38. Finding Freedom From Status
By Dong En, France
I became a church leader in 2019. I did things my own way, was irresponsible in my duty, and I didn’t assign the right people to the right tasks, which all had an impact on church life. I was filled with remorse. I therefore resolved to get a good handle on church work. Back then, there were two group leaders who were to be reassigned, but I couldn’t find anyone suitable to replace them. I was consumed with worry, and thought, “If I can’t find anyone fit for these posts, my leader will say that I’m unable to do practical work. What if I end up being replaced?” I racked my brains and then thought of Sister Zhang: She was of good caliber and was good at her duty. She’d be great as a group leader. At this thought, I heaved a sigh of relief. I felt like I’d found someone to fill that post, and that my work would get easier now with the right person in the job.
Just at that moment, however, Sister Li, a leader in another church, called me up and said her church had a large influx of new converts without enough people to water them. She wanted to talk to me about the possibility of assigning Sister Zhang to her church to take charge of watering the new converts. I was absolutely dead set against this idea. “What about our church?” I thought. “What will we do if Sister Zhang is assigned elsewhere? If I can’t find anyone else to be group leader and I can’t get a handle on this work, I could end up being replaced!” Noticing that I wasn’t saying anything, Sister Li said, “Most people in your church are longtime believers and are grounded in their faith. If Sister Zhang is transferred, you can always just train someone else. Your work won’t be too impacted.” I really didn’t want to hear this and felt very resistant. I thought, “You’re making light of it, as if training someone is that easy!” I knew that Sister Li’s church needed help, but I was under the control of my corrupt disposition. No matter what she said, I refused to give her what she wanted. I blamed her, too, thinking she was being selfish and thinking only of her own church. Seeing how resistant I was to the idea, Sister Li stopped insisting. After the call I felt very restless and I resolved to myself that I wouldn’t give in, that I wouldn’t give Sister Zhang up no matter who asked. The next day, my leader came to talk to me about this issue. I went on and on about how our church was short of people and all the difficulties we were facing. I talked and talked about our difficulties so that the leader wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Finally, there was nothing she could say, and she didn’t press the issue. I felt pleased at this: I could keep Sister Zhang. That evening, I met with some deacons to discuss promoting Sister Zhang. I failed to mention the difficulties Sister Li was facing in her church, however, or that our own leader had come to ask for Sister Zhang to be reassigned. Because I hadn’t told them everything that had happened, they all agreed to Sister Zhang becoming group leader. Just as I was feeling pleased with myself, our leader made a surprise visit to talk with me and my work partner. It had been decided that, according to the needs of the work, Sister Zhang was to be reassigned. Seeing everyone agree to this left me unable to object, but I really wasn’t happy about it; I felt like someone had cut off my right arm. Over the next couple of days, I got really upset when this whole affair came to mind. I didn’t much feel like doing my duty, either. I would lie in bed at night, tossing and turning, unable to sleep a wink, turning this matter over and over in my mind. Finally, I said a prayer to God: “Dear God, I’ve been unwilling to let Sister Zhang go just to protect my own position. I just can’t let go of it. Dear God, please guide me and lead me through this situation. Please make me able to let go of myself and come to know myself a little.”
After I said this prayer, I read this in God’s words: “It shows that people rarely practice the truth, that they often turn their backs on the truth, and live in corrupt satanic dispositions that are selfish and vile. It shows that they look out for their own prestige, reputation, status, and interests, and they do not have the truth. Their suffering is therefore great, their worries many, and their fetters numerous” (“Life Entry Must Begin With the Experience of Performing One’s Duty” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “Cruel mankind! The connivance and intrigue, the snatching and grabbing one from another, the scramble for fame and fortune, the mutual slaughter—when will it ever end? Despite the hundreds of thousands of words God has spoken, no one has come to their senses. People act for the sake of their families, sons and daughters, for their careers, future prospects, position, vainglory, and money, for the sake of food, clothing, and the flesh. But is there anyone whose actions are truly for the sake of God? Even among those who act for the sake of God, there are but few who know God. How many people do not act out of their own interests? How many do not oppress or ostracize others in order to protect their own position?” (“The Wicked Will Surely Be Punished” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words pierced my heart. God revealed the ugliness of mankind’s corruption by Satan, people’s infighting for the sake of fame and fortune—this was precisely my state. I thought about what I’d revealed in this Sister Zhang issue. In order to protect my position as leader, I’d disregarded the work of God’s house as a whole, afraid that if we lost Sister Zhang, then the work of our church would be impacted and I’d lose my position as leader. That’s why when the leader came to ask for Sister Zhang, I’d come up with all manner of reasons to refuse. I called the shots and took the lead in arranging Sister Zhang’s duties. I tried to trick Sister Li and my leader and schemed to pull the wool over the eyes of the deacons. I went to great lengths and racked my brains to protect my own fame, fortune, and status. How selfish, despicable, and deceitful I was! That made me think of wild beasts in the animal kingdom. They fight and kill each other over territory and food, and the strongest come out on top. Then there was me: By vying for control over people and trying to protect my position, I’d become like a wild beast, totally without humanity. I realized how frightful my behavior had been. Though I appeared to be bearing a burden and considering the work of our church, what I was really considering deep down was my own position. Just as God’s words reveal: “How many people do not act out of their own interests? How many do not oppress or ostracize others in order to protect their own position?” From start to finish, I’d been trying to control Sister Zhang, unwilling to let her go. I’d thought of her as a member of our church, and that we should have say over her duty. I had to be in charge and no one was allowed to interfere. I saw just how arrogant I’d been. I’d lost my humanity and sense, plain and simple! Just then, I thought about when I’d preached the gospel to religious people, the pastors saw that many members of their congregations were accepting God’s work of the last days and that their positions were becoming untenable. They did everything they could to stop people from investigating the true way. They not only attacked those who spread the gospel, but even shamelessly claimed believers as their own flock, and that no one was going to steal them away. I realized then that my behavior was, in essence, no different from those pastors’ behavior. In order to maintain my position and livelihood, I’d wanted to keep the brothers and sisters under my control and I wouldn’t allow God’s house to reassign them elsewhere. I’d been trying to seize God’s sheep and vie with God over these people! At this thought, I began to feel afraid. Trembling with fear, I went before God and prayed: “Dear God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve resisted You and I wish to repent to You.”
Not long afterward, God once again arranged a situation to test me. A leader in another church sent a message asking urgently for someone who could take charge of document editing work. She’d heard that Sister Chen in our church was good at it and took on responsibility for her duty, so she wanted to ask if Sister Chen was able to take on this position. I knew very well that Sister Chen would be perfect for it, but she was an evangelist in our church, and she was great at that, too. What would happen if Sister Chen was transferred and our gospel work suffered as a result? What if I ended up being dealt with by the leader as being unable to do practical work? I may not even be able to keep my position. I decided it was better if they just found someone else so I intentionally neglected to reply to that leader’s message. Then it suddenly occurred to me, “I wasn’t willing to hand Sister Zhang over before in order to protect my own position. I can’t be so obstructive this time.” But I still felt really pained and conflicted. I thought, “Why am I so resistant whenever someone needs to be reassigned? I’m always worrying about our work being affected and losing my position. How can I break free of the fetters and constraints of fame, fortune, and status?” I then said a silent prayer to God, asking Him to guide me and lead me to understand the essence of my pursuit for status and to help me forsake my flesh and practice the truth.
During my devotionals, I read this passage of God’s words: “The essence of the behavior of antichrists is to constantly use various means and methods to achieve their goal of having status, of winning people over and making them follow and venerate them. It is possible that in the depths of their hearts they are not deliberately vying over humanity with God, but one thing is certain: Even when they do not vie with God for humans, they still wish to have status and power among them. Even if the day comes when they realize that they are vying with God for status, and they rein themselves in, they still employ other methods to gain status among people and be validated. In short, though everything antichrists do appears to comprise a faithful performance of their duties, and they seem to be true followers of God, their ambition to control people—and to gain status and power among them—will never change. No matter what God says or does, and no matter what He asks of people, they do not do what they should do or fulfill their duties in a way that befits His words and requirements, nor do they give up their pursuit of power and status as a result of understanding His utterances and the truth; throughout, their ambition consumes them, controls and directs their behavior and thoughts, and determines the path they walk. This is the epitome of an antichrist. What is emphasized here? Some people ask, ‘Are antichrists not those who vie with God to gain people, and who do not recognize Him?’ They may recognize God, they may genuinely recognize and believe in His existence, and they may be willing to follow Him and pursue the truth, but one thing will never change: They will never relinquish their ambition for power and status, nor will they give up their pursuit of those things due to their environments or God’s attitude toward them. These are the characteristics of antichrists. However much a person has suffered, however much of the truth they have understood, however many truth realities they have entered, and however much knowledge of God they possess, beyond these external phenomena and manifestations, they will never rein in or relinquish their ambition for, and pursuit of, status and power, and this determines precisely their nature essence. There is not the slightest inaccuracy in God’s defining such people as antichrists; it has been determined by their very nature essence” (“For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (3)” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God revealed the nature and characteristics of antichrists as cherishing power and status and taking those things as their reason for living. The root and motivation for their every action is the desire for fame, fortune, and status, so much so that they even take God’s sheep as their own, oppose God, and absolutely refuse to repent, until finally they are exposed and eliminated. I began to feel afraid as I contemplated God’s words. I really cherished my status. That first time, I’d refused to allow Sister Zhang to be reassigned in order to protect my position. Now this time, I was unwilling to let someone go again for the sake of my own position. All I thought about was my status and I showed God’s will no consideration whatsoever, much less did I think about the work of God’s house. I was determined to keep my position, even at the expense of the work of God’s house, and was even capable of vying with God over people for the sake of my own status. Where was my reverence for God? My faith was not in God; I had placed my faith in status and power, and wasn’t that the nature of an antichrist? I knew perfectly well that Sister Chen was good at editing documents and that she enjoyed that kind of work. But in order to protect my own position, I hadn’t asked her for her opinion nor assigned her to a suitable duty in line with her strengths, but had instead acted like her master and refused to let her go do her duty in another church. I was treating the church like my own territory and no one was going to be reassigned without my say-so. Wasn’t I trying to cage and control people, just like an antichrist? To keep a firm hold on my position, I tried to keep the brothers and sisters with caliber and strengths in my church. I treated them like they were my own property and ruled over them, wanting more people to toil for the sake of my own position. God really loathed this ambition of mine and I deserved to be cursed! I saw that my views on pursuit hadn’t changed in all my years of faith in God, that I was tightly fettered by fame, fortune, and status, and that I was walking the path of the antichrists. An antichrist I’d known before then came to mind. He had always pursued fame, fortune, and status and, once he became a leader, he tried to consolidate his position by keeping people under his control and trying to establish his own independent fiefdom. He did not accept the truth whatsoever and acted like a dictator. He caused severe disruptions to the work of God’s house, and in the end he was exposed and eliminated. I realized that the pursuit of fame, fortune, and status was the path of the antichrists that would lead down into hell! God arranged situations to expose me again and again to make me recognize my own satanic nature and see that I was on the wrong path so that I would turn back in time. These situations were a judgment upon me, but even more than that, they were God’s great love and salvation! As I pondered the painstaking efforts God had gone to, I began to yield and I no longer felt resistant to such situations. I felt that everything God arranged was precisely what I needed. I wanted to truly repent and experience those situations with a submissive heart.
I later read two passages of God’s words. “What is duty? A duty is not managed by you—it is not your own career or your own work; instead, it is God’s work. God’s work requires your cooperation, which gives rise to your duty. The part of God’s work with which man must cooperate is his duty. The duty is a portion of God’s work—it is not your career, not your domestic affairs nor your personal affairs in life. Whether your duty is to deal with external or internal affairs, it is the work of the house of God, it forms one part of God’s management plan, and it is the commission God has given to you. It is not your personal business” (“Only by Seeking the Truth Principles Can One Perform Their Duty Well” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “Whatever duty you accept—for example, if you have been chosen to be a church leader, then church leadership is your duty—how should you do it if you see it as your duty? (In line with God’s requirements.) Working in line with God’s requirements is a general way of putting it. What are the specific details? First, you must know that this is a duty, not an office. It will cause problems if you think you have assumed an office. However, if you say, ‘I’ve been chosen to be a church leader, so I need to be a grade lower than others; all of you are higher up than I am and greater than I am,’ then this, too, is an incorrect attitude; if you do not understand the truth, then no amount of pretense will do you any good. Rather, you must have a proper understanding of it. Firstly, you must know that this duty is very important. A church has dozens of members, and you must think about how to bring these people before God and enable a majority of them to understand the truth and enter truth reality. Furthermore, with weak, passive people, you must strive to make them stop being weak and passive so that they can actively fulfill their duties, and as to all those who are able to fulfill their duties, you should make them do so and perform to their utmost. Make them understand the truths related to fulfilling one’s duties so that they are not slipshod in fulfilling them, they fulfill them well, and they can have a normal relationship with God. There are also those who cause disruption and disturbances, or those who have believed in God for many years but have an evil humanity; of these people, you should deal with those who should be dealt with, and purge those who should be purged, making appropriate arrangements for each person according to their kind. It is also of importance that those few in the church with relatively good humanity, with a bit of caliber, who can take responsibility for an aspect of work, must all be cultivated. … You must make the most of every person, taking full advantage of their individual capabilities and arranging suitable duties for them according to what they can do, the quality of their caliber, how old they are, and how long they have believed in God. You must come up with a tailor-made plan for each type of person and vary it from person to person, so that they can fulfill their duties in God’s house and exert their functions to the greatest extent” (“What Is the Adequate Performance of Duty?” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words showed me that a duty is not one’s own personal enterprise. Our duty comes from God, and we should perform it as He requires. Training people is something God requires leaders to do. God has prepared all manner of skilled people for His work and as a church leader, I should perform my duty in accordance with His requirements and principles. When I find someone with talent, I should train them and recommend them, so that everyone can give full play to their strengths in the right place, perform their duty, and fulfill their respective function to better expand the gospel work. Only this is in line with God’s will, and it is what brothers and sisters want to do as well. Once I’d understood God’s will, I sent a message to the leader of the other church confirming that I would be reassigning Sister Chen. I felt more at ease in my heart once I started to practice this way. I then saw God’s blessings. Much to my surprise, in November that year, the number of converts we gained from our gospel work tripled from the previous month. I knew that this was achieved through God’s work and I couldn’t stop thanking and praising Him!
Before, I never felt any loathing for the corruptions of vying for fame and fortune or pursuing fame, fortune, and status. I thought that, seeing as everyone had been corrupted by Satan, then we must all have that same disposition, and that it wasn’t something that could be changed in just a couple of days. That kept me from seeking the truth to resolve the problem. By undergoing the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, and by being tested and exposed, I finally came to have some discernment over the essence of pursuing those things. I saw that to pursue such things is to resist God and I began to hate myself from the bottom of my heart. I became willing to pursue the truth, repent, and change. It’s all because of God’s work that I am now able to forsake my flesh and put some truth into practice. Thanks be to Almighty God!