54. A Spiritual Battle
By Yang Zhi, USA
Almighty God says, “Since people began to believe in God, they have harbored many incorrect intentions. When you are not putting the truth into practice, you feel that all your intentions are correct, but when something happens to you, you will see that there are many incorrect intentions within you. Thus, when God makes people perfect, He causes them to realize that there are many notions within them that are obstructing their knowledge of God. When you recognize that your intentions are wrong, if you are able to stop practicing according to your notions and intentions, and are able to bear testimony to God, and stand firm in your position in all that happens to you, this proves that you have rebelled against the flesh. When you rebel against the flesh, there will inevitably be a battle within you. Satan will try and make people follow it, will try and make them follow the notions of the flesh and uphold the interests of the flesh—but God’s words will enlighten and illuminate people within, and at this time it is up to you whether you follow God or follow Satan. God asks people to put the truth into practice primarily to deal with the things inside them, to deal with their thoughts and notions that are not after God’s heart. The Holy Spirit touches people in their hearts and enlightens and illuminates them. So behind everything that happens is a battle: Every time people put the truth into practice, or put the love of God into practice, there is a great battle, and though all may seem well with their flesh, in the depths of their hearts a life-and-death battle will, in fact, be going on—and only after this intense battle, after a tremendous amount of reflection, can victory or defeat be decided. One does not know whether to laugh or cry. Because many of the intentions within people are wrong, or else because much of God’s work is at odds with their notions, when people put the truth into practice, a great battle is waged behind the scenes. Having put this truth into practice, behind the scenes, people will have shed countless tears of sadness before finally making up their mind to satisfy God. It is because of this battle that people endure suffering and refinement; this is true suffering. When the battle comes upon you, if you are able to truly stand on the side of God, you will be able to satisfy God” (“Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading God’s words, I felt deeply that practicing the truth isn’t a simple matter at all, and a spiritual battle really is necessary. Several years ago, my sister-in-law was revealed to be an evildoer. The church intended to expel her, but I was constrained by my feelings and unable to practice the truth. In my heart, I struggled back and forth, and was quite miserable. Finally, through the judgment and revelations of God’s word, I clearly saw the danger and consequences of acting on my emotions. Only then was I able to forsake my flesh, let go of my feelings, expose and reject the evildoer, and finally enjoy the peace and security brought about by practicing the truth.
It was in 2017 that I returned to take up leadership duties in my local church. At a meeting, my brothers and sisters told me that in the course of her duties as a church leader, Han Bing, my sister-in-law, while fellowshiping at meetings, had endeavored to show off by speaking superficial words and doctrines. Everywhere she had gone, she had talked about what duties she had performed and how she had suffered, which made others worship and listen to her. After the brothers and sisters had spoken to her about some issues that existed in their duties, she had not fellowshiped on the truth to resolve these problems, but had lectured others condescendingly. Her lectures had caused some of the brothers and sisters to live in a state of negativity and lose all interest in their duties. Later, Han Bing had been replaced. After that, she had refused to reflect and come to understand herself, and she still had caused provocations and strife among brothers and sisters, disrupting church life. The church leaders had fellowshiped with her several times, and also dealt with her and criticized her, but she had refused to accept any of it. She had remained disobedient and dissatisfied, and continued to spread negativity, causing severe disruption to church life. … When I heard Han Bing had been behaving this way, I was furious. I recalled God’s words: “Those who give vent to their poisonous, malicious talk within the church, who spread rumors, foment disharmony, and form cliques among the brothers and sisters—they should have been expelled from the church. Yet because now is a different era of God’s work, these people are restricted, for they face certain elimination. All who have been corrupted by Satan have corrupt dispositions. Some have nothing more than corrupt dispositions, while others are different: Not only do they have corrupt satanic dispositions, but their nature is also extremely malicious. Not only do their words and actions reveal their corrupt, satanic dispositions; these people are, moreover, the genuine devil Satan. Their behavior interrupts and disturbs God’s work, it impairs the brothers’ and sisters’ entry into life, and it damages the normal life of the church. Sooner or later, these wolves in sheep’s clothing must be cleared out; an unsparing attitude, an attitude of rejection, should be adopted toward these lackeys of Satan. Only this is standing on the side of God, and those who fail to do so are wallowing in the mire with Satan” (“A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). When I remembered this passage of God’s words, I understood clearly that when measured by God’s words, Han Bing’s nature and essence were indeed those of an evildoer. The church leaders and co-workers analyzed her behavior against God’s words, and said that even though she could make sacrifices and expend herself, and was capable of suffering and paying a price while fulfilling her duties, she was arrogant and self-important, didn’t accept the truth at all, was arbitrary and rash, disturbed church life, and refused to correct her mistakes even after being told to. This made her an evildoer. According to the regulations of the work arrangements of God’s house, such people must be expelled. After hearing so many brothers and sisters say that she should be expelled from the church, I felt very conflicted: From looking at her behaviors, I could see that she really was an evildoer, and should be expelled, but she was my wife’s younger sister, and my parents-in-law treated me well and cared very much for my family. If they learned I had voted to expel Han Bing, then wouldn’t they think I was merciless, ungrateful, and unappreciative of family? How would I be able to face my in-laws after doing such a thing? But as a church leader, if I didn’t act according to principles, knowing full well that there was an evildoer in the church yet not expelling her, and if I continued to allow this evildoer to disrupt church life and harm God’s chosen people, wouldn’t that make me an evildoer’s accomplice and an enemy of God? I was afraid to think about it further. At the time, I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place. I didn’t know what to do. Sister Zhou saw that I looked troubled, and said to me, “Brother Yang, Han Bing has disrupted church life time and time again, and she doesn’t show the slightest sign of repentance. Based on principle, she should be expelled from the church. This is protecting the work of the church. That is the most important thing! We need to consider God’s will, and not act on our own emotions and personal feelings.” After listening to her, I felt even more conflicted.
Just then, some of the brothers and sisters advised, “Han Bing has believed in God for so many years, she has forsaken her family and career to fulfill her duties, and she has suffered much. We think she should be given another chance to repent.” When I heard those words, I knew clearly that these brothers and sisters only said that because they had been deceived by Han Bing’s outward appearance of doing good deeds, and that I should fellowship on the truth with them to analyze Han Bing’s behavior so that they could discern her nature and essence. But then I thought, Han Bing is the favorite daughter of my parents-in-law, my mother-in-law is muddle-headed in her belief in God, and has no discernment, and my wife is overly emotional. If I decided to expel Han Bing and expose and analyze her evil behavior to my brothers and sisters, then wouldn’t I be blatantly offending my wife’s entire family? If I said a few good words about Han Bing in front of the brothers and sisters, and then fellowshiped with her to ask her to repent and not cause any further disturbances, then there’s a chance she might not need to be expelled from the church, and that way, I wouldn’t have to offend my wife’s family. This idea alleviated some of the anxiety I was feeling, so I said to my brothers and sisters, “Han Bing has indeed done evil deeds and committed transgressions, but it is God’s will to save people to the greatest extent possible, so we should give her another chance to repent. If she does evil again, it won’t be too late to expel her then, and we can get her to accept it wholeheartedly.” When Sister Zhou heard me say these specious words, she seemed to want to say something, but in the end she stayed silent. No one else said anything more either, and I felt some of the tension in my heart ease. I thought to myself that I finally didn’t need to worry anymore about offending my parents-in-law. But two days later, I suddenly developed mouth ulcers—three of them. My mouth felt like it was on fire; it burned like crazy. Sometimes it was so painful that I was unable to speak or eat, and the pain got so bad it even woke me up at night. In the midst of my agony, I prayed to God: “God, I know that these excruciating ulcers in my mouth and on my tongue did not simply develop by coincidence; this is Your chastening and discipline of me. O God! I wish to repent to You.”
Later, during my devotionals, I saw this passage of God’s words: “People who genuinely believe in God always have Him in their hearts, and they always carry within them a God-revering heart, a God-loving heart. Those who believe in God should do things cautiously and prudently, and all that they do should be in accordance with God’s requirements and able to satisfy His heart. They should not be headstrong, doing whatever they please; that does not befit saintly propriety. People must not run amok, waving the flag of God all over the place while swaggering and swindling everywhere; this is the most rebellious sort of conduct. Families have their rules, and nations have their laws—and isn’t it even more so in the house of God? Aren’t the standards even stricter? Aren’t there even more administrative decrees? People are free to do what they want, but the administrative decrees of God cannot be altered at will. God is a God who does not tolerate offense from humans; He is a God who puts people to death. Do people really not know this already?” (“A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words left me shaking with fear. I saw that His disposition is holy, righteous, and brooks no offense. In God’s house, Christ and the truth hold power. God’s attitude toward evildoers who disrupt and disturb church work is loathing and disgust. And for those who have discernment but continue to stand on the side of evildoers and speak on their behalf, God’s attitude is extreme disgust and fury. Han Bing, as someone who refused to practice the truth, who caused provocations and strife, and who disrupted and disturbed church work, was precisely the kind of evildoer revealed by God’s work, and was one who ought to be expelled. But to protect my relationship with my wife’s family, I blatantly went against my conscience by selling out the principles of the truth. I shielded and made excuses for an evildoer. I stood by an evildoer’s side, and acted to protect her. Didn’t this make me the helper and accomplice of an evildoer? God honored me by giving me a leadership duty, but I had no reverence for Him at all. I clearly understood the truth, yet didn’t practice it, instead engaging in a deliberate deception to keep an evildoer in the church, where she had disrupted church life and done harm to my brothers and sisters. I was knowingly and deliberately offending God’s disposition! My actions might deceive other people, but they couldn’t deceive God. God sees what is in our hearts. How could He ever tolerate someone like me, who had acted with such arbitrary rashness? I had already committed a transgression, and I knew that if I didn’t repent, God would eliminate me. So I hurriedly prayed to God to repent. After discussing it with several of my co-workers, we compiled a list of Han Bing’s evil deeds and applied to have her expelled from the church. After I found the will to turn back in God’s direction, the ulcers in my mouth mysteriously healed.
Two days later, I went to my mother-in-law’s house to do something, and Han Bing was there. When she saw me, she gave me a hard look and then turned and left. My mother-in-law said to me angrily, “Your sister-in-law has believed in God for so many years, and suffered so much to spread the gospel. What person doesn’t have a corrupt disposition? If the church expels her, won’t she then lose the chance to gain God’s salvation? You can’t be so heartless toward her!” My wife also chimed in to speak on Han Bing’s behalf. Seeing how emotional they were, and that they had little discernment toward Han Bing, I fellowshiped with them about her wicked behavior. But my mother-in-law didn’t listen at all. Instead, she shouted furiously at me as tears streamed from her eyes. Seeing her anger, my wife, too, stood there rebuking me. Seeing all this, I felt so weak and miserable I couldn’t even eat. That night, as I lay in bed, I tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep no matter how hard I tried. On the one hand, I had to expel the evildoer to protect the church’s work, but on the other hand, there were the accusations of my wife and mother-in-law. What was I to do? If I expelled my sister-in-law, I would offend my mother-in-law’s entire family, which could affect my relationship with my wife and possibly lead to the breakup of my own family. But allowing this evildoer to remain in the church could pose a danger to church life and do harm to the lives of my brothers and sisters. Thinking of all this left me feeling very miserable and conflicted. All I could do was to pray to God in earnest: “God, I feel very weak. With regard to expelling Han Bing, I don’t wish to offend You, but I am constrained by my emotions and having trouble putting the truth into practice. I beg You to give me strength and guide me to overcome the forces of darkness, so that I may stand firm and testify for You.”
After I prayed, I read some more of God’s words: “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” (“Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “All of you say you are considerate of God’s burden and will defend the testimony of the church, but who among you has really been considerate of God’s burden? Ask yourself: Are you someone who has shown consideration for His burden? Can you practice righteousness for Him? Can you stand up and speak for Me? Can you steadfastly put the truth into practice? Are you bold enough to fight against all of Satan’s deeds? Would you be able to set your emotions aside and expose Satan for the sake of My truth? Can you allow My intentions to be fulfilled in you? Have you offered up your heart in the most crucial of moments? Are you someone who does My will? Ask yourself these questions, and think about them often” (“Chapter 13” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Every reproachful question of God’s words pierced my heart. I felt in them His urgent will and requirements. God hoped that I would handle the matter of expelling the evildoer without relying on my emotions or personal feelings, and that I would unwaveringly stand on God’s side and practice the truth to satisfy His will. I thought of Job during his trials, and how, while on the surface his wealth was stripped away, his children died, his servants were killed, and his wife and three friends attacked him, behind all of these events was Satan’s wager with God. They were Satan’s temptations befalling Job. Finally, Job was able to stand on God’s side because of his faith and reverence of God. He made Satan suffer absolute humiliation and failure, and he gave strong, resounding testimony for God. What outwardly seemed to be pressure placed upon me by my mother-in-law was, in fact, a battle in the spiritual realm. It was Satan’s trickery. It was its attempt to stop me from practicing the truth by taking advantage of my emotional attachments, so that the evildoer could remain and continue to disrupt and destroy the church’s work. But God was also using this matter to test me, to see if I would submit to Satan due to the constraints of my wife and mother-in-law, or if I would instead uphold righteousness, practice the truth, and act according to principles. If I chose to satisfy my flesh and stand on Satan’s side, wouldn’t that mean I had fallen for Satan’s trickery? If I did that, I would lose testimony in God’s presence.
When I thought of all that, I began to reflect on myself: In all this time, while faced with this choice, why had I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place and found it so miserable? I clearly understood the need to protect the church’s work, but why did I continue to act on my feelings, and find it hard to practice the truth and act in accordance with principles? Afterward, I read this passage of God’s words, “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. Man’s disposition becomes more vicious by the day, and there is not a single person who will willingly give up anything for God, not a single person who will willingly obey God, nor, moreover, a single person who will willingly seek the appearance of God. Instead, under the domain of Satan, man does nothing but pursue pleasure, giving himself over to the corruption of the flesh in the land of mud” (“To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s word, I came to understand that I was living inside my emotions, unable to practice the truth and in a state of rebellion and resistance to God, all because I had been corrupted by Satan. Satan, the king of devils, used social indoctrination and the education I received at school to implant satanic philosophies like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Blood is thicker than water,” and “Man is not inanimate; how can he be free from emotions?” in me to make me view my feelings for other people as the most important thing in life, to make me think that safeguarding relationships and being sensitive to people’s feelings is how people are, and to make me believe that not doing so would be heartless and faithless, and that I would be blamed by others for it. I treated these satanic philosophies as positive things, and considered them principles to live by, and in living out my life according to these satanic philosophies and laws, I became unprincipled and confused about right and wrong, extremely selfish, despicable, cunning, and deceitful. In the matter of expelling Han Bing, I feared that my relatives would say I was ungrateful and heartless, and that it would break up my family; this made me disregard the work of the church and the lives of my brothers and sisters. I really was selfish and despicable. Behaving this way, I was truly ungrateful and heartless. The reason why our society is so dark and evil, and why there is no fairness or justice is that people all live their lives according to these satanic philosophies and laws. People are only concerned about fleshly emotional relationships. They only speak for those to whom they are closest. Even when these people do something illegal or commit a crime, they think of ways to protect and aid them, and confuse right and wrong in an effort to speak for them. It was only then that I saw clearly that these satanic philosophies and laws appear to be reasonable and moral and to accord with human notions, but they are actually absurd fallacies that Satan uses to deceive and corrupt people. They are in enmity with the truth and with God. When we live by these things, we can only rebel against and resist God, harm others, and live out the nature of demons. In the past, I had lived according to such satanic philosophies and laws, protected the evildoer, and had a share in her wrongdoings. But God didn’t hold my past transgressions against me, and still gave me a chance to repent, for which I am very grateful to God. So, I silently prayed to God and swore an oath: God, I no longer wish to act on my own emotions. I wish only to love what You love and hate what You hate according to Your words, to uphold the principles of the truth, and to promptly expel evildoers from the church.
The next day, at the co-worker meeting, I heard from co-workers that Han Bing still hadn’t come to understand herself or shown any repentance, and that she was still causing provocations, fomenting dissent, and attempting to form cliques. When I heard this, I blamed myself even more. I hated myself for having acted on my emotions and not having expelled her in time, allowing her to disrupt church life. Later on, during the next meeting, I began to conscientiously use God’s words to analyze and discern each of Han Bing’s evil behaviors, and through fellowship, the brothers and sisters who had been deceived by her also developed discernment and began to reject her. My wife, after gaining an understanding of the truth, also came to develop discernment of Han Bing’s nature and essence, and no longer argued that she had been treated unfairly. After Han Bing was expelled from the church, it was no longer being disrupted by an evildoer, so the brothers and sisters were able to attend meetings and perform their duties normally again. We all praised God for His righteousness! This incident made me see that in God’s house, His words and the truth hold power, that all things are handled according to the principles of the truth, and that nonbelievers, evildoers, and antichrists can’t maintain themselves in God’s house. I also personally experienced that living by satanic philosophies and laws can only bring us pain. It brings no benefit to us, or to anyone else. Only through living by God’s words can we ever truly feel safe and at peace. That today I no longer live by satanic philosophies and laws, and that I’ve broken through the constraints of my emotions, am able to practice some truth, and can live with a bit of righteousness—all of this is thanks to God’s salvation, and is entirely an effect achieved by the judgment and chastisement in God’s words. Thanks be to Almighty God!