81. Through the Great Tribulation, I Have Reaped Great Benefits
God said: “Based on their different functions and testimonies, the overcomers within the kingdom will serve as priests or followers, and all those who are victorious amid tribulation will become the body of priests within the kingdom. … In the body of priests there will be chief priests and priests, and the remainder will be the sons and people of God. This is all determined by their testimonies to God during tribulation; they are not titles that are given at whim” (“God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “The time of the tribulation will not be too protracted—it will not even be a year. If it were to last for a year it would delay the next step of work, and people’s stature would be inadequate. If it were too long they wouldn’t be able to withstand it—their stature has its limitations” (“How You Should Walk the Last Leg of the Path” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). When I read these words, I thought: “Position in the kingdom will be determined based on how people testify during the tribulation; these testimonies could influence someone’s fate. When the tribulation comes upon me, I will have to grit my teeth and put forth enough energy, and I will certainly offer a beautiful testimony. That way I will be able to obtain great blessings; besides, the tribulation won’t last too long–it will be less than a year. No matter what happens, I’ll be able to endure this period of hardship.” By being dominated by thoughts of obtaining blessings I made up my mind to get ready for the tribulation; I thought that by relying on my own “faith” and “will,” I would be able to be an overcomer in the tribulation.
However, God’s work of saving people is so wonderful and so wise that it really is unfathomable to man. In 1996, we all entered into the great tribulation through God’s arrangement. But when the tribulation came upon us, no one was aware of it; everything happened so naturally, my true face and disgraceful situation of being an opportunist came to light during the trial of the great tribulation.
In June and July of 1996, I was in another part of the country fulfilling my duty. One day, the leaders of the local church came and told us that the recent situation was not very good and that Sister so-and-so had been arrested by the CCP police. When we heard of this, we wanted to pray for this sister and didn’t think of much else, because we all knew that it was a common occurrence for people to be arrested for their belief in God in China, a country that persecuted God like this. But, it wasn’t many days before we heard that a few more brothers and sisters were arrested. After a few more days, we heard that a dozen or so were arrested, and many well-known believers and many church leaders were secretly listed as wanted. There were also some who had bounties for their arrests. The local leaders were also on the blacklist of the CCP government to be arrested. I sensed that things were not good: It looked like the CCP government was trying to destroy the believers in one fell swoop. A kind of terror in the atmosphere enveloped us; we didn’t know what to do in this kind of situation; we wanted to contact the upper-level leaders and ask them how to proceed, but we couldn’t contact them. Later we found out that the tribulation had begun a month earlier. But at that time we were numb in spirit and we didn’t dare make wild guesses and define God’s work. Therefore we didn’t know that this was the great tribulation. All we could feel was the dark hand of the CCP government pressing close to us and the work of the church couldn’t progress because of it. In facing this kind of plight, we faintly became aware that God was allowing the work to be obstructed; God was leading us to stop the work and hide ourselves and lose no time returning back to our hometowns. That way we would be safer. Consequently, we were forced to disperse and return to our respective hometowns.
I had only been home for a week when a sister came and gave me a letter saying that a brother in our church was arrested, and I needed to immediately leave home. At this time I was just like a deer in the headlights; I didn’t have any faith and I only had one thought in my heart: “Quickly hide and don’t allow the police to capture me, because the CCP is too deplorable and cruel, and the vicious methods it uses to ravage believers are savage beyond compare. If I fall into the hands of the demon, the consequences would be unimaginable.” Following this, a sister introduced me to the mountains to cook for the miners. I was there with two sisters and we took advantage of the times when no one was around to read the words of God, fellowship about the truth and sing hymns to praise God. Because we had a supply of God’s words, each day was very enriching. However, in less than a month, the CCP police came to check up on us and I had no choice but to quickly leave. Afterward I came to a restaurant to work. Everyone I came into contact with was an unbeliever and I didn’t have any common language with them; moreover, I didn’t have God’s word nor the sermons in this kind of environment, to the point that it was difficult to even offer a proper prayer. I felt lonely and desolate and my heart couldn’t help but start complaining. I even began to have the desire to betray God, and I thought to myself: “Believing in God is really not easy and I am on edge all day; I am wandering in a world that lacks justice; when will these days be over? If I didn’t believe in God, living an easy and stable lifestyle like the unbelievers, wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Even though my heart thought this way, I didn’t dare leave God; I also felt like I couldn’t leave God, the thought of leaving God caused me pain. Yet since I didn’t love reading God’s words in the past, didn’t pursue truth, and I didn’t remember many of God’s words, therefore, the moment I left the books of God’s word, I was not able to remember one line of them. Without God’s words of life supporting me, I was just like a fool. I didn’t know what to do with myself or what to seek after. I just forced myself to get through each day. What was God’s will? Why did He arrange this for me? How could I practice and satisfy God? I didn’t have the inclination to ponder this. Even worse, my belief in the omnipotence and wisdom of God and in God’s universal dominance was lost, all I thought about was my hardships. It got to the point that when a sister came to ask me to go visit some brothers and sisters, I declined because I was cowardly and afraid of being arrested. I relied on my mind and thoughts, thinking that this situation would not get any better. During this period of time, the CCP government will frantically suppress and arrest everyone who sincerely believes in God. I must protect myself well. During the two and a half months that I worked in the restaurant, my heart became more and more distant from God, almost to the point that I only acknowledged God’s name, but didn’t have God in my heart. My heart was often attracted to the sensual pleasures; I wanted to run away from God’s hand and live the life of the unbelievers. I didn’t know why, but over the next few days I especially missed God and the brothers and sisters; I missed my former church life. While being by myself, I always couldn’t help but cry. My heart was sorrowful: “Oh God, all day I am with the unbelievers; if I am not working, then I am eating or having a boring conversation. I feel far from You. Only You know the emptiness and pain in my heart. Oh God, when will this long night pass? When will we be set free to believe in God, gathering together, performing our duties and reading Your words normally?” At that time, my heart was tormented like it was being overrun by weeds and I couldn’t stay any longer. When it was getting close to the Spring Festival, I took advantage of the opportunity to quit my job and quickly returned to my brothers and sisters. Afterward I found out that it wasn’t just me who had these thoughts; there were many brothers and sisters who had avoided being arrested by the CCP government by fleeing to other areas who had experienced the same thing. They all returned home because they were thinking the same thing. This was a miraculous guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Not more than a few days after I had returned home, a sister came to notify me of a church gathering. When I heard the sister say that the tribulation was over, and that everything had returned back to normal, and that I could go and fulfill my former duty, it took a moment before I realized: “What? The tribulation is over? This was the tribulation? How could the tribulation have ended? This is not what I expected! All along these things we have been experiencing were the tribulation, now I am finished! What did I manifest during the tribulation? Besides being cowardly and afraid, I complained, escaped, and betrayed. I didn’t have any components of faith, not to mention loyalty and love. This time God has tested my work and I completely failed.” I hung my head in despair with all kinds of feelings in my heart. This time I was able to understand what God said before the tribulation began: “After My own work has been completed, the next step will be for people to walk the path that they should. Everyone must understand what path they should walk—this is a path of suffering and a process of suffering, and it is also a path of refining your will to love God. Which truths you should enter into, which truths you should supplement, how you should experience, and from which aspect you should enter in—you must understand all of these things. You must equip yourself now. If you wait until the tribulation comes upon you, it will be too late” (“How You Should Walk the Last Leg of the Path” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I really hated myself: God has already patiently told us these things, and why didn’t I believe it, why didn’t I take it seriously? There is no going back; there is no other choice but to diligently pursue truth on the path ahead.
When we were finished meeting, I heard a sister reveal some internal intelligence of the CCP: The government is still aggressively going about arresting believers and it is getting even more intense. When I heard this, my heart of little faith again whispered: “The environment is this tense and the brothers and sisters are all fulfilling their duties. Is this OK?” But the fact allowed me to see that: Even though the situation is tense, we are not fearful as we were during the tribulation; when we fulfill our duties, our hearts are especially steadfast and peaceful as if everyone forgot about the piece of intelligence the sister told us. The Holy Spirit is also doing great work in the church; it won’t be long before the grand occasion when the gospel is extended into every land. All the brothers and sisters are fulfilling their duties with their best efforts in their respective positions and every type of work is proceeding smoothly. The scene is progressing in full swing just under the CCP government’s nose, but with the work expanding this vigorously, there have not been any arrests like that in the midst of the great tribulation. These facts allowed me to see a truth clearly: The CCP is always working to resist God, persecute God and suppress God’s chosen people; it has never stopped and wants to assassinate God and His chosen people. Sometimes the butcher’s knife in its hand does not fall down on us, and that is God watching over and protecting us. Sometimes we don’t even perceive its intention to kill, and that is God using His great power to shelter us, it is not that the CCP put its butcher’s knife down and stopped its persecution. The CCP has never put down its butcher’s knife, it will never put it down; it wants to resist God to the end and the closer it gets to the end, the more frantic it becomes, because the CCP is Satan, the evil spirit. It knows that the glorious day that God completes His work of salvation is its last day. Therefore, the closer death draws near, the more it struggles. However, no matter what happens, the CCP always serves as a foil to God’s work, it is a serving object in God’s hands, it is a tool for testing God’s chosen people. Its cruelty cannot block God’s work, and without God’s permission, it has no power over God’s chosen people. When God does not allow it to hunt, God’s chosen people will be under its nose and it won’t be able to catch them. It has no other choice but to be at God’s mercy. Just like God’s word says: “When I formally begin My work, all people move as I move, such that people throughout the universe occupy themselves in step with Me, there is ‘jubilation’ across the universe, and man is spurred onward by Me. In consequence, the great red dragon itself is whipped into a state of frenzy and bewilderment by Me, and serves My work, and, despite being unwilling, is unable to follow its own desires, leaving it no choice but to submit to My control” (“Chapter 29” of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This great tribulation has befallen us with God’s permission, because He wants to use the persecution of the CCP to benefit and perfect His chosen people so that we can see clearly the substance of the CCP’s resistance against God. If we didn’t suffer even a little bit of persecution, then we would not truly believe the words God revealed about the corrupt substance of the CCP. We would still be fooled and cheated by it; we would still believe it when it said “freedom of religion” and “legitimate rights and interests of citizens”; we wouldn’t be aware of the faithfulness of God. Today, I have personally experienced the persecution and pursuit of the CCP, I have seen the atrocious countenance of the CCP’s harming of God’s chosen people with my own eyes. And I know now that the freedom and democracy that it proclaims is all a ruse to deceive and trick people. I now clearly see the evil and deplorable demonic substance of the CCP: It is indeed the enemy of God, it is an evil demon that harms people and devours people’s spirits. My heart truly despises it; I have made up my mind to betray it and follow God to the end.
The tribulation comes from God, and the timing of its ending is surely in God’s hands. When God’s work produces results, God will certainly not procrastinate the time. Just like God’s word says: “The time of the tribulation will not be too protracted—it will not even be a year. If it were to last for a year it would delay the next step of work, and people’s stature would be inadequate. If it were too long they wouldn’t be able to withstand it—their stature has its limitations.” God has a thorough understanding of us, He knows our statures, He knows our states, and He is not willing to allow our lives to have losses. Therefore, God will not procrastinate even for one second, and we are capable of enduring it all. God has made exact plans for us in His work, He has thought about our lives in every way. However, in my tribulation, all I thought about was my own safety and my flesh; I didn’t think about how God’s heart felt at all. I was truly selfish and deplorable; I didn’t have conscience and reason and was not worthy to live in God’s presence. In my tribulation, God revealed my actual stature, which caused me to have a realistic understanding of myself. I saw how poor, pitiful and blind I was; I didn’t understand the truth, I had no faith or love for God, but only had rebellion and resistance to the point that I would betray at any time and any place. Only then was I able to be aware of my danger. I felt the importance of being equipped with truth. At that time, when I read the words God revealed about man’s corrupt nature again, I felt that everything revealed by God’s words is indeed the true state of things. God’s word came alive in me like a two-edged sword piercing my joints and marrow and revealing the filth and unrighteousness in the depths of my heart. It caused me to see that I was deplorable and ugly and to see that I was deeply corrupted by Satan. I began to despise myself and have desire to change myself; I thirsted to live out the likeness of a true person. I felt the work of God’s judgment and chastisement was truly cleansing people and as long as I sincerely pursued truth, I would surely be cleansed and saved. The first time I felt the preciousness of God’s words and the importance of truth, my heart inwardly became gladdened: I have finally entered into my belief in God, I am striding toward a new beginning and can see the hope of obtaining salvation. Consequently, I set a resolution: No matter how bumpy the path is ahead of me, I will always be steadfast and unwavering in following God and walk in the correct path of life.
God’s wonderful arrangements allowed us to unwittingly enter the tribulation and to unwittingly rise out of the tribulation. The harvest we reaped from this was clear and easy to see. Through the tribulation, I can see that God is almighty and wise, and that the CCP is incapable and foolish. Even though it is unbridled and savage, it will forever be defeated in God’s hands; it can only be used by God, and can only be something which renders service to God’s work and which acts as a foil to God’s work. The CCP vainly attempts to scare God’s chosen people through cruel persecution and disturb and dismantle God’s work. It hasn’t imagined that God is using this to perfect us. Even though on the outside it looks like the CCP’s persecution has come upon us, in reality, it is all arranged by God. He scatters people and gathers people, He leads people into the tribulation and leads people out of the tribulation; God has always supported people by virtue of His power, led people by hand, and caused people to not be able to leave. Amidst these wonderful arrangements of God, I’m able to clearly see the true face of the CCP and to truly despise it from the bottom of my heart. I’m also able to experience God’s love, almightiness and wisdom. I am more steadfast and unwavering in following God, and can see my true stature and deficiencies; my heart has a greater thirst for God and truth. There is so much significance in God raising the great tribulation; there is so much wisdom in God’s work. No one can fathom it. I was able to experience the great tribulation arranged by God; it was truly God’s exaltation and abundant love and my honor in this life. Every time I reflect on this I will be overwhelmed with emotion and give my heartfelt thanks and praise to God. If I didn’t experience the tribulation, I would have followed blindly and, in the end, I would have fallen and perished for not having gained the truth and not having had my corrupt disposition changed. If I didn’t experience the tribulation, I wouldn’t have true faith in God and wouldn’t understand the difficulty of God’s work and that saving people was not easy. If I didn’t experience the tribulation, I would not be able to see the true face of the CCP and I would still have delusions about this dark society, I would still have a fondness for this world and would not be able to set my heart on following God. It is God’s wonderful and wise work that has conquered me; it is God’s omnipotence and great love that has led me to where I am today! From now on, no matter what trials and tribulations I face, I will be willing to rely on my faith and love for God to stand witness for God and comfort God’s heart.