71. The Test of a Difficult Environment

By Junior, Zimbabwe

Since I was little, I was always influenced by society. I liked going along with other people in everything I did—the people around me were Christians, so I was too. But when I longed to learn about God, I started pondering some questions: Why do we believe in God? How can we know God? In this dark and evil world, where is the truth, really? Why do people suffer hardship in life? These questions were like one mystery after another, and I never found answers. Fortunately, I accepted Almighty God’s gospel of the last days, and I found the answers to all these confusing things in Almighty God’s words. I learned that faith in God is about experiencing God’s words and work, and through this coming to know, obey, and love Him. I also learned that in the last days, God uses judgment, chastisement, trials and refinement to perfect people and cleanse their corruption. So, I prayed for trials to come upon me. I even wished I’d been born in China so I could undergo the devil Satan’s oppression and persecution like the Chinese brothers and sisters, and I could bear resounding witness and be made into an overcomer by God through that hardship. I was taken by surprise by how quickly I encountered such an environment.

Because of the pandemic, the company I worked for folded and I lost my job. I tried looking for work at a lot of other companies, but I never got called for an interview. As time dragged on, things just got worse. I didn’t have an income or money to buy food. I didn’t know what to do. Previously, I’d join online gatherings, read Almighty God’s words, watch church movies, and do my duty with others after getting off work. These were the most important things to me; I felt they were a great way to practice faith. But now that I was going through this ordeal, I thought that since I believed in the one true God, He’d certainly take care of me and help me. I also prayed to God, asking Him to give me a job. I thought that since I was a believer, God would give me everything I asked for, but that was not what God did. I felt some weakness then, and I was very confused. I read God’s words and prayed every day, so why wasn’t God helping me when I was suffering? When that came up in me, I thought of Job. When he lost all of his possessions, he was still able to stand firm in his testimony. Job believed that everything, good and bad, was God’s sovereign arrangement, and he never had complaints. He thanked God for giving him material blessings, and when he lost these, he still praised the name of Jehovah God. Really thinking about Job’s faith and prayers, I realized how paltry my faith was—it couldn’t compare with Job’s. I knew I should follow Job’s example, and submit to God’s sovereign arrangements like he had. But thinking about not having enough to eat, and how I’d used up my mobile data quota and couldn’t attend online gatherings, I was at my wits’ end. I prayed to God: “God, whether I starve or not, whether I can gather or not, is entirely in Your hands. I’m willing to entrust these difficulties to You, and submit to Your sovereign arrangements.” Praying that way gave me a sense of peace. That same day, after my prayer, something happened out of the blue—my uncle called and asked me if I wanted to go work for his construction company. Though construction work is tiring, after a week’s work I’d earned enough money to support myself for a while. I truly thanked God. When I cast my mind back on what I’d revealed during this period, I wondered why I’d thought that, just because I believed in God, He would provide me with anything I asked for. Then one day, I read some of God’s words that gave me some understanding of this. Almighty God says: “So many believe in Me only that I might heal them. So many believe in Me only that I might use My powers to drive unclean spirits out from their bodies, and so many believe in Me simply that they might receive peace and joy from Me. So many believe in Me only to demand from Me greater material wealth. So many believe in Me just to spend this life in peace and to be safe and sound in the world to come. So many believe in Me to avoid the suffering of hell and to receive the blessings of heaven. So many believe in Me only for temporary comfort, yet do not seek to gain anything in the world to come. When I brought down My fury upon man and seized all the joy and peace he once possessed, man became doubtful. When I gave unto man the suffering of hell and reclaimed the blessings of heaven, man’s shame turned into anger. When man asked Me to heal him, I paid him no heed and felt abhorrence toward him; man departed from Me to instead seek the way of evil medicine and sorcery. When I took away all that man had demanded from Me, everyone disappeared without a trace. Thus, I say that man has faith in Me because I give too much grace, and there is far too much to gain(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. What Do You Know of Faith?). “Man’s relationship with God is merely one of naked self-interest. It is a relationship between a receiver and a giver of blessings. To put it plainly, it is akin to the relationship between employee and employer. The employee works only to receive the rewards bestowed by the employer. There is no affection in such a relationship, only transaction. There is no loving or being loved, only charity and mercy. There is no understanding, only suppressed indignation and deception. There is no intimacy, only an uncrossable chasm. Now that things have gotten to this point, who can reverse such a course? And how many people are capable of truly understanding how dire this relationship has become? I believe that when people immerse themselves in the joy of being blessed, none can imagine how embarrassing and unsightly such a relationship with God is(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Appendix 3: Man Can Only Be Saved Amidst God’s Management). God’s words reveal our motives for receiving blessings as well as our corrupt dispositions. Lots of people are actually just seeking God’s comfort in their faith. They don’t want to suffer any misfortune, and they’re hoping that God will give them everything they want. They never care about whether they’re satisfying God. For them, submitting to God and meeting His demands isn’t important; what’s most important is that God gives them what they want. During my time of faith in the Lord, the pastors and elders often had us pray for God’s blessings. That kind of pursuit, however, makes our relationship with God abnormal. Just as God’s words reveal: “Man’s relationship with God is merely one of naked self-interest. It is a relationship between a receiver and a giver of blessings. To put it plainly, it is akin to the relationship between employee and employer. The employee works only to receive the rewards bestowed by the employer. There is no affection in such a relationship, only transaction.” God’s words are the truth, and I had to evaluate myself. I saw that I also believed for the sake of gaining God’s blessings. That intent was hidden deep in the recesses of my heart. I thought that since God has returned to the earth, He would certainly bless everyone who accepts Him. I figured since I’d accepted God’s work of the last days, blessings couldn’t be far off, that my life was about to get better. However, things didn’t turn out that way. I ran into hardships and my life got more difficult, and I became weak and negative. I didn’t have an income, I didn’t have food, and I couldn’t use the internet to join online gatherings. How could I keep practicing my faith? I was disgruntled, and it felt like God didn’t care about me. I had run all over the place looking for work and had prayed for God’s help, but God never answered, and He didn’t give me what I’d prayed for. I couldn’t understand, and developed doubts about God. It’s just like God says: “When I brought down My fury upon man and seized all the joy and peace he once possessed, man became doubtful(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. What Do You Know of Faith?). The revelation of God’s words made me feel ashamed of what I’d revealed. God’s words also showed me that having faith for the sake of blessings was the wrong outlook. Because I had seen God as the bestower of blessings, and myself as the receiver of blessings, when God hadn’t given me the good job that I wanted, I had blamed Him and thought He didn’t care for me at all. I saw how absurd, ignorant, and foolish my perspective on faith was. I thought about how I’d gone to religious gatherings since I was a kid, and all I’d heard was, “God will give you great blessings! God will bless you if you’re a believer. Pray and ask God for things, and He’ll certainly answer.” These things I’d heard from the religious world, my parents, and others around me had a big impact on me and made me feel that I just needed to believe to gain God’s blessings and be free of worldly suffering. Before, I never thought that having faith with a desire for blessings was wrong, still less did I realize that it was a satanic disposition. I didn’t have any understanding of this until I read God’s words exposing people’s corruption.

After that, I asked myself: Is having faith really just about receiving material blessings? Are those with enough money and material possessions the ones God approves of? If so, why did the Lord Jesus say in John 6:27, “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for Him has God the Father sealed”? Why did He also say, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also(Matthew 6:19–21)? I realized then that always asking God for material blessings is an extravagant desire of mankind—it’s our corrupt disposition, and God detests it. It’s entirely because Satan has misled man, which keeps us from knowing God’s identity, and particularly from knowing that He rules over our fates. We’re unable to submit to our Creator—rather, we are constantly making requests of Him. When everything’s going smoothly, we give thanks to God and praise Him, but when we face hardship in life, when God doesn’t satisfy our demands, we avoid God and blame Him. I thought of Abraham. He was willing to submit to anything from God. Good or bad, he didn’t have his own personal choice. When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham was ready to do as God asked. It was really painful for him, but he didn’t ask God, “Why are You asking this of me? How could You treat me this way?” Abraham believed that no matter what God asked, it was correct and he should obey. He knew that God is the Creator, and he himself was a created being, so he should unconditionally accept and submit to any of God’s commandments or demands. Abraham’s faith gained God’s approval. But people today are totally different from Abraham. We’re always preoccupied with thoughts of material blessings and we ignore God’s will. The Lord Jesus exhorted us: “Seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you(Matthew 6:33). We shouldn’t seek material blessings; rather, we should seek to satisfy God’s will, pursue the truth and do our duties well. That’s what matters. God is the Creator. He knows our thoughts best, and He also knows best what we need. But because of Satan’s corruption, mankind’s thoughts have been taken over entirely with greed and material blessings—we don’t believe in God to obey and satisfy Him, but just to gain blessings and satisfy our own desires. Just as Almighty God’s words reveal: “All corrupt humans live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of human nature. People believe in God for their own sake; when they forsake things and expend themselves for God, it is in order to be blessed, and when they are faithful to Him, it is in order to be rewarded. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of being blessed, rewarded, and entering the kingdom of heaven. In society, people work for their own benefit, and in the house of God, they perform a duty in order to be blessed. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: There is no better evidence of man’s satanic nature(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). God’s words exposed the precise truth about me. I saw my ignorance and selfishness, and learned how I should pray and submit to God when circumstances didn’t conform to my notions. I couldn’t just ask for grace and blessings.

I ran into the same problem again before long. Since I had worked at my uncle’s place for just a week before I quit, and after that I had just been at home focused on my duty, I ran out of money pretty fast. I didn’t know where my next meal would come from or how I should go look for work because I didn’t have a degree or any qualifications for employment. I had nothing to my name, and no money to buy more data on my mobile plan. I really needed the internet to join gatherings and do a duty. Thinking about this left me feeling weak again, and I felt like I couldn’t see any hope. Just then, my mom told me that because of the pandemic, they had nothing to eat, and they hoped I could provide some things for them. Knowing my mom was in the same straits as I was was weakening and painful for me. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was suffering so much more than other people, that my life was really hard. I couldn’t get a clear understanding of God’s will. I thought that since I was busy with my duty every day, God should take care of me, so why did my situation keep deteriorating? During that time, I read God’s words a lot and listened to quite a few hymns of praise. Two of those passages of God’s words helped me understand His will. Almighty God says: “In their belief in God, what people seek is to obtain blessings for the future; this is their goal in their faith. All people have this intent and hope, but the corruption in their nature must be resolved through trials and refinement. In whichever aspects you are not purified and reveal corruption, these are the aspects in which you must be refined—this is God’s arrangement. 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 the bondage of their satanic nature, 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. In fact, many truths are understood by experiencing painful trials. Nobody can comprehend God’s will, recognize God’s almightiness and wisdom, or appreciate God’s righteous disposition when in a comfortable and easy environment or when circumstances are favorable. That would be impossible!(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). “People have always made extravagant demands of God, always thinking: ‘We have renounced our families to fulfill our duties, so God should bless us. We have acted in accordance with God’s demands, so God should reward us.’ Many people harbor such things in their hearts while believing in God. … People are so lacking in reason; they do not practice the truth and then they complain about God, and they do not do what they should do. People should choose the path of pursuing the truth, but they are fed up with the truth, they crave fleshly pleasures, and they always seek to obtain blessings and enjoy grace, all the while complaining that God’s demands of man are too excessive. They keep asking God to be gracious to them and to bestow more grace upon them, and to allow them to feel fleshly pleasure—are they people who sincerely believe in God? … These words that people speak completely lack reason and faith. They are all spoken because people’s extravagant demands have not been fulfilled, which has made them dissatisfied with God. These are all things that pour forth from their hearts, and they completely represent people’s nature. These things exist within people, and if they are not thrown off, they can lead people to complain about and misunderstand God at any time or place. People will be likely to blaspheme against God, and they may desert the true way at any moment and in any place. This is very natural(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). In the past, I had focused on my duty every day, to the point I was paying little attention to my family, in the belief that God should reward me and bestow blessings on me. I hadn’t wanted lavish rewards from God, just a job that was enough for me to get by—after I got a job, I’d be able to do a better job in my duty. I’d felt like that was a reasonable request, not at all excessive. But reflecting on what God’s words had exposed, I saw that having those extravagant wishes and desires showed that I hadn’t submitted to Him; rather, I was demanding of Him that He do one thing or another for me. God’s words also showed me that if someone always has unreasonable demands of God, it’s difficult for them to practice the truth, and they’ll likely betray and forsake Him when their demands aren’t met. I understood then why I had encountered these difficulties. On the face of it, it seemed like I was suffering a lot, that I was really pitiable, but in fact, I was going through the tempering of suffering. Although I felt like I couldn’t take it, it wasn’t that God was abandoning me. This was to let me see the incorrect viewpoints and impurities in my faith, and turn them in the right direction that God hopes people will follow. I couldn’t help but wonder: “Don’t I want a good job where I can earn some money? Don’t I want mobile data and to have my basic needs covered? Don’t I want to be able to do my duty smoothly, without any troubles? Yes, I do. So, since I hope to attain these things, why won’t God arrange for me to have them? Am I just that unlucky, that unfortunate?” Absolutely not—I was incredibly lucky. This was God’s love coming upon me. God had approved of these circumstances I found myself in. They were His orchestration and arrangement, that I might seek the truth, learn lessons, and cleanse the impurities in my faith. If I were to practice my faith entirely in a good, comfortable environment without experiencing any adverse, unfavorable situations, my faith and love for God would have motives, desires, and impurity, which He wouldn’t approve of. God hopes that people are genuine, devoted and obedient toward Him under any circumstances. It’s just like a child. If they only love their dad when he gives them a comfortable material life, but otherwise hate him and say, “If you don’t give me everything I want, I won’t respect you or recognize you as my father,” what kind of kid is that? That’s an unfilial child who lacks conscience and reason. Thank God! That was the situation I was facing, too. Going through those things was exactly what I needed to cleanse the impurities in my faith.

After that, I read more of God’s words: “What is real belief in God today? It is the acceptance of God’s word as your life reality and the knowing of God from His word in order to achieve a true love of Him. To be clear: Belief in God is so that you may obey God, love God, and perform the duty that should be performed by a creature of God. This is the aim of believing in God. You must achieve a knowledge of the loveliness of God, of how worthy God is of reverence, of how, in His creatures, God does the work of salvation and making them perfect—these are the bare essentials of your belief in God. Belief in God is principally the switch from a life of the flesh to a life of loving God; from living within corruption to living within the life of God’s words; it is coming out from under the power of Satan and living under the care and protection of God; it is being able to achieve obedience to God and not obedience to the flesh; it is allowing God to gain your entire heart, allowing God to make you perfect, and freeing yourself from the corrupt satanic disposition. Belief in God is principally so that the power and glory of God may be manifested in you, so that you may do God’s will, and accomplish God’s plan, and be able to bear testimony to God before Satan. Belief in God should not revolve around the desire to behold signs and wonders, nor should it be for the sake of your personal flesh. It should be about the pursuit of knowing God, and being able to obey God, and, like Peter, obeying Him until one’s death. These are the main aims of believing in God. One eats and drinks the word of God in order to know God and satisfy Him. Eating and drinking the word of God gives you a greater knowledge of God, only after which can you obey Him. Only with knowledge of God can you love Him, and this is the goal man should have in his belief in God(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. All Is Achieved by the Word of God). Although I’d read this passage of God’s words right after gaining my faith in Almighty God, at the time I didn’t truly understand it. It was only after going through all those hardships that I gained a little understanding of God’s will. True faith really isn’t like what I’d thought—that as long as I had faith in God and expended myself for Him, He should watch over and protect me, and meet my every need. That view of faith isn’t right. In our faith, we should experience God’s words and satisfy Him in all things. Whether God gives or takes away, we should submit to Him and genuinely give of ourselves. If in people’s faith, all they pursue is to know God through His words, and submit to His sovereign arrangements, God will approve of their faith. Anyone who can love God to the utmost and obey Him till death, like Peter, is someone who God has perfected. Thankfully, God enlightened me to know the proper perspective on faith through this situation, which made me feel steadfast and peaceful. I made a prayer of submission to God, just asking Him to give me strength to withstand that hardship. To my surprise, the next day, my uncle sent me a little money, allowing me to buy some food and mobile data. I gave heartfelt thanks to God for opening a path for me.

On top of that, I managed to get a part-time job. It wasn’t an easy job at all, but I could earn enough to meet my basic needs. I truly experienced that accepting and submitting to God’s orchestrations and arrangements is a fundamental lesson we should learn through real life, and that it can help us know God’s almighty sovereignty and wondrous deeds through our experience. This is the attitude we should have toward all sorts of issues in life. I recalled a passage of God’s words: “When confronting real-life problems, how should you know and understand God’s authority and His sovereignty? When you are faced with these problems and do not know how to understand, handle, and experience them, what attitude should you adopt to demonstrate your intention to submit, your desire to submit, and the reality of your submission to God’s sovereignty and arrangements? First you must learn to wait; then you must learn to seek; then you must learn to submit. ‘Waiting’ means waiting for the time of God, awaiting the people, events, and things that He has arranged for you, waiting for His will to reveal itself gradually to you. ‘Seeking’ means observing and understanding God’s thoughtful intentions for you through the people, events, and things that He has laid out, understanding the truth through them, understanding what humans must accomplish and the ways they must adhere to, understanding what results God means to achieve in humans and what accomplishments He means to attain in them. ‘Submitting,’ of course, refers to accepting the people, events, and things that God has orchestrated, accepting His sovereignty and, through it, coming to know how the Creator dictates man’s fate, how He supplies man with His life, how He works the truth within man. All things under God’s arrangements and sovereignty obey natural laws, and if you resolve to let God arrange and dictate everything for you, you should learn to wait, you should learn to seek, and you should learn to submit. This is the attitude every person who wants to submit to God’s authority must adopt, the basic quality every person who wants to accept God’s sovereignty and arrangements must possess. To hold such an attitude, to possess such a quality, you must work harder. This is the only way you can enter into the true reality(The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique III). Although I’d read this passage of God’s words before, it felt different reading it after having gone through hardships. I could see from God’s words that seeking God’s will, waiting and submitting is the first approach someone should have when they face a problem. But it’s not a passive kind of waiting—it includes praying, reading God’s words, seeking God’s will, and reflecting on yourself. This way you can learn about your true state and understand what you should enter into. Through this kind of seeking and experience, we can see God’s almighty sovereignty and His actual deeds.

At first I only wanted to do that difficult part-time job for one month, just so I could make enough to get by, then I’d spend the rest of my time on my duty. But I had a problem with my cellphone. I figured if I worked another month, I could buy another cellphone and a laptop. I was a church leader, however, and had a lot of church work to handle. Doing my duty was the most important thing for me—it was my priority, so I decided to quit my job. After the upper leader found out about my situation, she told me that to help me do my duty well, the church could help me buy a laptop and some internet bandwidth. I was really excited to hear that—happier than I can express. I knew this was entirely God’s grace. I also saw that God hadn’t been making things difficult for me at all, He just wanted me to be genuine and obedient. I had experienced God’s love through suffering. Before, what I’d imagined about God’s love for man was vague and didn’t line up with reality. Only after experiencing those circumstances and learning a lesson from them did I truly realize that each of those circumstances had been orchestrated by God. He had done so to test me, to guide me to understand His will little by little, to change my mistaken perspectives on faith, and to get me on the right path of pursuit. This was truly God’s love for me. I also came to understand the right attitude to have through hard times.

I faced another real test before too long. After a month in that job, just after I’d been paid, I was robbed. They got away with half of my salary. But thanks to God’s protection, though they had knives, they didn’t injure me. It immediately occurred to me that God let this happen because of His good intentions. I thought of Job being so rich, but when all of his possessions were taken and his children all died, he unconditionally submitted, had no complaints, and still praised God’s name. I wasn’t rich—I was just a regular person. Although I needed that money and had lots of plans for what I was going to do with it, I was ready to follow Job’s example in faith and obedience. I prayed, “God, You are fathomless. I can’t completely understand why this has happened, but I believe that Your will is hidden within it. I’m willing to submit to Your arrangements. Please move my heart and guide me so I don’t sink into a negative state.” I felt really calm after my prayer, as if nothing at all had happened. I kept doing my duty calmly like always, without feeling any worry or anxiety. Compared to my attitude before understanding the truth of God’s sovereignty, it was totally different. That was because I had learned that God had orchestrated and arranged things in that way to cleanse and save me. My understanding of God’s love was also deepened. God’s love isn’t solely expressed by giving us material blessings, because those items can only satisfy our fleshly desires. God’s true love is to have us learn the truth through experiencing the judgment, chastisement, trials, and refinement of His words. It is to have us know why we have faith, how to fear God and shun evil, how to love and satisfy God, and ultimately to submit to all of His orchestrations and arrangements. I recalled some of God’s words: “Man’s love of God is built upon the foundation of the refinement and judgment of God. If you only enjoy the grace of God, having a peaceful family life or material blessings, then you have not gained God, and your belief in God cannot be considered successful. God has already carried out one stage of the work of grace in the flesh, and has already bestowed material blessings upon man, but man cannot be made perfect with grace, love, and mercy alone. In man’s experiences, he encounters some of God’s love and sees the love and mercy of God, yet having experienced for a period of time, he sees that God’s grace and His love and mercy are incapable of making man perfect, incapable of revealing that which is corrupt within man, and incapable of ridding man of his corrupt disposition, or making perfect his love and faith. God’s work of grace was the work of one period, and man cannot rely on enjoying the grace of God in order to know God(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God). “By what means is God’s perfection of man accomplished? It is accomplished by means of His righteous disposition. God’s disposition primarily consists of righteousness, wrath, majesty, judgment, and curse, and He perfects man primarily by means of His judgment(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God). Reading God’s words, I deeply feel that God’s work of judgment in the last days really is to cleanse mankind of all unrighteousness. The impurities in our faith and our corrupt dispositions can only be cleansed through the judgment and revelation, the trials and refinement, of His words. That will never be achieved merely by enjoying God’s grace and blessings. I never would have understood these things without God’s words, and without these difficult circumstances. Thanks be to Almighty God!

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