38. God Is by My Side
By Guozi, United States
I was born into a Christian family, and when I was one year old, my mom accepted the new work of the Lord Jesus returned—Almighty God—though my grandma was strongly opposed to it. I remember when I was little, my grandma would most often say to me, “If you don’t feel well or you can’t do your homework, just pray to the Lord Jesus. He’ll give you intelligence and wisdom, and He’ll keep you safe.” My mom, though, would often tell me, “God created this world and He created mankind. He’s always with us. Remember to pray to Almighty God when you encounter any issue and He will watch over you and protect you.” These two different voices frequently sounded in my ears. I once asked my mom uncertainly, “Grandma wants me to pray to the Lord Jesus and you want me to pray to Almighty God. Who should I listen to?” She said, “Actually, the Lord Jesus and Almighty God are the same God. It’s just that the times are different, the names God adopts are different, and the work He does also differs. The Lord Jesus did the work of the Age of Grace, and Almighty God does the work of the Age of Kingdom. He changes the way He works in every age, and He also changes His name. But no matter how His name and His work may change, His essence doesn’t change. For example, today you’re wearing red to go to school and tomorrow you’ll wear blue to go to a restaurant—even though you’re wearing different clothing, and doing different things in different places, you’re still you. But when God’s new age arrives, we have to keep up with His new work. That’s why we should pray to Almighty God now.” Even though I listened to my mom’s explanation, I still felt very perplexed and still harbored a somewhat doubtful attitude toward Almighty God’s new work.
In August 2014, I came to the United States to study abroad. My mom also came after a few months and got in touch with The Church of Almighty God in the US. From that time on, I began little by little to perceive the existence of Almighty God. When I had just arrived in the US for my studies, I found it really difficult to adapt to life here, particularly living in someone else’s home on my own. I’m really timid, so I was afraid to sleep alone. My mom told me, “We must believe that God’s authority is unique. Satan and demons are also under His authority, so when you’re scared at night just pray to God. As long as you have God in your heart, Satan can’t get near you.” Every time I listened to my mom give fellowship, I would feel much more at peace and at ease.
In December 2015 I started attending gatherings at The Church of Almighty God, but because I still didn’t have much understanding about matters of faith, I would quite often have to force myself to attend. It was only later after experiencing two events that I came to appreciate practically God’s true existence, after which I was able to confirm from the bottom of my heart that Almighty God is the one true God, and that He is always by my side …
It was a Friday afternoon and I just had one art class left before I was done with school for the day and could go home. A classmate suddenly said to me, “Let’s skip our last class and go downtown to have some food and window-shop. I heard there’s a new seafood restaurant that’s really good.” Hearing this, I was tempted—I hadn’t had anything to eat for lunch and I was really hungry. My stomach was growling, almost as if it was urging me to hurry to the seafood restaurant. But I was still hesitant. “I’ve never skipped a class,” I thought. “What if I’m caught?” But then I thought: “Xiaoli from our class skips even important classes and has done it so many times without being found out, so I won’t be caught either.” I therefore agreed to go with my classmate and asked my art teacher to excuse my absence, saying that I had to go to the doctor that afternoon and needed to leave early. Then my classmate and I took a taxi downtown to window-shop and eat, and I didn’t get home until eight or nine that evening. After getting back, I got an email from a teacher in charge of international students asking me to bring documentation from my visit to the doctor when I was next in school. Seeing that, I panicked, and hurriedly discussed it with my classmates. One said, “You don’t have to give the teacher any documentation. That’s private.” I felt that what she said was right, but since I was in the wrong in this matter, I felt embarrassed to indignantly argue on my own behalf. I therefore asked my landlady to help me think of a way out of it. She told me to go to the person in charge and admit my error. After listening to what she said, my heart was tied up in knots—I didn’t know if I should admit fault or continue with my deception. I tossed and turned that night, unable to sleep. I wanted to admit my fault, but I was afraid of what my teacher and classmates would think of me, that the positive image I usually maintained would be destroyed in the blink of an eye. In the midst of my pain, I came before God to pray and seek, and then I read this passage of God’s words: “But deceitful people do not act this way. They live based on the philosophy of Satan and their deceitful nature and substance. They have to be cautious in everything they do lest others have something on them; in everything they do, they have to use their own methods, and their own deceitful and crooked manipulation, to cover up their true face, for fear that sooner or later they’ll give themselves away—and when they do show their true colors, they try to turn things around. When they try to turn things around, there are times when it’s not so easy, and when they can’t, they start getting anxious. They’re afraid that others will see through them; when that happens, they feel they’ve shamed themselves, and then they have to think of ways to say something to retrieve the situation. … In their minds, they’re always thinking about how to prevent you misunderstanding them, how to get you to listen to what they’re saying and regard what they’re doing in a way that achieves the aims of their motivations. And so they go over and over it in their head. When they can’t sleep at night they think about it; during the day, if they can’t eat they’re thinking about it; during discussions with others they deliberate it. They’re always putting on a front, so that you don’t think they’re that kind of person, so that you think they’re good, or that you don’t think that’s what they meant” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in Records of Christ’s Talks). One after another, every one of God’s words exposed my inner thoughts, as though a light had suddenly shone on the dark side of my heart, exposing it to the light, leaving me feeling terribly ashamed and with nowhere to hide. “It’s true!” I thought. “I skipped class and lied, and afterward not only did I not take the initiative to admit my error, but I racked my brains to think of a way to cover up for my lie, to cover up the truth. I didn’t feel the slightest guilt or remorse. I even felt that the teacher in charge of international students should mind his own business. Oh! This kind of behavior is rebellious against God and it disgusts God! Not one of my thoughts or deeds is remotely in accord with God’s requirements—this is not how a believer in God behaves! No, I must not resolve my problems the way unbelievers do. I have to repent to God and act according to His requirements. I have to speak honestly and be an honest person.”
So, on the next school day I went to the teacher and admitted my error in skipping class. I was shocked when the teacher in charge didn’t criticize me at all, but instead said I was very honest and that it was good to be able to admit to a mistake! But there still had to be a punishment for skipping class, so the teacher gave me detention for one class period after classes let out, so that I could think about what I’d done. Although I received a very small punishment for skipping class and lying, I felt that this was God protecting me. Later, I fellowshiped with my church sister about this event at a gathering. After listening to my account, she read this passage of God’s words for me: “If you believe in God’s sovereignty, then you have to believe that everyday occurrences, be they good or bad, do not happen at random. It is not that someone is deliberately being hard on you or targeting you; this was all arranged by God. Why does God orchestrate all these things? It is not to reveal you for who you are or to expose you; exposing you is not the end goal. The goal is to perfect you and save you. How does God do that? He starts by making you aware of your own corrupt disposition, of your nature and essence, of your shortcomings, and of what you lack. Only by knowing these things and having a clear understanding of them can you pursue the truth and gradually cast off your corrupt disposition. This is God providing you with an opportunity” (“To Gain the Truth, You Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Around You” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Through fellowship on God’s words, I came to understand why nothing happened even though my classmates had skipped class so many times, but I was found out by the teacher the very first time: It was indeed God’s sovereignty. God set up an environment in a practical way to expose me, chasten me, and discipline me; it was done so that I might understand my own satanic nature and know my corrupt disposition of lying and cheating, and thus pursue the truth, be an honest person, and live out a human likeness. This was God loving and saving me! In the past, everyone would praise me for being a good kid, and I always thought that was the case, too. But through the revelation of the facts and being judged and exposed by God’s words, I finally realized the crookedness and deceitfulness of my own nature. I was able to brazenly lie and cheat, and I was of really small stature; at all times and in all places, I was capable of going along with unbelievers and living within my corrupt dispositions, thereby shaming God’s name. The teacher gave me detention—although I suffered a bit in the flesh, it made me remember this lesson, and I would never again lie or cheat in the future. If I had gotten away with skipping class that time, I would have wanted to do it again when afterward faced with tests and temptation. Then, I would have just lied and lied, become more and more slippery and deceitful, and in the end I would have been completely carried off by Satan. By that time God would no longer even acknowledge me because He loves and saves honest people and hates and eliminates deceitful people. At that moment I finally saw clearly what great harm lying does, and I also saw how critical, how important it is to be an honest person!
We had a math exam not long after that. While I was reviewing on the evening before, I discovered that there were still a lot of topics I hadn’t mastered. Considering the exam was on the next day, I became really anxious. Because that term’s grades were the most important for getting into university, they would look at my grades from that year, and if I failed math, all of my past hard work would have been in vain. The more I thought about it, the more stressed I felt. The next day, literally minutes before the exam, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to bring the notebook I had written all the formulas in. I was thrown into total confusion. I had secretly written down lots of example questions in that notebook, but now that it was lost, I was sure to fail the exam. Holding on to a shred of hope, I looked everywhere, hoping that I had accidentally dropped it on the floor somewhere. Just as I was looking high and low, I spied the answers on the exam paper of the student sitting next to me. I rejoiced at this stroke of luck, feeling like I had suddenly seen a ray of hope. I stole a furtive glance at the teacher and saw that he was engrossed in work in front of the computer. I then quickly made a pass through all of the math exam questions and then I tapped the student next to me, motioning to him to compare our answers. Though I’d said I wanted to compare answers, in fact I wanted to copy his answers onto my own exam paper. On tenterhooks the whole time, I surreptitiously got through the entire math exam in this way.
I thought I had finally taken care of the subject I least excelled at and was planning to go have a great time once vacation started. Much to my surprise, however, a few days later the school held a meeting for parents and guardians, and my landlady went in my stead to pick up my report card. She said I got good grades in everything, but my math grade hadn’t been entered in with the rest because the school suspected that there could be an issue of academic integrity. When I heard this, my heart instantly dropped into my shoes—I was worried and flustered, and I didn’t know what to do. I thought to myself over and over: “Issue with academic integrity? Could they have found out I copied my classmate’s answers? If that’s the case, what should I do? Plagiarism is a really serious problem and it could even impact my chances of getting into university. But right now, the school just suspects it, so I still have hope. It’ll be fine as long as I can give a clear explanation, but how should I explain it? I really did commit plagiarism. Maybe I should just go and admit it?” I turned this over and over in my mind. My classmates suggested that I never admit it under any circumstances whatsoever, that I should just come up with any excuse and bluff my way through it. But then I thought: “That’s not something a believer in God should do. What on earth am I going to do?” It just so happened that there was a church gathering that evening, so I opened up to my sisters in fellowship about the situation I was in. One of my sisters had me read a passage of God’s words: “By now, people have listened to a lot of sermons on the truth and have experienced a great deal of God’s work. Nevertheless, because of the interference and obstruction caused by many different factors and circumstances, most people cannot succeed in putting the truth into practice, nor are they able to satisfy God. People have grown increasingly slack and are increasingly lacking in confidence. … God’s wishes only to bestow these truths upon them and instill them with His way, and then arrange various circumstances in order to try them in different ways. His goal is to take these words, these truths, and His work, and bring about an outcome whereby humans are capable of fearing Him and shunning evil. Most people I have seen merely take God’s words and regard them as doctrines, mere letters on paper, regulations to be observed. In their actions and speech, or while facing trials, they do not regard God’s way as the one that they should abide by. This is especially true when people are faced with major trials; I have not seen any such person practicing in the direction of fearing God and shunning evil” (“How to Know God’s Disposition and the Results His Work Shall Achieve” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I felt reproach in my heart after reading these words. Even though I understood a little about the truth about being an honest person and had not long before undergone God’s chastening and disciplining in that respect, as soon as I faced another trial I was still unable to put the truth into practice. I very clearly knew that plagiarism was wrong, but for the sake of my own grades, I clean forgot about the truth of God requiring that we be honest people. Not only did I not bear witness, but I had shamed God. I couldn’t sleep that night, turning it over and over in my mind. I finally resolved to be an honest person and to no longer shame God’s name for the sake of upholding my own personal interests. Once I came to that decision, I leaped out of bed, turned on the computer, and wrote a self-criticism, confessing my wrongdoing. The next morning, I got to school very early and handed my self-criticism over to my teacher, apologized to him for my behavior, and guaranteed that in the future I would never again engage in any cheating. I steeled myself to receive zero points for math and was willing to accept any punishment the school gave me. I never could have imagined that the teacher would actually decide to let me take the exam again. In that moment, I couldn’t help but express my thanks and praise to God from the bottom of my heart: Thanks be to God for showing me mercy! This showed me that God scrutinizes the innermost heart of man, and when I set aside my own personal interests and practiced the truth of being an honest person, God opened up a way out for me and had the teacher allow me to retake the exam. I genuinely felt that God was by my side, observing every move I made, and arranging all the people, events, things and environments around me so that I could personally experience His true existence. God’s love for me is so real!
What came as an even greater surprise was that, a few days later, there was a schoolwide assembly to issue certificates of merit for straight-A students that term. When the teacher announced my name, I thought it was a mistake. Only when some of my classmates said something to me did I realize that I really was receiving a certificate of merit. My classmates were all really surprised, wondering how I could get a certificate of merit after I’d committed plagiarism in my math exam. I silently exclaimed within my heart: “This is all God’s deeds! I know that this certificate isn’t for my grades, but it is God giving me an award for practicing being an honest person.” This confirmed even more for me that God truly is by my side at all times and is watching over me at every moment. Everything God arranges for me always works out the best.
Now I’m enjoying gatherings and reading God’s words more and more. Even though I still reveal my corrupt dispositions in life, no matter what I encounter, I can always fellowship with my sisters and seek the truth from God’s words to resolve my problems. Through working together and cooperating in practical ways, I have come to understand more and more truths, and I put them into practice with greater and greater strength. I feel that God is by my side, and that He can expose me at any time through various people, events, and things, and He also uses His words to lead and guide me to enter into the truth. I now feel that my relationship with God is growing ever closer, and I am absolutely certain that Almighty God is the true God, and that at all times and in all places, He is the God who keeps watch by my side, and who cares for me and protects me!