30. Letting Go of Status Wasn’t Easy
By Li Zheng, China
I was born into a farming family. When I was little, I lost my parents, so my older brother and I had to depend on each other. We were very poor and people looked down on us. I used to think: “I will go to school, and one day I’ll stand head and shoulders above the rest.” Unfortunately, I had to quit school during my second year at high school as we had no money. My dream of standing head and shoulders above everyone else was dashed, and I felt totally crushed.
In 1990, I found my faith in the Lord Jesus. The preacher said that by believing in the Lord, not only will we find peace in this life, but we’ll have life everlasting in the life to come. He also said that the more people we converted by spreading the gospel, the more blessed we would be, and that we’d receive our reward and crown and reign as kings alongside God. About that time, I read this in the Bible: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8). So I decided to give up my family and go spread the gospel for God. I was full of energy back then, and in less than a year I’d converted many hundreds of people. As the number of converts grew, by 1997 we’d established hundreds of churches with over 30,000 people. I had the last say with everything to do with the churches and no matter which church I went to to work, the brothers and sisters there always greeted me respectfully and drove me wherever I wanted to go. They’d provide delicious food to eat and a nice place to stay, and they’d pay my travel expenses, too. I came to enjoy these things.
One day, an upper-level leader had us attend a gathering and said there was now a denomination called Eastern Lightning preaching that the Lord Jesus had returned as Almighty God and told us that their sermons were very lofty. She said that many good members of church congregations had been stolen away by them, and that even two co-workers from our church, Brother Wang and Brother Wu, had accepted Eastern Lightning. The leader asked us to utterly reject these two brothers and said that if we found anyone else listening to Eastern Lightning’s sermons, we were to expel them immediately. I was amazed by all this. I knew these two brothers pretty well; they were well-versed in the Bible and sincerely believed in the Lord. I just couldn’t understand how they could have accepted Eastern Lightning. As the end of the year approached, these two brothers made a surprise visit to my house. I hesitated for a long time before deciding to open the door to them, afraid that they had come to deceive me. But then I thought, “Whatever the case, I believe in the Lord, and I can’t drive these two brothers away from my door.” So I welcomed them inside. They said that to welcome the Lord, I had to focus on hearing God’s voice, and that I should not refuse to seek or investigate the true way out of fear of being misled. They then gave detailed fellowship on how to be a wise virgin who hears God’s voice, and how to tell the difference between the true way and false ways. I thought what they said was both refreshing and enlightening. I was utterly convinced. When they left, they handed me a book, saying it contained the utterances of Almighty God, and they urged me to read it and not miss my chance to welcome the Lord. After they’d gone, I began to worry that I was being led astray, and that if the upper-level leader found out I’d welcomed these brothers into my home, then I’d be expelled from the church. But then I thought, “If Almighty God truly is the Lord Jesus returned and I don’t look into it out of fear of being expelled, then wouldn’t that make me someone who rejects and resists God?” At this thought, I decided then and there to look into Almighty God’s work of the last days.
After that, I read Almighty God’s words every day. Meanwhile, the two brothers gave me fellowship on God’s three stages of work to save mankind, the mystery of God’s incarnation, how God does His work of judgment in the last days to cleanse and save man, how God brings ages to an end, how Christ’s kingdom is realized on earth, and more. I’d never heard anything like it in all my years believing in the Lord, and the more I heard, the more authoritative and powerful Almighty God’s words seemed to me. I felt more and more like Almighty God could indeed be the Lord Jesus returned and that I should investigate it. But I always felt conflicted inside. Pastors and elders had been condemning Eastern Lightning for years, and I, too, had gone along with them in sealing the church as tightly as possible, not allowing anyone to have any contact with Eastern Lightning, and expelling anyone who accepted their way. If I accepted Eastern Lightning, what would those more than 30,000 believers below me in the church think? If they all followed me and accepted Eastern Lightning too, then that would be great, but if they didn’t, then they’d surely reject me. I thought about how I’d gone out in all weathers, preaching and working day and night, and risking being hunted by the CCP, establishing all these churches with my blood, sweat, and tears. It had taken a lot to get to where I was and to be held in such high esteem by so many people—how could I throw it all away so easily? Besides, even if everyone beneath me in the church accepted Almighty God, would I still be able to be their leader? But then I thought, “If Almighty God truly is the Lord Jesus returned and I don’t accept Him, won’t I miss my chance to welcome the Lord?” I turned it over and over in my mind, unable to decide what to do. Just then, my wife surprised me by rushing excitedly over after listening to Almighty God’s words and saying, “I’ve listened to Almighty God’s words and I believe they are the voice of God. If Almighty God truly is the Lord Jesus returned, then we have to look into it and accept it as soon as we can!” I replied irritably, “I know that, but it’s not that simple. The leaders and co-workers in our church have sealed the church off so that no one is allowed to investigate Eastern Lightning. If I accept their way, then they’ll reject me for sure.” But this just made my wife agitated, and she said, “For what have we been believing in the Lord all these years? Haven’t we been looking forward to the Lord’s coming so we can be raptured into the kingdom of heaven? Now the Lord has come back, even if you’re not a leader, you still have to accept God’s work and welcome the Lord!” I said I agreed with her, but inside I was thinking, “Yours is just the simple mind of a woman. I have more than 30,000 people to consider. I have to tread carefully. I need to think about it some more.” Many months went by without me accepting Eastern Lightning. During this time, brothers and sisters from The Church of Almighty God often came to see me. They fellowshiped patiently with me, and I did in fact come to feel clearly in my heart that this was indeed God’s work, but because I couldn’t give up my position, I still held off from accepting it. After a while, the brothers and sisters realized the state I was in. One time, when I was gathering with Brother Bai and Brother Song, Brother Song fellowshiped his experiences with me. He said he’d been a church leader before, too, in charge of a few dozen churches. After someone preached the gospel to him, by reading Almighty God’s words, he became certain that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned. But when it came time to accept it for real, he began to have second thoughts, thinking, “If I accept Almighty God, can I still be a leader? Can I still lead so many people?” He then remembered the Lord Jesus’ parable of the wicked farmers in Matthew chapter 21, verses 33 to 41: “There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and dig a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to farmers, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the farmers took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did to them likewise. But last of all he sent to them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers? They say to Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other farmers, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.” Brother Song said how he felt a sharp sense of self-reproach. The Lord had entrusted him with His flock, and now the Lord had returned, instead of leading the brothers and sisters to welcome the Lord, he was trying to usurp the Lord’s flock and reject the Lord. He said he’d acted exactly like those wicked farmers and that he was a wicked servant who was resisting the Lord. He asked himself, “Do I believe in God so that I can become a leader? Do I do it for status and my livelihood? Am I really a believer in God?” He felt such remorse when he thought these things, so he confessed and repented to God, and then accepted Almighty God. He then spread the gospel to all the brothers and sisters under him. When I heard him give this fellowship, I felt so ashamed and upset. To safeguard my own status, I dragged my feet in accepting Almighty God’s work even though I knew it to really be God’s work. I wouldn’t let brothers and sisters look into it, either; I was refusing to hand God’s sheep over to Him. I was a wicked servant, and I deserved to be cursed and punished! But when I thought of how tightly I’d sealed the church, and how not one person in my church had accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, I thought, “If I accept it, won’t I just be shooting myself in the foot? Where will I be able to show my face? If the people in my church find out I’ve accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, they’ll hate and reject me for sure, and then I’ll be left with nothing.” So I decided it best not to accept it.
A few days later, at another gathering with the two brothers, I told them about my concerns. I was so deceitful back then, and I beat around the bush, asking them, “If the people I lead also start believing in Almighty God, who will lead them? Will it be the same leaders and co-workers as there are now?” What I really meant by this was: “I still have to lead and manage them.” But Brother Bai surprised me by saying, “After we accept Almighty God’s work of the last days, it’s God Himself who leads us, waters us, and shepherds us. In our church, Christ and the truth hold sway. Church leaders are elected, so whoever understands the truth and possesses reality, and whoever can water brothers and sisters and resolve their practical problems is who gets elected.” He went on to say, “If you pursue the truth then you, too, could be chosen to be a leader. There are many different kinds of duties in the church: Leaders, gospel preachers—everyone has their function. There are no such distinctions as ‘important’ or ‘not important,’ or ‘high’ or ‘low’ status when it comes to duties. That’s because everyone is equal before God, which is completely different to how it works in religious denominations.” The more I listened to Brother Bai, the more crestfallen I felt until my face was drooping. I thought, “I don’t think I’ll be able to be a leader to so many people again after this.”
Brother Song noticed how I was feeling and gave me fellowship on the experience of the king of Nineveh. He said, “The king of Nineveh was the ruler of a nation. When he heard Jonah preaching God’s words, saying that Nineveh was to be destroyed, he stepped down from his throne and led the entire city to cover themselves in sackcloth and ashes, and to fall to their knees to confess and repent to God. God took mercy on them, and the city was spared.” He went on to say, “As a church leader, shouldn’t you try to emulate the king of Nineveh now that you face such a great event as the Lord’s coming, and lead brothers and sisters to confess and repent to God?” What he said really moved me. He was right; the king of Nineveh was the ruler of a nation. When someone of such a high position could humble himself and confess and repent to God, why couldn’t I relinquish my status and accept God’s work of the last days? Brother Song then went on, saying, “When the Lord Jesus performed His work, the Pharisees wanted to safeguard their positions and livelihoods and so they did all they could to resist and condemn the Lord Jesus, keeping the faithful under their control. The Lord Jesus rebuked them, saying, ‘But 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).” He then said to me, “God expressing the truth and performing the work of judgment in the last days is the gospel of the coming of the kingdom of heaven. At first, you believed the lies you were told and went along with religious leaders in sealing up the church, preventing brothers and sisters from accepting God’s work of the last days. In doing this, you have defied God. Now, you’ve read Almighty God’s words and have concluded that He is the returned Lord Jesus. If you keep on stubbornly refusing to accept God’s work or to tell the brothers and sisters the news of the Lord’s return, keeping them locked out of the kingdom of heaven, then you’ll be knowingly doing wrong, and making yet another mistake.” He said, “This would be a great evil against God! If brothers and sisters lose their chance at salvation because we prevented them, then this would be a blood debt! We wouldn’t be able to repay this debt even if we died over and over. However, if you lead the brothers and sisters before God, then not only will they not hate you, but they’ll thank you for sharing with them the gospel of the heavenly kingdom and the way of everlasting life.”
Brother Bai then read us a couple passages of Almighty God’s words. “When God becomes flesh and comes to work among men, all behold Him and hear His words, and all see the deeds that God works from within His body of flesh. At that moment, all man’s notions become foam. As for those who have seen God appearing in the flesh, they shall not be condemned if they willingly obey Him, whereas those who purposefully stand against Him shall be deemed an opponent of God. Such people are antichrists, enemies who willfully stand against God” (“All People Who Do Not Know God Are People Who Oppose God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “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 he’d read these passages, I felt quite distressed. I felt like I’d been given a slap across the face and I turned beet red. I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up. I knew perfectly well that the Lord Jesus had returned, and that He was expressing many truths and performing the work of judging and cleansing man. But in order to safeguard my position and livelihood, I’d refused to accept God’s work of the last days and had sealed off the church so that God’s sheep couldn’t hear His voice and turn to Him. How was I any different from the Pharisees who resisted the Lord Jesus all those years ago? The Lord is our Shepherd, and now He had returned to call His sheep back to Him; I had to hand God’s sheep back over to Him. How could I still try to protect my position now? Was I to wait until God’s punishment came upon me? I decided I couldn’t defy God any longer. Even if I was no longer a leader and everyone rejected me, I still had to accept God’s work of the last days, lead the brothers and sisters before God, and return God’s flock to Him. As I thought this, I made up my mind to accept Almighty God’s work of the last days and to begin preaching the gospel to those I led.
Some time later, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, more than 10,000 people in my church accepted God’s work of the last days. Thanks be to God, I’d finally led God’s flock before Him, and I felt so peaceful and at ease.
Six months later, more and more people over a large area had joined the church, so the churches had to be divided up by region and leaders and workers elected. I was so arrogant, though, thinking, “However you divide the churches up, I’ll still be a leader, due to my work capabilities and experience. I can manage several churches, no problem.” However, a few days later, I was in a gathering with two brothers when a church leader came over and said, “Now is the time to spread the kingdom gospel. We need some brothers and sisters with good caliber who know the Bible well to go spread the gospel in other areas. This is an especially important task. Would you three be willing to go?” The two brothers gladly said they would, but I wasn’t too happy about it, thinking to myself, “I led churches in my old denomination for years, managing many thousands of people. Now I’m back to preaching the gospel again while some of the co-workers under me have become leaders. How will I ever be able to show my face? It’s humiliating!” I thought over all the years I’d served as a leader, being held in high esteem and idolized wherever I went, being treated to everything I could want. Now I had nothing, and I had to go suffer to preach the gospel again. I just couldn’t take it. But it would’ve been too embarrassing to have refused in front of the others, so I reluctantly agreed. I thought to myself, “I have to preach the gospel well. As long as I can convert lots of people, then brothers and sisters will still look up to me.” And when I got to it, I did manage to do well at preaching the gospel. Before too long, over 400 people had accepted God’s new work. I felt at that time that no matter where I went, brothers and sisters greeted me enthusiastically and looked up to me. I was living once again in that enjoyment brought by the position I held, and my zest for spreading the gospel only increased.
In August 2000, I traveled out of town with Brother Liu to spread the gospel. Brother Liu had been a believer in Almighty God longer than I had and fellowshiped clearly on the truth. I was happy, too, thinking how great it was that I could draw on his strengths to make up for my own shortcomings. One time, he and I went to preach the gospel to a group of people belonging to a religious denomination. They held forth some religious notions, and I wanted to give them fellowship. But because my own understanding of the truth was so lacking, I was anxious to help but I wasn’t able to. In the end, Brother Liu calmly fellowshiped with them to refute their notions, speaking factually and reasonably. Those people we were fellowshiping with didn’t accept it at first, but as they listened, they began to become certain that what Brother Liu was saying was true, until finally they were nodding in agreement. Seeing that scene play out, I felt both jealousy and admiration for Brother Liu. I thought: “Brother Liu fellowships so clearly. If this goes on, my only role will be to make him look good, and the others will say he’s better than me. That won’t do! I have to equip myself with the truth and try to outdo Brother Liu.” After I got back home, I started to read God’s words from dawn till dusk, arming myself with the truths of spreading the gospel. Even during mealtimes, I’d think about how Brother Liu gave fellowship so I could know how to fellowship with the gospel targets next time, so that I at least looked as good as Brother Liu.
To my surprise, however, the next time we went to preach the gospel to those people, they came up with some new questions, and again I wasn’t able to give clear fellowship. Seeing them not really understanding what I was saying made me feel so embarrassed. At that moment, Brother Liu hurriedly took over. They listened to him attentively, nodding every now and then, and in the end they’d understood everything very well. I, however, had only succeeded in embarrassing myself and wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I thought: “I came with Brother Liu, but I couldn’t fellowship clearly and was of no use whatsoever. They still need him to step in and help address their issues. How humiliating!” To recover some dignity, I remember taking advantage of a pause in Brother Liu’s fellowship to say a few words. A day later, they all accepted the gospel. This made me really happy, but inside I felt a little crestfallen. I felt like their accepting the gospel hadn’t been down to me, and I hadn’t made a good show of myself. After we’d eaten a meal together, those newcomers asked us to talk about our experiences. I thought: “Usually Brother Liu is the one who stands out, but this time I have to take the opportunity to talk about my own experiences so that they don’t think I’m someone of no account.” So I began to talk on and on about the work I’d done, the suffering I’d endured, and how I’d led over 10,000 people back to God. I really laid it on thick. Some of those brothers and sisters were amazed, some looked at me with admiration, while others just listened attentively. I was delighted. I held myself straight and spoke with confidence.
When I got home that day, I thought, “I lack a lot of truths when it comes to spreading the gospel. Should I seek with Brother Liu about this?” But then I thought, “If I seek about this with Brother Liu, won’t that show that he’s better than me? Forget it, I’ll just keep arming myself with the truths in secret. I won’t ask him.” Later, when we both went to preach the gospel again, the brothers and sisters greeted Brother Liu so warmly. They flocked around him, asking him about this and that. This really upset me and I just hung my head and stood to one side, thinking, “What’s the point in me being here when Brother Liu gives such good fellowship? Aren’t I just a fifth wheel in the others’ eyes? He’s the one who always stands out and if that carries on then no one will think highly of me at all.” A rebellious thought suddenly occurred to me, that I really didn’t want to do my duty with Brother Liu anymore. After I’d had this thought, whenever Brother Liu and I were about to go preach the gospel, I began to find excuses, saying that I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay behind. Sometimes, even when I did go with him, I didn’t give fellowship, and only when someone asked me a question did I reluctantly fellowship a few words. I basically just wouldn’t work with him. We ended up working together for over two months, with me constantly vying for fame and struggling for my own personal interests. My state became darker and darker, worse and worse, and yet repentance never entered my head. It was at this time that God chastened and disciplined me.
One day, I was told to go to northeast China to spread the gospel there. When I heard this, I was overjoyed, thinking, “At last, I don’t need to work with Brother Liu anymore. This is my time to shine, and when I convert people by preaching the gospel to them, it’ll all be down to me alone. The brothers and sisters will surely look up to me.” What I couldn’t have known was that, on my way traveling there, the police saw that I didn’t have my ID card with me and arrested me, thinking I was some sort of murderer on the run. No matter how I tried to explain, they just wouldn’t listen, and they tortured me for three days and nights. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything, or sleep, or even to drink a mouthful of water. They beat me until my mouth and nose bled and my eyes were so swollen I couldn’t open them. I was beaten to a pulp. I remember passing out many times; death would have been a blessed relief. I felt such distress in my heart and I hated these devils for being so evil. They didn’t make a thorough investigation and had no evidence at all, and yet I was brutally interrogated. Back then, I just kept praying to God, asking Him to protect and guide me. I realized that God was permitting all this to happen to me, and that I had to seek the truth and learn from what was happening. I then began to reflect on myself: “Why is this happening to me?” Just then, a passage of God’s words came to mind: “The more you seek in this way, the less you will reap. The greater a person’s desire for status, the more seriously they will have to be dealt with and the more they will have to undergo great refinement. Such people are worthless! They must be dealt with and judged adequately in order for them to thoroughly let go of these things. If you pursue this way until the end, you will reap nothing” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). As I contemplated God’s words, I realized just how great my desire for status was. I thought over the time I’d spent preaching the gospel with Brother Liu. When I saw him give good fellowship and everyone looking at him admiringly, I became jealous and wanted to vie with him, to see who was better. I talked about my own experiences in front of newcomers to exalt myself and show off so that they would look up to me and idolize me. When I didn’t receive any admiration from brothers and sisters, I became negative and resistant, and no longer wanted to work with Brother Liu, and in my duty I just went through the motions. I saw that I hadn’t been performing my duty to testify to God but had been using it to get fame and status in return; I was so despicable! I’d done nothing but pursue fame and my own personal interests, and repentance never even came into my mind, despite having fallen so deeply into darkness. I was so rebellious! The more I thought about it, the more I hated myself, so I prayed to God. I said, “Dear God, I always used to pursue status in my duty and vie for fame and gain. How You must have hated it! Now You are chastening and disciplining me, and I want to reflect on myself in earnest, and obey Your arrangements and orchestrations. If I live through this, I wish to let go of my status and pursue the truth in earnest.” To my surprise, when I submitted and learned some lessons, God showed me His mercy. The police managed to find my ID in their system and, realizing that I was no murderer, they let me go.
When I got back home, I went to hospital for a checkup. My right leg was broken, as was one of my ribs. Over the next few months, I ate and drank God’s words and reflected on myself while recuperating at home. One day, I read a passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “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. Hopes, status, and notions are all classic representations of satanic disposition. The reason that these things exist in people’s hearts is entirely because Satan’s poison is always corroding people’s thoughts, and always people are unable to shake off these temptations of Satan. They are living in the midst of sin yet do not believe it to be sin, and still they think: ‘We believe in God, so He must bestow blessings on us and arrange everything for us appropriately. We believe in God, so we must be superior to others, and we must have more status and more of a future than anyone else. Since we believe in God, He must give us limitless blessings. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called believing in God.’ 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 so rotten that their perspectives on believing in God are still unbearably hideous, and even when people speak of their perspectives on belief in God it is simply unbearable to hear. People are all cowardly, incompetent, despicable, and 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. Are not your current thoughts and perspectives just like this? ‘Since I believe in God I should just be showered with blessings and it should be ensured that my status never slips and that it remains higher than that of nonbelievers.’ You have not been harboring that kind of perspective within you for just one or two years, but for many years. Your transactional way of thinking is overdeveloped. Although you have arrived at this step today, you still have not let go of status but struggle constantly to inquire about it, and observe it daily, with a deep fear that one day your status will be lost and your name will be ruined. People have never put aside their desire for ease. … It is difficult for you to put aside your prospects and destiny. You are now followers, and you have gained some understanding of this stage of work. However, you have still not put aside your desire for status. When your status is high you seek well, but when your status is low you no longer seek. The blessings of status are always on your mind. Why is it that the majority of people cannot remove themselves from negativity? Is the answer not invariably because of bleak prospects?” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
I also listened to a hymn of God’s words. “Man lives amid the flesh, which means he lives in a human hell, and without God’s judgment and chastisement, man is as filthy as Satan. Chastisement and judgment by God are man’s best protection and greatest grace. Only through chastisement and judgment by God can man awaken and hate the flesh, hate Satan. God’s strict discipline frees man from the influence of Satan, frees him from his own little world, and allows him to live in the light of God’s presence. There is no better salvation than chastisement and judgment!” (“God’s Chastisement and Judgment Is the Light of Man’s Salvation” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I cried a lot as I listened to this hymn. I finally realized that God judges and chastises not because He hates man, but because He wants to save man. He wanted to rectify my wrong view of pursuing fame and status. Ever since I was small, I’d lived by the satanic poisons of “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors,” and “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards.” I wanted to stand out above the rest every chance I got, and I even dreamed of it. After I began believing in the Lord, I made sacrifices and expended myself just to get high status so that brothers and sisters would look up to me and idolize me. I even wanted to reign like a king alongside Christ. There was no limit to my ambitions! When I heard the gospel of Almighty God, I knew then that the Lord had come, but because I couldn’t give up my position as leader, I didn’t want to accept it, and almost became an evil servant who stopped the faithful from getting into God’s kingdom. Over the previous two years since I accepted Almighty God’s work, on the outside I looked as though I’d given up my leadership position, but my heart was still under the control of fame and status. When brothers and sisters admired and idolized me, I was happy and energized in my duty. But when they were indifferent to me, I became dejected and upset, and no longer wanted to do my duty. I saw that I wasn’t doing my duty to pursue the truth and have my disposition changed, or to be commended by God, but to stand out above the rest so that others would look up to me, and to fulfill my own ambitions and desires. Wasn’t I brazenly using God and trying to cheat Him? I was defying God! I was living by these satanic poisons, growing more and more arrogant, without a shred of humanity or reason. Had it not been for the judgment and revelations of God’s words, and for His chastening and discipline, I’d never have realized how deeply I’d been corrupted by Satan, or how great my desire for status was. I would have just coveted the blessings of status more and more and become more and more depraved, until finally I was cursed and punished by God. I finally came to appreciate that whatever God does, whether it be judging, chastising, chastening or disciplining, it is all salvation and love for mankind.
I then read this in God’s words: “God’s viewpoint is to demand that man recover his original duty and status. Man is a creature of God, and so man should not overstep himself by making any demands of God, and should do nothing more than perform his duty as a creature of God” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Man, as a creature of God, must also perform the duty of man. Regardless of whether he is the lord or caretaker of all things, no matter how high man’s status among all things, still he is but a small human being under the dominion of God, and is no more than an insignificant human being, a creature of God, and he will never be above God. As a creature of God, man should seek to perform the duty of a creature of God, and seek to love God without making other choices, for God is worthy of man’s love. Those who seek to love God should not seek any personal benefits or seek that which they personally long for; this is the most correct means of pursuit. If what you seek is the truth, if what you put into practice is the truth, and if what you attain is a change in your disposition, then the path that you tread is the right one. If what you seek is the blessings of the flesh, and what you put into practice is the truth of your own notions, and if there is no change in your disposition, and you are not at all obedient to God in the flesh, and you still live in vagueness, then what you seek will surely take you to hell, for the path that you walk is the path of failure. Whether you will be made perfect or eliminated depends on your own pursuit, which is also to say that success or failure depends on the path that man walks” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading God’s words, I understood that I’m a created being who should take my proper place, seek to love God, obey God, cast off my corrupt dispositions, and do my duty as a created being well. This is the only right pursuit. I also realized that whether or not someone can attain salvation and be perfected has nothing to do with whether they have status or not. Whatever duty someone does, what God looks at is their sincerity and obedience, seeing whether they pursue the truth and whether their life disposition has changed. When I realized this, I said a prayer to God: “No matter what duty I do in the future, whether I have any status or not, I wish to pursue the truth in earnest and do my duty as a created being well.” It was more than two months later that my injuries started to get better and I was able to go out preaching the gospel again. What had changed was that I no longer felt like I was without status, and when working with others, I no longer vied to be the best. I felt like just doing my duty showed that I’d been raised up by God.
Years went by, and I thought I was free of the bonds and fetters of status. But when God arranged a new situation for me, my desire for status raised its ugly head again. It was the winter of 2012. The police were frantically arresting Christians, and it was a very bad time. One day, the leaders and deacons held a gathering in our village. One of the leaders saw I had some free time, so asked me to go stand on the street corner and act as a lookout. I felt really unhappy about this, but considering the safety of the brothers and sisters, I agreed. After the leader had left, I thought to myself: “I was a leader for years and was always out preaching the gospel. Better to find a couple of ordinary believers to do this demeaning job of being a lookout. Why do I have to do it? You’re all in there holding a gathering while I’m out in the cold, risking danger. Isn’t this because I have no status? If I was a leader, I wouldn’t have to be on guard duty like this.” I suddenly realized that my desire for status was up to its old tricks again, so I hurriedly prayed to God, saying, “Dear God, I now have to do this demeaning duty and my desire for status has risen up again. Oh God, I don’t want to be bound by status again. Please guide me so I can cast off the fetters of status.” I then read this in God’s words: “Some people particularly idolize Paul. They like to go out and give speeches and do work, they like to attend gatherings and preach, and they like people listening to them, worshiping them, and revolving around them. They like to have status in the minds of others, and they appreciate it when others value the image they present. Let us analyze their nature from these behaviors: What is their nature? If they really behave like this, then it is enough to show that they are arrogant and conceited. They do not worship God at all; they seek a higher status and wish to have authority over others, to possess them, and to have status in their minds. This is the classic image of Satan. The aspects of their nature that stand out are arrogance and conceit, an unwillingness to worship God, and a desire to be worshiped by others. Such behaviors can give you a very clear view into their nature” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). After reading God’s words, I realized I was always after high positions, always wanting others to look up to me and idolize me. I wanted a place in other people’s hearts, and in essence this meant I wanted to occupy other people’s hearts. I was competing with God for people! My nature was so arrogant! I thought about how Paul was always exalting and testifying to himself, making others admire and idolize him, which is why he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). This made most people admire and worship him, so much so that his place in people’s hearts even surpassed that of the Lord Jesus. Didn’t what I was thinking and pursuing back then make me just the same as Paul? I was indeed on the God-resisting path of the antichrists; I really had disgusted God and people, and I deserved to be punished. In the last days, God expresses the truth to cleanse and save people, yet after all those years of faith, I’d not made any effort to pursue the truth nor given any thought to seeking to change myself into someone who obeyed and worshiped God. Instead, I used all my thought and energy on pursuing status. If I carried on that way, I’d be cursed and punished by God. What a fool I’d been!
I then read in God’s words: “People are created beings who have nothing worthy of boasting about. Since you are God’s creatures, you must perform the duty of a creature. There are no other requirements of you. This is how you should pray: ‘Oh God! Whether I have status or not, I now understand myself. If my status is high it is because of Your elevation, and if it is low it is because of Your ordination. Everything is in Your hands. I have neither any choices, nor any complaints. You ordained that I would be born in this country and among this people, and all that I should do is to be completely obedient under Your dominion because everything is within what You have ordained. I do not give thought to status; after all, I am but a creature. If You place me in the bottomless pit, in the lake of fire and brimstone, I am nothing but a creature. If You use me, I am a creature. If You perfect me, I am yet a creature. If You do not perfect me, I will still love You because I am no more than a creature. I am nothing more than a minuscule creature created by the Lord of creation, just one among all created humans. It was You who created me, and now You have once again placed me in Your hands to do with me as You will. I am willing to be Your tool and Your foil because everything is what You have ordained. No one can change it. All things and all events are in Your hands.’ When the time comes that you will no longer give thought to status, then you will break free from it. Only then will you be able to confidently and boldly seek, and only then can your heart become free of any constraints” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading God’s words, I understood that if someone has high status, then God has raised them up, and if someone has low status, then this is what God has predestined. However He treats people and no matter where He puts us, we should always submit, do our own duty well, and not complain. This is the reasonable thing to do, and is what a genuine created being does. When I understood this, I became willing to submit and practice the truth, and from then on, I devoted myself to being the lookout. I’d make sure I stood guard so that the leaders and deacons could hold their gathering in peace. The leader asked me to stand guard for gatherings a few more times after that, but I no longer thought about whether it was high or low status; I just felt very liberated and at peace.
Over those years, God arranged situations again and again to expose me and He used His words to judge and chastise me so that I’d really come to see how deeply I’d been corrupted by Satan, and how great my desire for status was. I also clearly recognized that status is something Satan uses to keep people chained: The more you pursue status, the more Satan harms you and toys with you, and the more you disobey and resist God. I also came to understand what people should pursue in their faith in God in order to be saved. Having had such a strong desire for status and such big ambitions, that I’ve been able to change as I now have, to obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements, and do my duty obediently is all down to God’s judgment and chastisement. God made such painstaking efforts on my behalf and I thank Almighty God for saving me from the bottom of my heart!