58. A Government Official’s Choice
By Xin Zheng, China
My dad broke the law and he was arrested before I was born. That kind of thing was really shameful in the Chinese countryside in the 1970s, so everyone looked down on my family. I grew up amidst the jeers of everyone around me. My mom would always tell me, “You have to work hard to excel. We can’t have other people looking down on our family.” Those words were instilled deep inside me. I swore that in the future, I’d stand out from the crowd and change everyone’s attitude toward us. I really threw myself into my studies and became a teacher after graduating from college. It was a guaranteed living, but still a far cry from my goal of truly excelling. And so, I relied on my connections and sent gifts to county-level leaders, hoping to be transferred to a government position.
Just as I’d hoped, I got a position as a secretary three years later in the town government office, which had me accompanying leaders for various occasions. It looked very distinguished. Especially when I went back to my hometown, the village head and all the people there were really warm toward me and lots of people were fawning on me—my family was benefiting from it too, and people from all over the whole area were really envious. My mom said to me happily, “Since you got a government job, wherever your brother goes he tells everyone who his brother is, where he works. After all these years, we can finally hold our heads up high and be proud!” I was so moved to hear her say this. Things had been hard for our family for so many years. Wasn’t this the day we’d been waiting for? Then I started working even harder, working overtime late into the night all the time and not even resting on the weekends. I had even less time to spend with my wife and child. Then in 2008, I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days, but I was still spending most of my time at work. I just attended gatherings here and there, and didn’t read God’s words very much. My career was going really well—I had the appreciation of leaders and the esteem of co-workers, and everyone was saying that as soon as a position for promotion became available, it was sure to be mine. I felt like that would be my chance to get exactly what I’d wanted out of life, to really stand out, so I started working even harder and currying favor with the leaders. However, I still got beat out by a leader’s son, and then I was transferred to an unimportant department.
That transfer was really upsetting for me, and I thought my co-workers were sure to talk about me and look down on me. I just couldn’t lift my spirits and I didn’t want to see anybody. Just during that miserable time, a brother in the church told me, “You didn’t get this promotion, but got transferred to an unimportant department. It looks like a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing! If you’d been promoted like you’d wanted and you had a higher position, you’d just want even more. You’d be facing more temptations, struggling with name and status day in, day out. How would you have the time and inclination to pursue the truth? This is a crucial time for God’s work to save and perfect mankind. If you fritter away these precious days, how can you be saved? God’s good will is in not getting this promotion—God cannot bear to see us continue to be toyed with and hurt by Satan, living in a struggle for name and gain, fighting and scheming, and then lose our chance at God’s salvation.” His words were a wake-up call for me; I figured he was right. Before, I was totally focused on how to be the one to stand out, so I was never able to quiet my heart and really read God’s words or pursue the truth. Maybe that setback was a turning point on my path of faith.
I read this in God’s words after that: “As someone who is normal, and who pursues the love of God, entry into the kingdom to become one of the people of God is your true future, and a life that is of the utmost value and significance; no one is more blessed than you. Why do I say this? Because those who do not believe in God live for the flesh, and they live for Satan, but today you live for God, and live to do the will of God. That is why I say your lives are of the utmost significance. Only this group of people, who have been selected by God, are able to live out a life of the utmost significance: No one else on earth is able to live out a life of such value and meaning” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Know God’s Newest Work and Follow His Footsteps). God’s words are very clear on what makes a meaningful life. I thought back on my years of fighting for name and gain—even now with a bit of status and prestige, I still felt really empty. I always put on a false face within official circles. For the sake of status, I not only had to fawn on leaders, but I had to handle my co-workers, wringing myself dry to compete and go up against others, all the while afraid others were scheming against me. I truly understood the misery and stress of that world. I asked myself: What’s the meaning, the value behind working hard all my life to fight for status and prestige? Is the entire point of my life just to appear illustrious, to bring glory to my family? For thousands of years, haven’t so many grand people with great status still died with empty hands? God created man, not so we could have our names live on through the ages or fight for name and status, but to have us learn the truth and come to know God, do the duty of a created being, and live out a true human likeness. That’s the only kind of life with meaning and value, and only that will gain God’s approval. I said a prayer to God when I realized this, ready to let go of my pursuit of name and status and to step onto the proper path in life.
In the department I was transferred to, there wasn’t a single busy period throughout the entire year. I took that chance to read more of God’s words and equip myself with the truth, and when the weekend came around, I’d attend gatherings and preach the gospel with brothers and sisters. I felt really at peace, and I wasn’t doing all that hobnobbing with co-workers anymore. I’d lost interest in all those messy matters like cultivating relationships and exploiting unofficial channels. I felt much freer and more relaxed. But I ended up transferred again, to the department for government-ordered demolitions, where I personally witnessed all the evil ways the Communist Party bullies and harms the common people. That made me feel even more tepid toward the career path I was on.
The government was always forcing people to move from their homes, claiming they needed space for urban construction, and the compensation was generally very low. People were unhappy about it and would protest. It was clear that the government was secretly colluding with developers, making huge profits from the deals and squeezing the regular people. But they were always twisting the facts, saying the people just refused to move and it was getting in the way of urban construction. By day they’d have us go do ideological work to convince the people, then by night they’d send people to harass them, to force them into signing an agreement to move. None of the residents could get any peace. If anyone steadfastly refused to move, they’d be forcibly detained and beaten, with charges of obstructing the urban redevelopment. The leaders wouldn’t stop until the person signed. Some people made appeals to higher authorities, but they were arrested and beaten. There was a person who was even beaten to the point of disability, and ended up dying. A leader once even said to everyone’s face in an internal meeting, smiling, “Now that this guy’s dead, that’s one less appeal to worry about. That’ll be fewer disciplinary points against us!” Everyone else was there smiling, too. Seeing government officials bully and exploit regular people with absolutely no regard for human life, I knew that staying within the Communist Party system and continuing to associate with those people could never come to anything good. I started doing my absolute best to avoid all of them, to not mingle among them. If I was asked to go negotiate with someone who had to move, to go beat them, I’d do absolutely everything I could to duck away, or go to help maintain order. When I could see someone closer up who was howling as they were beaten, that look of helplessness in their eyes left my conscience feeling so accused. Sometimes I’d even wake up from nightmares in the middle of the night. Living in that environment every day was a kind of agony. I felt that if I kept doing that sort of unconscionable work, I’d be punished sooner or later, and I wanted to leave that place just as soon as I could. Although the leaders made oblique comments encouraging me to pursue my career, I remained unmotivated and wasn’t trying to curry favor with them for promotions anymore. But much to my surprise, it was just at that time that I did get a promotion, to go act as director of the town disciplinary office.
After that reassignment, I often appeared at all sorts of meetings alongside important town government officials. My co-workers and fellow villagers were all extremely friendly with me and worked to stay on my good side. I did enjoy the way that felt. Before I knew it, I started getting restless, and wanted to be valued and recognized by the leaders. But when I needed to go on business trips or go out to attend a meeting in a leader’s stead, that impacted my ability to attend gatherings and do my duty. I was really conflicted, because I knew a duty is a responsibility one can’t shirk. I couldn’t give up my duty because of personal affairs, but when a leader arranged for me to go take on something like that, that meant they thought highly of me. If I made an excuse not to do it in favor of my duty, would they say I was dropping the ball at a critical time, and then stop assigning me important tasks? It was really hard for me to make a decision in the moment, so I brought it before God in prayer, asking Him to guide me to understand His will and help me find the path of practice. I read this passage in His words after that: “Behind everything that happens is a battle: Every time people put the truth into practice, or put the love of God into practice, there is a great battle, and though all may seem well with their flesh, in the depths of their hearts a life-and-death battle will, in fact, be going on—and only after this intense battle, after a tremendous amount of reflection, can victory or defeat be decided. One does not know whether to laugh or cry. Because many of the intentions within people are wrong, or else because much of God’s work is at odds with their notions, when people put the truth into practice, a great battle is waged behind the scenes. Having put this truth into practice, behind the scenes, people will have shed countless tears of sadness before finally making up their mind to satisfy God. It is because of this battle that people endure suffering and refinement; this is true suffering. When the battle comes upon you, if you are able to truly stand on the side of God, you will be able to satisfy God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God). Thinking this over, I saw that this was a battle between satisfying God or satisfying Satan, to see which I would choose. I realized that when I encountered things, my first consideration was the leaders’ attitude and my own career—name and status were still too important to me. I thought about how, to save mankind, God took such a tremendous risk to become flesh in the great red dragon’s country and express the truth. God has given everything for us with no complaints or regrets, but I couldn’t make that slightest sacrifice for the sake of my duty. Where was my conscience? This realization left me feeling so ashamed. I said a prayer, wanting to let go of my personal interests and perform my duty. After that, I faced choices between my duty and my job several more times, and sometimes I felt weak and struggled over it. But when I was ready to satisfy God, I saw He always opened up a path for me, and I was sharing the gospel and doing my duty right under the leader’s nose without ever being discovered. My drive to do my duty kept growing. It wasn’t long before my entire family learned that I was a believer and I was spreading the gospel. They all started opposing my faith.
My wife was a teacher, so she had her salary paid by the government, too. She told me, “You’ve been in the Party system all these years, so it’s not like you don’t know what their attitude toward religion is. They’re arresting believers left and right. By having faith and sharing the gospel, aren’t you staring down the barrel of a gun? If you keep on with this, it’ll be the end of our living, the end of our whole family!” I shared testimony about God’s appearance and work with her and talked about the significance of having faith. I said, “The Savior has come down now, expressing truths to save mankind. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be saved. The benefits and status we see right before our eyes are all temporary. If we just follow the Communist Party, always wanting to get rich, can that save us from the disasters? If we fall into that no amount of money will do us any good! Just look at the Lord Jesus’ apostle Matthew—he was a tax collector, such a good career. But when he saw the Savior, the Lord Jesus had come, he rushed to follow Him. Besides, if we’re always following the Party in doing evil, we’re bound to get retribution, to be punished. Following Christ of the last days is the only way to be saved.” My wife wasn’t interested in anything about God and wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say about it. But after that, she noticed that ever since I’d gained my faith, I wasn’t out eating and drinking with co-workers and neglecting things at home, but I was more and more orderly in my life and had time to spend with her and our kid. Sometimes I’d start talking about matters having to do with life in general. Gradually, she stopped trying to stand in my way. But on her side of the family, everyone was opposed to my faith. One of them who had a government job, advised me, “While you’re still young, you should be thinking about how to climb the ranks and make money. Then your parents and kid can enjoy all that along with you—that’s the only practical thing to do. Those things you’re going after for your religion are all vague and impractical!” I told him, “You’re not a believer, so you don’t understand the meaning and value of having faith and pursuing the truth. The truth is so precious, and it can point out the path of life for us, cleanse our corruption, and save us. These things can’t be measured with money. You’re a Party insider too, so tell me, over these years you’ve gained status and material enjoyment, have you really been happy? Do you have true peace in your heart?” He had nothing to say to that. And when my brother-in-law couldn’t get me to budge, he said angrily, “If you don’t take our advice, when leadership finds out about your religious stuff, losing your stable living will be the least of your concerns. You could be arrested, then you’d lose your life and your possessions, and your entire family would be implicated!” There were others that tried to force me to give up my faith, too.
I was very clear with them that I was determined to keep following God, but after getting home I started to feel nervous. If my leaders found out, I wouldn’t just be penalized or lose my job, but I could be arrested and go to prison, then I’d be left with nothing, and everyone around me would certainly reject me and keep their distance. It would be a total fall from grace. Wouldn’t I be left empty-handed? I felt some internal struggle again at that thought and was so stressed I couldn’t sleep. Thinking that I was bound to lose my comfortable life and enviable position sooner or later, I felt really empty inside, really upset. In my pain and misery, I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to understand His will. I read this passage in God’s words after that: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. Man’s disposition becomes more vicious by the day, and there is not a single person who will willingly give up anything for God, not a single person who will willingly obey God, nor, moreover, a single person who will willingly seek the appearance of God. Instead, under the domain of Satan, man does nothing but pursue pleasure, giving himself over to the corruption of the flesh in the land of mud. Even when they hear the truth, those who live in darkness give no thought to putting it into practice, nor are they inclined to seek out God even if they have beheld His appearance. How could a mankind so depraved have any chance of salvation? How could a mankind so decadent live in the light?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). God’s words revealed the source of my pain. Why was I so miserable in the face of a choice? It was because I was too deeply corrupted by Satan, and ever since I was little I’d believed in satanic philosophies like “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors,” taking them as goals for life. I went after gaining others’ esteem and admiration, feeling like that was having aspiration. In my drive to achieve this, I was a diligent student, and then after joining the workforce, I was always trying to read the room, bootlicking, and being obsequious to win leaders’ favor and then get promotions. Even knowing full well that anything done with the Communist Party would be an outrageous atrocity, I still steeled myself and went along, doing service for Satan and living in misery with no peace. It was Almighty God’s words that showed me the value and meaning of our lives, and this was what made me feel more and more fulfilled. But faced with the choice of probably losing my job and my future if I kept my faith, and being rejected by others, I saw that satanic philosophy “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors” still had its claws deep inside me. Making that decision was so difficult, so agonizing, as if not pursuing name and gain was neglecting my actual responsibilities or was even a monstrous outrage. I wasn’t willing to lose my name and status, as if losing those things was akin to losing life itself. It wasn’t until I read God’s words of revelation that I saw how Satan uses that to bind people, to hurt us and get us to distance ourselves from God and betray Him. It reminded me of a hymn of God’s words: “People’s entire lives are in the hands of God, and if it were not for their resolution before God, who would be willing to live in vain in this empty world of man? Why bother? Rushing in and out of the world, if they do not do anything for God, will their entire lives not have been wasted? Even if God does not deem your actions worthy of mention, will you not give a smile of gratification at the moment of your death?” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, You Should Pursue Positive Progress). This hymn was really inspiring for me. We have just a few decades in this life, so we have to seize this opportunity to experience God’s work and be saved, do the duty of a created being, and gain the truth and life, otherwise this chance to be saved by God will be lost. Then wouldn’t our lives be all for nothing? If the Communist Party arrested, imprisoned, and tortured me because of my faith, then even if I ended up dying, I knew I would have no complaints. God gave me this opportunity at life, so I should devote it to God. Once I realized this I prayed, “Oh God! I want to be freed from the constraints, the shackles of the great red dragon and give my whole self to You. Please guide me and give me faith, and help me cross this next hurdle.”
Something happened afterward that spurred me to get out of the Communist Party system as soon as I could. A leader discovered that one of the Party members was religious and, gritting his teeth in anger, said we had to get him to the police station to give him some rough treatment. I felt afraid whenever I thought about the Communist Party’s attitude toward religion. I was thinking that it was so hostile to religious beliefs and hated Christians so much, I was bound to be their target for this sooner or later. It was a dangerous place I should leave as soon as I could. Plus, all those years I’d been singing the praises of the Communist Party and had gone along with it in so much evil. If I stayed within that system, I’d just get more and more enmeshed in it and be beyond redemption. I had to walk away from that satanic organization right away, and make a clean break.
When I told my wife what I was thinking she got anxious right away. She said she could support me in my faith, but she couldn’t allow me to quit my job. She even called my siblings over to stop me. They were mostly working in state-run enterprises and were worried that their careers could be impacted if I were arrested. My oldest sister even knelt before me, crying and tugging on my hands, and said, “You have such a wonderful job with a high salary that even people with a doctorate or master’s can’t find. How could you walk away from such a great job to go follow God?” She also said that she’d stay kneeling there as long as I kept insisting on keeping my faith. My other sister was really angry too, and talked about how she’d suffered to help pay for my education and hadn’t been able to get married until she was 30. Now we were finally doing okay after all that work and the whole family was benefitting from it. If I resigned, it would be letting her down after all her years of effort. My oldest sister also griped that if I quit my job, she wouldn’t receive any more special paid sick leave at her school, and her son was hoping I could help him find a job. She said I couldn’t only consider myself in my faith, but I had to think of my family, too. I was having a hard time making a choice at that moment. My brothers and sisters had been with me through so much ever since I was little, and I’d been driven all along by the hope that they could have good lives and hold their heads up high. They’d certainly be happy if I agreed to them, but since I was a believer and was following God now, I had to do the duty of a created being to not let down God’s grace and love. If I promised my family that I’d give up my faith, wouldn’t that be a betrayal of God? Betraying God is a monstrous offense, and something I absolutely couldn’t do. God has expressed so many truths to save mankind, and He’s paid such a great price. If I had no intention of paying Him back, and even compromised with the devil Satan, bending a knee to it, that would be unconscionable. I was feeling some pain and weakness, but I knew I had to make that choice. I said to them, “No matter how much money or how good of a job you have, can that fix the pain of emptiness? Can it buy life itself? Don’t so many rich, powerful people still keep living in pain? Having faith and pursuing the truth is the only way to resolve these problems. The Savior has come down, expressing truths to save humanity. This is an opportunity that will never come again, and it’s incredibly fleeting. The great disasters will be upon us in the blink of an eye. If we don’t follow God and repent to Him now, by the time the disasters arrive it’ll be too late for regrets! I’ve shared the gospel quite a bit with all of you before, but you’ve been afraid to join, afraid of being arrested by the Communist Party. You insist on following the Party, which is a path straight to hell. By pushing me to keep following it, aren’t you doing me harm? Do you know what kind of people are in that system? They’re all anti-God demons who are capable of any sort of horrible thing. They are bound to be damned, to be punished. Disasters are growing all the time. If you still don’t believe in God and repent to Him, you’re bound to fall into disasters and be punished. I’ve learned some truths over my years of faith, and I’ve seen clearly that having faith is the only right path in life. You’re my family—don’t you want the best for me? Why are you insisting on pushing me onto this evil path with the Communist Party? I won’t interfere in your personal choices, but my choice is to have faith and follow God. Even if I’m arrested and persecuted, I’ll take this path till the end.” My wife pulled a long face and walked out, and the others didn’t say another word to me. Later, in an attempt to keep me from attending gatherings and doing a duty, my wife locked me up in the house and had my brother-in-law stay there all day to watch me, not letting me out of his sight. I couldn’t go anywhere at all for three days straight. That delayed things in my duty and I was feeling really anxious. Not knowing what to do, I prayed to God and asked for His guidance, for Him to give me a way out. Then the evening of the third day, my dad called and said my mom had gone missing, so I finally had a chance to go out to look for her with my brother-in-law. On our way, he warned me, “You’ve got to give up your faith! Your brother will be here tomorrow, and he said he’ll break your legs if you keep your religion, that no matter what, he’ll find a way to make you give it up!” This was really distressing for me to hear. I knew that if I didn’t get away from them right then, I wouldn’t have another chance. But when I was actually about to go, I found it really hard to get past that mental barrier. Looking at my loved ones and that well-known residential area, thinking about that comfortable life and enviable job—I felt so many pangs in my heart, knowing I was about to lose all of that in a moment. Then a hymn of God’s words that we sang a lot in gatherings came to mind: “Abraham offered up Isaac—what have you offered up? Job offered up everything—what have you offered up? So many people have given their lives, laid down their heads, shed their blood in order to seek the true way. Have you paid that price?” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, What Have You Dedicated to God?). It felt like God was right there face-to-face with me and asking me these questions. When Abraham was 100 years old, God gave him a son, but he was still able to offer him up to God. So many apostles had offered up their youth and spilled their blood for God’s gospel work, but what had I offered up? I was in agony over name and status, these worthless things. I was so selfish and despicable. How was I worthy of the sacrifices God had made to nurture and nourish me all those years? Also, that choice I was making had meaning. It was for my faith and to do the duty of a created being. If I didn’t choose my duty, that would be my lifelong regret. Thinking about it this way gave me my resolve. When my brother-in-law was going upstairs, I took the opportunity to run off. Since then, I’ve been doing my duty in the church full time.
I’ve heard since then that there were several leaders and co-workers in my department who were giving and receiving bribes in their pursuit of status and wealth, and when things came to light, they got thrown behind bars. I was really rejoicing for having received God’s protection. Before when I was trying to get ahead, I’d been sending gifts like all the others did, and I’d taken other people’s bribes. If I’d stayed in that sort of environment I would have ended up like them. And now, even though I don’t have all those perks or the admiration and envy of others, I can do a duty in the church, pursue the truth, and be an honest person. I feel so fulfilled and happy. This truly is the most meaningful, valuable kind of life. Just as it says in a hymn of God’s words: “You are a created being—you should of course worship God and pursue a life of meaning. Since you are a human being, you should expend yourself for God and endure all suffering! You should gladly and assuredly accept the little suffering you are subjected to today and live a meaningful life, like Job and Peter. You are people who pursue the right path, those who seek improvement. You are people who rise up in the nation of the great red dragon, those whom God calls righteous. Is that not the most meaningful life?” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, The Most Meaningful Life). Almighty God is the One who saved me, allowing me to escape Satan’s ravages and gain God’s salvation.