By Shi Han, Hebei Province
I was born to a poor peasant family. I have been sensible since childhood, in that I never fought with other kids and I obeyed my parents, which made me a good girl in the eyes of adults. People around us were all very envious of my parents, saying that they were lucky to have such a good daughter. And just like this, I grew up listening to compliments from the people around me. When I was in the elementary school, my academic record was especially good, and I always achieved first place in exams. One time, I received full marks in an essay contest held by my town, winning honor for my school. The headmaster not only awarded me a prize and certificate, but also complimented me in front of the entire school and called upon the students to learn from me. I suddenly became the “celebrity” of the school, and my classmates even nicknamed me “ever-victorious general.” The compliments from my teachers, the envy of my classmates, and the doting of my parents gave me a sense of superiority in my heart, and I really enjoyed the feeling of being admired by everyone. Accordingly, I firmly believed that the greatest joy in life was the admiration of others, and that the feeling of happiness came from the praise of others. I secretly told myself: No matter how difficult and exhausting it is, I must become someone with fame and status, and never be looked down upon by others. From then on, dictums such as “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies” and “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries” became my life mottos.
However, when I was 13 years old, my father fell seriously ill and was admitted to the hospital, which placed our already poor family under serious debt. When I saw my father moaning in pain from illness and my mother exhausting herself for the sake of our livelihoods, I felt so bad that I wished I would grow up quickly so I could share their sorrow and pain. So I made the painful decision to drop out of school, thinking: “Even if I do not go to school, I cannot perform worse than others. I will be a strong and successful woman when I grow up, and then I will still be able to live a great life!” Due to my academic excellence, I was kind of a “little celebrity” in my neighborhood. Therefore, when news of me dropping out of school spread, the villagers all started talking about it, saying: “This girl is so foolish! Dropping out of school will destroy her future!” and “No one will respect people without an education. She will suffer from hardship and poverty all her life!” As someone used to receiving compliments since childhood, the dreary feeling that “The fallen phoenix is inferior to the chicken” suddenly came over me. I was afraid to go out, afraid to meet people, afraid of the feeling of being looked down on. To avoid such pain, I barely stepped foot outside my home for two entire years, and I was taciturn all the time. At the same time, my desire of becoming a strong and successful woman grew even stronger, so when I was a little older, I went out to start working. I worked in a lot of jobs, but I would give up shortly each time because I felt the job was either too tiring and stressful, or the salary was too low, or the boss was not nice. After having failed over and over again, I became thoroughly discouraged and felt that my dream of becoming a strong and successful woman had gotten so very far away from reality.
In 2005, I had the privilege of accepting’s work of . I saw in the word of God: “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite always rushing and busying about for himself, man remains incapable of controlling himself. If you could know your own prospects, if you could control your own fate, would you still be a creature?” (“Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s powerful words deeply touched my heart, making me understand that everyone’s fate is in His hands and not at all controlled by people themselves, and that no matter what time it is, people cannot escape God’s sovereignty and plans, and should be obedient under the authority of God. This is the only way people will have a good fate. What kind of family I was born into, how cultured I am, whether my life is poor or rich—all of these things are predetermined by God. It is not something my mind or abilities can change. I was determined to become a strong and successful woman with all my heart and soul, but despite enduring hardship and suffering, I didn’t even have a stable job. This forced me to admit that what I want is not always achievable through hard work, and must still depend on whether it is allowed by God, and whether the path I walk is the one that has been predestined by God. If not, then no matter what price I pay, it will have been in vain. After understanding God’s will, I was no longer frustrated by my experiences, and I no longer cared about what other people said. Instead, I became determined to and pursue properly, and live a meaningful life. After that, I persisted in reading God’s words every day, and prayed, sang , and attended meetings with brothers and sisters. Due to my relatively fast comprehension of the truth and my passionate pursuit, I won the appreciation of the sister who was watering me, which made me feel all flattered inside. Later, I heard church leaders say I should be a focus of their cultivation, which made me more difficult to restrain the glee in my heart and even gave me an extra spring in my step. So I told myself: I must pursue with all my heart and soul! I cannot let leaders down. Even if it is just for my good reputation, I should work hard so I can win back here the fame and status that had eluded me in the outside world. At the time, I did not care about God’s will at all. The only thing on my mind was fame, fortune, and status right in front of me, like dazzling halos waving at me.
Shortly after, I performed the duty of watering the new believers in the church. In order to win high praise from brothers and sisters, and live up to the title “focus of cultivation,” I made up my mind to perform my duty to the best of my ability. Due to my “hard work and efforts,” I finally managed to fulfill my wish after a period of time, earning the praise and encouragement of brothers and sisters. I could not help but think: “That so many brothers and sisters have approved of me must mean I am better than other people. When it comes time to vote, the brothers and sisters will certainly vote for me and I will surely be put in an important position within the church. Then, my future will be filled with unlimited potential, and God will praise me as a matter of course.” Because I lived in complacency and self-satisfaction, I subconsciously began performing my duty in a perfunctory manner and stopped watering new believers with diligence. As a result, some of the new believers were unable to receive real watering and lived in negativity and weakness. I felt very upset in the face of this situation and thought: I have come a long way to acquire the “honor” I have today. How could I let things continue on like this? If the church leaders find out, they will surely say that I am not capable and might even stop my duty as well. Wouldn’t it be all over for me then? I must do something to turn this situation around. In the days that followed, I went outside every day to support the new believers. Sometimes, for the sake of one meeting, I would climb several hills and take three to four hours to walk to and back, but I did not feel bitter at all. After a month, I was exhausted, but because I did not have, my communication of God’s word was dull and dry, and as a result the states of the new believers did not turn around. I felt so tortured over this that I got a headache, but I still did not realize that I should come before God to self-reflect. Due to the long-term ineffectiveness of my work, which caused harm to the life of the new believers, I was eventually replaced. The moment I arrived back home was like falling from the sky to the ground. My whole body felt limp and weak. I thought back to how so many brothers and sisters looked up to me in the past, and yet now I had fallen to such an extent. How would brothers and sisters look at me if they found out? The more I thought about it the more I felt unable to face brothers and sisters, so I refused to go out for meetings and instead stayed at home every day in tears. I was in agony on the inside. One day, I saw the following words of God: “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. … For many years, the thoughts that people have relied upon for their survival have been corroding their hearts to the point that they have become treacherous, cowardly, and despicable. Not only do they lack willpower and resolve, but they have also become greedy, arrogant, and willful. They are utterly lacking any resolve that transcends the self, and even more, they don’t have a bit of courage to shake off the strictures of these dark influences. People’s thoughts and lives are rotten, their perspectives on believing in God are still unbearably ugly, and even when people speak of their perspectives on belief in God it is simply unbearable to hear. People are all cowardly, incompetent, despicable, as well as fragile. They do not feel disgust for the forces of darkness, and they do not feel love for the light and the truth; instead, they do their utmost to expel them” (“Why Aren’t You Willing to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). It was only through the trenchant revelation of God’s words that I realized my view on belief in God had been wrong from the very start. I wanted to use my belief in God to achieve the fame, fortune, and status I failed to obtain in the world, and absurdly thought: I would be selected and put in an important position as long as I earned the praise of brothers and sisters, and then God would also like me and praise me. Under the dominion of these thoughts, I became weak and despicable. When brothers and sisters praised me, I would become full of confidence, but once I lost these things, I immediately became discouraged and depressed, negative and in retreat. How was this believing in God? All I believed in was fame, fortune, and status! God’s intention was not to train me to become a wonderful working talent, and moreover it was not to let me take advantage of fulfilling my duty to satisfy personal desires. Rather, He hoped I could, through the process of fulfilling my duty, discover my deficiencies and experience God’s words and work, and thus understand and acquire more truth, and ultimately receive God’s salvation. At the same time, it was also so I could use my own experiences and the truth I had understood to supply brothers and sisters who were new believers in God, and help them lay the foundation in the so they might enter the right path of believing in God as soon as possible. However, I never sought God’s intentions as I had always strived for fame and status, and for my own personal ambitions. In the end, I lost the Holy Spirit’s work, was unable to do any practical work and was stopped from doing my duty. It was at this time that I suddenly recalled God’s words: “I do not care how meritorious your hard work is, how impressive your qualifications, how closely you follow Me, how renowned you are, or how improved your attitude; so long as you have not done what I have demanded, you will never be able to win My praise” (“Transgressions Will Take Man to Hell” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Whether one seeks sincerely is not determined by how others judge them or how the people around view them, but by whether the Holy Spirit works upon them and whether they have the presence of the Holy Spirit, and it is all the more determined by whether their disposition changes and whether they have knowledge of God after undergoing the Holy Spirit’s work over a certain period …” (“God and Man Will Enter Into Rest Together” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). In God’s words I understood His intentions and requirements. It turned out that my previous belief that a higher status meant a more promising future and more praise from God was measuring God’s work from an earthly viewpoint, which could not have been more wrong. How God measures and determines one’s end is not based on their status, seniority, or the amount of work they did, but whether they gain the truth and whether they achieve dispositional change. If one has not gained the truth or achieved dispositional change through God’s work, then no matter how high their status is or how many people endorse them, all becomes meaningless. Not only will they not receive God’s approval, they will also be detested, rejected, and condemned by God. Only by paying attention to pursuing the truth and knowing themselves and God while fulfilling their duty, and using their real experiences to water and support brothers and sisters, will they be able to resolve the actual problems, find a path to guide brothers and sisters, and make their own work effective, and only by performing their duty in this way can they be after God’s heart. Someone like me, who did not pursue their own entry and change at all while working, but instead blindly pursued fame, fortune, and status, ultimately only inflicted harm on more and more brothers and sisters, and would personally be eliminated in the end. When I thought about this, I understood that the stopping of my duty by the church was an environment set up by God targeting my wrong intentions and desires, as well as my corrupt nature, so that I might self-reflect and get to know myself, change my wrong views on pursuit, and follow the right path of pursuing the truth as soon as possible. In that moment, I truly felt God’s love, care, and thought, and could not help but pray to God: “Oh God! Thank You for bestowing Your great love upon me. I used to not understand Your intentions and thought that the possession of fame, fortune, and status would guarantee Your appreciation. This made me not care at all about pursuing the truth during my work. All I did was blindly pursue fame and fortune, which is completely at odds with Your requirements. By the enlightenment of Your word, I now understand Your intentions. I will no longer act in direct contravention to Your work as I had in the past. I will pursue dispositional change and follow the right path of pursuing the truth.”
Shortly after, the church again arranged for me to water the new believers, and also had me live together with a young sister. The young sister usually went to work. Seeing her so busy all the time, I decided to undertake all the household chores to leave her with a good impression. I never expected that several months later, our relationship actually became more and more strained, which I found especially depressing and painful. One day, when the sister came back from work and saw me doing the chores, she said bluntly that I was just doing this out of zealousness. Upon hearing this, I could no longer stop my tears of grievance from bursting out. At that moment, I really wanted to leave and never come back. But I then thought of how the sister was younger than me, and that she had not believed in God for a long time. If I could not put myself aside, and continued to hold a grudge against her, then how would the leaders of church and other brothers and sisters see me? They would say I showed no love for the young sister and that I was irresponsible. How would I be able to face them then? Facing such a situation, I really had no idea what to do. In pain, I came before God to pray: “Oh God! I am in so much pain. It’s as if there are heavy boulders pressing down on me, making it impossible for me to have the strength to escape. But I believe Your good intentions must lie in this situation that has befallen me. I only beg that You enlighten me so I can understand Your intentions and learn the lesson I should learn.” Soon after the, a sister came find me, so I opened my heart and communicated with her about my state. After listening to it, the sister said: “All of God’s work is for the sake of saving mankind, and all the situations that befall us are all meant to teach us lessons. If we have these negative things inside us, it means we still have some satanic toxins inside us that are despised by God. God will cleanse us and change us through these situations.” After the sister left, I tossed and turned in bed and could not fall asleep, thinking: What does God cleanse and change in me? Therefore, I got up and read God’s word: “You can discern a man’s nature and to whom he belongs from his view of life and values. Satan corrupts people through the education and influence of the national governments and the famous and great. Their nonsense has become man’s life and nature. ‘Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost’ is a well-known satanic saying that has been instilled into everyone and become the human life. There are some other words of life philosophy that are also like this. … There are still many satanic poisons in people’s lives, in their handling things, and in their conduct and dealings with others—they are almost without a shred of truth—for example, their life philosophies, their ways of doing things, and their maxims are filled with the poisons of the great red dragon, and they all come from Satan. So, what flows through people’s bones and blood are all things of Satan” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks). As I contemplated God’s words, I became immersed in thought: Over these last few months, why have I been living in such depression and pain? By which toxins of Satan is my behavior being dominated? Under the enlightenment of God, I felt my heart gradually brighten up inside, and I realized that the reason I had always paid so much attention to fame and status was the influence and deception of toxins of Satan such as “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” and “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries.” This made me care so much about face and vanity, as well as what others thought of me. Everything I did and said was to maintain my image and status in other people’s hearts. As soon as something impinged on my face or vanity, I would be in pain and torment. All this suffering and bitterness was because of Satan. I recalled that since moving in with the young sister, I had always gotten along with her cautiously in order to leave a good impression, afraid that I would leave a bad impression if I said or did anything wrong. I was therefore living obsequiously and acting like a fool. When the young sister dealt with me, I did not use the opportunity to know myself, but was full of opinions and prejudices against the sister because I didn’t want to lose face, and even wanted to escape this environment. To preserve my image and face, I did not dare to be open with the young sister even when I sometimes saw her reveal a bit of corruption or do something incompatible with the truth, fearing that I might offend her and cause our relationship to become more and more estranged. … These toxins of Satan, however, made me more and more hypocritical and cunning, which made my life very tiring and bitter. I really wished I could break through this dark cage and tear off my fake face, so that I might live with complete freedom and relief. But I could not do it on my own, so I poured my heart out to God: “Oh God! I used to treat praise and fame as a type of enjoyment. Now I know that I was wrong. Pursuit of these things is pain, depression, bondage, and constraint. Now I also see clearly that it was Satan’s philosophies that deceived and controlled me, making me pursue fame, fortune, and status, as well as face and vanity. All my pain has been brought by Satan. Oh God! I beg for Your salvation; show me the right path of practice, and give me the confidence and power to break through Satan’s trap and act in accordance with Your requirements.” After the prayer, I felt unprecedented relief. At the same time, I realized that I could only resolve my corrupt disposition through the pursuit of truth. Afterward, I saw the following passage of God’s words: “If you don’t focus on your relationships with people but maintain a proper relationship with God, if you are willing to give your heart to God and learn to obey Him, very naturally, your relationships with all people will become proper. This way, these relationships aren’t established on the flesh, but on the foundation of God’s love. There are almost no interactions based on the flesh, but in the spirit there is fellowship as well as love, comfort, and provision for one another. This is all done on the foundation of a heart that satisfies God. These relationships aren’t maintained by relying on a human philosophy of life, but they are formed very naturally through the burden for God. They don’t require human effort—they are practiced through the principles of the word of God. Are you willing to be considerate toward the will of God? … Are you willing to completely give your heart to God, and not consider your position among people?” (“Establishing a Proper Relationship With God Is Very Important” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words pointed out a clear way of practice to me, and that was to establish a proper relationship with God first of all and no longer try to maintain my image and status in people’s hearts. Instead, I should give my heart to God, practice the truth and obey God in everything. Moreover, I should associate with brothers and sisters on the foundation of God’s love, supplying and supporting each other and learning from each other’s strengths to make up for what we lack. When we have a proper relationship with God, we will naturally have proper relationships with other people. Hence, I privately made up my mind to act in accordance with God’s words to gradually dispel my corrupt disposition. Since then, I often consciously communicated with the young sister, read God’s words, and shared fellowship about the truth together. If we encountered problems in the performance of our duties that we could not resolve, we would pray to God together and look for answers in God’s words, and we no longer paid any attention to our relationship in the flesh. Imperceptibly, we got along with each other very well. The burden on my shoulders and the depression in my heart all evaporated, and a long-lost smile emerged on my face. I had truly experienced the relief and joy brought by practicing God’s words. I sincerely thank God for saving me.
After these few months of painful refinement, I finally understood why God would not let us use philosophies of life to maintain relationship with other people. It is because all those philosophies of life and so-called dictums are toxins Satan implants in people, and are tools used by Satan to bind and harm people. These satanic philosophies can only generate division, conflict, and death among people, and can only bring people depression and pain. This is because Satan itself is corruption and division, and only God’s words and what He requires of people can enable them to make peace with each other. Only by living in God’s words and acting in accordance with His words can people break through the dark influences of Satan and live with complete freedom and relief before God. At the same time, I also realized that my living together with the young sister was a wonderful arrangement by God, which was set up to target the deep-rooted toxins of Satan inside me and my practical needs. If God had not worked in this way, I would have never recognized the extent of the harm satanic toxins such as “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies” and “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face” had done to me. I would have still worshiped these toxins as positive things, which would have made me more and more corrupted, and ultimately head for perdition and destruction. These situations and trials were precisely God’s great salvation of me!
Later, I was elected as a leader of the church by my brothers and sisters. When I encountered issues in the beginning, I would often listen to suggestions from brothers and sisters, and did not care about how others would think of me. But it did not take long for my desire of pursuing fame and fortune to begin to expand again. Since I started fulfilling this duty earlier than the sister I was partnered with, brothers and sisters would naturally come to me more when they had difficulties. Gradually, I started getting carried away and thought that I was superior to that sister. When in meetings with that sister, I would always talk about some seemingly important doctrines to show off and win recognition and admiration from brothers and sisters, as well as to make them feel that I was better than her. Once, during a small group meeting, a thought came to my mind after the sister had just communicated for a little while: I must communicate more, or else brothers and sisters would think I am not as good as her. Thus, I butted in when there was a pause and began communicating non-stop. Just as I was really getting into it, a brother beside me interrupted me: “We can’t just talk about empty doctrines. We should communicate some practical experiences and knowledge so as to supply brothers and sisters.” After listening to the brother’s words, I felt as though I had been slapped in public. With my face flushed, I thought: I had originally intended to say a few extra words so that brothers and sisters will rate me highly, but now it has gotten so embarrassing for me! At the time, I wanted to find a hole in the ground to hide in. Just as I was feeling tortured inside, the brother read a passage from God’s word: “Some people particularly idolize Paul: They like to give speeches and work outside. They like to meet together; they like when people listen to them, worship them, and surround them. They like to have status in the minds of others and appreciate when others value their image. … If he really behaves in this way, then that is enough to show that he is arrogant and conceited. He does not worship God at all; he seeks high status, and he wants to have authority over others, to occupy them, to have status in their minds. What stands out about his nature is arrogance and conceit, unwillingness to worship God, and a desire for the worship of others. This is a classic image of Satan. You can see clearly into his nature from these behaviors” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Every word of was like a needle stabbing into my heart, making me even more ashamed. I recalled that before I believed in God, I particularly enjoyed being admired by everyone, and strived with my heart and soul to stand out and become a strong and successful woman. After this dream was shattered, I thought I could fulfill my dream of the fame, fortune, and status in the church. Especially during this period, I secretly competed against that sister in order to make brothers and sisters look up to me. On the surface, I was competing for status against a person, but in substance, I was vying with God for His chosen people. This is because those who believe in God should look up to God, worship Him, and give God a place in their hearts. Instead, I wanted to have a place in the hearts of brothers and sisters, and have them look up to me and worship me. Isn’t this blatant resistance of God? Only before the facts was I able to see that my nature is against God. If I do not experience God’s chastisement and judgment and achieve no change in my disposition, then even if I appear to be passionately and actively expending for God on the outside, I am in fact doing evil and resisting God. At the same time, I saw clearly that Satan corrupts mankind by instilling toxins into their minds and souls in various ways, making them scramble for fame, fortune, and status, and through this makes them gradually stray from God, betray God, and eventually drags them into hell. Thinking of this, I could not help but become afraid, and I also started to despise my blindness and foolishness, my deep corruption, and the satanic toxins that had taken root deep inside me. If I had not been under the dominion of fame, fortune, and status, I would not have been under the control of any person, occurrence, or thing, and would have only sought to satisfy God through fulfilling my duty as a created being. If I had not been controlled by fame, fortune, and status, I would have, through fulfilling my duty, focused on exalting God, witnessing God, and bringing brothers and sisters before Him. If I had not been controlled by fame, fortune, and status, I would not have lived in depression and torment every day, competing for supremacy with others in all things, focusing on other people’s assessments of me, and being completely unable to enjoy the relief and happiness brought by the truth. If I had not been controlled by fame, fortune, and status, I would have established proper relationships with brothers and sisters and supported and helped each other in spirit, rather than using a facade to deceive others for their trust and admiration. … This was all because of the harm of Satan’s toxins. Satan really is too despicable and too evil. It absolutely is a soul-devouring demon! Under the enlightenment and guidance of God, I developed the will and courage to forsake my flesh and practice the truth. So I prayed to God: “Oh God! It is the harm of fame, fortune, and status that has put me in today’s situation. To pursue these things, I left Your requirements behind, disobeying and resisting You over and over again and making You sad and disgusted. I now hate these things from the bottom of my heart. I will forsake them thoroughly. May You guide me in my future path.” Since then, I have kept a much lower profile, and during meetings I would start to focus on talking about my actual experiences. When brothers and sisters had problems, I would consciously open my heart to communicate with them about the states where I actually ran into problems myself and the enlightenment and guidance of God’s words, so that they may understand God’s intentions and know God’s love. When I acted this way, I felt more at ease and illuminated inside my heart, making every day especially fulfilling.
After experiencing God’s work for several years, I understood more clearly: Fame, fortune, and status are tricks used by Satan to fool people, chains used to bind people and means used to control people. People living under its domain can only be bound and fooled by it, without any freedom whatsoever and unable to live out the likeness of a true human being. On the other hand, God’s word is the truth, the way, and the life. People living under God’s word are living in the light and the blessings of God. Only by pursuing the truth can people embark upon the right path in life and obtain genuine freedom and liberation. Looking back at the pain and suffering that fame, fortune, and status has brought me, then at the salvation work God has performed on me, I really feel appreciative toward and indebted to God. To rescue me from the bondage of fame, fortune, and status, God elaborately arranged various environments, people, things, and occurrences, and led and guided me step by step by means of His work, allowing me to walk on the right path of life. Every environment and every manifestation was all elaborately planned by God, and behind each lies God’s great love and salvation for me. After experiencing chastisement and judgment over and over again, I gradually saw the reality of my corruption. I also gained some knowledge of God’s work, saw God’s holiness, greatness, and selflessness, and felt deeply God’s thought and care in saving mankind. In my future experiences, I shall be more willing to accept God’s chastisement and judgment, His trials and refinements, so that my corrupt disposition can be thoroughly cleansed and changed, and so I can genuinely live out a meaningful and valuable life!
a. The original text does not contain the phrase “desire for.”