that leaders and workers should take charge of the fundamental and crucial work. And yet my view had been that all questions sent up from below had to receive guidance and answers, regardless of how big the issue was. Only if problems were managed and organized well could I quieten my heart and carry out spiritual devotions. When faced with the facts, I saw that I had not submitted absolutely and unconditionally to the work arrangements, but instead I was walking my own path, and so I’d struggled to keep up with the current of the Holy Spirit’s work. I always had too many worries I could not let go of, and had been so arrogant that I’d been completely without reason. God was moving the leader to deal with things inside me that were not in line with God’s will, so I would understand my nature of rebelling against and betraying God, and at the same time understand the current of the Holy Spirit’s present work and God’s will: Spiritual devotions and self-examination should come first, and I should not focus only on work. But I did not recognize that the essence of my deeds went against the work arrangements and was rebelling against and resisting God. Instead, I’d become obsessed with right and wrong, I’d really failed to understand spiritual matters, and I’d really failed to understand God’s work. Then, I again remembered these words in a sermon: “It doesn’t matter which person, which leader, which worker, prunes and deals with me, and it doesn’t matter if it completely accords with the facts. As long as it partially accords with the facts, then I accept it and obey; as long as it partially accords with the facts, then I accept it completely. I do not make excuses to others or say I accept some of it but not the rest, and I do not make excuses. These are the expressions of one who submits to God’s work. If you do not submit in this way to God’s words and God’s work, it will be difficult for you to acquire the truth, and it will be difficult for you to enter into the reality of God’s words” (“How to Gain Results From Eating and Drinking God’s Words” in Sermons and Fellowship I). Yes, even if the leader’s words did not entirely match my situation, I should still accept and submit to them. For this is a matter of submitting to God and the truth, not to any one person in particular. And what’s more, my fulfilling of my duty had long gone against the work arrangements and the work of the Holy Spirit. Should I not have been even quicker to accept, to submit and to turn myself around? With this understanding, I consciously corrected the errors in my duty, and when I had improved a little and quietened down to engage in spiritual devotions and to practice writing articles, I saw that God Himself was protecting His work, and that the work in the church was proceeding normally, without delay.

Knowing God, Knowing God’s Will, The Grace of God

After experiencing these two occasions of chastisement and judgment, and of being pruned and dealt with, although I suffered some refinement and pain, they left me with some understanding of myself and my incorrect state was remedied in time. Later on, I read these words of God: “God Himself has no elements of disobedience; His substance is good. He is the expression of all beauty and goodness, as well as all love” (“The Substance of Christ Is Obedience to the Will of the Heavenly Father” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “He curses you so that you might love Him, and so that you might know the essence of the flesh; He chastises you in order that you might be awakened, to allow you to know the deficiencies within you, and to know man’s utter unworthiness. Thus, God’s curses, His judgment, and His majesty and wrath—they are all in order to make man perfect. All that God does today, and the righteous disposition that He makes plain within you—it is all in order to make man perfect, and such is the love of God” (“Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Right then, I could not help but sigh with such feeling: God is the expression of all beauty and goodness, His substance is beautiful and good, His substance is love, so everything that comes from God is good and beautiful. Whether it is judgment, whether it is chastisement, or whether it is arranging the people, events and things around us to prune and deal with us, although these things may cause pain to our flesh and smite us, yet everything God does is of benefit to our lives, and it is all salvation and love. But I did not know God or His work, nor did I understand His painstaking efforts. When faced with judgment and chastisement, with being pruned and dealt with, I resisted and refused to accept it, so much so that I even resisted it by giving up my commission at every turn, as if it were people causing me trouble, and I was utterly incapable of taking this from God. By being exposed twice by God, I saw that despite reading God’s word for many years and hearing so many sermons, my impulse to revolt when faced with judgment and chastisement, and when being pruned and dealt with, was still so powerful, and I rejected it entirely. I could see that despite believing in God all this time my disposition had not changed, Satan’s nature was deeply rooted in me—a nature which completely resisted and betrayed God. Suddenly I realized that judgment and chastisement and to be pruned and dealt with were all things that I needed, and that they were God’s best protection of me. Without experiencing this type of work by God, I would not have a true understanding of myself, and I would not have been able to see my own true colors, much less realize how deep-rooted Satan’s nature was within me. Only then did I understand why God says that corrupt humanity is His enemy, and that we are the progeny of Satan. Contemplating God’s words, my heart became enlightened. I saw how God carefully arranges people and events for me to experience His work, to enter into the reality of the truth, and to lead me onto the right path of life—this truly is God elevating me and gracing me. I also came to realize that everything God does for man is love, and that God’s judgment and chastisement, pruning and dealing are man’s greatest need and man’s best salvation.

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