Days of Seeking Fame and Gain
By Zheng Ming, Spain
“In his life, if man wishes to be cleansed and achieve changes in his disposition, if he wishes to live out a life of meaning and fulfill his duty as a creature, then he must accept God’s chastisement and judgment, and must not allow God’s discipline and God’s smiting to depart from him, in order that he may free himself from the manipulation and influence of Satan, and live in the light of God. Know that God’s chastisement and judgment is the light, and the light of man’s salvation, and that there is no better blessing, grace or protection for man” (“God’s Chastisement and Judgment Is the Light of Man’s Salvation” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). Singing this hymn of God’s words is deeply moving for me. I used to live by poisons of Satan like “Distinguishing oneself and bringing honor to his ancestors,” and “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards.” I constantly sought fame and status, both duped and damaged by Satan, fretting over gains and losses to make a name for myself. It was a painful way to live. It wasn’t until I experienced the judgment, chastisement, and disciplining of God’s words that I came to understand a bit about my corrupt nature and gained some clarity on the essence and consequences of seeking fame and status. I finally started to awaken and feel remorse. I no longer wanted to live that way, but just to pursue the truth and do my duty well to satisfy God.
I remember, it was back in September of 2016 that I joined the hymn team to fulfill my duty. Soon after that, our leader approached us to discuss choosing a team leader. I was thrilled as soon as I heard this and began to weigh the prospective candidates in my mind. Other brothers and sisters in my team were either too young or not skilled enough. There was just Brother Li—his fellowship on the truth was quite practical, and he understood some of the work. Plus, he had a calm demeanor. I felt that there was a good chance he’d be picked, but my fellowship wasn’t bad either, and I was a particularly good learner and fairly quick at picking up new things. I also was good at seeing the big picture. So, I figured my chances at getting elected should be better than his. But everyone in the team was new to that duty and we hadn’t been working together long, so we didn’t know each other well enough. Whether they’d choose me was an unknown. So, I suggested to the leader that he tally up the duties each of us had fulfilled, and then designate someone to lead the team temporarily. Everyone agreed. I was secretly pleased; I felt I had a pretty good track record in duty, so I probably had this election in the bag. The next day, I went to the gathering full of confidence. But to my surprise, Brother Li was ultimately chosen. I was really disappointed at the time, but to save face, I pretended to be unperturbed and said, “Thanks be to God. From now on, let’s all work together to fulfill our duties.” Deep down, though, I couldn’t accept it at all. I felt drained of energy on my walk home. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. “What did Brother Li have on me? I simply couldn’t accept it. I felt I clearly had a lot of talent, so by not picking me, wasn’t that just putting it all to waste?” I therefore felt I absolutely had to prove myself, and show the others what I was made of. Though I appeared calm on the surface after that, I was quietly pitting myself against Brother Li. I threw myself into studying to improve my skills so I could outdo him. I quietly celebrated when I saw he was a slow learner, thinking, “So the truth comes out! You’re not so great after all! Over time, all our brothers and sisters will see who’s better, too.” I reveled in every little mistake he made, thinking to myself, “Do you have what it takes? Now they’ll see you for what you are!” Watching Brother Li resolve others’ problems made me jealous. I felt that I had that kind of practical experience too, and if I were team leader, I’d be good at fellowshiping, too. Especially when we were discussing work, no matter what Brother Li suggested, I scrambled to say something more comprehensive and insightful.
I remember in one meeting, while we were discussing ideas for a hymn, Brother Li made a really good suggestion. But I thought if I accepted it, wouldn’t that make him look better than me? Then how could I hold my head up? I blurted out a rebuttal and made a different suggestion, but the group ended up going with his idea. It was like a slap in the face. Seeing the brothers and sisters discussing it animatedly, I felt even more opposed to Brother Li, and I didn’t have any interest in listening further. I recalled the previous duty I had fulfilled; anyway, I had been team leader, and the brothers and sisters had all looked up to me. But now, I wasn’t team leader anymore, and Brother Li was looking better than me at every turn. Had I known this would happen, I wouldn’t have come here to fulfill my duty. After the gathering, my thoughts were churning, and I was feeling really dark inside. Vaguely aware that I wasn’t in the right state, I prayed to God, and this passage of His words came to mind: “I have a profound knowledge of the impurities in the hearts of each created being, and before I created you, I already knew of the unrighteousness that existed deep in the human heart, and I knew all the deception and crookedness in the human heart. Therefore, even though there are no traces at all when people do unrighteous things, I still know that the unrighteousness harbored within your hearts surpasses the richness of all things that I created. Every one of you has risen to the pinnacle of the multitudes; you have ascended to be the ancestors of the masses. You are extremely arbitrary, and you run amok among all of the maggots, seeking a place of ease and attempting to devour the maggots that are smaller than you. You are malicious and sinister in your hearts, surpassing even the ghosts that have sunk to the bottom of the sea. You reside in the bottom of the dung, disturbing the maggots from top to bottom until they have no peace, fighting each other for a while and then calming down. You do not know your place, yet still you battle with each other in the dung. What can you gain from such struggle? If you truly had reverence for Me in your hearts, how could you fight with each other behind My back? No matter how high your status, are you not still a stinking little worm in the dung? Will you be able to sprout wings and become a dove in the sky?” (“When Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots, You Will Regret All the Evil You Have Done” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words exposed all the ugliness of my vying for name and gain. Since joining that hymn team, I’d been consumed with ambition, dying to achieve something so the brothers and sisters and the leader would all think highly of me and I could get a foothold in the team. During the selection process, I had tried to use my wits to my own advantage, getting the leader to hold an interim election based on the duties we had fulfilled in the past. I became jealous when Brother Li was chosen, and harbored a competitive attitude toward him. When I saw some issues in his work, I didn’t uphold the church’s interests or try to help him, but was just dying for him to be replaced because of incompetence, which would give me a shot at being team leader. I was mired in the satanic dispositions of intrigue and seeking name and gain, and my actions were completely devoid of conscience or reason. It was truly despicable and toxic. I was so upset and really reproached myself when I realized this. I prayed to God and asked Him to guide me to practice the truth so I would no longer be bound and constrained by my corrupt, satanic disposition.
One day, I read this passage of God’s words: “For each of you fulfilling your duty, no matter how profoundly you understand the truth, if you wish to enter the reality of the truth, then the simplest way to practice is to think of the interests of God’s house in everything you do, and to let go of your selfish desires, your individual intent, motives, face, and status. Put the interests of God’s house first—this is the least that you should do. If a person performing their duty cannot do even this much, then how can they be said to be performing their duty? This is not performing one’s duty” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words pointed me toward the principle and direction in performing my duty, which was letting go of my desire for name and status, and putting the church’s work first no matter what, and performing my duty to the best of my ability. Only then would I be fulfilling the duty of a created being, and have a bit of a human likeness. If I sought name and status and neglected my main work, that wouldn’t be fulfilling my duty; I would be resisting God and doing evil. After that, I opened up to my brothers and sisters about all this in a gathering and revealed my own corruption. They didn’t look down on me, and that wall between me and Brother Li disappeared. After that I actively shared fellowship during gatherings he was facilitating, and I didn’t snicker when I saw flaws in his work. Instead, I offered suggestions and support, and whenever I saw him helping brothers and sisters resolve their problems, I didn’t become jealous like before, but felt that in God’s house, it’s just our roles that are different, not our standing. I just wanted to work together with him to do our duties well. I felt much more at ease when I put that into practice, and later I saw God’s blessings. Though our team had previously had the worst musical foundations, it didn’t take long before we had produced the first Spanish song, and it was quite well-received by other brothers and sisters.
About half a year passed and I was becoming more familiar with the work. Brothers and sisters tended to accept my ideas when we were discussing work. And I usually led our monthly team work exchanges. I felt my need for name and status had largely been satisfied. Also, right around then, our leader had me do more to drive the work in our team. Being highly thought of by my leader like that made me feel even more that I was a valuable talent. At one point, we needed someone to take on an extra task, and even though it was right up my alley, I did some mental calculations: “It wouldn’t put me in the limelight, and would take up my time. So if I worked on it, I’d probably lose some of the attention I had on me. But if Brother Li did it, I could carve out my own niche in the team….” I found every possible excuse to turn it down, and recommended that Brother Li do it instead. The truth is that I felt guilty and unsettled at the time, but I remained stubborn, wanting to protect my position. Brother Li took on that unfamiliar task. He became negative after encountering a number of difficulties, which in turn impacted his work. After hearing about this, I still didn’t reflect on myself. Brother Li was often unable to participate in the work done by our team, so most matters, large and small, fell to me. As a result, my desire for name and status only swelled. I saw that there were some deviations and shortcomings in brothers’ and sisters’ work that were hindering our progress, and this left me feeling really anxious. I was in charge of this work, so if something went wrong, I didn’t know what the leader would think of me. Would I be seen as incompetent? I couldn’t help but lose my temper and scold brothers and sisters, “How can you call this doing your duty? Can’t you focus?” “Can you stop dropping the ball?” They all ended up feeling really constrained by me. Another time, I was away for a few days to fulfill my duty, and when I got back, I saw a sister had made a work plan without first discussing it with me. This made me really angry. I thought, “This is just too much! You have no respect for me at all.” I totally laid into her. Meanwhile, one problem after another was starting to come up in the team. One time, my ideas weren’t being adopted by the brothers and sisters, and they were even giving me some feedback. I just felt it was an affront, and my temper flared up. “Since all of you seem to think otherwise, just do as you see fit! And then when things go wrong, you can take responsibility for it!” After sounding off, I felt an inexplicable kind of panic and some self-reproach. I thought about how I had been living within an arrogant disposition, always losing my temper at my brothers and sisters. Would God approve of that? But then I thought, “Wasn’t I doing that for the sake of my duty? Who among us has never revealed a bit of corruption?” I hadn’t genuinely reflected upon myself. The next day, I sprained an ankle while playing basketball; it swelled up like a balloon and became really painful. I couldn’t walk or perform my duty. I became very aware that this was God’s discipline, and only then did I start to reflect upon myself. All that time, I’d been seeking name and status, being arrogant, and scolding my brothers and sisters. It played out in my mind, scene by scene, like a movie. I hated myself and wondered: Why had I never changed? Why couldn’t I keep myself from rebelling against and resisting God?
A few days later, some brothers and sisters came to see me and fellowshiped with me on God’s will. They also read a passage of His words that specifically addressed my state: “If they see someone better than they are, they suppress them, start a rumor about them, or employ some unscrupulous means so that other people don’t look highly upon them, and that no one is any better than anyone else, then this is the corrupt disposition of arrogance and self-rightness, as well as crookedness, deceitfulness and insidiousness, and these people stop at nothing to achieve their aims. They live like this and yet still think they’re great and that they’re good people. However, do they have God-fearing hearts? First of all, to speak from the perspective of the natures of these matters, are not people who act this way simply doing as they please? Do they consider the interests of God’s family? They think only of their own feelings and they want only to achieve their own aims, regardless of the loss suffered by the work of God’s family. Not only are people like this arrogant and self-right, they are also selfish and contemptible; they are utterly inconsiderate of God’s intention, and people like this, without a shadow of a doubt, do not possess God-fearing hearts. This is why they do whatever they want and act wantonly, without any sense of blame, without any trepidation, without any apprehension or worry, and without considering the consequences. They do not fear God, they believe themselves to be of utmost importance, and they regard every aspect of themselves as being higher than God and higher than the truth. In their hearts, God is the least worthy of mention and the most insignificant, and God does not have any status in their hearts at all. Have those who have no place for God in their hearts, and who do not revere God, attained entry into the truth? (No.) So, when they typically go around merrily keeping themselves busy and exerting quite a lot of energy, what are they doing? Such people even claim to have abandoned everything to expend for God and suffered a great deal, but actually, the motive, principle, and objective of all their actions are to benefit themselves; they are only trying to protect all of their own interests. Would you or would you not say that this sort of person is terrible? What sort of person, would you say, is one who does not revere God? Is he or she arrogant? Is such a person Satan? What kinds of things do not revere God? Apart from the animals, all those that do not revere God include demons, Satan, the archangel, and those who contend with God” (“The Five Conditions People Have Before They Enter the Right Track of Believing in God” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s harsh words really cut me to the quick. I saw I’d been so arrogant, selfish, and cunning, totally lacking reverence for God. When collaboration was needed in the church work, I knew full well that I was relatively well-suited for it, but to maintain my own name and status, I thought nothing of playing games, which compromised the work of God’s house. When I saw issues with brothers’ and sisters’ work that hindered our progress, I didn’t work with them to resolve the problems; instead, I thought they were dragging me down and impacting my chance to stand out, so I took advantage of my position to scold them, and they all felt constrained and lived in state of suffering. I wouldn’t accept their suggestions, either. I went into a sulk, lost my temper, and used my duty to vent, without any consideration whatsoever for how the church’s work might be impacted. Actually, I didn’t have any real talent; all I had was a little interest in music and some enthusiasm—yet God had been gracious enough to give me this opportunity so I could make progress professionally and in my pursuit of the truth. Instead of cherishing it, however, I just bull-headedly strove for status and prestige. I pursued my own interests while waving the flag of doing my duty, exploiting my brothers and sisters as tools to help me get ahead. I was totally lacking in humanity. In all my actions, I was doing evil and offending God’s disposition. It was disgusting and odious for God! Realizing that frightened me and I felt a lot of self-reproach. I prayed to God through my tears: “Oh God, I’ve been so wrong! I don’t want to keep being rebellious and competing with You, and I don’t want to keep fighting for personal gain. I’m ready to repent.”
I later read these words from God: “So, Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This revelation from God’s words gave me some understanding of Satan’s despicable tactic and evil motive of using fame and gain to corrupt people. It binds and harms people this way, getting them to betray and distance themselves from God. Name and status are tools Satan uses to do people in. I had been influenced and educated by Satan since I was little, and taken in by its philosophies like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Distinguishing oneself and bringing honor to his ancestors,” and “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards.” I had adopted them as my own personal mottos. I grew more and more arrogant, and in any group I’d always vie for status so others would look up to me. Even after becoming a believer, I always pursued name and status because I wasn’t pursuing the truth. I suffered and paid a price in my duty for these things, working hard to improve my own skills. I competed and vied with others, I thought I was really something every time I achieved anything, I haughtily scolded brothers and sisters. I really was insufferably arrogant and conceited; I lacked any human likeness whatsoever in the way I lived. I was living by satanic philosophies, throwing myself into obtaining name and status. I not only hurt others, but I did so many other things that were disgusting to God. I also impacted the church’s work with my transgressions and evil deeds. Name and status have done me so much harm. Only then did I see that satanic philosophies such as, “distinguishing oneself,” and “being a cut above,” are all fallacies, and living by these lies just leads to further corruption and evil, causing one to rebel against and resist God and, ultimately, to be punished by Him. When I realized all this, I felt I had been treating name and status as though they were lifelines to which I had to cling, no matter what. I truly was so blind and ignorant. I also saw that it was a path that ran contrary to God. I prayed and repented before God. After that, whenever I thought about pursuing those things in my duty, I felt really scared, so I prayed to God, and forsook the flesh. In addition, I’d open up to my brothers and sisters, exposing my own corruption. After some time, I felt I had much less of a drive to pursue name and status, and I began to have a sense of internal peace.
Later, when the church was choosing a leader, my desire for name and status reared its head once more during voting, and an internal battle ensued: “Should I vote for Brother Li, or for myself? As for me, I’m really not as good at resolving issues through fellowship on the truth. As for him, then on the off chance that he wins, how would others see me? …” I realized I was seeking fame and status again, and felt that kind of thinking was really ugly. I prayed to God, forsaking and cursing those thoughts. Later, another passage of God’s words came to mind: “If your heart is filled with thoughts of how to attain a higher position, or what to do in front of others to get them to admire you, then you are on the wrong path. It means you are doing things for Satan; you are rendering service. If your heart is filled with thoughts of how to change so that you gain more and more of the likeness of a human, are in accord with God’s intentions, can submit to Him, are capable of revering Him, show restraint in everything you do, and can completely accept His scrutiny, then your states will get better and better. This is what it means to be one who lives before God. As such, there are two paths: One merely emphasizes behavior, fulfilling one’s own ambitions, desires, intents, and plans; this is living before Satan and living under its domain. The other path emphasizes how to satisfy God’s will, enter the reality of the truth, submit to God, have no misunderstandings or disobedience toward Him, all in order to attain reverence for God and perform one’s duty well. This is what it means to live before God” (“Only If One Practices the Truth Can They Possess Normal Humanity” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Mulling over God’s words, I understood that what He looks at are people’s motives and perspectives in their actions—these are really important. If my impetus is reputation and status, and the desire to get others to think highly of me, then that will be a path against God and will never lead me to the truth, or to being perfected by God. I became willing to correct my motives, and whether I was elected church leader or not, I was ready to submit to God’s arrangements and perform my duty well. Later on, when it came time to vote, I weighed up the principles and voted for Brother Li. Ultimately, he was chosen to serve as a church leader. I was fine with it. Even though I hadn’t won, I had no regrets, because I had finally put the truth into practice, thereby casting off the shackles of name and status. I also felt an inner peace and stability from practicing the truth and satisfying God, and experienced that God’s judgment and chastisement truly are salvation for me.