36. Liberated From Fame and Fortune
By Xiao Min, China
I was elected to be a church leader a year ago. I knew this was God’s kindness and elevation. I quietly resolved to pursue the truth in earnest and do my duty well. After that, I was busy with the work of the church, and when I ran into difficulties, I leaned on God and looked to Him. I also discussed them with co-workers and sought the truth to resolve them. After a little while, every aspect of the church’s work started to make headway, and I gave heartfelt thanks to God for His guidance. Before long, an election was held for another church leader, and to my surprise Sister Xia was chosen, who had done a duty with me a few years back. Sister Xia had not believed in God for very long and her life experience was a little superficial. When we worked together before, I needed to help her resolve some of the difficulties and issues she encountered. I felt that this time around in our work together, I’d definitely be more capable than her.
Once, I returned home to find a message Sister Xia had left for me, saying there was a group leader at Chengxi Church that couldn’t do practical work and had to be replaced, and that there were some other practical issues that needed immediate resolution. She wanted me to go help out. Thinking this over, I felt that she really must think I was more capable than her, and since she looked up to me so much, I had to do a good job and not embarrass myself! The more I thought about it, the happier I felt. When I arrived at the gathering, I discovered that Sister Xia had a detailed understanding of the work, and that her fellowship on the truth was layered and practical. I was surprised to see that she’d progressed quite a bit over the last few years. I had thought I was more able than her and I’d need to give her a lot of guidance with work, but it looked like she was no less competent than me! I was really disgruntled and it looked to me like she was going to take the lead, so I felt I had to let all our brothers and sisters see what I was made of! I didn’t dare slack off in the slightest but racked my brains to think of how I could make my fellowship better than hers. As a result, my fellowship turned out to be dull as ditchwater, and even I got no enjoyment out of it. I felt like I’d lost prestige and felt really down.
From then on, I just couldn’t stop competing with Sister Xia. One time in a gathering when she learned about brothers’ and sisters’ states, she found relevant words of God, then wove them together with her actual experience in her fellowship, and I saw everyone nodding their heads while listening. Some were taking notes, and some said, “From now on we have a path to take.” I felt both admiration and envy at this, and so what was I thinking? “Now I have to hurry up and share some fellowship. No matter what, I can’t look like I don’t match up to her.” But the more I thought that, the less I could think of anything to fellowship. I started to become prejudiced against Sister Xia, thinking, “Do you have to fellowship quite so much? You’ve already said all there is to say. I’m just sitting here like the ears of a deaf person—nothing but decoration. This won’t do, I have to share some fellowship to recover some of my pride.” Just when she stopped to take a drink of water, I shifted my stool up toward the front and started to fellowship. I wanted to share something really good, but I just couldn’t seem to hit the mark. My fellowship was a jumble. When I saw the brothers and sisters giving me funny looks, I realized that I’d gone entirely off-topic. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and wanted to go find a hole to crawl into. I’d made a fool of myself. I’d just wanted to make myself look good, but I ended up looking ridiculous. I put myself on stage, and everyone saw me fail. In my heart, I started to blame God for enlightening my sister, but not me, and I worried about how the other brothers and sisters would see me from then on. The more my mind went down this road, the more upset I became. I wanted to run away from the situation and didn’t want to work with her anymore. I remember once in a gathering, a couple of sisters weren’t in a very good state, and there wasn’t any improvement after Sister Xia’s fellowship. Not only did I not help fellowship, but I even thought, “Now everyone will see that she can’t resolve problems, so they won’t look up to her while looking down on me.” Over that period of time, I was constantly trying to compete with Sister Xia, and my spiritual state grew darker and darker. I lacked any light when fellowshiping on God’s words in gatherings, and when I saw brothers and sisters facing difficulties or problems, I didn’t know how to resolve them. I started nodding off really early every night, and I had to force myself to do my duty. My suffering just kept growing. I could do nothing but pray to God and ask Him to save me.
I read this passage of God’s words in my devotionals one day: “As soon as it touches upon position, face, or reputation, everyone’s heart leaps in anticipation, and each of you always wants to stand out, be famous, and be recognized. Everyone is unwilling to yield, always instead wishing to contend—even though contending is embarrassing and not allowed in God’s house. However, without contention, you still are not content. When you see someone stand out, you feel jealous, hatred, and that it is unfair. ‘Why can’t I stand out? Why is it always that person who gets to stand out, and it’s never my turn?’ You then feel some resentment. You try to repress it, but you cannot. You pray to God and feel better for a while, but then as soon as you encounter this sort of situation again, you cannot overcome it. Does this not display an immature stature? Is not a person’s falling into such states a trap? These are the shackles of Satan’s corrupt nature that bind humans” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words totally revealed my state and went straight to my heart. I reflected on why I was living in such a difficult, tiring way. The root of it was that my desire for name and status was too strong, and that my disposition was too arrogant. I thought back on when I had just started doing this duty. When I had a bit of success in my work and brothers and sisters looked up to me, I really admired myself and thought of myself as talented. Working with Sister Xia and seeing her doing better than me, I became jealous, disagreeable, and was constantly competing with her. When I couldn’t surpass her, I became negative and complained, and even vented my feelings in my duty. When I saw that she hadn’t resolved those sisters’ states, not only did I not help with fellowship, but I refused to lift a finger and I reveled in her failure. I was determined to see her embarrassed. How was that doing my duty? As a leader in the church, I was totally irresponsible and I didn’t think of the church’s work at all or about whether brothers’ and sisters’ problems had been resolved. I was just thinking about how I could be above her. I was so selfish and despicable, and so cunning. Name and status had addled my brain. I was willing to see brothers and sisters not have their problems resolved, to see the church’s work compromised, as long as I could protect my reputation and status. Wasn’t I biting the hand that fed me? I just wasn’t worthy of such an important duty. It was so disgusting, so hateful to God! At this thought, I lost no time coming before God to pray and repent, asking Him to guide me to cast off the shackles of name and status.
I later read this passage of God’s words: “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 Talks of Christ of the Last Days). Reading these words from God immediately brightened my heart, and I then had a path. If I wanted to be freed from the bonds of name and status, first I had to set my own heart right. I had to keep my mind on God’s commission and be considerate of God’s will, and I had to think of how I could do my duty well. With more positive things filling my heart, then negative things like name, status, vanity and prestige would be easier to let go of. I realized that others thinking I’m something doesn’t mean that God approves of me, and others thinking I’m nothing doesn’t mean that God won’t save me. What’s important is my attitude toward God, and whether I can practice the truth and do my duty well. I gave thanks for God’s enlightenment that turned me back from my wrong pursuits. I didn’t want to compete with Sister Xia anymore, but only wanted to do the duty of a created being to satisfy God. From then on, I consciously prayed to God and put my heart into my duty, and in church gatherings, I listened to the fellowship of brothers and sisters carefully. When I discovered some issues, I seriously pondered them, then found relevant words of God and combined them with my own experiences for fellowship. I also learned from Sister Xia’s strengths to make up for my own weaknesses. Practicing this way left me feeling much more relaxed and at ease, and my state improved a lot. I felt such gratitude to God from the bottom of my heart. But the desire for name and status was so deeply rooted within me that the moment the right situation arose, this satanic nature of mine appeared once again.
I remember there was one time I was about to go take care of some problems in a group, and just as I was on my way out, Sister Xia said that the issues in that group were kind of complex, and she wanted to go with me. Hearing her say this crushed that wave of happiness I was riding. I thought, “So you’re the only one who can fix things? You just have to show what you can do, don’t you? What do you mean by saying this in front of our superior? Aren’t you intentionally trying to make me look bad?” I was really upset at the time. I did end up going alone, but I couldn’t get over how upset I felt. I was grumbling so much about Sister Xia the whole way there that I couldn’t even find the gathering place and had to head back. I was feeling so down. I thought, “Am I really so useless? I can’t even find a gathering place. What will our superior think of me? I’ve really embarrassed myself this time!” When I got back and saw the other sisters, I didn’t want to talk to them.
The next day, Sister Xia and I headed over to the church separately to implement a few tasks, and I was once again thrown into emotional turmoil. I was thinking, “I don’t care what you think you’re made of, let’s see who does best!” I arrived at the church in full swing and got straight down to implementing the tasks, fellowshiping and delegating tasks at once. I thought, “This time I’ve really put a lot of effort in. It’ll certainly bear fruit, and then I’ll come out ahead of Sister Xia.” In a co-workers’ meeting later, I found out that I’d achieved the least in my duty. I had never even dreamed that that could happen. I lost all hope at that moment and felt that however hard I worked, I would never be able to outdo Sister Xia. Over that period of time, seeing our superior being caring toward Sister Xia whenever she came back late, I felt like I was left out in the cold. I was really jealous of her. When I saw her doing better than me in everything and that our superior valued her highly, I felt like I’d never get to have my day in the sun again. I thought that being a group leader would be better than being a church leader. At least the brothers and sisters would look up to me and support me. I felt I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. My grievances just kept pouring out. I was really resistant to being in that environment and couldn’t wait to get out of there as soon as possible. My state was deteriorating more and more. I was jealous and resentful of Sister Xia, and felt like I couldn’t stand out because of her. I also thought, “If she just made some sort of mistake in her duty and were transferred out, that would be great.”
As I was constantly living in this state of fighting for reputation and personal interests, without reflecting on myself at all, God’s discipline came upon me before long. Once, I arranged to have a gathering with a few other leaders. Not only did no one show, but on my way back I got a flat tire, and before long, I developed a terrible pain in my back. Achy and swollen, the pain was hard to bear. It got to the point that I couldn’t even do my duty. I then thought of God’s words: “The requirement made of you today—to work together in harmony—is similar to the service Jehovah required of the Israelites: Otherwise, just stop doing service” (“Serve As the Israelites Did” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This scared me. Could it be that God wanted to strip me of the chance to do my duty? I later read another passage from God’s words: “The more you struggle, the more darkness will surround you, and the more jealousy and hatred you will feel, and your desire to obtain will only grow stronger. The stronger your desire to obtain, the less capable you will be to do so, and as you obtain less, your hatred will increase. As your hatred increases, you will grow darker inside. The darker you are inside, the more poorly you will perform your duty; the more poorly you perform your duty, the less useful you will be. This is an interlinked, vicious cycle. If you can never perform your duty well, then, gradually, you will be eliminated” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). God’s stern words left me frightened and trembling. I could feel God’s righteous disposition which tolerates no offense. Particularly when I read this from God’s words, “If you can never perform your duty well, then, gradually, you will be eliminated,” I really felt that I was in imminent danger. Soon after that, I heard Sister Xia saying, “The church’s work is really going downhill in every way….” She was so concerned that she started crying. I then recalled our superior dissecting the essence of our failure to work well together, saying it was disrupting and sabotaging the work of God’s house. I didn’t dare continue thinking about that, but just rushed to come before God in prayer and seeking. I had known full well that seeking name and status and being jealous of others isn’t in line with God’s will, so why couldn’t I stop myself from pursuing those evil things?
I later read another passage of God’s words. “Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain. Looking now at Satan’s actions, are its sinister motives not utterly detestable? Maybe today you still cannot see through Satan’s sinister motives because you think one cannot live without fame and gain. You think that if people leave fame and gain behind, they will no longer be able to see the way ahead, no longer be able to see their goals, that their futures will become dark, dim and gloomy” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I was able to find the root of the problem in the revelations of God’s words. I could never stop myself from going after reputation and status because I’d been educated in school and influenced by society since I was little. Satanic philosophies and fallacies had been planted deep within my heart, just like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors,” “There can only be one alpha male,” “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” and “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies.” I had taken those things as words to live by and had set them as life goals to pursue. Whether out in the world or in God’s house, I just sought the high regard of others. I wanted to be front and center no matter what group I was in, to have everyone revolve around me. I felt that was the only meaningful way to live. My caliber was never that great, and I wasn’t particularly good at anything, either, but I just couldn’t stand being below someone else. When someone was better than me, I got really upset, and I couldn’t stop myself from vying and competing with them. I’d try to think of anything to get ahead. If I couldn’t, I got jealous and hated them, and blamed everyone but myself. That was such an awful way to live. I finally saw that pursuing name and status is not the right path at all, and the more I did that, the more arrogant and small-minded I’d become. I’d become more selfish and vicious without any semblance of a human likeness. Then I looked at Sister Xia: She did her duty conscientiously and seriously, and her fellowship contained light. She was also able to resolve brothers’ and sisters’ practical difficulties. That was beneficial for others and for the church’s work. It was a wonderful thing and something that could bring God comfort. I, on the other hand, was petty and jealous, always thinking that she was stealing the limelight from me, so I became biased against her. I was dying for her to do her duty badly and be replaced. I saw how malicious I was deep down! God hopes to see more people pursuing the truth and being considerate of His will, and being able to do their duty to satisfy Him. But in my effort to safeguard my own reputation and position, I couldn’t tolerate brothers and sisters who did that. I was jealous and intolerant of them. Wasn’t that going against God and opposing Him? Wasn’t that disrupting the work of God’s house? How was I any different from the devil, Satan? Plus there are all those Communist Party officials who form cliques and engage in petty struggles for reputation and position, and will stop at nothing to strike down an opponent, eradicating their enemies and oppressing the people. There’s no telling how many evils they’ve caused, how many people they’ve killed! Ultimately, they bring ruin on themselves, and when they die they go to hell and are punished. Why is it, then, that they end up that way? Isn’t it because they place reputation and position over everything? Then looking at my own behavior, even though it wasn’t as bad as theirs, it was essentially the same. I was living according to satanic philosophies and laws, and the disposition I revealed was arrogant, cunning, and vicious. What I lived out was demonic, without any human likeness. How could that not be disgusting and hateful to God? Being disciplined that way was God’s righteous disposition coming upon me, and even more, it was His salvation for me. Realizing all of this, I quickly came before God in prayer. I said, “Oh God, I haven’t been pursuing the truth. I’ve just been pursuing name and status. I’ve been toyed with and corrupted by Satan, not feeling like a human being at all. When I lost my reputation and status, I didn’t want to do my duty anymore and was on the verge of betraying You. God, I wish to repent to You. I’m willing to pursue the truth, to cooperate with my sister, and to be grounded in my duty to satisfy You.”
After that, I opened up to Sister Xia. I dissected the ways I’d been vying for name and gain and trying to compete with her. I also asked her to keep an eye on me and help me out. After that, we were able to cooperate in our duty much more smoothly. Even though at times I still show a desire for name and gain, I’m able to quickly see that it’s my satanic disposition showing itself, I think of the nature and consequences of continuing on like that, and then I rush to pray to God and mindfully collect my thoughts. I go and listen to my sister’s fellowship in earnest and learn from her strengths. When I see that she’s missed something in her fellowship, I chime in right away. At those times, I think about how to clearly fellowship the truth so that everyone can benefit from it. Everyone feels that those kinds of gatherings are really edifying and I gain something from them, too. I feel free and at ease within my heart. It’s just as God’s words say: “If you can fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put the interests of God and His house first, then after experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to live. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being narrow-minded or mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act. Gradually, the desire within your heart to gratify your own interests will lessen. … you feel there is meaning and nourishment in living thus. Your spirit will be grounded, at peace and gratified. Such a state will be yours, as a result of your having let go of your own motives, interests, and selfish desires. You will have earned it” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). I fully appreciate how wonderful it is to live by God’s words. Thanks be to God!