90. The Lesson of Obedience
By Yang Mingzhen, Canada
My name is Yang Mingzhen, and I’ve followed Almighty God for seven years now. These last few years, no matter what duty the church has arranged for me to perform or what difficulties or setbacks I encounter in my duty, even if it requires suffering, or for me to pay a price, I’ve been able to cooperate enthusiastically without any negativity or retreating. I thought that since I was able to do all of that, my life disposition had changed and that I possessed some practical obedience to God. But God knows my deficiency and what I need for growth in my life, so He carefully arranged real environments for me to experience. It was only through God’s revelation that I clearly saw my true stature.
In March 2016, I escaped to another country to avoid being arrested and persecuted by the CCP government and freely believe in and worship God. When I arrived, I stayed with a few younger sisters. The sisters went out every day to spread the gospel, and to water and support new believers. When they came home in the evening, they would happily share with each other their experiences and what they had gained from performing their duty. Seeing this, I really admired them. I thought: If I could be like them, if I could also do the work of watering and supporting our new brothers and sisters, that would be so wonderful! One day, Sister Zhang came to discuss the work of the church with us. She asked me: “Are you willing to help support our new brothers and sisters?” I said yes happily, and thought: When my friends and relatives, and brothers and sisters who know me find out that I’m able to perform this kind of duty abroad, they’ll certainly admire me and look up to me. That will be so impressive! In the following days, I was eager to start my duty of watering new believers.
Just when my heart was full of expectations, the church leader came to me and asked if I could do hosting. My heart immediately did a somersault: “I thought that the church was going to arrange for me to water and support new brothers and sisters, so now why am I being arranged to act as a host? Won’t I just be interacting with the pots and pans all day long? Not only is it hard work, but it’s also an indignity! When I was in the world I was a businesswoman, and I ran a factory. My friends and relatives have all said that I’m a really strong woman. At home, I always hired help for the laundry, cooking, and cleaning. But now, it seems that I am the one cooking for you. I don’t want to perform this kind of duty!” All these thoughts occurred to me, but in order to save face I was too embarrassed to directly refuse. I made a tactful excuse, saying that I had just come to this country, I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings, and couldn’t speak the local language. I didn’t even know how to buy vegetables, so I wouldn’t be able to perform the duty of a host properly. Sister Zhang told me not to worry, that everyone would help me out whenever I needed it. After she said that, I couldn’t possibly make any more excuses, but in my heart, I was utterly unwilling to do it. If I agreed, I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity to do the duty of watering, and wouldn’t all of my hopes come to nothing? But if I didn’t agree, wouldn’t the sister say that I was disobedient by picking and choosing my duties? After thinking it over, I forced myself to accept that duty.
Over the next few days, although I performed my duty of hosting, my heart was continually doing somersaults, and my suspicions kicked in. I thought: Could it be that the sister doesn’t see me as capable of performing the duty of watering? Otherwise, why would she arrange for me to be a host? If the brothers and sisters who know me were to find about this, wouldn’t they think that I am arranged to perform the duty of a host due to my lack of the reality of truth? Wouldn’t they look down on me? The thought made me feel worse. Just then, a resolve I had made in front of God came to mind: No matter what I encounter, as long as it is beneficial to the work of the church, I will do my utmost to cooperate. No matter how far out of line with my own notions it is, I must be obedient and satisfy God. But when I was asked to be a host, why was I lacking in obedience? I quietly prayed to God: “Oh God! I know that Your rule and Your arrangements are coming upon me in this duty, but there is always rebelliousness in my heart, and I cannot be genuinely obedient to You. I know that my state is not right. I ask You to enlighten and guide me so that I may understand Your will and be able to obey what You have set up and arranged.” After praying, I thought of God’s words: “All those who do not seek obedience to God in their faith oppose Him. God asks that people seek the truth, that they thirst for His words, eat and drink His words, and put them into practice, so that they may achieve obedience to God. If these are your true intentions, then God will surely raise you up, and will surely be gracious toward you. This is undoubtable and unchangeable. If your intention is not to obey God, and you have other aims, then all that you say and do—your prayers before God, and even your every action—will be in opposition to Him. You may be soft-spoken and mild-mannered, your every action and expression may look proper, and you may appear to be one who obeys, but when it comes to your intentions and your views about faith in God, everything you do is in opposition to God; everything you do is evil” (“In Your Faith in God You Should Obey God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
After going home, I read in a fellowship: “In performing their duty, some people only focus on vanity, on their own face. ‘I’ll perform whichever duty will allow me to show myself. If a duty requires putting my head down and working hard, if no one will see it and I won’t be able to show myself, if it will be hidden and I’ll just be a nameless hero, then I won’t do it. I’ll do work that makes me look good, work that appeals to my vanity.’ They just want to look good in front of others, and as soon as they can, they’re thrilled. They’ll suffer any amount, they’ll put out any amount of effort. They are always seeking to satisfy their own vanity. That kind of person does not love the truth. You must be considerate of God’s will and obey His arrangements. The arrangements in the house of God are permitted by God, so you must be deliberately obedient. If you can obey the arrangements of God’s house, that means you can obey God. If you cannot, then your obedience to God is nothing but empty words, because God will never command you to do something, face to face. Today, the house of God has arranged for you to perform this duty, to perform that duty based on our current requirements for work. You say: ‘I have choices. I’ll perform whichever one I want to. If I don’t like it, I won’t do it.’ Is performing your duty like that being obedient to God? Is that kind of person someone who loves the truth? Can they achieve an understanding of God? They are not someone who reveres God. Picking and choosing your duty, being negative and slacking off—that kind of person doesn’t have even a little reality of the truth. They do not have genuine obedience, but they rely entirely on their own preferences in their duty. God does not like that kind of person” (“Sermons and Fellowship About God’s Word ‘Knowing God Is the Path to Fearing God and Shunning Evil’ (I)” in Sermons and Fellowship X).
God’s words and the fellowship pierced my heart, and I felt ashamed. Even more so I realized the reason why I was disobedient in the duty of hosting. Thinking back to when I was responsible for a small group in the church, the leader would always discuss the church’s work with me first, and then I would discuss it with the brothers and sisters and implement it. At that time I felt that the church leader thought highly of me, and my brothers and sisters also looked up to me. I was brimming with energy in my duty, and I was happy to do it no matter how difficult or tiring it was. But now that I’m supposed to be a host, I’m negative and lacking energy, thinking that preparing meals is too humble of a task, just interacting with pots and pans all day and no one will know no matter how hard I work. That kind of duty is frustrating, so I resist it, and don’t want to accept it. I don’t have any practical obedience to God. It was only then that I saw that in the past, my tireless work in my duty was not done out of true obedience, but all for the sake of showing myself and gaining others’ admiration and high regard, and that I was not performing my duty as a creature of God. The moment my duty couldn’t satisfy my own ambition and desire to gain fame and status, I thought of every possible way to make excuses, and I wasn’t willing to accept it and be obedient. To put it bluntly, I was just waving the flag of performing my duty while pursuing individual fame and status to satisfy my own vanity. I was not being at all considerate of God’s will, or maintaining the work of the church. I really am so selfish and despicable! I’ve always performed my duty with my personal preferences and choices, always scheming for fleshly purposes. How could I possibly be someone who pursues the truth and is obedient to God? Then, I read more of God’s words: “Those who are capable of putting the truth into practice can accept God’s scrutiny in their actions. When you accept God’s scrutiny, your heart is set right. If you only ever do things for others to see and do not accept God’s scrutiny, do you have God in your heart? People like this are without a God-fearing heart. Don’t always do things for your own sake, don’t always consider your own interests, and don’t consider your own status, face or reputation. You must first consider the interests of God’s house and make that your first priority; you should be considerate of God’s will, reflect on whether or not you are thinking of the work of God’s house and on whether or not you have performed your duty well. When you are always considering the work of God’s house in your heart and thinking of the life entry of your brothers and sisters, then you will be able to perform your duty well” (“You Can Obtain Truth After Turning Your True Heart Over to God” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Pondering over God’s words, I understood His will, and knew what to do to satisfy Him. I prayed to God and set my resolve: “Oh God! I am willing to accept Your scrutiny, put aside my own vanity and face, and no longer pursue fame or status. I am willing to obey Your arrangements and devoutly perform my duty to satisfy You!” After praying, my heart was much quieter, and I accepted this duty from within my heart.
In the days that followed, since my sisters knew that I had just come here and wasn’t familiar with my surroundings, so doing the grocery shopping would be difficult, they made time to go with me to buy food and daily necessities. I’m older, and I’m not very good with computers, so my sisters kindly and patiently taught me. At times, when I encountered a difficulty, I was in a state of negativity and weakness, and they found relevant passages of God’s words to share with me in fellowship. They helped me with love, and resolved my practical difficulties. Even though my sisters were very busy with their duty, whenever they had a moment they would help me with housework, cleaning, and the like. Not a single one looked down on me or gave me the cold shoulder because I was a host. Everyone just did whatever they could in their duty. I felt that between brothers and sisters, there was no distinction between what was lowly and what was lofty. We were even closer, more intimate than a family. Every single day was very full, and I felt at ease and at peace. I truly thank God! After undergoing that judgment and chastisement of God’s words, I felt that I had gained some entry into the truth of obeying God, and I became more obedient in my duty. But God knew well that my satanic nature of pursuing fame and status was well entrenched, so He set up another environment to purify and save me.
One day, the church leader called me and said that one of the sisters had been very busy with her duty and didn’t have anyone to watch her child on Saturday afternoons, asking me if I could make the time to help her for half a day every week. When I heard that I was going to babysit, I felt a little offended. Does babysitting count as performing my duty? Besides, all these years I’ve been busy doing business, and I didn’t need to watch my own grandchildren. All the work I did was something that made me look good, and in the eyes of my relatives and friends I was a strong woman. Just performing the duty of a host is already very humbling for me, so if I watch someone’s kid on top of that, haven’t I just become a nanny? I can’t make a name for myself or gain status by babysitting, so I don’t want to do it. So, I offered an excuse: I’m preparing meals for the sisters now, and I have to look after the home. Brothers and sisters come over often, so I really can’t get away. As I was just making excuses and being evasive, the leader asked me to first pray to God, seek, and then make a decision. After hanging up the phone, I could not find peace in my heart, and the more I thought about it the worse I felt. I thought: Why doesn’t the leader find someone else? Why does it have to be me? I can’t make a name for myself or gain status by babysitting. How would my brothers and sisters see me if they knew? How could I show my face to them? But if I don’t do it, won’t my brothers and sisters say I don’t have love in my heart? I thought and I thought, and in the end I decided to go and try it out.
I went to Sister Zhou’s house on Saturday afternoon and I saw that the lively little child was innocent and adorable, but I just couldn’t feel any happiness. My heart was unsettled. I struggled to make it to 5 p.m. when the little girl started crying for her mom, and I couldn’t soothe her no matter what I did. Sister Zhou was about to get home, but the girl just wouldn’t stop crying. I became agitated. I thought: If she comes back and sees her daughter crying, what will she think of me? Will she think that at my age, I can’t even take care of a small child? In a fluster, all I could do was coax her with delicious snacks, tell her stories, and play cartoons for her. She slowly stopped crying, and then Sister Zhou came back from performing her duty. I made it through one afternoon that way. On the way back home, I walked along and thought: Watching a child is not a simple task. Aside from being tiring, there’s so much to worry about. If something happened, I wouldn’t be able to deal with it. And there are so many people in the church, so why do they have to have me babysit? The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. That evening, I tossed and turned in bed, and could not get to sleep. I had to come in front of God and pray: “God! I feel terrible right now. I know that helping this sister take care of her daughter is so her family concerns don’t interfere with her duty, and I should accept it as my duty. But I always feel wronged and I struggle to obey. Oh God! I beg You to enlighten and guide me so that I may understand Your will, and I can come out from this wrong state.” After praying, I didn’t feel as terrible as before. I opened up the book of God’s words, and read this: “What is genuine submission? Whenever things go your way and allow you to stand out, shine, and have some honor, you feel that everything is satisfactory and appropriate. You thank God and can submit to His orchestration and arrangements. However, whenever you get sidelined, become unable to stand out, and you are constantly ignored by others, then you stop feeling happy. … Submitting while conditions are favorable is usually easy. If you can also submit in adverse circumstances—those in which things do not go your way and your feelings get hurt, that make you weak, that make you suffer physically and take a blow to your reputation, that cannot satisfy your vanity and pride, and that make you suffer psychologically—then you have truly grown up. Is this not the goal you should be pursuing? If you have such a resolution, such a goal, then there is hope” (God’s Fellowship).
“Man’s corrupt disposition hides within their every thought and idea, within the motives behind their every action; it hides in every viewpoint man has about anything and within every opinion, understanding, viewpoint and desire they have in their approach to all God does. It is concealed within. And what does God do? How does God approach these things of man? He arranges environments to expose you. He will not only expose you, but He will also judge you. When you reveal your corrupt disposition, when you have thoughts and ideas that defy God, when you have states and viewpoints that contend with God, when you have states whereby you misunderstand God, or resist and oppose Him, God will rebuke you, judge you and chastise you, and He will sometimes even punish you and discipline you. … [God] wants you to recognize your corrupt dispositions and satanic essence, for you to be able to be obedient toward the environments God arranges for you and, ultimately, for you to be able to practice what He requires of you in accordance with His will, and to be able to meet His will” (“Only Being Truly Obedient Is a Real Belief” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
Faced with God’s revealing words of judgment, I felt I had nowhere to hide. Seeing these words of God “Man’s corrupt disposition hides within their every thought and idea, within the motives behind their every action; it hides within every opinion, understanding, viewpoint and desire they have in their approach to all God does,” I couldn’t help but look into myself: Why was I unable to obey the environment that God had set up for me? Why was I unwilling to help the sister with childcare? I believed that taking care of children was something that lower-status people did, and that it was a loss of status, that others would look down on it. I thought that only performing a duty where I could show myself and do something great, that others would admire and look up to was valuable, and would be praised by God. If my duty is humble and is invisible to others, it’s worth nothing. I reflected on these thoughts and ideas inside of me and only then realized that I was still under the control of a desire for fame and status. The goals, perspectives on life, and values that I pursued in my belief in God were the same as people of the world, such as “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries,” “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” “Water flows down, man clambers up,” etc. These satanic toxins and laws of logic had all deeply taken root in my heart and become my life, making me extremely arrogant, and making me love fame and status. This led me to always calculate my gains and losses of fame and status in my duty, and be unable to truly obey God.
I then pondered God’s words again and came to understand that although the environment God had arranged for me was contrary to my own notions, it contained God’s kind intentions. He wanted to expose me through that environment so that I would gain a deeper understanding of my own corrupt disposition and clearly see that I was taking the wrong path, allowing me to repent and turn around in time, to step onto the right path of pursuing the truth. Now, whether others see the duty I am performing as great or as trivial, it’s all God’s rule and arrangement and it is the responsibility and duty I must take on. I must simply accept and obey it without conjecture or deliberation; I cannot reason or resist it. It’s not my own choice to make—only this is genuine obedience!
When doing my spiritual devotionals the next day, I read more of God’s words: “If you do not perform your duty well, but always seek honor and compete for position, face, reputation, and your own interests, then while living in such a state, do you want to do service? You can serve if you want to, but it’s possible that you will be exposed before your service ends. Exposing you happens instantaneously. As soon as you are exposed, the question is no longer whether your state can be improved; rather, it is likely that your outcome will already have been determined—and that will be a problem for you” (“You Can Obtain Truth After Turning Your True Heart Over to God” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “Those who do not pursue life cannot be transformed; those who do not thirst for the truth cannot gain the truth. You don’t focus on pursuing personal transformation and entering in; you always focus on those extravagant desires, and things that constrain your love for God and restrain you from getting close to Him. Can those things transform you? Can they bring you into the kingdom?” (“Why Aren’t You Willing to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This pierced my heart, word by word. I saw God’s righteous, holy disposition that will not tolerate mankind’s offenses, and I could not help but feel afraid for the path that I had taken. I realized that I had believed in God for many years yet I had not pursued the truth—I had always pursued fame and status. I had focused on the things I could do in front of others so that they would look up to me and support me. I was bound and restricted by these extravagant desires, and I was unable to obey God’s arrangements. I was particularly unable to obey or love God. If I continued to follow God this way until the end, my life disposition would never change. I would continue to suffer from the control of this satanic nature, and rebel against and resist God. Then how could I possibly be saved by God? Even though I exposed quite a bit of corruption through this adjustment in my duties, I came to understand that in my faith in God, it is only by pursuing the truth, and accepting the judgment, chastisement, pruning, and dealing with of God’s words that I can understand the essence of my own satanic nature, and clearly see the truth of my corruption of rebelling against and resisting God. This can lead me to detest myself, forsake the flesh, and achieve a transformation in life disposition, thus becoming someone who is truly obedient to God and gains His praise. Understanding this, I felt it was really necessary to learn to submit in faith in God. Right then, I resolved: No matter what duty the church arranges for me, I am willing to absolutely obey what God has set up. I will not try to insert my own reasoning, and I will not take into consideration my own benefit or loss. I only want to steadfastly fulfill my duty as a creature of God and satisfy God!
In the days that followed, whenever my brothers and sisters were busy with their duty and needed me to help with childcare, I accepted it from within my heart and obeyed the environment that God had set up for me. I diligently performed my duty, and I felt at ease, and had peace of mind. I also saw a great deal of God’s guidance and blessings. Sometimes when the child was disobedient or threw a tantrum, I was about to lose my temper. But I was immediately able to recognize that I was once again exposing my corruption, so I would rush to return to God and reflect on myself, and see that in front of God, I was just like an immature child who frequently rebelled against and resisted God, and wouldn’t do what He said. I didn’t feel as agitated, and I was able to be more understanding and forgiving of the child. Sometimes I had some small differences of opinion with them, so I tried to take off the mantle of the adult and listen to what they had to say, and accept any of their suggestions that were correct. I also learned how to have a heart-to-heart with a child and really understand their feelings. When they had something on their mind, they would talk to me about it, and there was no longer any distance between us. We also frequently read God’s words together and listened to hymns. I shared fellowship on God’s three stages of work, and how to pray to God and rely on Him when we experienced difficulties in life. They also taught me English—we helped each other. When I saw that the children became more and more obedient, and that they learned how to pray to God and rely on Him when they had difficulties, I felt incredibly happy. I could not help but express thanks and praise for God from my heart! Through my experience of the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, I gradually let go of my desire to pursue fame and status. I no longer wanted to perform a duty that would give me prominence, and I no longer focused on how others saw me. Instead, I became able to obey God’s arrangements and steadfastly face God and fulfill my duty. I feel that living this way is relaxing, freeing, and is a release. I have also deeply experienced that in the house of God, no duty is great or small, and there is no distinction between what is lowly and what is lofty. No matter what kind of duty I perform, it contains a lesson that I must learn as well as truths that I must put into practice and enter into. As long as I practice God’s words and obey Him I will be able to gain the work of the Holy Spirit and understand the truth, and receive His blessings when performing my duty. It allows me to see how righteous He is, and that He does not treat anyone unfairly!
God says: “God pays a painstaking price for the sake of every individual. He pins His will on each and every person, with expectations and hope for all. He freely pays the painstaking price for those people of His own will, and He willingly gives His life and truth to every individual. So God is gratified if anyone is able to understand this aim of His. If you can accept and obey the things He does, and if you can receive all from God, He then feels that the painstaking price has not been paid in vain. This means that, if you have lived up to the care and thought God has invested in you, you have reaped the rewards in every environment, and haven’t disappointed God’s hopes in you, and if what God does on you has had the expected effect and has reached the expected objective, then God’s heart is satisfied” (“To Attain the Truth, You Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Around You” in Records of Christ’s Talks). I have understood from God’s words that the people, events, things, and environments that I encounter every day all contain God’s will and His efforts. God has a commission for me and has particularly placed His hope in me. He has salvaged me from out of the huge world. God’s will is for me to play my own role in His management plan. As one of God’s creations, my duty is to heed what God says, obey His arrangements, to do what He has entrusted me with in an orderly way, and to carry out my responsibilities. This is my duty and my mission that I cannot shirk. I hereby resolve to accept and obey all things that come from God, and in all people, events and things set up by God, seek the truth, try to grasp God’s will, and practice according to God’s requirements. In the future, no matter what kind of environment or what duties come upon me, no matter how far from my own notions it is, I will be willing to accept and obey. I will give myself heart, soul, and mind to fulfilling my duty. I will pursue becoming someone who genuinely obeys God and gains His praise!