82. Through the Great Tribulation, I Have Reaped Great Benefits
Rongguang Zhengzhou City, Henan Province
After following Almighty God, I was put in prison because I believed in God. At that time I was a new believer and God had given me strength so that I could stand firm in my testimony. However, I mistakenly believed that I had the stature; I thought that I had a great amount of faith, love and loyalty for God, therefore I didn’t pay particular attention to eating and drinking God’s words of judgment and chastisement. Even though I read, I compared the word by which God exposes man with other people and excluded myself from God’s judging words. I was only willing to read about the mysteries God has revealed and prophecies as well as words concerning obtaining blessings; these are the words I was most interested in. I read God’s words: “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). 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 battle; I thought that by relying on my own “faith” and “will,” I would be able to be an overcomer in the tribulation.
God’s work of saving people is so wonderful and so wise. 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 form and disgraceful situation of being an opportunist came to light during the tribulation.
In June and July of 1996, I was in another part of the country fulfilling my duty involving writing. One day, the leader of this area came and told us that the recent situation was not very good and that Sister so-and-so had been arrested by the great red dragon. 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 who were serving as leaders in God’s family were secretly listed as wanted. There were also some who had bounties for their arrests. The local leaders were also on the black list of the great red dragon. I sensed that things were not good: It looked like the great red dragon was trying to destroy the believers in one fell swoop. We felt a kind of terror in the atmosphere that enveloped us; we didn’t know what to do in this kind of situation; we wanted to contact the above and ask him how to proceed, but we couldn’t contact him. Later I found out that the tribulation had begun a month earlier. God’s word came true that “That is, when God smites the shepherd, the sheep of the flock will be scattered, and at that time you won’t have any true leader. The people will be divided—it won’t be like now, where you can come together as a congregation.” 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 great red dragon pressing near us and we couldn’t progress in our work for objective reasons. In facing this kind of plight, we faintly became aware that the work had been obstructed by God’s hand; God was leading us to stop the work and hide ourselves and lose no time returning back to our homeland. That way we would be safer. Consequently, we were forced to disperse and return to our homeland.
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 great red dragon to capture me; the great red dragon is too deplorable and cruel, the vicious methods it uses to ravage believers is unprecedented. 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 eat and drink the words of God, fellowship and sing hymns. Because we had a supply of God’s words, each day was very enriching. However, in less than a month, police came into the area and I had no choice but to quickly leave. Afterward I came to another 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 in this kind of environment, and there was no one to fellowship with 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 wanted to betray God and not believe anymore: “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 felt afraid and 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 seek after truth, and only fulfilled my duties to obtain blessings, therefore, the moment I left the books of God’s word, my heart didn’t have a line of God’s word left in it. Without God’s words of life supporting me, I was just like a fool who had lost his mind. I didn’t know what to do with myself or what to pursue after. I just desperately struggled 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 strength to ponder this, all I thought about was my hardships. At that time my belief in the omnipotence and omniscience of God and my belief in God’s universal dominance were all lost. It got to the point that when a sister came to invite me to go visit some brothers and sisters, I declined, because my heart was fearful and cowardly. I didn’t have faith or strength, I only relied on my mind and thoughts, thinking that the environment will not be good before Hong Kong’s return to China. During this period of time, the great red dragon will frantically suppress and eradicate everyone who sincerely believes in God. Now it will be a long time before Hong Kong’s return, I certainly 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 and live the life of the unbelievers. However, 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 people who belong to the devil; if I am not working, then I am eating or having a boring conversation. 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, like in the past when we lived in Your warm family? My heart was tormented like it was being overrun by weeds and I couldn’t stay any longer. It just so happened to be getting close to the Spring Festival and I took advantage of the opportunity and quit my job and quickly returned to my brothers and sisters. Afterward I realized that it wasn’t just me who had these thoughts; there were many brothers and sisters who had avoided being arrested by the great red dragon 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, I took a moment before I realized: “What? The tribulation is over? This was the tribulation? It will still be a few months before Hong Kong’s return to China. 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). This tragic lesson tells me: People cannot stand testimony in the tribulation if they do not have truth and if they rely on their own desires. People who live without truth in God’s work will certainly be thoroughly revealed; they will not be able to conceal themselves in the least bit or be able to fake it anymore. Without truth, you are built on a sand foundation, which won’t withstand the slightest test. Only with truth can you see things clearly, have faith and strength, be able to triumph over Satan and be able to put truth into practice to satisfy God and testify for God. I really hated myself: God has already patiently told us these things a long time ago, and why didn’t I believe it, why didn’t I take it seriously! Nothing can be taken back; there is no other choice but to diligently seek truth on the path ahead.
When we were finished meeting, I heard a sister reveal some internal intelligence: The great red dragon 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, people are not fearful as they 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 an enormous work in the church; it won’t be long before the grand occasion when the gospel is extended into every land. Our work is getting busier and every duty is being smoothly carried out. Nearly all the brothers and sisters are fulfilling their duties with their best efforts in their respective positions. The scene is progressing in full swing just under the great red dragon’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: In fact, the great red dragon is always working to resist God, persecute God and coerce 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 wings to shelter us, it is not that the great red dragon put its butcher’s knife down and stopped its persecution. The great red dragon 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 great red dragon 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, God’s work uses the great red dragon as a foil, 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, 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” (“The Twenty-ninth Utterance” of God’s Utterances to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). In the great tribulation, God allowed the great red dragon to persecute God’s chosen people, because He wanted to exploit the great red dragon and use it to benefit God’s chosen people so that they see clearly the substance of the great red dragon’s resistance against God. If God was always watching over and protecting us, and didn’t allow us to suffer even a little bit of persecution in the real environment, then we would not be able to truly believe the words God revealed about the substance of the great red dragon’s corruption; and we wouldn’t be aware of the faithfulness of God. Therefore, God allows us to see the truth of the facts when appropriate. Only in this way can we see that everything God says is true and that the great red dragon is indeed the enemy of God, that it is an evil spirit, and that it slaughters people and swallows people’s spirits. If these facts were not revealed, I would still be fooled and cheated by it; I would still believe it when it said, “freedom of religion” and “legal rights of the citizens.” Today, I have personally experienced the pursuit and persecution of the great red dragon, I have seen the atrocious countenance of the great red dragon’s slaughtering of God’s chosen people with my own eyes. And I know now that the freedom and democracy that it proclaims is all a cover-up for its crimes. I now clearly see the evil and deplorable demonic substance of the great red dragon, and my heart truly despises it. I have made up my mind to betray it and follow God to the end.
Tribulations come from God, and the timing of their ending is surely in God’s hands. When God’s work produces results, God will certainly not procrastinate the time. Just like God said: “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). God has His plan, and He does not delay the next step of spreading His gospel. God has a thorough understanding of us, He knows our statures, He knows our circumstances, and He is not willing to allow our lives to have losses. God has made exact plans for us in His work, He has thought about our lives in every way; but in my tribulation, all I thought about was my own safety and whether or not I was suffering hardships; I didn’t think about God at all. I am truly selfish and deplorable; I don’t have a rational conscience and am 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 saw that 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. At this time, I was able to see my danger, and I felt the importance of being equipped with truth; since then I have had a thirst for truth. At this time I read the words God revealed about man’s corrupt nature and felt that God’s word came alive in me like a two-edged sword piercing my joints and marrow and revealing the filth and injustice 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 be a genuine person. I felt the work of God’s judgment and chastisement was truly cleansing people and as long as I sincerely sought after 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 firm and unmoving 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, we can see that God is almighty and wise; we see that the great red dragon is incapable and foolish. It is unbridled and savage, and has no other choice but to be involuntarily tossed to and fro by God’s work; it will forever be defeated in God’s hands. The great red dragon vainly attempts to scare God’s chosen people through cruel persecution and disturb and dismantle God’s work. It doesn’t realize that God is using this to perfect God’s people. Even though on the outside it looks like the great red dragon’s persecution has come upon the people, in reality, it is all arranged by God’s almighty hand. He scatters people and gathers people, He leads people into tribulations and leads people out of tribulations; He allows people to endure until they want to leave, but He has always supported people, pulled people, and caused people to not be able to leave. It is amidst these wonderful arrangements of God that people are able to clearly see the ugly face of the great red dragon and to truly despise the great red dragon from the bottom of their hearts. People are also able to see God’s great power and experience God’s love, almightiness and wisdom. They are more steadfast and unwavering in following God, and can see their true statures and deficiencies; their hearts have 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 take part in 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 am overwhelmed with emotion and want to give my heartfelt thanks and praise to God. If I didn’t experience the tribulation, I would have had no other choice but to follow blindly like a layman standing outside of the ranks of the training of the kingdom who ultimately would sink and be destroyed. 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 great red dragon 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 follow God with an iron heart. 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.