20. Reflections After Losing an Election
By Xunqiu, China
One year into my time as a believer, I was elected to a church leadership position. I was really grateful to God for His exaltation, and I was determined to do the church’s work well. I worked around the clock, day in day out, doing the work of the church from morning to night. The brothers and sisters looked up to me to a certain degree, seeing my ability to make sacrifices and expend myself, suffer hardship and pay the price, as well as resolve some practical problems. In gatherings with co-workers, I would talk up my work experience to them, and felt quite happy when I saw their looks of approval. I felt that I was a talent within the church. As the gospel work expanded, the brothers and sisters recommended that I go to the southern region to support some newly-established churches there. I thought to myself: “Since those churches have just been set up, there’s sure to be quite a few difficulties and problems in the work. I’ll have to do a lot of practical work when I’m there, so as not to let down the hopes God has placed in me. If I do a good job, I might even be cultivated for a more important position.” Once I was there, even though there were plenty of challenges in my duty, in aspects like dialect and lifestyle, as well as lots of time on the road, travel inconveniences and so on, I didn’t pull back. I was busy all day every day holding gatherings and arranging the churches’ work in an effort to do my duty well, even resenting the time “wasted” by eating—sometimes I’d just grab something I could eat on the road.
Later, there had been noticeable improvement in the churches’ work I was responsible for, and the sister who had come to the southern region for duty at the same time as me said to me admiringly, “Compared to the results you are getting in your work for the churches, my own are so poor.” In words, I consoled my sister and told her not to be discouraged, but secretly I was proud, and felt that I was the one who had capability for work. Later, my leader asked me to write out my work experience for the others to learn from. I became even more smug, feeling like the leader thought highly of me and that I had already become a candidate to be trained for more important functions, and that I was one of the pillars of the churches in that area. Before long, due to the requirements of the church’s work, Sister Xin Lu was elected as a leader, and another person was wanted to take leadership position alongside her. I felt kind of excited to hear this, thinking, “I’ve been performing my duties here for over a year, and the results of the work of the churches have always been comparatively good. I’m a shoo-in for the post.” But to my surprise, it was Sister Wang Xi’en who was chosen as leader in the end. When I heard the news, it was as if my heart sank into my stomach. My grievances, disobedience and complaints all came to the fore. “How could it be Wang Xi’en?” I thought, “The results from her work have just been so-so. Why would she be the one chosen instead of me? Have I not paid enough of a price? Or have I not taken enough initiative in my duty? I’ve worked into the dead of night on so many occasions to resolve difficulties and problems that arise in the churches, and I’ve even gone into work sick countless times. I’ve not only taken care of my own responsibilities, but I’ve helped with the other leaders’ work. After suffering through all of this, if I can’t be chosen, what sort of future do I have? Since this is the case, why bother continuing to kill myself to do my duty? Anyway, no matter how much hardship I suffer, how much of a price I pay, no one takes any notice.” Xin Lu noticed I was looking pretty down after that gathering, and with deep concern she asked if I had any thoughts about not being elected. I opened my heart and told her what I thought. Xin Lu fellowshiped very patiently with me: “Well, the fact is that everyone can see how you throw yourself into your duty, but most brothers and sisters have said that you don’t focus on life entry, and when something comes up, you hardly ever reflect on yourself to learn a lesson. You often elevate yourself and show off—this is your biggest problem. When the brothers and sisters didn’t choose you, they made that assessment based on the principles of the truth. You should reflect upon yourself. No matter what duty we’re performing, we must obey God’s orchestrations and arrangements, concentrate on seeking the truth within the environment that God has set up, seek dispositional change, and do our duty well. Only this is in line with God’s will.” Xin Lu directly addressed my problem, but I was entirely devoid of self-knowledge at that time. Though I didn’t say anything, I was silently in a fit of pique, “I acknowledge that my life entry is lacking, but I think I’m a lot better than those people who just talk about their understanding but don’t throw themselves into their duty. You just look down on me. In this case, no matter how great the price I paid, what use would it be?” Because I harbored this sort of contrary mentality, later when Xin Lu asked me to help out with work, I’d just cherry-pick the simpler, easier tasks to do, and fobbed off whatever was harder to accomplish, whatever required paying a price. I was no longer willing to take on that hardship. I gloated when I noticed Xin Lu encountering difficulties in performing her duties: “Now you can see my importance.” I wasn’t having any of it when Xi’en, the newly-elected leader, came to hold gatherings with us. “Aren’t you a little older than me? Still, you’re no match for me in anything, from fellowship on the truth to arranging the work of the church.” In that period, with my desire for status unmet, I was overflowing with prejudice and disobedience toward the leader; I was going through the motions in my duty, negative and resistant. During this period, the leader fellowshiped on and helped with my state, and pruned and dealt with me, but I was numb and intransigent, and did not reflect upon myself whatsoever.
I carried on in that kind of state for over three months as the darkness in my spirit grew and grew. My fellowship was dull and dry in every gathering. I didn’t have any insight into the problems of my brothers and sisters and couldn’t help resolve them. The end of each gathering couldn’t come soon enough. I couldn’t solve difficulties in gospel work, either, which meant progress in that work slowed. Seeing that I was always so negative, that I couldn’t do practical work, and that this had already impacted the normal progress of work, the leader dismissed me. I still had no self-reflection, however. On the contrary, I was disobedient to and unsatisfied with the leader’s arrangement. I felt like I had the work experience, and that the leader was being prejudicial in treating me this way. Because I was so bothered about status, and didn’t know to reflect on myself, it wasn’t long before I was faced with the discipline of ill health.
One day I was suddenly weak and limp all over and, unable to get a single breath, I fainted. Luckily the brothers and sisters sent me promptly to the hospital for treatment. But even so, I still stubbornly refused to reflect on myself and repent, and ultimately the leader arranged for me to go back to my hometown for self-reflection. I knew in my heart that being dismissed and falling ill was God’s righteous disposition coming upon me, but thinking about how all the co-workers who had come to the south to perform their duties with me were in important positions while I had been dismissed and sent home, I just felt humiliated. I was in tears then. Since I had been arrested before and had a record, it wasn’t safe for me to go back to my hometown, so the leader ended up sending me to the home of a sister who lived in a remote mountainous region. At night I lay on the bed thinking back on when I’d traveled to perform my duty, overflowing with resolve, determined to do the churches’ work well and be promoted to fill an important role. But instead, not only had I not been promoted, I had been dismissed. What would the brothers and sisters in my hometown think if they knew? The very thought of being looked down on by the others for losing my position threw me into turmoil, and made me extremely miserable. I prayed to God, “God, I know I shouldn’t pursue status, but I just can’t escape its shackles. Please guide me so that I can know myself and understand Your will.” I read a couple of passages of God’s words after my prayer: “Do not think that you are a natural-born prodigy, only slightly lower than the heavens but infinitely higher than the earth. You are far from being smarter than anyone else—and, it could even be said that it is simply adorable how much sillier you are than any of the people on earth who are possessed of reason, for you think too highly of yourself, and have never had a sense of inferiority, as if you can see through My actions down to the tiniest detail. In point of fact, you are someone who is fundamentally lacking in reason, because you have no idea of what I intend to do, and you are even less aware of what I am doing now. And so I say that you are not even the equal of an old farmer toiling on the land, a farmer who has not the faintest perception of human life and yet puts all his reliance on the blessings of Heaven as he cultivates the land. You do not spare a second’s thought to your life, you know nothing of renown, and still less do you have any self-knowledge. You are so ‘above it all’!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Do Not Learn and Remain Ignorant: Are They Not Beasts?). “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. … 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? … 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. Those who do not pursue life cannot be transformed, and those who do not thirst for the truth cannot gain the truth. You do not focus on pursuing personal transformation and entry, but focus instead on extravagant desires and things that constrain your love for God and prevent you from drawing close to Him. Can those things transform you? Can they bring you into the kingdom?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?). What God’s words exposed was my own personal state. After I had been elected to a leadership position in the church, because I’d had some success in my work, I considered myself a talent, and thought I was one of the cornerstones of the church. I was constantly calculating the day I’d be promoted to lead even more churches, then even more brothers and sisters would look up to me. I had been willing to endure any amount of suffering to attain a high position. When I failed to be elected and didn’t get that position, I was disobedient, dissatisfied, and filled with resentment. I regretted the price I had paid before. Even though I had been dismissed, and had been disciplined with illness, I didn’t know to reflect on myself and turn toward God. I kept brooding on my loss of status; the desire for status had consumed me, and I had lost all proper reason. Farmers who rely on Heaven as they cultivate the land know they are at the mercy of fate and they submit to the will of Heaven, but I was totally lacking self-awareness and couldn’t just obediently do my duty to satisfy God. Instead, I always wanted to pursue greater status, become a greater leader, and fulfill my ambition and desire to gain others’ admiration. I was so shameless! When the Lord Jesus came to the earth to work, He was humble and hidden, and never flaunted Himself as God. Instead, He dined with sinners and bent down to wash the disciples’ feet. Today God has once again become flesh and come to work on the earth, but He never flaunts His identity to make people worship Him. Instead, He very quietly expresses the truth and provides sustenance for people’s lives. God’s essence is so lovely, so beautiful! However, I, a tiny created being, was all too eager for everyone to see the little work that I had done and the few achievements that I had made. I even boldly believed that the leadership position was in the bag for me. I was thoroughly disgruntled when I wasn’t the one chosen; I became negative and contrary. I was truly so arrogant that I had lost all reason. My behavior wasn’t me pitting myself against another human being, it was contesting against God and resisting God. Being dismissed then was God’s righteousness, in order to deal with my craving for status. Otherwise, my numb heart would never have been roused.
Then I read two more passages of God’s words. “I will subject all those who provoked My anger to My punishment, I will rain down the entirety of My anger upon those beasts that once wished to stand beside Me as My equals yet did not worship or obey Me; the rod with which I strike man will fall upon those animals who once enjoyed My care and once enjoyed the mysteries that I spoke, and who once tried to take material enjoyments from Me. I will be forgiving of no person who tries to take My place; I will spare none of those who attempt to wrest food and clothes from Me. For now, you remain free from harm and continue to overreach in the demands you make of Me. When the day of wrath arrives, you will not make any more demands of Me; at that time, I will let you ‘enjoy’ yourselves to your heart’s content, I will force your face into the earth, and you will never be able to get up again!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). “Having led a few churches, some people grow arrogant, they think that the house of God can’t do without them, that they should enjoy special treatment. People have the nature of Satan. The higher their status, the higher their demands of God. The more they understand of the doctrines, the more furtive and sneaky their demands are. Their mouths do not say it, but it is hidden within their hearts, and is not easy to discover. In all likelihood, there will be a time when their complaints and resistance burst forth. That will be even more troublesome, and it will be likely to offend God’s disposition. Why is it that the more people are religious leaders and figures, the more they are dangerous antichrists? Because the greater people’s status, the greater their ambition; the more they understand of the doctrines, the more arrogant their dispositions become. So if, in your belief in God, you do not pursue the truth, and instead pursue status, then you’re in danger” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. People Make Too Many Demands of God). Reading God’s words of judgment and exposure left me trembling with fear. I thought back to when, because I had achieved some results in my duty and was in charge of the work of a few churches, my ambition for status had begun to swell, and I coveted even higher status and the admiration and following of a greater number of people. That, in essence, was me trying to wrest God’s chosen people away from Him. In the Age of Law, when the band of Korah and Dathan went against the leadership of Moses and tried to take his position, God split the earth asunder and they were entirely swallowed up. And there was the Age of Grace, when the Jewish chief priests, scribes and Pharisees traveled over land and sea to make people convert, but when the Lord Jesus came to do the work of redemption, they viciously resisted and condemned Him in order to protect their own positions. Ultimately, they had Him nailed to the cross and suffered God’s damnation. I saw that pursuing status is walking the path of resisting God—it is the doomed path to hell. Realizing this, I was filled with regret. I knelt down on the ground and wept bitterly as I prayed to God, “Oh God! I don’t want to stubbornly make myself Your enemy any longer, but I only wish to reflect upon myself and be able to truly repent. No matter what sort of environment You arrange for me, all I want is to submit to You.”
After that, I no longer suffered or felt aggrieved over my loss of status. Rather, settling down to eat, drink and ponder the word of God, I did my duty and spread the gospel as best I could. While I was doing so, the potential gospel recipients asked lots and lots of questions, but because I didn’t have a good understanding of the relevant truths, I couldn’t give clear answers. It was then that I saw how much I was lacking, and I felt very embarrassed. Before, I had felt that I was better than others, and should be trained for more important positions. But now I realized I couldn’t see myself clearly at all. The most important trait for a leader to possess is an understanding of the truth, and the ability to employ the truth to resolve problems, but I couldn’t even fellowship clearly on the most fundamental aspects of the truth for sharing the gospel. And yet I was constantly fighting for a leadership position—how absurd! Thinking about it carefully, when I had been faced with the brothers’ and sisters’ difficulties and problems, I used to just talk about the lofty theories and give them a bit of encouragement, but I didn’t know how to fellowship on or resolve the practical problems and difficulties of their life entry. Having undergone this dismissal, I realized that if someone doesn’t possess the truth, they won’t be able to do practical work no matter how high their status. They’ll just end up disrupting the work of the church and bringing harm to the lives of the brothers and sisters. I also felt that God’s orchestration and arrangement for me to come here to spread the gospel was so that I could become better equipped with the truth and make up for my deficiencies. Once I understood God’s will, I became happy to submit and do my duty well within that environment. After a period of hard work, I became equipped with some truths that involve the visions of God’s work, and the local gospel work slowly became more and more vibrant. I was reading God’s word and singing hymns in praise of God with new believers every day. I felt really fulfilled. Three years of duty in that mountain region went by in the blink of an eye. Then one day, a torrential rain started as I was on my way home from a gathering—there was a fierce wind, and I could barely even push my bicycle along. I walked along that bumpy mountain road, and it was raining so hard that I couldn’t even open my eyes. Seeing how run-down I looked, I thought back on what the leader had mentioned a few days earlier. A brother had done well in sharing the gospel, so he had been transferred out and appointed a group leader. It had been a little troubling for me. I thought, “I’ve been doing my duty here for nearly three years and have learned some lessons, but I’m not even allowed to lead a small group. When other brothers and sisters were dismissed from a duty, once they reflected on and came to know their corrupt dispositions, showed some repentance and made some changes, they were given leadership positions again. I have been reflecting on myself all this time and have gained some understanding of myself, and with my attitude toward my duty and with the truths I’m equipped with, couldn’t I at least lead a church? Why haven’t I been transferred out? Am I just going to have to keep preaching the gospel in the valley forever?”
When I got home, I reflected that the whole way back I had been displaying grievances and misunderstandings, and realized that I was once again adulating status within my heart. I called on God to protect me so that I could quiet myself before Him. Shortly after that, I read two passages of God’s words. God says: “The biggest problem with man is that he thinks of nothing but his fate and prospects and idolizes these things. Man pursues God for the sake of his fate and prospects; he does not worship God because of his love for Him. And so, in the conquest of man, man’s selfishness, greed and the things that most obstruct his worship of God must all be dealt with and thereby eliminated. In doing so, the effects of man’s conquest will be achieved. As a result, in the first stages of the conquest of man it is necessary to purge the wild ambitions and most fatal weaknesses of man, and, through this, to reveal man’s love of God and change his knowledge of human life, his view of God, and the meaning of his existence. In this way, man’s love of God is cleansed, which is to say, man’s heart is conquered” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination). “God creates an environment for you, forcing you to be refined there so that you can know your own corruption. Ultimately, you reach a point at which you would rather die and give up your schemes and desires, and submit to God’s sovereignty and arrangement. Therefore, if people do not have several years of refinement, if they do not endure a certain amount of suffering, they will not be able to rid themselves of the bondage of corruption of the flesh in their thoughts and in their hearts. In whichever aspects people are still subject to Satan’s bondage, and in whichever aspects they still have their own desires and their own demands, these are the aspects in which they should suffer. Only through suffering can lessons be learned, which means being able to gain truth, and understand God’s will” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Reading God’s words, I understood that cleansing people’s corrupt dispositions was not a simple matter. A long period of refinement and exposure was required in order to see clearly the true face of one’s corruption by Satan, and to be able to take steps toward cleansing and change. I reflected that I had always been living by satanic toxins and life principles, like “In all the universe, only I reign supreme,” “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” “People need their pride just as a tree needs its bark,” “A man must live boldly with backbone and resolve,” and so on. With these satanic poisons, I single-mindedly chased name and status. Although I had experienced failure and gained some self-knowledge, these satanic poisons, these satanic thoughts and viewpoints, were lodged deep within me. They had already become my nature. As soon as I found a suitable environment, I chased status again, became concerned with gains and losses of status, and couldn’t do my duty properly. God had placed me in that harsh mountain terrain where I didn’t have a chance to make a name for myself in order to expose and deal with my inner ambitiousness. It was to cleanse me of my satanic disposition and make me capable of living out a human likeness, so I could steadfastly do the duty of a created being. This realization filled me with gratitude toward God and I resolved before Him to pursue the truth well, and to never again go after fame and status, these utterly worthless things.
When things came up after that, I did still sometimes reveal thoughts of fame and status, but I was able to consciously seek the truth and turn my state around. I remember one time, the church assigned me to act in the filming of a video. I was really excited and felt really honored to have the chance to testify God’s work through participating in the filming. But at the same time, my yearning to stand out from the crowd began stirring: If the other brothers and sisters saw me in the video, it would be a glorious thing. To my surprise, when I reached the filming location, due to some special circumstance the person in charge spoke to me and assigned me to cook and clean alongside another sister. When I heard this, I felt somewhat resistant, “Cooking and cleaning are things any other brother or sister in the church can do—why me? Besides, I served as a leader before, so isn’t it wasting my talent to assign me to do odd jobs?” Thinking of this, I felt a little lost. Based on my previous experience, however, I knew that I should submit. After that, other brothers and sisters arrived there one after another, and I saw a number of them from my hometown were acting in the video, while I was wearing an apron, cooking their meals and sweeping the floor. It felt humiliating. In particular, a younger brother saw me and said warmly, “When you were a leader you were in charge of our church’s work. I didn’t understand anything back then, but just liked going to gatherings. The gatherings you held for us were so helpful for me.” This perfectly casual statement from him was very grating on the ear for me—I felt like he was mocking me. My face started burning and I just wanted to find a hole to crawl into. Once, the brothers and sisters wrapped up filming really late, and they all went to sleep after a day of hard work, but I was still there tidying up, so I was really aggrieved, as if I were an unskilled laborer. I felt like I didn’t have a shred of dignity and I was better off sharing the gospel in the mountains, where at least the new believers all enjoyed my fellowship. I felt it would be better than staying where I wasn’t as valued. Since I wasn’t in the proper state, over the following days I was making food absent-mindedly, in a daze, and if the food wasn’t bitter or salty it was bland and devoid of flavor. But the brothers and sisters didn’t complain—they just quietly ate it all the same. Seeing everyone’s tolerance of me, I felt really guilty, and a clear thought occurred to me: Wasn’t I just muddling through because my desire for status hadn’t been fulfilled? I pondered this and reflected on myself: Didn’t I feel resistant and dissatisfied because I felt like I had been devalued and didn’t have any status? I was still worshiping status.
At that time, I read a passage of God’s words and found the way to let go of my desire for status. God’s word says: “So, as I judge you thus today, what degree of understanding will you have in the end? You will say that although your status is not high, you have nonetheless enjoyed the elevation of God. Because you are of lowly birth you do not have status, but you gain status because God elevates you—this is something He bestowed upon 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. Once people have been extricated from these things, then they will have no more concerns” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?). As I mulled over God’s words, a brightness came into my heart. God was doing so much work in me, and His will was to renew my conscience and reason, to have me stay in my place and be an obedient created being, pursue the truth, do my duty well, cast off my corrupt satanic disposition, and truly submit to God. This is what I should pursue as a created being. In fact, any duty at all is the work of God’s house and deserves people’s cooperation. It is just like having the children in a family make food and clean up—those are all household chores, and there’s no high or low status. But I looked down my nose at that duty, feeling like I was being downgraded and that my honor had been compromised. I was resentful and full of grievances, totally lacking obedience. I was so devoid of conscience and reason! These thoughts filled me with regret and disgust for myself. I prayed and confessed to God, willing to submit and do my duty well. When doing the cooking and cleaning after that, I no longer felt aggrieved. Instead, I felt calm inside. I was able to be open and genuine with the brothers and sisters and share with them what I had learned from my duty. I felt from my heart that that was the only way to live with a bit of a human likeness.
This experience allowed me to see God’s salvation of me. It was God’s words that transformed my mistaken pursuits and perspectives, allowed my satanic disposition to be changed a little, and enabled me to steadfastly do my duty in the church. Thanks be to God!