22. God’s Word Is My Strength in Life
By Xu Zhigang, Tianjin Municipality
In the past, I was deeply influenced by China’s traditional values, and made purchasing real estate for my children and grandchildren my life goal. To accomplish this, I devoted myself to learning about automotive repair technology. I also opened a repair garage, and business went very well. At that time in my life, I believed I controlled my own fate, so when my sister-in-law preached the Lord Jesus’ gospel to me, I not only refused to accept it, I actually mocked her, because I felt that I could live just as well without believing in the Lord. However, the good times didn’t last. Business got worse and worse at my garage, and no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t turn things around. I ran myself ragged trying to change the situation, and I was exhausted and miserable, so I turned to drinking alcohol all day to relieve my anxiety. In turn, one day, I wasn’t paying attention as I was driving and ended up being involved in an accident. My car was smashed beyond recognition, but fortunately and miraculously, I survived. Not long after, in the spring of 1999, my wife preached Almighty God’s gospel of the last days to me. I came to understand some truths by reading Almighty God’s words, and I learned that the reason I had been living in such a miserable, helpless state was that I had accepted the principles of life that Satan indoctrinates people with. I had wanted to rely on my own effort to create a happy home for myself, and the result was that I was played for a fool to the point where I found myself in extreme suffering, and nearly lost my life. It was Almighty God who brought me back from the brink of death and brought me into His house, and I was incredibly grateful to Him for showing me mercy. From then on, each day I read God’s word, as well as attended meetings and fellowshiped with my brothers and sisters, and light filled my heart. I enjoyed it, and rejoiced that I had found the genuine path in life. However, before long, I became a target for arrest by the CCP government for my belief in God, and I was forced to leave my family and go into hiding. At that time, even though I underwent periods of weakness, I believed that no matter where I went and no matter how demons of Satan might pursue me, God’s words would guide me. More than ten years later, through the guidance and provision of God’s word, I gradually came to understand some truths, and my life was very fulfilling. Throughout the time that followed, during which I was arrested and subjected to persecution, I experienced even more practically that God’s word is my strength in life, for it was God’s word which allowed me to stand strong, upright, and without fear amidst Satan’s cruel torture and torment, so that I was able to finally completely humiliate Satan. After this experience, I treasured God’s word even more, and I couldn’t be apart from God’s word even for a moment.
On a day in February of 2013, I was out spreading the gospel with several brothers and sisters, but on our way back, we were stopped by a sedan. Three police officers got out of the car and asked our identities, and when they heard my non-local accent, they forcibly searched me without even giving a reason. They seized from my pockets a card of the Agricultural Bank of China which held more than 700 yuan, over 300 yuan in cash, a cell phone, an MP5 player, and some gospel information. The instant one of the officers learned I believed in Almighty God, his demeanor became very fierce, and he forcibly handcuffed me and shoved me into the car. At the police station, they ordered me to stand against the wall, where one officer asked me sternly, “What’s your name? Where is your home? Who preached about belief in God to you?” When he saw I wouldn’t answer, he instantly flew into a rage, ripped my feather down coat off me, then turned me around and pulled my sweater up from my back over my head, and beat my back viciously with his baton. Every few strikes, he would ask me, “Will you talk now?” After repeatedly hitting me fifteen times, the flesh on my back felt lacerated, and my spine felt like it had been broken, it hurt so much. But no matter how he beat me, I refused to speak. Finally, spluttering with rage he yelled, saying, “Fine, I give up! Hitting you like this is making my wrist hurt, and you still won’t talk!” In my heart, I knew God was protecting me. I couldn’t have withstood such a violent beating by myself. I silently gave thanks to God.
They saw that beating was ineffective against me, so they changed tactics. One of these evil police brought in a rod about one meter long and six centimeters in diameter, and with a sinister grin said, “Let’s have him ‘sample the delights’ of kneeling on this and then see if he talks!” I had heard that after kneeling on a rod like this for 30 minutes, a person couldn’t stand up straight or walk. Faced with this kind of torture, I felt that my spiritual stature was too small, and that my flesh wouldn’t be able to endure it. I was afraid, so with all my strength I called out to God, “God! My stature is too small, and I fear I can’t withstand this kind of torment. Please protect my heart and give me the strength to endure this torment and not betray You.” I called out to God again and again, and God knew my flesh was weak. He heard my prayer, because in the end, these evil police decided not to use this kind of torture. The facts before my eyes demonstrated God’s mercy and protection for me, which both increased my faith in Him and greatly lessened my fear. Although they decided not to use that method of torture, they still weren’t willing to release me. Instead, they thought of another method of torture. They forced me to kneel on the ground with my waist held straight, and then made a hulking male officer more than 1.8 meters tall stand on my calves with both feet and stomp down as hard as he could. The moment he stood on them, I felt a searing pain, then prayed to God with all my strength, “God! I can’t withstand such inhuman torture, but I wish to satisfy You, so I beg You to give me faith, strength, and the will to bear suffering. I wish to stand firm in my testimony for You.” Thanks be to God, for once again He heard my prayer. That fat police officer couldn’t maintain a stable stance on my calves, so before long he stepped off of me. The evil police officer next to him flew into a rage and said, “You useless fool! Why are you getting off of him so soon?” These demons truly were wicked and vicious beyond compare. They thought of every possible method to torture me, and were just itching to kill me, as if only my death would satisfy them. They forced me to stay in an upright kneeling position and wouldn’t allow me to move. Later, one of the police officers gave others a meaningful look, and then the rest all went out, leaving me alone in the room with that police officer keeping watch. He came over to me and tried to ingratiate himself with me, smiling falsely as he said, “My mother also believes in God. Tell me how you came to believe. I’d like to believe in God with you, so take me to meet your superiors.” Hearing his lies and looking at his disingenuous smile, I suddenly felt utterly disgusted. Just as I was about to expose his trick, I suddenly recalled God’s word: “You must have My courage within you…. But for My sake, you must also not yield to any of the dark forces. Rely on My wisdom to walk the perfect way; do not allow the conspiracies of Satan to take hold” (“Chapter 10” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words provided timely guidance for me, allowing me to understand that, even more than courage, I need wisdom in the presence of Satan. At all times we must rely on God to grant us wisdom to contend with Satan. Through the enlightenment and guidance of God’s word, I knew what to do, so I said, “If you really want to believe, you only need to read God’s word at home. You don’t need to go out and see anyone.” Just after I finished speaking, the evil police officer who beat me entered and said maliciously to me, “You’re one hell of a headache to work with!” I knew Satan had failed and was humiliated, so I silently thanked God. I saw that God was always with me, guiding me, encouraging me, and miraculously warding off the violence of the devil’s black hand. God’s love for me is so great! At that moment, although I was trapped in a cell, I felt that my relationship with God was closer than ever before, and I felt very much supported and at ease. They forced me to kneel for more than two hours. Finally, after one in the morning, as they realized the interrogation wasn’t producing results, they could do nothing but leave in dejection.
On the morning of the second day, the police brought me to a branch office of the Public Security Bureau. After I went into the interrogation room, the chief of the criminal police asked me furiously, “What is your name? Where is your home? Who introduced you to belief in God? How long have you believed in God for? Who are your contacts? Tell me everything, or I promise you’ll be sorry!” But no matter what he asked, I didn’t tell him anything. All day he questioned me using both rough and gentle tactics, but he got nothing from me, and finally, enraged, he shouted, “You won’t talk?! Then let’s see how you like life in the detention house! If you want things to be difficult, we can certainly do that! If you don’t give us the answers we want, we’ll keep you locked up in there forever!” And so, I was taken to the detention house and locked in the cell which housed the largest number of serious offenders. The moment I entered the cell, my blood ran cold because of the gloomy and terrifying atmosphere of the place. The walls of the cell were four meters high, it was dark and damp, only a single small window allowed in scant rays of sunlight, and there was a thick, rancid odor that made the air nearly impossible to breathe. This tiny room was crammed full of criminals; there were murderers, drug users, and robbers, all serious offenders. Each of them appeared savage and fiendish, and several were tall, thickly muscled, with stringy, ugly faces, and bodies covered in tattoos of dragons, phoenixes, snakes, and the like. Some of the prisoners were as thin as rakes, like living skeletons, and they made me shiver just looking at them. There was a pecking order among the detainees, and believers in Almighty God were at the very bottom, with absolutely no rights to speak of. The emergency call button installed on the wall was originally meant to be used by prisoners in emergency situations to call for the correctional officer, but believers in Almighty God didn’t have the right to “enjoy” its use at all. No matter how inhuman the abuse, no one would ever respond.
On my first day in the cell, the chief prisoner mocked me after he learned about my situation, saying, “Since you believe in Almighty God, have Him get you out of here. If your God is so good, why would He let you end up in this place?” The vile prisoner beside him joined in the mockery, “Who do you think is better, our chief here or your God?” Hearing them slight and insult God made me furious. I wanted to argue with them, but was helpless to do so. I recalled that Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life states that the essence of evildoers is that of demons, and this is absolutely right! These demons were completely unreasonable, and deserved to be cursed! When I didn’t respond, the chief prisoner flew into a rage and viciously slapped me twice, after which he punched me hard on the chin, knocking me to the floor. I was very afraid being faced with these devils, and I couldn’t help but call out to God, “O God! You know I am cowardly and weak, and that I have always feared thugs and gangsters. Please protect me, give me faith and strength, and allow me not to lose my testimony in this situation.” These devils saw that I wouldn’t speak, so they thought of a different way to torment me. A criminal who looked like a skeleton came up to me and forced me to back up against the wall. He then got two other prisoners to hold my shoulders against the wall, after which he pinched my inner thigh as hard as he could, first left, then right, and each time I would feel shooting pain that was unspeakably painful. (Afterward, my legs were covered in some large bumps, which even today haven’t disappeared). Then, he viciously hit the outside of my thighs with his fists. Soon after, I squatted on the floor, and it was nearly impossible for me to stand up again. Even then, they didn’t stop tormenting me. It was the middle of winter and bitterly cold, but these devils ordered me to take off my clothes and squat against the wall under a faucet. They continually poured water on me and deliberately opened the window, making me so cold I couldn’t stop shivering. When one of the prisoners saw that I was clenching my teeth to endure the torture, he grabbed a piece of foam board and waved it at me like a fan to blow cold air toward me, instantly making me feel like my blood was frozen solid, and my teeth couldn’t stop chattering. I couldn’t help but silently pray to God, “O God! I know Your good intentions are behind what’s happening to me now, so I beg for Your guidance in understanding Your will, because alone, I really can’t bear the torment of these devils. O God! Please give me greater faith and strength, so that I have the will and determination to overcome these difficulties.” After I prayed, I recalled God’s words: “‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ You have all heard these words before, yet none of you understood their true meaning. Today, you are profoundly aware of their true significance. These words shall be fulfilled by God during the last days, and they shall be fulfilled in those who have been brutally persecuted by the great red dragon in the land where it lies coiled. The great red dragon persecutes God and is the enemy of God, and so, in this land, those who believe in God are thus subjected to humiliation and oppression, and God’s words are fulfilled in you, this group of people, as a result” (“Is the Work of God So Simple As Man Imagines?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). By contemplating God’s words, I understood God’s will. The fact that I was now suffering for my belief in God was something glorious and it was my honor. Satan was tormenting me with the goal of making me betray and deny God because I couldn’t withstand fleshly suffering, so I absolutely could not submit to Satan. At that moment, I suddenly remembered how the evil police officer had threatened me with life in the detention house, and I had a sudden realization—the prisoners were so mercilessly tormenting and abusing me because they had been ordered to do so by the evil police! It was only then that I clearly saw that these sanctimonious “People’s Police” are actually incredibly sinister and despicable. They were using these prisoners to do their dirty work. They are utterly vicious down to the core, and are nothing but devils who can commit murder without even having to spill the blood themselves! Satan was trying every method it could to make me submit to them, but God’s wisdom is exercised based on Satan’s tricks. God was using this environment to give me true faith in Him, to allow me to clearly see Satan’s ugly face and evil essence, and thereby arouse true loathing for them in my heart. Once I understood God’s will, my heart was brightened and I found my strength. I could not allow myself to be fooled by Satan. No matter how much fleshly pain or weakness I felt, I had to stand firm in my testimony for God. I was grateful to God for giving me the strength to overcome the torture and torment of these devils, and to once again defeat Satan.
At the detention house, our daily meals consisted of frozen cabbage boiled in water, pickled vegetables, and a small steamed cornbread, which in no way filled the stomach. At night, the chief prisoner and his retinue slept on the sleeping platform while the rest of us had to sleep on the floor. As I laid on the icy floor, looking at the prisoners around me, I thought of my pitiable circumstances and immediately felt a lonely chill grip my heart. I thought when I had been with my brothers and sisters, and every day had been happy and full of joy. But now, I spent every day with these criminals, and I also had to endure their bullying and insults, and I felt unspeakably, excruciatingly miserable…. I went before God and prayed to Him, “O God! I don’t know how much longer I will have to live like this, and I don’t know how to get through the days ahead. Now, my flesh is weak, and I don’t wish to face this situation anymore. O God! Please give me the determination to bear suffering, and guide me in understanding Your will, so that I can satisfy You in this situation.” After I prayed, God’s words flashed clearly into my mind: “Many are the sleepless nights that God has endured for the sake of the work of mankind. From up high to the lowest depths, He has descended to the living hell in which man lives to pass His days with man, has never complained of the shabbiness among man, has never reproached man for his disobedience, but endures the greatest humiliation as He personally carries out His work. … [F]or the sake of all mankind, so that the whole of mankind can find rest sooner, He has endured humiliation and suffered injustice to come to earth, and personally entered into ‘hell’ and ‘Hades,’ into the tiger’s den, to save man. How is man qualified to oppose God? What reason does he have to once more complain about God? How can he have the gall to look upon God again? God of heaven has come to this most filthy land of vice, and has never vented His grievances, or complained about man, but instead quietly accepts the ravages and oppression of man. Never has He hit back at the unreasonable demands of man, never has He made excessive demands of man, and never has He made unreasonable demands of man; He merely does all the work required by man without complaint: teaching, enlightening, reproaching, the refinement of words, reminding, exhorting, consoling, judging, and revealing” (“Work and Entry (9)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I considered God’s words, and thought of the suffering God endured for mankind’s sake both times He came incarnate into the world, and my eyes involuntarily became wet with tears. The Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross, using His own life to redeem mankind which had been corrupted by Satan. Today, Almighty God has again incarnated and has come to China, the nation that most resists God, where He risks His life to speak His words and save us. Who could know the difficulties and suffering He has endured to do that? Who could appreciate it? Meanwhile, I, a member of corrupt mankind, felt unbearably miserable and wanted nothing more than to escape my situation after spending only a few days with those criminals. God, who is holy and righteous, has lived with us in this evil, fallen world for decades. Hasn’t God suffered far more? Moreover, I was suffering to rid myself of corruption and attain true salvation. But God is innocent and not of this world, nor of this hell on earth, yet purely out of His love for humankind, He came into the depths of the great red dragon’s lair, willing to sacrifice His life to save mankind. God’s love is truly incredible! If I had any love for God at all, I ought not feel that my own circumstances were insufferable, and I shouldn’t feel too aggrieved. In the face of God’s love, I felt nothing but regret and shame. And as I contemplated God’s love, I felt waves of warmth in my heart. God is truly great, and His love for mankind is so deep and so true! If I hadn’t personally experienced such circumstances, I wouldn’t know God’s dearness and loveliness. Although experiencing these circumstances devastated my body, it was incredibly beneficial for my life. Thinking of this, my heart filled with gratitude to God, and I found the determination to stand firm in my testimony for God despite the extreme pain.
At the detention house, the chief prisoner often told me about all the means the correctional officers used to torment “criminals” who believe in God: They stab thumbtacks into the fingers of believers, causing unspeakable pain; they fill a water bottle with boiling water and force a believer to insert one of their fingers, and after the skin is burned, they make the believer take out their finger and then they rub chili powder on the blisters…. As I listened to these blood-curdling tortures being described, I burned with rage, and my loathing for the CCP government, this satanic regime, only deepened. It describes itself in every positive manner while committing every villainous act. It declares “freedom of religious belief,” and “all people enjoy the legitimate rights and interests of citizens,” and “prisoners are treated like family,” while secretly abusing and torturing people, showing no regard for human life, and not treating people as human beings. For someone who believes in God, entering their world is the same as entering hell, a place where they will be tormented and debased, and where they can never know if they will emerge with their lives. The thought of it terrified me, because I feared those tortures would be used on myself. Each time I heard the correctional officers open the tiny window on the metal door, my heart leaped into my throat, because I was afraid I would be dragged out and tortured. I spent every day overwhelmed by fear, and I felt inextricably trapped. In my misery, I could only silently pray to God: “O God! My heart is weak now, and I feel so timid, but I wish to satisfy You, so please give me faith and strength. I wish to rely on You to overcome Satan’s temptation!” After I prayed, I found guidance in God’s word: “Do not fear, Almighty God of hosts will surely be with you; He has your back and He is your shield” (“Chapter 26” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “When people are ready to sacrifice their lives, everything becomes trifling, and no one can get the better of them. What could be more important than life? Thus, Satan becomes incapable of doing any more in people, there’s nothing it can do with man” (“Chapter 36” of Interpretations of the Mysteries of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s word gave me incredible comfort and encouragement. “Yes,” I thought. “The God I believe in is the Lord of creation who created the heavens and earth and all things therein, who is sovereign over all things, and who controls everything and everyone. Moreover, isn’t the life and death of every single person held in God’s hands? Without God’s permission, Satan the devil wouldn’t dare do anything to me. Isn’t the fact that I spent all day in a state of timidity and terror simply my fear of death and fear of physical suffering? Satan was using this weakness to attack me, to make me succumb to it and betray God. This is Satan’s trick to devour people. But if I am willing to give up my life, would there truly be anything I couldn’t bear?” I thought of Job’s experience: When Satan made its wager with God, Job experienced fleshly suffering, but without God’s permission, no matter how Satan tortured Job, it could not take his life. Now, I wanted to follow Job’s example and have true faith in God, because even if my body was tortured to death by demons, my soul was in God’s hands. No matter how these demons might torture and torment me, I would never give in to its tyrannical abuse. I swore I would never become a Judas! I am grateful to the timely guidance I found in God’s word for leading me out of the bondage and constraints of death and not allowing me to fall prey to Satan’s scheme. Thanks to God’s protection, I didn’t suffer those kinds of torture, and in this, I again saw God’s love and mercy for me.
A few days later, that evil police officer came again to interrogate me, hoping to get information about church leaders from me, but when I didn’t answer, he became utterly savage. He glared at me as he grabbed my chin and tilted my head to the left and right, then said through gritted teeth, “Is there anything human in you at all? Go ahead then, believe in God! I’ll put a picture of you on the Internet and invent a few stories about you, and I’ll make everyone who believes in Almighty God think you betrayed God and sold out your brothers and sisters. No one will ever talk to you again. And then, I’ll take you to a place no one knows, dig a hole, and bury you alive, and no one will ever find out.” In his rage, this devil explained their shameless secret tricks and schemes, and this was also their typical means of manipulating people—framing, libeling, making false accusations of crimes, and murder. They show absolutely no regard for people’s lives, and there’s no saying how many inhuman, ruthless deeds they have done in secret! This time, hearing his shouted threats, I was calm, and I didn’t feel afraid at all, because God was my strong support. God was with me, so I had no need to fear anything. The more savage Satan becomes, the more it reveals its ugliness and impotence; the more it persecutes believers, the more it exposes its evil, reactionary essence of making an enemy of God, doing immoral things, and going against Heaven and nature; the more it harms believers in God, the more it inspires my determination to believe in God and follow God to the end: I want to devote my life to God and forsake Satan once and for all! As God’s word says: “Man has long since gathered all his strength, he has devoted all his efforts, paid every price, for this, to tear off the hideous face of this demon and allow people, who have been blinded, and have endured every manner of suffering and hardship, to rise up from their pain and turn their backs on this evil old devil” (“Work and Entry (8)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). At this point, my blood was boiling with rage, and I silently swore an oath: No matter how long I had to stay there, and no matter how those devils tortured me, I would never betray God. The policeman saw that I wouldn’t answer, and in the end took me back to the cell. And so, thanks to the guidance of God’s word, I overcame these demons’ repeated attempts to force a confession out of me and their torture. I never revealed any information about the church, and after spending more than 50 days at the detention house, the police were forced to release me without charge.
Having experienced being arrested, I saw clearly the demonic essence of the CCP government. It fights against Heaven and makes an enemy of God. It refuses to worship God, and also uses all possible means to deceive and control people, to stop people from believing in or worshiping God. It attempts to make people shun God and resist God, so that they are eventually destroyed in hell alongside it. It is so despicable, vicious, and evil! But more importantly, this experience gave me genuine understanding of God’s wondrousness and wisdom and the authority and power of His word. In such a country, where God is seen as a bitter enemy, believers in God are thorns in the eyes and flesh of the atheist government. However, it is utterly unable to restrict those who truly believe in God. No matter how it oppresses, imprisons, and harms our flesh, it cannot banish our desire to go toward the light and pursue the truth, and it cannot shake our resolve to believe in and follow God. I was arrested and personally experienced the savage cruelty of these demons. Satan vainly desired to make me succumb to its despotic rule by arresting and persecuting me, but God’s word continually guided me, and gave me wisdom, faith, and strength that allowed me to stand strong amidst Satan’s cruel persecution. Through my actual experience, I saw God’s wondrous deeds, my faith in God greatly increased, and I gained a more practical understanding of God’s word. I experienced that God’s word is the truth, and that it is the strength in and the source of people’s lives. With the guidance of God’s word, I need not fear anything, and no matter how many difficulties and obstacles I may face on the road ahead, I wish to follow God to the very end!