83. The Consequences of Working Willfully
By Zhao Yang, China
I was elected to serve as a church leader in 2016. When I first took on that duty, I felt a lot of pressure because I didn’t understand the truth and didn’t have insight into things, so when brothers and sisters ran into problems, I wasn’t sure how to fellowship on the truth to resolve them. I didn’t know how to consider the principles of truth when I was appointing or selecting people to certain duties either, so I prayed to God while I sought those principles. I also sought co-workers out when I didn’t understand something well. Over time, I made some progress in my ability to assess people and situations, and I was able to assign brothers and sisters to fitting duties based on their personal strengths. One time, a brother I worked with tried to talk to me about Sister Xia Jing, a team leader, who was muddling through her duty and being really passive. He said she was holding up the team’s work and suggested replacing her. I thought to myself, “Xia Jing has great caliber and is really capable in her work, so even though she has a corrupt disposition, if she got a little more help, and could turn herself around and make some changes, then she’d have no problem in her duty.” So I exposed and dissected Xia Jing’s state, and I pruned and dealt with her. After a few sessions of fellowship, I saw that her attitude toward her duty had changed a bit. She was taking more initiative and was more conscientious. After a little while she was promoted to a more important duty. I was really patting myself on the back after that, thinking, “I was the one with the right idea. It’s a good thing we didn’t dismiss her, we’ve managed to foster a talented person in the church. It seems I’ve got some sense of discernment.” From then on, I stopped discussing appointments and dismissals with that brother, thinking that I was more experienced, so I could handle any issues on my own. Two years just flew by, and I became more and more adept at making arrangements for the church’s work. Thinking I had discernment and some insight into people and things, I was becoming more and more arrogant.
One day a letter came from a leader saying that our church’s Sister Zhang Jiayi had come back after being dismissed from her duty at another church. I needed to arrange for her to attend gatherings. I thought, “From my previous interactions with Jiayi, I saw she was arrogant, she tended to scold people condescendingly, and was hard to get along with. It seems she hasn’t really changed.” Then a little while later, so many newcomers were joining our church that we urgently needed people to take on watering work. Brother Liu Zheng, who worked alongside me, said he’d been in a gathering with Jiayi and found that she’d gained some real self-knowledge and also some repentance since being dismissed, plus she’d watered new members before and was pretty effective. He suggested that we have her do some watering while continuing her self-reflection, so that our work wasn’t delayed. The moment I heard him suggest Jiayi, I thought, “How could that work? You don’t really know her, she isn’t someone who pursues the truth. You just heard her talk about some understanding, and think she has repented. Your ability to assess people and situations is poor and you don’t have the slightest bit of discernment.” I said to him firmly, “I know Jiayi. She has an arrogant disposition and tends to come down on people condescendingly. She’s also hard to work with. She has always been like this, and there’s no way that she’s changed, otherwise she wouldn’t have been dismissed. I don’t think she’s a good fit. We can’t let her take on that duty.” Liu Zheng went on to say, “We can’t be too demanding. She is a little arrogant, but she’s really learned about herself through this experience of being dismissed and she’s been able to repent for the things she’s done. Now she’s low-key in the way she speaks and gets along fine with others. There has been some change in her arrogant disposition. We need to treat people appropriately.” I felt kind of annoyed when I heard him say this. I thought that he was new to that duty, so what did he know? He should just go along with me. So I responded, more emphatically, “I don’t just casually make up my mind about people, but I can see she’s not a good fit for that duty and we shouldn’t have her do watering.” Liu Zheng didn’t say anything more, seeing that I was completely set on my opinion.
A little time passed, and because of a lack of people doing watering, some of the newcomers were weak and negative because they hadn’t received watering in time, and they were not coming to gatherings. When a leader found out what was going on, she and Liu Zheng went to talk to Jiayi. When they came back, Liu Zheng said to me, “Although Jiayi has been dismissed, she is just arrogant, and has not done any great evil. Now she has some self-knowledge and is willing to repent and change. She can still be cultivated. We can’t define someone forever by what they do for a time, but give them a chance to repent. We’ve discussed it, and Jiayi should take on watering work.” Hearing them recommend Jiayi for this promotion again, I thought, “I’ve made myself perfectly clear last time, and how could she possibly have changed after so little time? I’ve been serving as a leader for a long time and I know how to assess people, so why don’t you take my word for it? That way you can’t go wrong!” So, I explained my position again, very emphatically. Seeing how stubbornly I was clinging to my own idea, the leader said to me sternly, “We’ve understood Jiayi. We’ve listened to her fellowship, have made real contact with her, and we have seen that she has some self-reflection and self-knowledge. We should give people a chance to repent. We can’t define people based on their past behaviors. You say she’s arrogant, but since when were arrogant people not allowed to be nurtured in God’s house? Jiayi is well-suited for watering work and there’s an urgent need for this right now. You’re sticking to your guns and insisting that she’s not used. Isn’t this willful and dictatorial? Assigning people within the church needs to go through you. They can’t perform a duty without your approval. You’re too arrogant and self-righteous. By doing whatever you please, can’t you see you’re directly holding up the work of the church and its cultivation of talented people?” Hearing the leader deal with me this way was upsetting for me, but I was still kind of resistant to it. I thought, “I have a good sense of people, so there’s no way I’m wrong about Jiayi.” At that time, I couldn’t keep on disagreeing. So I reluctantly said, “Since you’ve both seen some change in her, let’s give her a chance at watering. We’ll switch her out if it’s not working.”
Back at home, I thought about the leader dealing with me and felt really upset. Based on what she said, wasn’t I doing evil and resisting God? This was very serious in its essence! But then I thought that I had considered my decision not to appoint Jiayi to that post, so why did they say that about me? Where on earth had I gone wrong? So I prayed to God in seeking: “God, I’m having a hard time accepting being pruned and dealt with. I don’t know how to understand myself in this or which aspect of the truth to enter into. Please show me the way.” I read these words from God after my prayer: “What does it mean to be ‘arbitrary and rash’? It means, when you encounter an issue, to act however you see fit, with no thought process, or any process for searching. Nothing anyone else says can touch your heart or change your mind. You can’t even accept it when the truth is fellowshiped to you, you stick to your own opinions, not listening when other people say anything right, believing yourself right, and clinging to your own ideas. Even if your thinking is correct, you should take other people’s opinions into consideration as well, right? And if you don’t at all, is this not being extremely self-righteous? It is not easy for people who are extremely self-righteous and wayward to accept the truth. If you do something wrong and others criticize you, saying, ‘You’re not doing it according to the truth!’ you reply, ‘Even if I’m not, this is still how I’m going to do it.’ And then you find some reason to make them think this is right. If they reproach you, saying, ‘You acting like this is meddling, and will damage the work of the church,’ not only do you not listen, but you keep coming out with excuses: ‘I think this is the right way, so this is how I’m going to do it.’ What disposition is this? (Arrogance.) It is arrogance. An arrogant nature makes you willful. If you have an arrogant nature, you will behave arbitrarily and rashly, heedless of what anyone says” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). “How you are to treat others is clearly shown or hinted at in God’s words; the attitude with which God treats humanity is the attitude people should adopt in their treatment of one another. How does God treat each and every person? Some people are of immature stature; or are young; or have believed in God for only a short time; or are not bad by nature and essence, not malicious, but are just a bit ignorant or lacking in caliber. Or they are subject to too many constraints, and are yet to understand the truth, yet to enter into life, so it is difficult for them to keep from doing foolish things or committing ignorant acts. But God does not fixate on people’s passing foolishness; He looks only at their hearts. If they are resolved to pursue the truth, they are then correct, and when this is their objective, then God is observing them, waiting for them, and giving them time and opportunities that allow them to enter. It is not the case that God will strike them dead over a single transgression. That is something people often do; God never treats people like that. If God does not treat people in that way, then why do people treat others in that way? Does this not show their corrupt disposition? This is precisely their corrupt disposition. You have to look at how God treats ignorant and foolish people, how He treats those with immature stature, how He treats the normal manifestations of humanity’s corrupt disposition, and how He treats those who are malicious. God treats different people in different ways, and He also has various ways of managing different people’s myriad conditions. You must understand these truths. Once you have understood these truths, you will then know how to experience matters and treat people according to principles” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. To Gain the Truth, One Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Nearby). I started to reflect on myself based on what God’s words revealed. I thought that I had some overall experience with selecting and appointing people and had a grasp of some principles. Especially when someone I’d chosen was successful in their duty, I really felt like I had discernment and could assess people and situations. I considered this to be my capital, felt very self-congratulatory, and didn’t listen to anyone else’s suggestions. When Liu Zheng urged me to treat Jiayi fairly, I just refused to listen to him. I just put her in a box based on how I’d seen her before, thinking she was arrogant and couldn’t possibly change, so she couldn’t take on watering work. In fact, the requirements of God’s house are clear: As long as someone can understand the truths of vision and have responsibility in their duty, they can be cultivated and trained. Even for those people who commit really serious transgressions, if they can accept the truth, if they can repent and change, they will still be given the opportunity to continue to perform a duty. God’s house has always treated people justly and fairly. No matter what kind of corrupt disposition someone shows or what they’ve done to disrupt the work of the church, as long as they’re not an evil person or an antichrist, God will save as much as He can, and the church will give them opportunities to do a duty and let them practice. This is God’s love and salvation. I didn’t understand God’s disposition or God’s intention in saving man, nor did I understand the principles of how people are treated in God’s house. I wasn’t looking at Jiayi’s strengths, but was just refusing to let go of the corruption she’d exposed in the past, arbitrarily defining her and refusing to assign her to watering newcomers. That led to new believers not being watered in time and it was disruptive to the work of the church. Wasn’t that doing evil? Full of regret, I came before God and prayed, “God, I’m so arrogant and self-righteous. I don’t want to be willful in my duty anymore. I’m ready to repent and change.”
Then the next time I was in a gathering with Jiayi and heard her fellowship. She genuinely had some self-knowledge and some regret, and I felt even more ashamed and guilty. After Jiayi took on watering work, she was earnest and took on responsibility for it, and the brothers and sisters she watered made some progress. She was later promoted to manage the watering work for several churches. Seeing how well she was doing in her duty left me feeling even more abashed. I hated how arrogant I’d been, how I’d just arbitrarily defined her, refusing to assign her to a duty and holding up the work of the church. I realized that I didn’t possess the truth and couldn’t assess people and situations. I had understood some doctrines and rules from all of my experience, but the church’s work can’t be done well just by relying on those. After that incident, I approached selecting people with more caution, and when my willfulness reared its head and I wanted final say, I made sure to pray and forsake myself and listen more to what everyone else had to say. I thought that I’d made some changes, but to my surprise, something happened later on that exposed me again.
Six months later, the church urgently needed two people for the work of general affairs. I looked into it and found a couple of sisters who were responsible and could cope with various situations, but there were some security risks with them. But then I figured that since they weren’t going to be doing a duty in their local area, there shouldn’t be any problem with having them take that on. Someone was urgently needed for the work, and for the moment there were no better candidates, so I decided to use them for the time being and switch them out when someone better came along. So I told Liu Zheng that I wanted to have Sister Zhao Aizhen attend to general affairs in the church. His response was, “We absolutely have to follow the principles when selecting people. They can’t work for the church if there’s a safety concern. Aizhen is a security risk and is not suitable for this work. We’ve got to go by the principles.” Seeing that he wasn’t on board, I disagreed with him, saying, “We don’t have to stress too much about that. Don’t you think you’re being too fearful? It is true that she’s well-known as a believer in her hometown, but it’s been years since the police have checked up on her. Besides, she has courage and wisdom. I know this about her. I don’t think we have a better candidate at this point. Our general affairs are in need of personnel. We can’t blindly follow rules.” He heard me out, and then insisted, “Appointing someone to this work who presents a risk violates the principles. We have to put safety first.” I completely disregarded what he was saying and insisted on using Aizhen. After that, I arranged for another sister who also posed a safety risk to work on general affairs. Before long Aizhen, because she was well-known for believing in God, came under suspicion and surveillance from the CCP police. As she was frequently visiting the homes of some brothers and sisters, these brothers and sisters were also put under surveillance, and could not perform their duties normally. The work of the church was greatly obstructed.
When the leader learned about this and found out that it had been caused by my insistence on appointing someone with safety risks, she dealt with me very sternly: “You are too arrogant and willful. You always act arbitrarily in your duty, and go against principles. This time it’s done serious damage to the work of the church. Isn’t that serving as Satan’s minion and disrupting the work of the church? Based on your consistent behavior, we’ve decided to dismiss you.” Hearing this was really a smack in the face, leaving me utterly stunned. I thought, “It’s over. I’ve done a great evil. What if the brothers and sisters that have been implicated are arrested? If they are, I really have done a horrible thing.” I got more afraid the more I thought about it. I was racked with guilt. It felt like a knife to the heart, and I didn’t have the motivation to do anything at all. I was living in this misery day in and day out, praying to God and acknowledging my wrongdoing over and over: “God, I’m too arrogant, too conceited. My willfulness has done incredible damage to the work of the church. I’m ready to accept any punishment You want to give me, just please protect those brothers and sisters from arrest.” I found out later that those church members had been transferred in time, and escaped capture. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
After the fact, I reflected on myself. Why was I always so willful in my duty? Where did that really come from? I read in God’s word: “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). I saw from God’s words that behaving arbitrarily in my duty over and over came from being controlled by an arrogant, self-conceited nature. With this arrogant and self-conceited nature, I always thought too much of myself and felt that I was better than everyone else, that I was right more than anyone, so I should have final say on matters in the church. Once I set my mind on something, I refused to see it any other way, and I wouldn’t listen to anyone. I even wanted people to obey my ideas as if they were the principles of the truth. I knew that those two sisters were safety risks and weren’t suitable for the work of general affairs, and I myself had qualms about it, but I still just couldn’t put myself aside and seek God’s will. I disregarded the Holy Spirit’s reproaches and guidance, and I did not listen to the dissuasion of Liu Zheng. I had to have my own way, and in the end I did really serious harm to the work of the church. If only I had had the slightest desire to seek the truth and submit, if only I had listened to Liu Zheng’s suggestions, there wouldn’t have been such terrible consequences. I felt so much regret and self-blame when I realized all of this, and I hated my arrogance and willfulness. The Communist Party never stops trying to undermine God’s work, using all sorts of tactics to oppress and arrest His chosen people. And I had arbitrarily violated the principles, deciding to appoint unsafe people to take on duties, which led to other brothers and sisters being put under surveillance. Was this not being an accomplice of Satan? If those brothers and sisters had been arrested and imprisoned, the consequences would have been terrible! This thought scared me more and more. I saw that the consequences of acting on an arrogant disposition were very great. I had done some work and thought that I was great, so I didn’t think much of other people, and I didn’t have God in my heart. I wasn’t even taking the principles of the truth seriously, and used whatever work I had done as my capital. I just did whatever I wanted. I was arrogant to the point that I’d lost all reason. I thought about all of those antichrists who had been expelled from the church. They were incredibly arrogant, dictatorial and arbitrary in their duty, and seriously disrupted the work of the church. Ultimately, they did so much evil that they were removed from the church. If my arrogant disposition wasn’t resolved, I could not help but do evil and resist God, and in the end would be cast out by God. I felt in my heart how terrible it was to live by an arrogant disposition. Even though I’d committed such a great evil, the church still hadn’t expelled me, but had just dismissed me. God had even enlightened and guided me with His words, giving me a chance to reflect on and know myself, to repent and change. I could really feel God’s love and I had so much regret. I felt ready to repent and change.
After that, I started consciously seeking how to solve the problem of having an arrogant disposition, arbitrariness and willfulness in my duty. I read this passage of God’s words: “How, then, do you resolve your arbitrariness and rashness? Say, for example, something happens to you and you have your own ideas and plans; before determining what to do, you must seek the truth and you should at least fellowship with everyone about what you think and believe about this, asking everyone to tell you if your thoughts and plans are correct and in line with the truth, asking that everyone make final checks for you. This is the best method of solving arbitrariness and rashness. First, you can shed light on your view and seek the truth; this is the first step you put into practice in order to solve arbitrariness and rashness. The second step happens when other people voice dissenting opinions—what practice can you put in place to keep from being arbitrary and rash? You must first have an attitude of humility, set aside what you believe to be right, and let everyone have fellowship. Even if you believe your way to be correct, you should not keep insisting on it. That is a kind of step forward; it shows an attitude of seeking the truth, of denying yourself, and of satisfying God’s will. Once you have this attitude, at the same time that you do not adhere to your own opinion, you should pray, seek the truth from God, and then look for a basis in God’s words—determine how to act on the basis of God’s words. This is the most suitable and accurate practice. When people seek the truth and hold up a problem for everyone to fellowship together and seek an answer for is when the Holy Spirit provides enlightenment. God enlightens people according to principle, He takes stock of your attitude. If you stubbornly stick to your guns regardless of whether your view is right or wrong, God will hide His face from you and ignore you; He will make you hit a wall, He will expose you and reveal your ugly state. If, on the other hand, your attitude is correct, neither insistent on your own way, nor self-righteous, nor arbitrary and rash, but an attitude of seeking and acceptance of the truth, if you fellowship this with everyone, then the Holy Spirit will set to work among you, and perhaps He will lead you to understanding by means of someone’s words. Sometimes, when the Holy Spirit enlightens you, He leads you to understand the crux of a matter with just a few words or phrases, or by giving you a sense. You realize, in that instant, that whatever you have been clinging to is erroneous, and, in the same instant, you understand the most appropriate way to act. Having reached such a level, have you successfully avoided doing evil and bearing the consequences of a mistake? How is such a thing achieved? This is only attained when you have a heart that fears God, and when you seek the truth with a heart of obedience. Once you have received the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and determined the principles for practice, your practice will be in line with the truth, and you will be able to satisfy God’s will” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). After reading this, I understood that to resolve arrogance and willfulness, what’s most important is to have a heart of reverence for God and a truth-seeking attitude. I can’t insist on my own perspective when things come up, but I need to discuss things with my brothers and sisters. If we work together harmoniously, God’s guidance will be obtained. If somebody has a different opinion, I should accept it first, then pray to God, seek the truth, and put the principles into practice. If I stubbornly cling to my own thinking, there’s no way for me to gain the Holy Spirit’s work. I won’t have insight into anything and I’ll be disruptive in my duty. I thought over how I’d done such a great evil because I was so arrogant, and because I didn’t have a place for God in my heart. It came from wanting to be lord and master of everything, from not working well with others. Realizing this, I silently resolved to stop being so stubborn when things came up, but to seek the principles of the truth and communicate more with others. I would listen to whoever’s idea was in line with the principles of the truth.
After that, I was elected as team leader, in charge of watering work. I was really grateful and I treasured that duty. I was constantly warning myself that I absolutely had to learn the lesson from my failure, and that I couldn’t let my arrogant nature make me willful anymore. When problems came up, I would take the initiative to seek out brothers and sisters to discuss things with them. One time I got a letter from a leader saying we needed to find some people suited to doing watering work. Looking into it, I felt that Sister Su Xing was a good fit, but according to the others’ former assessments, she had an arrogant nature and wouldn’t accept brothers’ and sisters’ pointers and help. At this, I figured that she wouldn’t accept the truth, so she wasn’t someone who should be cultivated. As I thought on this, I realized that I was arbitrarily defining someone again, and I remembered something God said: “Not reaching a verdict is a manifestation of people not being self-righteous, and not insisting is a manifestation of people having rationality; if, on top of this, you are able to obey, you will be able to achieve putting the truth into practice” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Submission to God Is a Basic Lesson in Gaining the Truth). I knew I couldn’t insist on having final say again, but I had to talk this over with the brother who worked with me and listen to his suggestions. When I explained my position to him, he responded, “Based on these assessments, it does look like Su Xing is really arrogant, but this is all based on corruption she revealed in the past. We don’t know if she’s gained any self-knowledge. We shouldn’t stifle a talented person, so let’s have her write out a self-reflection and then ask for the opinions of the brothers and sisters who are in close contact with her. We can take a look at all of this and see if she is a good candidate for this duty. This approach is a better bet.” It sounded to me like his suggestion fit the principles of the truth. If I defined her as someone unfit for being fostered based on a few brothers’ and sisters’ former opinions alone, that would be too arbitrary. We should take a look at what sort of arrogance she had. If it was unreasonable, blind arrogance and an absolute refusal to accept the truth, then she really shouldn’t be promoted. If she was arrogant, but had good humanity, and could accept the truth, and she could learn about herself and change after being pruned and dealt with, that would be normal revelation of corruption. We cannot treat different things as the same. When we received Su Xing’s own self-reflection and other brothers’ and sisters’ assessments, we saw that she’d made some changes and had some entry, and she was someone who could accept the truth. We recommended her for that watering work. Ever since then, I haven’t performed my duties so arrogantly and stubbornly as before, I don’t just make decisions on my own, but consciously listen to others’ suggestions and seek the principles of the truth. With this kind of practice, I feel at peace and free of qualms. I’ve been able to have this change entirely thanks to reading God’s words.