43. In Letting Go of Selfishness, I Am Liberated
By Xiaowei, China
Almighty God says: “In the dispositions of normal people there is no crookedness or deceitfulness, people have a normal relationship with each other, they do not stand alone, and their lives are neither mediocre nor decadent. So, too, is God exalted among all; His words permeate among man, people live in peace with one another and under the care and protection of God, the earth is filled with harmony, without the interference of Satan, and the glory of God holds the utmost importance among man. Such people are like angels: pure, vibrant, never complaining about God, and devoting all their efforts solely to God’s glory on earth” (“Chapter 16” of Interpretations of the Mysteries of God’s Words to the Entire Universe in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words show us that a normal person’s disposition contains no crookedness, deceit, selfishness, and despicableness. Sincerely taking on God’s commission, working harmoniously with brothers and sisters, and doing all they can for their duty are the most basic things a person should be able to do. I used to live by satanic philosophies such as “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost” and “A student will usurp the teacher’s place.” I was selfish, despicable, crooked, and crafty, totally lacking a human likeness. It wasn’t until I experienced the judgment and chastisement of God’s words that these satanic dispositions of mine began to change.
It was in June of 2018 when Brother Zhang joined our team to partner with me in my duty. At the time I thought, “I’ve been doing this duty for a while now, so I’ve got a grasp on the principles and I’ve seen some results. Maybe at some point I’ll leave this team to take on a greater responsibility. I need to help Brother Zhang get up to speed as quickly as possible so that he can take on the work within our team.” I proceeded to teach him the basic skills I’d learned in my duty. Three months later I saw that Brother Zhang had a basic grasp of everything and he was making really rapid progress. At that point I started to feel threatened, thinking, “Brother Zhang has been improving so quickly in his duty. If this continues, won’t he soon surpass me? If the leader finds out how fast his progress is, won’t he give him an important position?” When this occurred to me, I thought to myself, “No, I need to hold back. I can’t share everything I know with him anymore.” From then on in our work, when I found Brother Zhang’s skills were a little lacking, I just told him a few superficial things without fully sharing my knowledge. I was aware that it wasn’t the right thing to do, but then I thought about the old saying, “A student will usurp the teacher’s place.” With him in the limelight, how could I make a good show of myself? I couldn’t let him overtake me. As we continued to work together, whatever Brother Zhang asked me about, I’d give him a partial response and keep the rest to myself.
Not long after that, the leader sought out Brother Zhang to discuss an important task. My heart quickened when I heard about this. I thought, “I’ve been in the team longer than Brother Zhang. Why wouldn’t the leader want to talk to me? Am I not as good as him? I’ve been the one training him, but now he’s the golden child and I’m pushed aside. He’s in the limelight and I’m forgotten. If I keep teaching him, won’t he learn even faster? If he gets an important position, who will look up to me then?” So in our work together from then on, when I saw Brother Zhang run into difficulties, I didn’t want to help him out. Our progress suffered as a result of these things not being resolved in a timely fashion, and this ended up holding up the church’s work. I felt a little guilty and uncomfortable, but I didn’t reflect on myself at all. One day my armpit suddenly started itching, and I just couldn’t get it to stop. Even applying an ointment didn’t help. The next day, my arm started hurting so much I couldn’t move it. I realized that this condition was no coincidence, so I came before God in prayer and seeking. I said, “Oh God, this condition has started so suddenly. I know that Your good will is behind it. But I’m too insensitive and I don’t know what Your will is. Please enlighten me and guide me.”
One day during my devotionals, these words of God suddenly came to mind: “If you are unwilling to dedicate all you have, if you keep it hidden and tucked away, are slippery in your actions….” (“People Can Only Truly Be Happy by Being Honest” in Records of Christ’s Talks). This was a wake-up call for me. I’d been living in a state of vying for name and gain, afraid that this brother would surpass me, so I was never above-board in our work, and I didn’t want to share my knowledge with him. I saw that this was God warning me with that condition, so that I would reflect on myself. I later read this passage of God’s words: “Unbelievers have a certain kind of corrupt disposition. When they teach other people a piece of professional knowledge or a skill, they believe in the idea that ‘Once a student knows everything the master knows, the master will lose his livelihood.’ They believe if they teach everything they know to others, then no one will look up to them anymore and they will have lost their status. For this reason, they feel a need to withhold some of this knowledge, teaching people only eighty percent of what they know and making sure they keep some tricks up their sleeves; they feel this is the only way they can show their rank of teacher. Always withholding information and keeping cards up their sleeves—what sort of disposition is this? It is deceitfulness. … Do not think that you are doing just fine or that you have not withheld knowledge simply by telling everyone the most superficial or fundamental things; this will not do. Sometimes you may only teach a few theories or things that people can understand literally, but novices are unable to realize any of the essence or important points at all. You only give an overview, without elaborating or going into detail, all the while still thinking to yourself, ‘Well, anyway, I’ve told you, and I haven’t intentionally held anything back. If you don’t understand, it’s because your caliber is too poor, so don’t blame me. We’ll just have to see how God leads you now.’ Such deliberation contains deceit, does it not? Is it not selfish and ignoble? Why can you not teach people everything in your heart and everything you understand? Why do you withhold knowledge instead? This is a problem with your intentions and your disposition” (“Only by Seeking the Truth in Everything Can One Enter Truth Reality” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words revealed precisely my own situation. I didn’t want to teach the skills I’d learned to him for the sake of my own name and position. I was afraid that he’d get the hang of it and leave me in the dust, thinking that the student would usurp the teacher’s place. By always holding back, wasn’t I being too selfish, despicable, crooked, and deceitful? I also thought about when Brother Zhang had just joined our team. My motivation for instructing him had been so that he could take on the team’s work as soon as possible. I’d then have someone to hand my duty off to because I’d been hoping to take on a more important position. But when I saw how quickly he picked things up and that the leader really valued him, I became really concerned. I was worried that if he kept doing well, he’d surpass me sooner or later, that he’d supplant me. As a result, I didn’t want to share what I knew with him. Sometimes when I knew he’d encountered difficulties in his duty I didn’t want to help him, which ended up delaying the church’s work. I saw that I was always working to protect my own name and position without giving any consideration to the work of God’s house. I really was so selfish and deceitful. Without God’s timely discipline, having me develop that condition, I still wouldn’t have reflected on myself. I then read these words of God: “Since gaining faith, you have eaten and drunk of God’s words; you have accepted His judgment and chastisement and accepted His salvation. However, if the principles by which you act and the direction in which you do things and conduct yourself as a person have not changed, if you are the same as the unbelievers, will God acknowledge you as one who has faith? He will not. He will say you are still walking the path of the unbelievers. Thus, whether you are fulfilling your duty or learning professional knowledge, you must adhere to principles in everything you do. You must treat everything you do in accordance with the truth, and practice in accordance with the truth. You must use the truth to resolve problems, to resolve the corrupt dispositions that have been revealed in you, and to resolve your erroneous ways and thoughts. You must continuously surmount these. For one thing, you must examine yourself. Once you have done so, if you discover a corrupt disposition, you must resolve it, subdue it, and forsake it. Once you have resolved these problems, when you no longer do things based on your corrupt dispositions, and when you can let go of your motives and interests and practice according to the truth principle, only then will you be doing what one who truly follows God is supposed to do” (“Only by Seeking the Truth in Everything Can One Enter Truth Reality” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “You must take the essence and main points of that professional knowledge—the things others have not fathomed or realized—and tell them to people so that they can all bring their strengths to bear, and thence figure out even more numerous, more profound, and more mature things. If you contribute all of these things, they will be beneficial to people who are fulfilling this duty as well as to the work of God’s house. … When most people are first introduced to some specific aspect of professional knowledge, they can only comprehend its literal meaning, whereas the part that involves the main points and essence takes practice for a period of time before people can grasp it. If you have already grasped these finer points, you should tell them directly; do not make them take such a roundabout path and spend so much time to get there. This is your responsibility; it is what you should do. Only if you tell them what you believe to be the main points and essence will you not be withholding anything, and only then will you not be selfish” (“Only by Seeking the Truth in Everything Can One Enter Truth Reality” in Records of Christ’s Talks). From God’s words I realized I needed to focus on self-reflection in my duty and seek the truth to resolve my satanic disposition. I needed to forsake my incorrect thoughts and ideas and be able to work as one with brothers and sisters in my duty. I realized that every one of us lacks so much, whether it’s in the truth or in our work, so brothers and sisters need to help and support each other in their duties, and to fellowship on what they understand without holding anything back. By making up for each other’s shortcomings this way, we’re much less likely to take detours. In fact, me being a bit more skilled than Brother Zhang was entirely due to God’s kindness. I should have been considerate of God’s will, let go of my selfishness, and taught him everything I knew so he could perform his duty well as soon as possible. Only that would have been in line with God’s will. As soon as I realized that, I hurriedly came before God in prayer, willing to forsake my own incorrect thinking and no longer live by my selfish, despicable satanic dispositions. I later sought out Brother Zhang to have an honest chat with him about what state I’d been in, and to dissect these satanic dispositions of mine. I also shared the key points of the skills I possessed with him. When I began to practice this way, I felt much more at ease, and that health issue cleared up before I knew it.
I thought that, after going through that, I had already changed, but these satanic dispositions were really deeply entrenched. As soon as the right conditions came up, I just couldn’t help but let those poisons show again.
In March 2019, Brother Zhang and I were elected at the same time to be church leaders. At first, we worked really well together. Whether it was an issue within the church, or a difficulty we ran into, we were able to seek the truth together to resolve it. But then one day, I overheard someone in the church say, “Brother Zhang’s fellowship on the truth is quite practical, and he’s really responsible in his duty.” Hearing this sent me into inner turmoil again and I thought, “If I’m outdone by Brother Zhang, pretty soon I won’t have any dignity at all!” In all of our work discussions after that I only pointed out mistakes and flaws and kept the paths of practice to resolve them to myself. Sometimes when he came to me to seek, I’d just grit my teeth and throw him a bit of a bone, afraid that if he understood too much, he’d just go resolve the issues without me getting to show off. I remember there was one time when he was about to go offer support to a few brothers and sisters experiencing weakness. He was afraid that without the right kind of fellowship, it would be fruitless, so he came to consult with me on what truths would be best to focus on. But my consideration at the time was that if I told him everything I knew and he went and dealt with the problem, the brothers and sisters would definitely look up to him, and then what would I share in fellowship next time? Wouldn’t that make him look better than me? So at the time I thought, “No, I have to hold back something for me to fellowship on next time so that they can see I’m the one more capable of resolving issues.” I only gave Brother Zhang a brief overview but mentioned no specifics, or anything really important. Since I was harboring my own selfishness and didn’t want to share everything I knew with him, I intentionally avoided Brother Zhang in our work together and we spent less time discussing things with each other than we used to. At times I did feel really guilty and thought to myself, “By doing my duty this way, I’m not working harmoniously with my brother, and it’s not something God would delight in.” But then I thought, “If he surpasses me, everyone will look up to him,” so I didn’t want to practice the truth anymore. I was constantly in such an unyielding state during that time, and God’s righteous disposition came upon me. My mind was constantly in a whirl. My fellowship in gatherings lacked any light and I wasn’t achieving anything in my duty, and I’d nod off and fall asleep really early every night. I was also feeling more and more uneasy. At that point I realized that God had departed from me, and then I became afraid. I rushed to come before God and pray. “Oh God, I’ve been too selfish and despicable. I know that this disgusts You, but I can’t help myself. I can’t rid myself of them. God, please enlighten me so that I may come to a truer understanding of my own nature and essence.”
After my prayer I read this passage of God’s words: “Until people have experienced God’s work and gained the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why do you have such strong emotions? Why do you enjoy those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your fondness for such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you have all come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that Satan’s poison is within you. As for what Satan’s poison is, it can be fully expressed with words. For example, if you ask some evildoers why they acted the way they did, they will answer, ‘Because it’s every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. Satan’s logic has become people’s lives. They may do things for this purpose or that, but they are only doing it for themselves. Everyone thinks that since it is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, people should live for their own sakes, and do everything in their power to secure a good position for the sake of food and fine clothing. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life and the philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words of Satan are precisely the poison of Satan, and when people internalize it, it becomes their nature. Satan’s nature is exposed through these words; they represent it completely. This poison becomes people’s lives as well as the foundation of their existence, and corrupted humanity has been consistently dominated by this poison for thousands of years” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Reading God’s words showed me that I just couldn’t help but act selfishly and despicably because Satan’s poisons and philosophies like “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost” had become my very nature. I’d taken them as positive things, as rules to live by, thinking that’s how people should live, that it was the only way to protect ourselves. As a result, I became increasingly selfish and contemptible, only thinking of myself. I was constantly afraid that Brother Zhang would be better than me in the duty we performed together, so whenever we talked about work, I’d just gloss over things, doing the bare minimum, without sharing everything I knew. When Brother Zhang ran into problems in his duty and came to me in seeking, it wasn’t the work of God’s house that was my concern, but it was that if I taught him everything, I’d no longer have a chance to shine in the church. Even when I knew very well that it wasn’t the right approach, I still didn’t want to help him. I could see that I wasn’t doing my duty out of consideration for God’s will or to uphold the work of God’s house, but that I was doing it in pursuit of personal name and status. It really was incredibly selfish and crafty of me. Relying on satanic poisons in my duty, how could I possibly gain God’s guidance and blessings? I thought that by not teaching what I knew to anyone else I could be the best in the church and be esteemed by everyone, but it actually turned out that the more I held back, the darker my spirit became, and the more I was without God’s guidance. It reached the point where I couldn’t even do what I’d been able to do before. These words from the Lord Jesus then came to mind: “For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has” (Mat 13:12). Going through that made me truly appreciate God’s righteous disposition. When I gave it more thought, I saw that being able to see some issues in my duty was entirely God’s guidance and enlightenment, and without the guidance of God’s words, I was blind, unable to understand anything, and unable to resolve any problems. But I was totally lacking self-awareness, and I shamelessly mistook the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment for my own ability. Hadn’t I been trying to rob God of His glory? God can see into people’s hearts and minds. I knew that if I kept being selfish and contemptible, I’d certainly be spurned and eliminated by God. At that thought I quickly came before God to pray, saying, “God, I won’t be so self-seeking and contemptible in my duty anymore. I really want to work well with Brother Zhang and do my duty well.”
After that, I read these words of God: “Do not always do things for your own sake and do not constantly consider your own interests; give no thought to your own status, prestige, or reputation. Also do not consider the interests of man. You must first give thought to the interests of God’s house, and make them your first priority. You should be considerate of God’s will and begin by contemplating whether or not you have been impure in the fulfillment of your duty, whether you have done your utmost to be loyal, done your best to fulfill your responsibilities, and given your all, as well as whether or not you have wholeheartedly given thought to your duty and the work of God’s house. You must give consideration to these things. Think about them frequently, and it will be easier for you to perform your duty well” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “When you reveal yourself to be selfish and ignoble, and have become conscious of this, you should seek the truth: What should I do to be in line with God’s will? How should I act so that it benefits everyone? That is, you must begin by setting your own interests aside, gradually giving them up according to your stature, a little at a time. After you have experienced this a few times, you will have set them aside completely, and as you do so, you will feel more and more steadfast. The more you set your interests aside, the more you will feel that as a human being, you should have conscience and reason. You will feel that without selfish motives, you are being a straightforward, upright person, and you are doing things entirely in order to satisfy God. You will feel that such behavior makes you worthy of being called ‘human,’ and that in living this way on earth, you are being open and honest, you are being a genuine person, you have a clear conscience, and are worthy of all the things bestowed upon you by God. The more you live like this, the more steadfast and the brighter you will feel. As such, will you not have set foot upon the right track?” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After reading this, I understood that if I wanted to do my duty well, I first had to think about how to uphold the work of God’s house, how to put my all into my duty, and how to do it with the utmost responsibility. God’s focus is on our attitude in our duty. His hope is that we face Him with a genuine heart, that we put our all into doing our duty well, and that we become people of conscience and humanity. Once I understood His will, I said a prayer to God within my heart, telling Him I was ready to let go of my selfishness and stop considering my personal interests, and that I would just do whatever benefited the church and my brothers’ and sisters’ lives. After that, I went and had a talk with Brother Zhang, telling him about my selfish, despicable, and deceitful motives. We also sought the truth together on the problems and flaws in our work to resolve them, and I shared fellowship on everything I knew, without reservation. When I practiced in that way, I experienced such a feeling of peace. I felt how wonderful it is to be that kind of person, to be open and above-board. My state gradually improved and I started seeing some results in my duty. Even though at times I still had my selfish and despicable thinking, the moment I thought about how that disgusted God, I’d come before God in prayer, forsake my incorrect thinking, and wish to practice according to His words.
Having undergone that kind of experience, I truly felt that doing our duty relying on satanic dispositions and Satan’s poisons can only make us more and more selfish, despicable, and self-serving. We’ll lose all human likeness, not only causing ourselves pain, but also becoming unable to work well with others. Plus, it does nothing but damage the work of God’s house. When I practiced the truth as an honest person according to God’s words, and no longer schemed for my own interests, I had the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance in my duty, and I felt inner peace. Thanks be to God! It was the judgment and chastisement of God’s words that gave me a bit of understanding of my satanic dispositions, and I was finally able to practice a bit of the truth and live out some human likeness.