42. Learning From Being Pruned and Dealt With
By Sophia, Netherlands
In May 2021, a sister reported to me that she had been told by Sister Lilah that at least three church leaders were false leaders who didn’t do practical work, and that the brothers and sisters couldn’t discern these false leaders. After I heard her report, I thought: “Lilah is too arrogant. If these three church leaders really are such a problem, wouldn’t they have been replaced long ago? Claiming that these three church leaders are all false leaders, isn’t she judging the leaders?” I began to hold a certain view of Lilah. I thought she might not have good humanity. I went to find out about Lilah’s usual behavior, whether she liked to point out problems with leaders and workers behind their backs, and the condition of her humanity. Once I started looking into it, I learned that among the brothers and sisters, Lilah had said another leader lacked discernment and didn’t do practical work. This made me suspect even more strongly that Lilah had poor humanity. She was always criticizing the leaders in front of the brothers and sisters—was this because her intentions were incorrect and she wanted to be a leader herself, so she was spreading prejudice against the leaders to hinder their work? If Lilah really wanted to protect the work of the church, she ought to report it to superiors, after which the superiors would arrange someone to investigate and verify the situation, as well as ask what other believers thought. If they discovered there really was a false leader, they would be able to handle it appropriately. But Lilah didn’t report the situation to the superior leaders. Instead, she constantly talked about the problems of those leaders among the brothers and sisters. What she was doing was judging leaders. So, I went to Lilah to fellowship with her. I told her, “If you’ve found that leaders and workers have problems, you should report it upward, not speak carelessly in front of the brothers and sisters. What you’re doing will make them prejudiced against the leaders and refuse to cooperate with the leaders’ work. This behavior is destructive to church work. Besides, you’ve talked about the problems of several leaders behind their backs, and this is judging the leaders.” I told her to reflect on her intentions and goals in saying and doing these things, and finally, I warned her, “If you continue judging the leaders behind their backs like this, disturbing and disrupting church work, you could lose your chance to perform your duties.” After I handled things with Lilah, I felt I had fulfilled my responsibilities as a leader, and that I was protecting the work of the church.
Unexpectedly, one day at a gathering, a superior leader suddenly asked me, “Why did you dismiss Lilah? What did she do wrong?” This sudden question made me a little confused. I thought, “I never dismissed Lilah. If she was replaced, I don’t know anything about it.” My leader then told me that the problems Lilah reported were real, and that the leaders she reported were, in fact, false leaders who needed to be replaced. My leader then dealt with me for being too arbitrary in how I handled matters with Lilah. He said, merely because she had reported problems with several leaders, I had determined she was arbitrarily judging leaders and had bad humanity. My actions amounted to suppressing and condemning God’s chosen people. Whoever spoke the truth was suppressed and punished. It was no different from what the CCP does, creating a “White Terror” atmosphere. After my leader dealt with me, it was difficult to accept. I certainly didn’t think I was creating an atmosphere of fear, nor did I want to punish Lilah. On top of that, it was the leaders at Lilah’s church who had replaced her. I wasn’t directly involved in it at all. How did that make me the same as the CCP? After that, I couldn’t stop wondering why my leader dealt with me like this. Just where was my problem occurring? I thought back on what my leader said, “You characterized Lilah’s actions as ‘judging the leaders,’ immediately after which she was suppressed and dismissed by others. If you hadn’t characterized her that way, would she have been dismissed so easily?” I contemplated this as I reflected. I thought, although I wasn’t the one who dismissed Lilah, and although I didn’t deliberately punish or suppress her, because I was a leader, after I characterized her problem as “arbitrarily judging the leaders,” other brothers and sisters couldn’t have had a good impression of her. When some problems or deviations appeared in her duties, her church leaders would have thought she liked to judge people and had bad humanity, so they dismissed her. What set off the chain of events that led to her dismissal was my determination of her. But what was my basis for determining she was guilty of “judging the leaders”? Was what she did really judging people? As I reflected on these questions, I discovered I held some fallacious viewpoints. I thought reporting leaders and workers had to be done according to a process. You either directly give advice to the person in question, or raise the issue with their superior leaders and workers and let them investigate and handle it. Otherwise, I thought, you were judging the leaders behind their backs. Lilah said there were problems with four different leaders, but she hadn’t told the leaders themselves or reported the issues to their superiors. Instead, several times, she had talked about these leaders to the brothers and sisters, saying they didn’t do practical work, only spoke letters and doctrine, and were false leaders. I thought her behavior constituted judging leaders, so I condemned her based on this behavior without actually investigating and discovering whether what Lilah talked about was genuine. If what Lilah said was true, that these four people were false leaders, then she was doing this to expose false leaders. She was upholding the principles of truth and acting justly, which would mean she was taking responsibility for and protecting the work of the church. Someone who is able to truthfully report problems and dares to tell the truth without fear of the status and power of false leaders is a good person in the church, a person who should be cultivated. If problems they report don’t match the facts, or if they falsely accuse leaders and workers, this is slander and framing, judging people arbitrarily, and disturbing the work of the church. If they often do so, such a person is an evildoer with bad humanity who needs to be handled according to principles. Now, the facts proved that the leaders reported by Lilah were indeed false leaders who didn’t do practical work. Everything she reported was in line with the facts. She wasn’t judging the leaders at all. She was telling the truth and exposing false leaders. Someone like that, with a sense of justice, deserves to be supported, not carelessly accused and condemned. If people are to be accused like this, who will dare to speak the truth? I didn’t understand what it meant to expose false leaders and to judge people. When things happened, I didn’t seek principles, but arbitrarily condemned a good person. I had no fear of God in my heart, and if it weren’t for my leader discovering that Lilah’s dismissal was unprincipled and stopping it in time, I would have done something wicked. As I reflected on this, I felt a deep sense of self-blame as I realized I was wrong, so I went before God and prayed to express my willingness to accept His judgment and chastisement and His pruning and dealing, and asked for His guidance in gaining knowledge of my own corrupt disposition.
During my devotional time, I saw a passage of God’s word: “Serving God is no simple task. Those whose corrupt disposition remains unchanged can never serve God. If your disposition has not been judged and chastised by God’s words, then your disposition still represents Satan, which proves that you serve God out of your own good intentions, that your service is based on your satanic nature. You serve God with your natural character, and according to your personal preferences. What’s more, you always think that the things you are willing to do are what are delightful to God, and that the things you do not wish to do are what are hateful to God; you work entirely according to your own preferences. Can this be called serving God? Ultimately, there will not be the slightest change in your life disposition; instead, your service will make you even more stubborn, thus deeply ingraining your corrupt disposition, and as such, there will be formed within you rules about service to God that are primarily based on your own character, and experiences derived from your service according to your own disposition. These are the experiences and lessons of man. It is man’s philosophy of living in the world. People like this can be classed as Pharisees and religious officials. If they never wake up and repent, then they will surely turn into the false Christs and the antichrists who deceive people in the last days. The false Christs and the antichrists that were spoken of will arise from among such people. If those who serve God follow their own character and act according to their own will, they run the risk of being cast out at any time. Those who apply their many years of experience acquired to serving God in order to win the hearts of others, to lecture them and control them, and to stand on high—and who never repent, never confess their sins, never renounce the benefits of position—these people shall fall before God. They are of the same kind as Paul, presuming upon their seniority and flaunting their qualifications. God will not bring people like this to perfection. Such service interferes with the work of God. People always cling to the old. They cling to the notions of the past, to everything from times gone by. This is a great obstacle to their service. If you cannot throw them off, these things will throttle your whole life. God will not commend you, not in the slightest, not even if you break your legs running or your back with labor, not even if you are martyred in your service of God. Quite the contrary: He will say that you are an evildoer” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Religious Service Must Be Purged). God’s word precisely revealed my state. I had been a leader for a long time, so I felt I had experienced much, had some grasp of principles, had learned from my experiences, and I thought I knew how to view people and things, as well as how to deal with problems. Slowly, I became more and more arrogant and self-righteous, I had no place in my heart for God, and when things happened, I thought I generally knew what was going on, so once an idea had come to mind, I believed it was right, and that that was the way things had to be done. I didn’t pray to seek principles, I just practiced in the way I thought was correct. When Lilah’s issues were reported to me, I didn’t pray to God at all, and I didn’t seek how to practice the truth or act according to principles in this matter. My first reaction was to presume there was a problem with her humanity, that she liked to judge others, so I specifically went to find out whether her humanity was bad, and whether she often spoke about problems with the leaders and workers when she contacted or communicated with others. When I learned that Lilah was still talking about problems of another leader with the brothers and sisters, I arbitrarily defined her as “judging people” and “destroying church work.” According to principle, I should have gone to those who knew the leaders in question and investigated whether these leaders spoken of by Lilah were actually doing practical work and whether they were false leaders, in order to confirm whether what Lilah said was true, and to make an accurate judgment of the matter. But because of my own arrogance, self-righteousness, and rash behavior, and because I didn’t seek principle in this matter, and I had no fear of God in my heart, I blindly and arbitrarily characterized her, which led to her being replaced, suppressed, and excluded. God’s house has repeatedly emphasized that we need to support God’s chosen people in reporting problems with leaders and workers, protect those who raise opinions to their leaders and workers, investigate thoroughly and clearly when God’s chosen people expose or report leaders and workers, and handle things fairly according to principle. But I was controlled by my own arrogant nature, I arbitrarily labeled someone, didn’t act according to principle, characterized and suppressed a good person, protected and tolerated false leaders, and thoroughly violated the work arrangements of God’s house. False leaders didn’t do practical work and damaged the work of the church, but instead of handling them, I condemned the person who reported the problem. Didn’t that make me a protective umbrella for these false leaders? I shared in these false leaders’ wickedness. I had become Satan’s accomplice! I was doing my duty based on an arrogant disposition, and this was doing evil and resisting God. If this continued, God would despise me and reject me. As I was reflecting, I remembered my leader said I was creating a “White Terror” atmosphere like the CCP, and when I thought about it carefully, he was right. After I accused Lilah of judging people, I fellowshiped with her not to carelessly talk about her dissatisfaction with the leaders, and then I warned her that she might not be able to keep her duty if she continued. How was my approach any different than the great red dragon’s? There is no freedom of speech in the land of the red dragon, and people aren’t allowed to talk about government officials. The moment they do, they are anti-Party, and they will be arrested and subjected to all kinds of methods and torture so that they will submit, and don’t dare speak out again. If the great red dragon’s officials are ever negligent or derelict in their duties, the people are not allowed to expose them or comment. If anyone posts comments online, in light cases, the police warn and threaten them, and in worse cases they are directly charged with a crime, punished or sentenced. Anyone who dares to expose the Communist Party will be accused of “subverting state power,” then sentenced and imprisoned. In the land of the great red dragon, neither disasters nor any news unfavorable to the Communist Party may be truthfully reported. Those who do so are leaking state secrets and will be sentenced to prison. The great red dragon does this to silence people and make them afraid to speak the truth. If you are angry, you just have to swallow it. People live in timidity and fear, and lose their freedom of speech. Thinking again about what I did, wasn’t it exactly like creating a “White Terror” atmosphere like the CCP? If anyone said anything bad about the leaders or workers, I arbitrarily accused them of judging the leaders and workers to silence them and create an atmosphere of fear, so that God’s chosen lived in timidity and fear, and no longer dared to expose and report false leaders because they feared that the leaders would make things difficult for them. Today, one of God’s chosen people had exposed and reported false leaders, but I suppressed and condemned her. If one day there were problems or deviations in my own duties, and instead of reporting me to my superiors, the brothers and sisters discussed it and exposed me among themselves, if I heard about it, would I determine them to be judging me and punish them, or even clear them out and expel them? Given my nature, I was certainly capable of it. If I didn’t repent and continued down the same path, I would become an antichrist, offend God’s disposition, and be cast out by Him! After I reflected on these things, I was afraid because of what I had done. I had served as a leader for over two years. I never wanted to suppress or punish God’s chosen people, but I was still capable of arbitrarily condemning Lilah. The outcome of this was that she had been suppressed. I had already done something wicked. I felt deep remorse, so I went before God and prayed to say I was willing to genuinely repent and that when things happened in the future, I wanted to have fear of God in my heart, seek the truth more, and act according to principles.
Through this pruning and dealing, I also realized I held mistaken views. I thought that when someone is chosen as a leader, they are better than ordinary brothers and sisters in the church and have the right to speak, and when leaders and workers do church work, God’s chosen people are obliged to support and protect them. Even if you discover a problem, you shouldn’t discuss it carelessly with other brothers and sisters. Later, I read a passage of God’s word that changed my views and taught me the role of leaders and workers in the church. God’s word says: “When someone is chosen to be a leader by the brothers and sisters, or is promoted by the house of God to do a certain piece of work or perform a certain duty, this does not mean that they have a special status or identity, or that the truths they understand are deeper and more numerous than those of other people—much less that this person is able to submit to God, and will not betray Him. It does not mean, either, that they know God, and are someone who fears God. They have attained none of this, in fact; the promotion and cultivation is merely promotion and cultivation in the most straightforward sense, and is not equivalent to them having been destined and validated by God. Their promotion and cultivation simply means they have been promoted, and await cultivation. And the ultimate outcome of this cultivation depends on whether this person pursues the truth, and on whether they are capable of choosing the path of pursuing the truth. Thus, when someone in the church is promoted and cultivated to be a leader, they are merely promoted and cultivated in the straightforward sense; it does not mean that they are already a qualified leader, or a competent one, that they are already capable of undertaking the work of a leader, and can do real work—that is not the case. Most people do not see clearly about these things, and they look up to these promoted ones relying on their imaginings, but this is a mistake. No matter how many years they may have believed, do those who are promoted really possess the reality of truth? Not necessarily. Are they able to bring to fruition the work arrangements of the house of God? Not necessarily. Do they have a sense of responsibility? Are they possessed of commitment? Are they able to submit to God? When they encounter an issue, are they able to search for the truth? All of this is unknown. Do these people have a heart that fears God? And just how great is their fear of God? Are they liable to follow their own will when they do things? Are they able to seek God? During the time that they perform the work of leaders, do they regularly and frequently come before God to search for the will of God? Are they able to guide people in entry into the reality of the truth? They are certainly incapable of such things right away. They haven’t received training and have too little experience, so they are incapable of these things. This is why promoting and cultivating someone doesn’t mean they already understand the truth, nor is it saying that they are already capable of performing their duty satisfactorily. So what is the aim and significance of promoting and cultivating someone? It is that such a person, as an individual, is promoted in order to be trained, to be specially watered and instructed, making them able to understand the principles of the truth, and the principles of doing different things, and the principles, means, and methods for solving various problems, as well as, when they encounter various types of environment and people, how to handle and settle with them in accordance with God’s will, and in a way that protects the interests of the house of God. Does this indicate that the talent promoted and cultivated by the house of God is adequately capable of undertaking their work and performing their duty during the promotion and cultivation period or prior to promotion and cultivation? Of course not. Thus, it is unavoidable that, during the cultivation period, these people will experience being dealt with, pruning, judgment and chastisement, exposure and even replacement; this is normal, and this is what it means to be trained and cultivated” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). I understood from God’s word that when the church cultivates someone to be a leader, it is because this person has a certain caliber, can accept the truth, is responsible in their duties, and possesses skills in their work. This gives them a chance to train themselves, but it doesn’t mean they have rid themselves of corruption or have understood the truth and entered into reality. It doesn’t mean someone is a qualified leader, nor does it mean this person is an outstanding individual in the church, or they have any special identity or status in the church. Serving as a church leader is a commission and a responsibility. It isn’t status at all. When you are a leader, it does not mean you have absolute status and right to speech, or that you will be respected by people, or that your brothers and sisters will look up to you even to the point that they can’t discuss when you make a mistake. Those are mistaken views. A leader needs to accept the supervision and suggestions of the brothers and sisters, because only this allows them to better understand their own problems and the deviations in their work, and lets them change things in time. Beyond that, if the brothers and sisters find that the leaders and workers don’t do practical work, they should practice the truth by reporting and exposing such people and protect the work of the church. This is the right attitude to have toward leaders and workers. Only treating leaders and workers like this accords with principles. God’s word changed my mistaken ideas and views and showed me how to correctly treat the responsibility of leadership and the supervision of God’s chosen people. I wished to turn to God, and in the course of my duties, no matter who reported leaders or workers, I should handle it carefully. At the same time, I should accept more supervision from my brothers and sisters.
During a gathering our leader fellowshiped, “Some people see others reporting or exposing leaders, and then they attack or condemn those making the report. Even if such people are normally very serious in their duties, they aren’t those who are obedient to God at all.” It was especially piercing and upsetting to hear that fellowship from my leader, and I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing. I prayed to God, “God, in the way my leader dealt with and exposed me like this, Your intentions were good. Otherwise, I would still feel my disposition had changed a little and I had some obedience to You. It’s only now that I realize I am far from meeting the standard of true obedience to You. But I am willing to try and pursue being someone who obeys You.” Later, I read a passage of God’s words that allowed me to understand His will. God’s words say: “People cannot change their own disposition; they must undergo the judgment and chastisement, and suffering and refinement, of God’s words, or being dealt with, disciplined, and pruned by His words. Only then can they achieve obedience and faithfulness to God, and no longer be perfunctory toward Him. It is under the refinement of God’s words that people’s dispositions change. Only through the exposure, judgment, discipline, and dealing of His words will they no longer dare to act rashly but instead will become steady and composed. The most important point is that they are able to submit to God’s current words, and to His work, even if it is not in line with human notions, they are able to put these notions aside and willingly submit” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. People Whose Dispositions Have Changed Are Those Who Have Entered Into the Reality of God’s Words). I understood from God’s word that people who are obedient are those who have achieved dispositional change and who act in accordance with principle, after experiencing God’s judgment, chastisement, pruning, dealing, trials, and refinement. Such people, in the course of believing in God and performing their duties, can seek the truth and do things according to principle when they encounter things, especially major issues that involve principle. When they encounter choices involving their path in life, they are able to make the correct choice based on God’s word and the truth. If you only obey God in trivial matters or outward behaviors, but you act according to your own will or natural personality in matters of principle or on key issues, then you are still someone who rebels against God. In the past, I always thought I could forsake my family and career to expend for God, that no matter what duty the church arranged for me, I could accept and obey, that when I encountered difficulties, I could read God’s word and pray to God, and always tried to think of ways to perform my duties better. I thought this attitude toward my duties meant that I was somewhat obedient toward God. But in the matter of Lilah, I saw that I could still handle things blindly according to my own will and arbitrarily condemn and suppress her, proving that my heart was still ruled by my corrupt satanic dispositions. Although I was usually serious and conscientious in my duties, when it came to matters of principles and key issues, I could still act according to my own will with an arrogant disposition. I saw that I didn’t understand the truth, my disposition hadn’t changed, and I still wasn’t someone who was obedient to God. Without the pruning and dealing of my leader, and the revelation of God’s word, I wouldn’t have known myself at all.
Now, in some key matters involving the principles of truth, I can consciously seek the truth and how to do things according to principles, and I no longer dare to act blindly based on my arrogant disposition. I also often pray to God: I still have many corrupt dispositions and erroneous views, so I need to experience God’s judgment and chastisement, pruning and dealing, and chastening and discipline to achieve repentance and change. I pray that God will enlighten and guide me so that I can understand more of my rebelliousness and corruption, and achieve true obedience to Him. Thanks be to God.