23. Hanging by a Thread
By Zhang Hui, China
In 2005, not long after I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, I shared the gospel with a brother from my old church. Then one afternoon, Pastor Li and Co-worker Wang showed up at my house. My heart was pounding. I wondered, “What have they come for? Do they know I’ve accepted Almighty God? When other church members accepted Almighty God, they’d started rumors, intimidated them, and got their families to oppose their faith. What kinds of tactics will they use against me?” My son and daughter showed up pretty soon. I was puzzled. My kids had said they were really busy, so why would both of them come today? Had Pastor Li arranged that? I realized that they’d prepared for this in advance. I prayed to God right away: “Oh God, I don’t know what they’re going to try with me. My stature is too small to know how to face this. Please guide me and help me stay strong on the true way.” I felt calmer after praying.
Just then, Pastor Li smiled and said, “Brother Zhang, I’ve heard that you’ve accepted Eastern Lightning now. Is that true? No matter how much truth there is in Eastern Lightning, we cannot accept it. We’ve all believed in the Lord for many years, and have preached for Him. We all know that the Lord Jesus was crucified and became a sin offering, which redeemed us from our sin. We must uphold the name and the way of the Lord at all times. We cannot believe in another God. By departing from the Lord Jesus and believing in Almighty God, aren’t you betraying the Lord?”
I was unruffled, and said calmly, “Pastor Li, we have to be objective and practical. We must go by the evidence and not just arbitrarily condemn it. You haven’t investigated the way of Eastern Lightning or read Almighty God’s words, so how can you conclude that I’m betraying the Lord by accepting Eastern Lightning? Do you know where the truth comes from? Do you know who expresses the truth? The Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). God is the source of the truth. How can you say that no matter how much truth there is in Eastern Lightning, we can’t accept it? Isn’t that intentionally resisting the truth, and resisting God? Do we even count as believers in the Lord? I’ve read a lot of Almighty God’s words lately, and I’ve seen that they are all the truth, that they reveal many truths and mysteries. All my struggles through years of faith have been resolved through Almighty God’s words. I firmly believe that Almighty God is the return of the Lord Jesus. To follow Almighty God is to welcome the Lord’s coming! You say faith in Almighty God is a betrayal of the Lord Jesus. Does that accord with the truth? When the Lord Jesus came to work, lots of people left the temple to follow Him. Does that mean they betrayed Jehovah God? Although the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption was different from the work of proclaiming the law that Jehovah God did, and God’s name changed as well, the Lord Jesus and Jehovah are one and the same God. By believing in the Lord Jesus, they were not betraying Jehovah God, but they were following the footsteps of the Lamb and gaining God’s salvation. In fact, those who believed in Jehovah God but did not accept the Lord Jesus were the ones who were forsaking God and betraying Him. Almighty God’s work is different from the Lord Jesus’ and God’s name has changed, but They are one God. God just does different work in different ages. The Lord Jesus did the work of redemption in the Age of Grace, which was only forgiving our sins. He didn’t resolve mankind’s sinful nature. That’s why He promised He’d come again to do the work of judgment. Almighty God has come in the last days, expressing truths to judge us on the foundation of the Lord’s work of redemption to resolve our satanic dispositions and sinful nature, and fully save us from sin so we can be gained by God. Almighty God’s work and words completely fulfill the Lord Jesus’ prophecies. My belief in Almighty God is not a betrayal of the Lord Jesus. It is following the footsteps of the Lamb. Wouldn’t believing in the Lord Jesus without accepting Almighty God’s work of the last days make us just like the Pharisees, who only believed in Jehovah God and rejected the Lord Jesus? It’s those sorts of people who resist and betray the Lord! You should properly look into Almighty God’s work of the last days and see for yourselves if His words are God’s voice. Don’t arbitrarily judge and condemn it, or you could be condemned for opposing the Lord!”
Pastor Li looked really uncomfortable, so Co-worker Wang rushed to smooth things over: “We’re opposed to Eastern Lightning and don’t want our members involved in it to protect the church, to look after the flock. How could the Lord condemn us for that? Pastor Li feels a sense of responsibility for your life. He doesn’t want you to take the wrong path! You’ve been a co-worker, and you’ve done so much for the church. Everyone respects and trusts you. They’d all be so disappointed if you left to go believe in Almighty God!” Pastor Li rushed to chime in, “Co-worker Wang is right. You’ve worked so hard all these years. It would be such a shame to just walk away from the name you’ve made for yourself! Come back. Everyone’s waiting for you. Our church has set up a retirement home, we’ve made connections with religious groups abroad and they’re giving us financial support. If you come back, we’ll provide a car for you right away. If you’d like to manage the retirement home, or manage the church, or continue to take care of the church’s finances, that’s all up to you.”
The more I listened to them, the more I felt something was off. How could believers say something like that? The devil’s temptation of the Lord Jesus in the Bible came to mind: “Again, the devil takes Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said to Him, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8–9). Didn’t all those things they were saying have exactly the same feeling, the same tone as what Satan said? “This is a ruse of Satan’s!” I thought. “They’re luring me away from the true way with status and money, to betray Almighty God. They’re trying to trap me, to do me in!” I’d been a believer for over 10 years and was so lucky to welcome the Lord’s return. I knew I couldn’t be taken in by Satan and betray the Lord. So I said, “I’ve heard God’s voice and found the way of eternal life. I choose to follow God. You can save your breath. I will not depart from Almighty God.”
Then my daughter started crying and said, “Dad, just listen to me for a moment! Mom just passed away. We’ve suffered enough. With you believing in Eastern Lightning and being expelled from the church, the brothers and sisters will shun us too!” I hated seeing my daughter cry like that. A fierce internal struggle arose within me. “If I agreed to rejoin the church, I wouldn’t be spurned and I’d keep my position, but that would be closing the door on the Lord. That would be a grave betrayal!” There were no easy options. In the midst of this pain I silently cried out to God: “Oh Almighty God, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Please give me faith and strength to avoid being disturbed, and so I can take a stance and resolutely follow You.” Some of Almighty God’s words I’d read a few days before came to mind just then: “You must be awake and waiting at all times, and you must pray before Me more. You must recognize the various plots and cunning schemes of Satan, recognize the spirits, know people, and be able to discern all kinds of people, events, and things” (“Chapter 17” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words gave me strength and alerted me that I needed to practice discernment. Satan’s tricks were behind what I was faced with that day. Satan was using status and family ties to try to entice and attack me, disturbing my mind with the goal of having me betray God. I could not fall into Satan’s trap! I said to my children, “I’ve looked into it and it’s all clear. Almighty God is the true God, and His words and work are the true way. We’ve so longed for the Lord’s coming all these years. Now that He’s come and is expressing truths for His judgment work, we have to keep up with His work, and accept God’s judgment and cleansing so we can escape the disasters and get into God’s kingdom. We shouldn’t be afraid of being rejected by others, but of being eliminated by the Lord, of missing the chance to be raptured. We’d then be weeping and gnashing our teeth in the great disasters! You should take a look at Almighty God’s words. You’ll hear the voice of God in them. Then you can confirm that Almighty God is Christ of the last days!” My kids stopped pushing the issue, and I silently gave thanks for God’s guidance.
They wouldn’t budge, but just left in a huff. They came back a few days later to tempt me with a potential marriage. Pastor Li said, “You’ve just lost your wife, your daughter’s married, and your son isn’t around much. It must be really hard for you to be all alone. You really should have someone here to cook for you. Sister Wang at church is single, too. She’s well-off, well-liked, and enthusiastic in her faith. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the two of you could come together, be there for each other, and serve the Lord together?” Sister Wang called me that evening, and she kept urging me not to believe in Eastern Lightning anymore. She also said that if I was short of money for my son’s marriage, I need only say the word. Hearing this left me feeling really torn. When my wife was sick and bedridden, our daughter got into a car accident while getting medicine for her. It put her in the hospital. Sister Wang came to take care of both my wife and daughter. I’d always been so grateful to her. Would I hurt Sister Wang’s feelings if I didn’t take her advice? But by going along with her to protect our relationship I’d be betraying the Lord. I was really distraught, and prayed to God over and over. I struggled with it for a bit, then very delicately turned her down.
One day, Pastor Li came and found me while I was working in the fields. He said, “Brother Zhang, if not for yourself, think of your children. Your son just got engaged, and his fiancée’s entire family believes in the Lord. If they find out that you believe in Almighty God, would they still let her marry into your family? Wouldn’t that be disastrous for your son’s marriage? You should give it some more thought.” At this, I thought, “You’re threatening me with my son’s wedding to keep me from the true way. That’s despicable!” I said in no uncertain terms, “My faith in Almighty God is my own business. It’s got nothing to do with my son’s marriage. Besides, whether his marriage works out is in God’s hands. I’ve determined that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned and I’ll follow Him until the end. My children don’t understand, but one day they will.” At first I thought it was all talk on Pastor Li’s part, but shockingly, he was actually using something as important as that to get me to betray Almighty God.
I went to my son’s welding shop a few days later. He furrowed his brows and said, “Dad, my fiancée said Pastor Li went to see her family and told them you believe in Eastern Lightning. She said if you don’t give that up, the wedding is off.” I was aghast and infuriated. Pastor Li really was using my son’s marriage to threaten me. How could a believer in the Lord do something so despicable? Seeing my son so crestfallen, I felt terrible. It was just 18 days before their wedding date. Was it really going to fall through that way? Tears filled my eyes. He went on, “Dad, she also said that she has three conditions for getting married. First is to terminate our father-and-son relationship. Second is to not take care of you in your old age. Third is to cut off all family ties. My mom is no longer with us. Please stop believing in Eastern Lightning for the sake of our family.” Hearing my son’s words and seeing his face full of pain pierced my heart like a knife. Just because I believed in Almighty God, these clergy members were treating me like an enemy, forcing my son to cut off ties with me. That’s disgusting! I said to my son, “My child, you’re an adult now and you don’t need me to take care of you. I’m old. I just want to practice my faith and follow God for the rest of my days. I hope you can understand.” At that, I turned around and left the shop. Back at home, I came before God in prayer: “Almighty God! The pastor is using every trick in the book to hassle me and coerce me. My son is going to cut off all ties with me. I feel so weak right now. Please guide me and give me faith.”
Brother Lin from The Church of Almighty God came by my place the next day and I told him what had been going on. He read a passage of Almighty God’s words for me. “In every step of work that God does within people, externally it appears to be interactions between people, as if born of human arrangements or from human interference. But behind the scenes, every step of work, and everything that happens, is a wager made by Satan before God, and requires people to stand firm in their testimony to God. Take when Job was tried, for example: Behind the scenes, Satan was making a bet with God, and what happened to Job was the deeds of men and the interference of men. Behind every step of work that God does in you is Satan’s wager with God—behind it all is a battle. … Everything people do requires them to pay a certain price in their efforts. Without actual hardship, they cannot satisfy God; they do not even come close to satisfying God, and they are just spouting empty slogans!” (“Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). When he talked about spiritual battles in the context of these words from God, I understood that when we’re hindered, hassled, and coerced by clergy, it may look like it’s done by people, but in fact, it’s Satan trying to disrupt us. Wherever God is working, Satan is there interfering. Satan hates God’s work to save mankind, so it uses all sorts of tactics and tricks to keep people from following God, to bring people down to hell with it. Pastor Li and the others tried to keep me from the true way, badgering me time after time, saying they’d give me a car, have me manage the church’s finances or the retirement home. They also offered to find me a wife. When none of that worked, they used my son’s marriage to threaten me. They tried both the carrot and the stick. It was so sinister and malicious.
Brother Lin shared more fellowship: “When the Lord Jesus appeared and worked, the leaders of the Jewish faith hated the truth and hated God. They were well aware the Lord Jesus’ way was authoritative. Not only did they refuse to look into it, but they madly resisted, condemned, and blasphemed Him. They did everything they could to stop people from following Him and had a hand in His crucifixion. They did this because they were afraid that they’d lose their status and their living if people followed the Lord Jesus. Just as it’s written in the Bible, ‘Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man does many miracles. If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. … Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death’ (John 11:47, 48, 53). God has come in the last days to do the work of judgment to cleanse and save mankind. Religious clergy know that Almighty God’s words are the truth, but they don’t seek or investigate them. They even frantically resist and condemn Him, and stop others from following Him. How is their essence any different from the Pharisees’, who opposed the Lord Jesus? The Lord Jesus long ago condemned and cursed those hypocrites. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in’ (Matthew 23:13). ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matthew 23:15). Almighty God’s words also expose the essence and root cause of religious leaders’ opposition to God.” Almighty God says, ‘There are those who read the Bible in grand churches and recite it all day long, yet not one among them understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one among them is able to know God; still less can any one among them accord with God’s will. They are all worthless, vile people, each standing on high to lecture God. They willfully oppose God even as they carry His banner. Claiming faith in God, still they eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such people are devils that devour the soul of man, head demons that deliberately get in the way of those trying to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks impeding those who seek God. They may appear of “sound constitution,” but how are their followers to know that they are none other than antichrists who lead people to stand against God? How are their followers to know that they are living devils dedicated to the devouring of human souls?’ (“All People Who Do Not Know God Are People Who Oppose God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading God’s words, I better understood religious leaders’ demonic nature of hating the truth and resisting God. They furiously resist and condemn Almighty God and persecute brothers and sisters who bear witness to God’s work of the last days because they want to maintain power over God’s sheep forever. They want God’s sheep to be theirs, to keep them firmly under control. They stop believers from doing what they can’t do—get into God’s kingdom. They’re going to hell and dragging others down with them. They truly are a pack of demons! If I hadn’t personally experienced those clergy members’ efforts to stand in the way, if it weren’t for God incarnate appearing and working in the last days, exposing these evil servants and antichrists hiding out in churches, I never would have seen their demonic essence of opposing God. I’d have been misled and ruined by them without being any the wiser. I saw their hypocritical, hideous faces and my faith to follow Almighty God grew stronger.
I kept sharing the gospel with brothers and sisters from my old church. When we were in a gathering one morning, Pastor Li and his crew came to my house again, and he said, “We’ve told you over and over to give up Eastern Lightning. Not only do you refuse to listen, but you’re stealing my sheep and preaching Eastern Lightning to them. Do you really want to go up against me?” I said, “Pastor Li, it’s not right to say that. The church is God’s, and the flock is His, too. You’re just a pastor. How can you say the sheep are yours? I’m sharing the gospel with brothers and sisters so they can hear God’s voice and return before His throne. This is right and proper. Why would you stand in the way of that? Everyone’s feeling weak and negative. They’re spiritually parched and in darkness. They’re not getting any life sustenance. Almighty God has uttered words, giving us the way of eternal life. Why don’t you want people to read them? Why would you strip people of their right and freedom to look into the true way? By keeping them from doing that, aren’t you letting them die of thirst and leaving them stranded in religion? Is that being a good servant or an evil servant?” Pastor Li’s face changed immediately and he shouted furiously, “I see you’re beyond help. If you won’t follow us in your faith, just you wait, you’ll be punished in hell!” I said, “You don’t have any say over whether I go to hell. You don’t even know how to recognize the Lord’s voice or welcome Him. How could you lead others to His kingdom? Only Christ of the last days is our gate into the kingdom of heaven. I’ve found the way of eternal life through Him. The responsibility for my life lies with God, not you.” They left in dejection after I said that. No one came to bother me again.
I gained some discernment over Satan’s tricks after getting through this spiritual battle. I also saw that pastors and elders in religion are just hypocritical Pharisees, that they’re antichrists who deny and resist Christ. I was completely freed from their strictures. Almighty God’s words led me every step to triumph over Satan and stand firm on the true way. I truly give thanks to God! Thinking back over everything I went through, it was all a big test. I was skirting the edges of life and death. Without the guidance of God’s words, I never could have seen through Satan’s ploys. If I’d followed the flesh and bowed to Satan, stepping off the right path, that would have been a serious betrayal of God. I would have offended God’s disposition and completely lost my chance at salvation. I really was hanging by a thread! I’m so grateful for God’s protection and salvation!