A Rebirth (part 1)

Yang Zheng Heilongjiang Province

I was born into an impoverished rural family that was backward in their thinking. I was vain from a young age and my desire for status was particularly strong. Over time, through the social influence and a traditional education, I took all sorts of Satan’s rules for survival into my heart. All kinds of fallacies nurtured my desire for reputation and status, such as building a beautiful homeland with your own two hands, fame will make you immortal, people need face like a tree needs its bark, getting ahead and being on top, one should bring honor to his ancestors, etc. These gradually became my life and made me firmly believe that as long as we are living in this world, we have to work to be seen highly by others. No matter what crowd we are with we must have status, we should be the most outstanding one. Only through living this way can we have integrity and dignity. Only living a life this way has value. In order to achieve my dream, I studied very diligently in elementary school; through storms and sickness, I never missed class. Day by day, I finally made it to middle school that way. When I saw that I was getting closer and closer to my dream I didn’t dare slack off. I frequently told myself that I had to persevere, that I had to present myself well to my teachers and classmates. However, just then, something unexpected happened. There was a scandal about our head teacher and the principal of the school that caused an uproar. All the teachers and students knew about it. One day in class, that teacher asked us if we had heard about it and all the other students said “No.” I was the only one who honestly replied “I heard.” From that time on, that teacher saw me as a thorn in her side and would frequently find excuses to make things difficult for me, to crack down on me. My classmates started to keep their distance from me and exclude me. They made fun of me and humiliated me. Finally, I was no longer able to tolerate that kind of torment and I dropped out of school. That was how my dream of getting ahead and being on top was crushed. Thinking of my future days with my face to the earth and back to the sky, I felt an inexpressible sadness and melancholy. I thought: Can it be that my life will be passed so unremarkably? No status, no prestige, no future. What’s the point of living like this? I really wasn’t willing to accept that fact at that time but I was helpless to change my circumstances. Just as I was living in pain and hopelessness that I wasn’t able to extricate myself from, Almighty God saved me and reignited the hope in my heart that had been extinguished. From then I began a whole new life.

It was March 1999, and from a fortuitous opportunity I heard the gospel of the last days of Almighty God. I learned that God incarnate had come to earth and He Himself was speaking to and leading mankind to save us from the domain of Satan, to allow us to cast off our lives of being in pain, of being fallen, to live in a new heaven and earth. And from the patient and painstaking fellowship from my brothers and sisters, I heard many truths that I had never heard of before, such as: God’s six-thousand-year management plan, the mystery of God becoming flesh, that corrupt people need the salvation of God incarnate, what kind of sense creations should possess, how to worship the Lord of all creation, how to live out your proper humanity, what truly is a human life…. I was profoundly drawn in by these truths and they made me firmly believe that this was the work of the true God. That day my brothers and sisters also sang a song of life experience, “Thinking of the Bitter Past and the Sweetness of the Present, I love God Even More”: “Oh practical God! I beg You to hear my story. I cry when I think of the past; my heart was dark and without light; my life was without hope, I could not speak of the suffering in my life, I could only helplessly pass the days. How could it not cause my heart misery? Oh practical God! Listen to me, thinking of the past, my heart is in pain. It was Satan the devil harming me, making me corrupt and fallen. Your words illuminated me and led me out of the darkness. Oh true God! Oh true God! I love You from within my heart.” This lit up my soul which had long been in darkness like a ray of light, and I could not help but burst into tears. Many years of repression, injustices, and sadness seemed to suddenly be released. My heart felt much lighter. Aside from this excitement, I was even more grateful to God for selecting me from among millions of people, allowing my tired, sad soul to find a warm haven. From then my life changed radically. I was no longer disconsolate and dispirited, but I put my whole mind to reading the word of God, going to meetings, and fellowship on the truth. Every day was full and happy. Later I was lifted up by God and began to perform the duty of preaching the gospel. Because I was quite enthusiastic and positive as well as the fact that I was of a certain caliber, after a period of time my work was really bearing fruit. I gained the praise of my evangelical team leader, and the brothers and sisters in the church also looked up to me. They would always come ask me about things they didn’t understand about preaching the gospel. Without realizing it I started to become a little self-satisfied, and I thought: I have so quickly gained in the church the reputation and status I hoped for in the world for so many years. My “hero” side has finally found its place! Seeing my accomplishments I felt very fulfilled and I worked even harder to fulfill my duty. No matter how great of a difficulty I faced, I would do my utmost to overcome it. No matter what the church arranged for me to do, I willingly obeyed and did my best to complete it. At times the church leader dealt with me and pruned aspects of me because I hadn’t performed my duty well. No matter how upset I was, on the surface I wouldn’t make excuses for myself. Although I suffered quite a bit during this period of time, as long as I had status among my brothers and sisters and was looked up to by them, I felt that it was very much worth paying this price. But God can see into every part of people. In order to transform my erroneous views on human life and values, in order to cleanse the impurities in my belief in God and performing my duty, God carried out judgment and chastisement as well as trials and refinement on me.

That was 2003, when I was promoted to act as our evangelical team leader. Along with this elevation in my status my scope of work was also expanded, and I felt even more pleased with myself: The gold shines everywhere. I am determined to do my job well and steadily ascend so that my brothers and sisters would envy and adore me more. That would be so wonderful! When I arrived where I was to perform my duty, the leader took into consideration that I had just taken on this type of work and I was lacking both experience and methodology, so gathered together several other evangelical team leaders from nearby areas so that we could learn from each other. But over the course of fellowship, I saw that they were all older than I was and that they were of a lower caliber. When in fellowship on God’s words they also didn’t communicate as clearly as I did. I couldn’t help but become arrogant and I didn’t think anything of them at all. I felt that I would certainly be able to do a good job relying on my own strength. After meeting I immediately went to every team to gain an understanding of their work. When I discovered some errors and omissions in their work and that some of the team members were unable to preach the gospel and bear witness for God, I was both anxious and angry. I couldn’t help but scold my brothers and sisters: “Can fulfilling your duty this way really be in line with God’s will? You don’t want to pay a price but you want to be saved by God. Does this kind of person have any sense? …” And sometimes during fellowship I would show off, telling everyone how I had participated in evangelical work, all about the results I had had. When I saw envy on the faces of my brothers and sisters, I was very smug and felt that I was more responsible than others. Over time, my brothers and sisters would always discuss any issues with me and no longer focused on praying to God or relying on Him. And not only did I not feel afraid, but I enjoyed it. Finally, I entirely lost hold of the work of the Holy Spirit and I truly could no longer work. In early 2004 the church removed me from my duties and had me return home for spiritual reflection. Faced with this outcome, it was as though I very quickly fell into a bottomless pit. My entire body was limp and weak from an intense feeling of frustration, and I couldn’t help but think: It was so wonderful when I first started performing my duty. And now, going back in such disgrace, how can I face my family and the brothers and sisters in my hometown? What will they think of me? Will they make fun of me, look down on me? As soon as I thought of losing my image and status in other people’s minds I felt like I was about to fall apart. I was living in negativity that I couldn’t extricate myself from and I couldn’t even continue reading God’s words. In the midst of this agony, I couldn’t not pray to God: “Oh God! I have become so weak now and my spirit is in darkness because I am unable to accept the fact that I was replaced. I’m also unwilling to obey the church’s arrangements but I know that everything You do is good and contains Your benevolent will. I am willing to be enlightened by You and understand Your will.” After praying, these words of God brought me enlightenment: “In your seeking, you have too many individual notions, hopes, and futures. The current work is in order to deal with your desire for status and your extravagant desires. The hopes, the desire for[a] status, and the notions are all classic representations of satanic disposition. … Although you have gotten to this step today, you still have not let go of status, but are always struggling to ‘inquire about’ it and observing it daily, with a deep fear that one day your status will be lost and your name will be ruined. … You are now followers, and you have some understanding of this stage of work. However, you have still not put aside your desire for status. When your status is high you seek well, but when your status is low you no longer seek. The blessings of status are always on your mind. Why is it that the majority of people can’t get out of negativity? Isn’t it always because of ‘bleak’ prospects?” (“Why Aren’t You Willing to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). The judgment revealed in God’s words gave me a rude awakening, and made me understand that God’s work at that time was to deal with my desire for status, to have me step onto the proper path in life. Thinking back on the time since I had started performing my duty, I was very positive during the times I had status. I was extremely confident and did not fear suffering or hardships. When I was faced with someone dealing with me or pruning aspects of me I did not resist it. But then, after I was let go and had to return home I could not climb back out of my negativity. I saw that from the outside it seemed that I had been fulfilling my duty and was carrying out God’s will, but in actuality I was waving the flag of fulfilling my duty while managing things myself. It was entirely using God to satisfy my own desires that had been hidden for many years—to get ahead and to be seen highly. And it wasn’t to pursue the truth and it was even less to fulfill the duty of a creature to satisfy God. When I was performing my duty and I saw the inadequacies of my brothers and sisters, not only did I not help them out of love, but I relied on my status to scold them. I purposely elevated myself, stood as a witness for myself, and I was anxious for everyone to look up to me and adore me. From the beginning to the end, I had just one goal in my thoughts and actions—wasn’t this to blatantly compete with God for status? Mankind was created by God, so we should worship and look up to Him. Our hearts should only contain the status of God, but I was a filthy and corrupt, lowly person who wanted to compete for status with God. Isn’t this terribly arrogant? Isn’t this outrageous and contrary to God? Isn’t this behavior a serious offense of God’s disposition? When I thought of that, I couldn’t help but tremble with fear at my own arrogant nature. It turned out that I was already in that dangerous situation of being subject to God’s punishment! God’s disposition is righteous and holy and does not tolerate mankind’s offenses. How could He tolerate allowing me, this rebellious child, to wantonly disturb and upset His work? Only then did I realize that my being let go was God’s great tolerance and great love. Otherwise, I would have done more and greater evil to the point that He was unable to forgive me. Then it would be too late. The more I thought about it the more scared I was, and the more I felt that I was too indebted to God. I couldn’t help but prostrate myself in front of Him and pray: “Oh God! My nature is too arrogant, too superficial. I haven’t pursued the truth while fulfilling my duty, and I haven’t thought of repaying Your love. I was busy running to and fro for the sake of reputation and status, and I set my heart on getting ahead in the church, so how could I not stumble and fall in the course of fulfilling my duty with that kind of intention? If Your judgment and chastisement, and Your dealing and pruning had not come upon me in time, I certainly would have continued along the path of an enemy of Christ. In the end I would have ruined my chance for salvation. Oh God! I give thanks for Your mercy and Your salvation of me. From this day forward, I am willing to let go of my ambitious desires and pursue the truth, and accept more of Your judgment and chastisement, to attain change in my corrupt disposition soon.” God’s enlightenment and guidance led me out of my negativity and allowed me to have some recognition of my own arrogant nature and essence of resisting God. I also gained some understanding of God’s righteous disposition, and I felt a great release in my heart. I was also willing to continue to seek the truth in whatever environment God sets up for me, and to more deeply understand His will.

In my pursuits after that, I saw words from God which said: “I decide the destination of each man not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, or least of all, the degree of misery, but on whether they possess truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God will be punished. This is an immutable fact” (“You Ought to Do Enough Good Deeds to Prepare for Your Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “As a creature of God, man should seek to perform the duty of a creature of God, and seek to love God without making other choices, for God is worthy of man’s love. Those who seek to love God should not seek any personal benefits or that which they personally long for; this is the most correct means of pursuit” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words had already told people perfectly clearly and understandably what His will and requirements were so that mankind could understand a proper way of pursuit and what the wrong path is. At that time I placed reputation and status above everything, but in reality, God did not look at how high someone’s status was, what kind of seniority they had, or how much they had suffered for their belief in God. He looked at whether or not they pursued the truth and had a genuine understanding of God. Those with the truth but without a high status can also gain His praise, but those without the truth and with a high status are those that God detests and rejects. This is God’s disposition of righteousness and holiness. Status cannot determine a person’s fate, nor is it a symbol of someone’s salvation in their belief in God. It particularly is not a mark of someone having been perfected by God. But I had always used my status to measure my own worth and my greatest pleasure had been being looked up to and adored by others. Wasn’t this entirely counter to God’s requirements? Wasn’t believing in God this way completely futile? Not only would I have been unable to be saved by God, but in the end I would have suffered God’s punishment due to my evil ways. At that time, what God had entrusted me with was to allow me to enter into the truth, to be able to pursue a change in disposition, pursue obedience to and love of God, and in the end to be saved and perfected by Him. Only this was the proper path. After understanding all of this, my heart was full of gratitude toward God. Thanks to His judgment and chastisement that pulled me back from the wrong path and enlightened me so I could understand His will, allowing me to finally see clearly the danger and consequences of pursuing reputation and status. Only then was I able to wake up and turn back in time. Through that experience I understood some truths as well as God’s benevolence, and my state of mind recovered once again. I threw myself into fulfilling my duty again.

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