43. A Lesson Learned From a Small Matter
By Tony, USA
Some time ago, Sister Lila recommended Vera take on the responsibility of watering newcomers. I got the impression that she was always slipshod in her duty and did not protect the work of the church. So I hurried to ask Lila to see what Vera was like now. I thought, “If she is still irresponsible in her duty, then she won’t be suited to water newcomers.” Lila said, “Vera values her reputation and status, but her attitude toward her duty is decent, and I haven’t seen any major problems.” I felt relieved to hear this. If Lila had looked into the matter, it should be right to let Vera water newcomers. A few days later, I had arranged all the work, and Vera could just directly take over the job on arrival. But then Lila suddenly told me that Vera had been slippery and slacking off, and did not accept the truth, and so she was not suited to water newcomers. I was shocked when I heard this news and thought, “Didn’t you say there were no major issues when you evaluated her a few days ago? It’s only been a few days, how could things have changed again?” I couldn’t help but complain: “You’re so unreliable. I ask you to investigate a person and you don’t do a thorough job. You’ve got a serious lack of discernment. Choosing the wrong person has messed up my work plans, and the work has been impacted, too. Aren’t you holding things up? How could you be a group leader with this caliber?” The more I thought about it, the angrier I got, but I hadn’t tried to learn about the real situation, and just kept on judging her in my mind. At the time, I really wanted to send Lila a message, asking her what was going on with her, whether she had had any discernment of this person, why she hadn’t investigated this matter thoroughly, and how she could be so irresponsible. But then I reconsidered and thought, “Angrily grilling people is not a rational thing to do.” So I didn’t send her a message, and the matter passed.
Then, during a gathering, I heard a brother fellowship about how he revealed hot-headedness, got angry, and scolded people when things didn’t go the way he wanted, and how he sought the truth and reflected on himself. I was ashamed when I heard this, and couldn’t help but recall what I had exposed recently. Weren’t this brother and I in the same shoes? He gained something because he sought the truth and learned his lesson. Why wasn’t I learning my lesson? So I prayed to God, seeking out the lesson I should be learning. One time, during devotionals, I read the word of God: “Obedience to the orchestrations and arrangements of God is the most basic lesson in obedience to God. God’s orchestrations and arrangements include the people, matters, and things—and various situations—that God raises up around you. So how should you react when faced with these situations? Most fundamental of all is acceptance from God. What does ‘acceptance from God’ mean? Complaining and resisting—is this acceptance from God? Finding reasons and excuses—is this acceptance from God? No. So how should acceptance from God be put into practice? When something happens to you, first relax, seek the truth, and practice obedience. Don’t come out with excuses or reasons. Don’t try to guess or analyze who is right and who is wrong. And don’t analyze whose mistake is more serious, and whose less so. Is always analyzing these things the attitude of acceptance from God? Is it the attitude of obedience to God? This is not the attitude of obedience to God, it is not the attitude of acceptance from God, it is not the attitude of accepting God’s dominion and arrangements. Acceptance from God: this is one aspect of the principles for practicing obedience to God. If you can determine that all that happens to you is the sovereignty of God, that it involves the arrangements of God, the good intentions of God, then you can accept it from God. To accept from God, first do not analyze right and wrong, do not make excuses, do not find fault with people, do not split hairs, do not analyze objective reasons, and do not analyze and examine using the human mind; these are all details. And the way to put this into practice is to obey first. Even if you have notions or if things are not clear to you, obey, don’t make excuses or rebel; and after obeying, seek the truth; pray to God and seek” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Submission to God Is a Basic Lesson in Gaining the Truth). Reading God’s word, I understood that everything happens with God’s permission, and that regardless of whether we understand His will, we mustn’t contradict it or argue our own case. We must have an attitude of acceptance and obedience toward it. This is the behavior of accepting things as being from God. When something happened, I always looked at it from the outside, analyzing right and wrong, complaining about this and that. I was always thinking Lila was being slipshod and irresponsible in her duty, impacting my work, and making me go to a lot of unnecessary effort. In this situation, I didn’t have an attitude of accepting matters from God whatsoever. I didn’t calm my heart and seek God’s will, or reflect on what lessons I should learn. Instead, I cast my eyes on Lila. I wanted to get mad, scold her, and criticize her shortcomings. This wasn’t an attitude of acceptance or obedience! Were the issues and snags in work really all other people’s fault? Did none of it have anything to do with me? I had always been resistant and refused to learn a lesson. Even if in the end the problems were entirely other people’s fault, and I wasn’t responsible, others were able to reflect on themselves, learn from it, and grow. But what was I gaining, apart from having pent-up anger inside? It was at this point that I realized I was in a wrong state. I couldn’t keep analyzing and researching, getting caught up in who’s right and wrong. I had to calm myself, seek the truth and learn my lesson.
As I was reflecting, I read a passage of God’s word. “If you do not depend on and look to God when performing your duty, and merely do as you wish, then no matter how smart you are, there will always be times when you fail. People who are arrogant and conceited are apt to follow their own ideas, so do they have a heart that fears God? People who are too willful forget God when the time comes to act, they forget obedience to God; only when they have hit a wall and failed to accomplish anything, does it occur to them that they have not obeyed God, and have not prayed to God. What problem is this? This is them not having God in their hearts. Their actions indicate that God is absent from their hearts, that everything comes from themselves. And so, whether you are doing church work, performing a duty, handling some external affairs, or dealing with matters in your personal life, there must be principles in your heart, there must be a spiritual state. What state? ‘No matter what it is, before anything happens to me I must pray, I ought to obey God, I ought to obey His dominion, everything is arranged by God, and when something happens, I must seek God’s will, I must have this mindset, I must not make my own plans.’ After experiencing thus for some time, people will find themselves seeing God’s dominion in many things. If you always have your own plans, considerations, wishes, selfish motives, and desires, then your heart will unwittingly stray from God, you will be blind to how God acts, and most of the time, God will be hidden from you. Do you not like doing things according to your own ideas? Do you not make your own plans? You think you have a mind, you are educated, knowledgeable, you have the means and methodology to do things, you can do them on your own, you’re good, you don’t need God, and so God says, ‘So go and do it by yourself, and take responsibility for whether it goes well or not, I do not care.’ God pays you no heed. When people follow their own will in this way in their faith in God and believe however they want, what is the consequence? They are never able to experience God’s dominion, they can never see the hand of God, can never feel the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, they cannot feel God’s guidance. And what will happen as time goes on? Their hearts will grow ever further from God, and there will be knock-on effects. What effects? (Doubting and denying God.) This is not just a case of doubting and denying God; when God has no place in people’s hearts, and they do as they wish over the long term, a habit will set in: When something happens to them, the first thing they will do is to think of their own solution and act according to their own motivations, aims and plans; they will first consider whether this is of benefit to them; if it is, they will do it, and if it isn’t, they won’t; it will become their habit to go straight to taking this path. And how will God treat such people if they keep acting thus, without repentance? God will pay them no heed, and place them to one side” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Principles of the Practice of Submitting to God). After I pondered God’s words, I understood that those who are particularly strong-willed often start by making their own plans, calculating what they are going to do, and how. They start out by formulating and finalizing a plan, then carry it out using the means and methods they have chosen, while demanding that others follow their methods, too. In this way, they are ostensibly performing their duty, safeguarding the work of the church, and making sure their duty achieves good results. But when they do things this way, there is too much of their own will and too many of their own plans. They don’t pray or seek God, they lack an attitude of obedience, and they do not take care to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They do everything in accordance with their own wishes and want things to develop as they wish. God says their own desire is too strong, and there’s no place for God in their heart. God detests and ignores this kind of person. Reflecting on my behavior showed me I’d been too strong-willed in my duties, and that no matter what I was doing, as soon as I made up my mind, nothing could change it. I even wanted to make others abide by my demands, and if they didn’t, I’d think they weren’t loyal in their duty, and weren’t protecting the church’s work. This was how it was with the investigation of the waterer. I had planned a time for Vera to come and take over the work, but when I found out that she wouldn’t be able to come and water the newcomers, my plans were thrown into confusion. I wanted to lose my temper, and my heart was filled with complaints. I judged Lila to be lacking in caliber and discernment, and irresponsible. I was so self-righteous, arrogant, and irrational! Even if the things I plan and decide are correct, and don’t violate the principles of God’s house, things are not always certain to happen the way I want them to, and will not always have the effect I envision. I make plans and arrangements, this is my duty, and it is how I should cooperate, but I should not predestinate the final result. I should do what I can, then submit to the will of God. As for whether a matter can be accomplished in the end, what variables may come into play, and how it develops, I have to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and submit to God’s rule. This is the sense of reason I should have. The things I was doing were entirely of my own will, I did not know of God’s sovereignty, and there was no room for God in my heart. How could I obtain the enlightenment and guidance of God by performing my duty like this?
Later, I read another passage of God’s word that gave me some insight into the corrupt disposition behind my anger. God says, “If, in your heart, you truly understand the truth, then you will know how to practice the truth and obey God, and will naturally embark on the path of pursuing the truth. If the path you walk is the right one, and in line with God’s will, then the work of the Holy Spirit will not leave you—in which case there will be less and less chance of you betraying God. Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if you have an arrogant and conceited disposition, then being told not to oppose God makes no difference, you can’t help yourself, it is beyond your control. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display; they would make you scorn others, they would leave no one in your heart but yourself; they would rob you of God’s place in your heart, and ultimately cause you to sit in the place of God and demand that people submit to you, and make you venerate your own thoughts, ideas, and notions as the truth. So much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition). As I pondered God’s words, I gained some understanding of my arrogant and conceited nature. It turns out I was not only doing things according to my own wishes, but an arrogant disposition lay concealed behind it. Regarding the problem at work this time, I didn’t try to understand the background, nor did I ask if Lila had had any difficulties. I just indiscriminately complained and judged her. In despising and judging others, I was actually belittling people, thinking I was better than them, as if I was especially conscientious, and everyone else was careless, as if I had a clear understanding of the truth and could see through everything, but others didn’t understand any of the truth and were blind. I saw myself as the master of the truth, as if I was not corrupted by Satan, and had no need for reflection and self-awareness. In my eyes, other people were incompetent and unbearable, and I was the best, so when any problems cropped up in the course of someone’s duty, I would always think like this, “How can you call this doing your duty?” “Are you even capable of doing your duty?” “You’re just disrupting things.” I just wanted to blame and scold others. In fact, I had also made a lot of the same mistakes during my duties as others, and got caught up by the same things, so was I really that much better than them? Everyone has times when they can’t see a person or situation clearly, and people will inevitably be lacking and fall short in their duties. So long as problems and deviations can be found in time and are continually reviewed and reversed, then this is just a process of growth. In fact, was I not the same as Lila when she didn’t look into Vera properly? I clearly knew Vera’s behavior had been bad in the past, but when Lila said there hadn’t been any major problems with her behavior recently, I stopped seeking clarity. I just assumed that Lila had assessed the situation, and there shouldn’t be any issues. In the end, a problem did emerge. I clearly shared in the responsibility, but I shifted it all onto Lila, pointing fingers, judging, and criticizing her. I was so arrogant! Doing one’s duty in this way will not only do nothing to help or edify others, but will likely restrict them and make them negative. When faced with an issue, I didn’t view things or people in accordance with God’s word. I just complained, got hot-headed, and reprimanded people. I even thought that this was what it meant to be responsible, that it was an act of justice, and that I was protecting the church’s work. This view was absolutely absurd!
Later on, I read a passage of God’s word that gave me some understanding of what getting angry and what having a sense of justice meant. Almighty God says, “Once a man has status, he will often find it difficult to control his mood, and so he will enjoy seizing upon opportunities to express his dissatisfaction and vent his emotions; he will often flare up in rage for no apparent reason, so as to reveal his ability and let others know that his status and identity are different from those of ordinary people. Of course, corrupt people without any status also often lose control. Their anger is frequently caused by damage to their private interests. In order to protect their own status and dignity, they will frequently vent their emotions and reveal their arrogant nature. Man will flare up in anger and vent his emotions in order to defend and uphold the existence of sin, and these actions are the ways in which man expresses his dissatisfaction; they brim with impurities, with schemes and intrigues, with man’s corruption and evil, and more than anything else, they brim with man’s wild ambitions and desires. When justice clashes with wickedness, man’s anger will not flare up in the defense of the existence of justice or to uphold it; on the contrary, when the forces of justice are threatened, persecuted and attacked, man’s attitude is one of overlooking, evading or flinching away. However, when facing the forces of evil, man’s attitude is one of accommodating, of bowing and scraping. Therefore, man’s venting is an escape for evil forces, an expression of the rampant and unstoppable evil conduct of the fleshly man. When God sends forth His wrath, however, all evil forces will be stopped, all sins that harm man will be curbed, all hostile forces that obstruct God’s work will be made apparent, separated and cursed, while all of Satan’s accomplices who oppose God will be punished and rooted out. In their place, God’s work will proceed free of any obstacles, God’s management plan will continue to develop step by step according to schedule, and God’s chosen people will be free of Satan’s disturbance and deceit, while those who follow God will enjoy God’s leadership and provision among tranquil and peaceful surroundings. God’s wrath is a safeguard preventing all evil forces from multiplying and running rampant, and it is also a safeguard that protects the existence and propagation of all things that are just and positive, and eternally guards them from suppression and subversion” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II). From God’s word I understood that in order to protect their personal interests and satisfy their ambitions and desires, people get upset without considering the reason, principle, or target of their anger. These are all forms of hot-headedness, and are also the expression of a corrupt disposition, and they disgust God. If one can view things and people in accordance with God’s word, love what God loves, hate what God hates, detest those disruptive evildoers and antichrists to protect the church’s work, then that is an expression of normal humanity, and manifestation of one’s sense of justice. Even if you sometimes speak a little too firmly or sternly, so long as everything you say is based on the word of God, does not contradict facts, is not giving vent to personal spite, and is not muddied with your own motives, then people will be able to see the essence of problems more clearly, and your comments will achieve positive results. This type of anger is a positive thing, and it is not the expression of a corrupt disposition. Losing one’s temper as a result of a corrupt disposition is different, this anger is contaminated with personal motives and unspeakable objectives. Some people lose their temper to protect their reputation and status, some people do it to make others listen to them and act according to their wishes, and some do it because their personal interests have been damaged. These are all forms of hot-headedness and a corrupt disposition. Like when I saw problems come up in Lila’s duty that delayed progress, my anger seemed motivated by a desire to protect the church’s work, but actually, I was angry because she wasn’t meeting my demands and I had to go to a lot of unnecessary trouble. I’d use this as a chance to vent my feelings of dissatisfaction, inwardly judging and belittling people. This was clearly hot-headedness rearing its head.
Later, I thought about how before, my nature would get the best of me when I ran into problems, but I didn’t give it much thought. So how should I practice when I encounter a matter in the future and want to lose my temper and reveal hot-headedness again? In my devotionals, I read a passage of God’s word. “At the very least, God’s chosen ones should be possessed of conscience and sense, and should engage and interact with people—and handle things—according to the standards of normal humanity. Naturally, what is best is to practice according to the principles of truth demanded by God, this satisfies God. So what are the principles of truth demanded by God? That people be understanding of the weakness and negativity of others when they are weak and negative, that people be mindful of others’ pain and difficulties, and then inquire about these things, and offer help and support, and read them God’s words to help them solve the problems, so that they are no longer weak, and are brought before God. Is this a way of practicing that is in line with principle? Practicing thus is in line with the principle of the truth. Naturally, relationships of this kind are also in line with principle. When people are deliberately meddlesome and disruptive, or deliberately careless and perfunctory when performing their duty, if you see this and are able to handle matters according to principle, and can point these things out to them, and reprimand them, and help them, then this is in line with the principles of the truth. If you turn a blind eye, or are tolerant toward them and cover for them, and even go so far as to say nice things to praise and applaud them, finessing them with fake words, then such behaviors, such ways of interacting with people, dealing with issues, and handling problems, are clearly at odds with the principles of the truth, and have no basis in the words of God—in which case these behaviors and ways of interacting with people and handling issues are clearly illegitimate” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). After reading God’s word, I understood that the best and most rational way to act when problems or deviations are discovered during duties is to fellowship about the truth to help and support them. If others are causing delays in work due to a momentary oversight or because they haven’t grasped the principles, then you should patiently fellowship the truth, while also fellowshiping the principles to them clearly to make them aware of the problems that exist and give them a path. Some people are always slipshod in their duty. They can’t bear burdens, problems keep arising in their duty, and things that could be done well are not. The same problems keep cropping up over and over again, impacting work, or even causing serious damage. Then this kind of person can be dealt with, pruned, or warned. If they don’t change despite repeated admonitions, they can be reassigned or dismissed. But no matter what the situation is, you must always view and handle matters based on God’s word and the principles of the truth, and not do things out of hot-headedness or a corrupt disposition. After pondering these things, my heart brightened, and I found a few paths of practice.
After this, I went to find Lila to understand what happened with Vera. Only then did I learn that Vera had previously been performing duties at other churches, and only recently transferred to our church, so Lila was still pretty unfamiliar with her. By asking around at other churches, she later found out that Vera had always been slipshod, as well as devious and slippery. The things she said sounded good on the surface, but she didn’t walk the talk; moreover, she was lacking in humanity and liked to constrain people, so she was unsuited to water newcomers. I was so ashamed when I discovered this backstory. Lila hadn’t been irresponsible like I had thought. It was just because inquiries needed to be made at other churches, that some mistakes occurred in the process and verification had not been done clearly. I didn’t criticize Lila about this matter and just reminded her to review these mistakes, and avoid this kind of problem happening again. By practicing in this way, my heart felt at peace.
From this experience I saw that no matter whether it is in doing your duty or how you treat people, you can’t rely on your personal notions and imaginings, or your hot-headedness. Everything should be based on God’s words. Seek the principles of the truth from God’s words, and practice in accordance with His words. Only this is pursuing the truth and having entry into life.