39. Living Out a Human Likeness at Last
By Zhou Hong, China
When I became a church leader in 2018, I found there was a sister named Yang who had good caliber and pursued the truth. I thought to myself, “If I can train her well, it’ll make my life easier, our work will improve, and my leader will praise me, too.” So I threw myself into training her. I’d fellowship with her whenever she ran into any problem and I assigned her to be team leader. She made fast progress and was attentive in her duty. Pretty soon, our team’s work picked up. I thought, “If I had a few more like Sister Yang, then all our church work would improve significantly. I’d be able to relax a bit and we’d see better results, and everyone would say I’m doing a good job.” One day, we urgently needed someone to compile documents on purging and expelling antichrists and evildoers. We all agreed that Sister Yang should take this on. To my surprise, she soon grasped the principles and produced documents that were both objective and accurate. My leader often asked whether we had anyone who was good at putting documents together and I knew Sister Yang fit the bill. But when I thought of her being transferred and the effect it would certainly have on our work, I didn’t want to let her go and didn’t suggest her to the leader.
At a gathering one day, the leader said they needed someone to compile documents on purging and expelling antichrists and evildoers and asked us if we could supply anyone. I thought, “Sister Yang would be good at this, but if I let her go, I’ll have to train someone else. It’ll take so much effort. What will my leader think of me if our work begins to slip? Sister Tang is good at compiling documents, too, but she’s a little passive in her duty and she tends to need a lot of help. I’ll suggest her instead. This way, I’ll provide someone for the job and Sister Yang can stay put. Our work won’t be impacted.” So I recommended Sister Tang and talked up her strong points and intentionally made Sister Yang sound not as good. A few days later, Sister Tang was chosen for the task. I later found out that Sister Tang couldn’t cope with it on her own. I thought, “Sister Yang would be able to handle it, no problem. But I don’t want her to go. She’s so good at her duty, what would happen to our work if she left?” So I again chose not to recommend Sister Yang. A few days after that, my leader asked specifically for Sister Yang and told us to find someone to replace her ASAP. I was really against this idea. I thought, “If Sister Yang leaves, who will compile our church’s documents? Even if we can find someone suitable, they’ll just be a newbie and won’t know the principles. They’ll need training. Not only will our work suffer, but it’ll be hard work and a lot of effort on my part.” I knew I was wrong to think this, but I kept making excuses to myself: “I trained Sister Yang myself. If she leaves, we’ll have no one in our team who can do her job. How will it get done? No, I have to discuss it with my work partners and write the leader asking her to let Sister Yang stay a few more months until we’ve trained someone else.” When I shared this with my two work partners, they rebuked me, saying, “We train people to do the work of God’s house. Once Sister Yang is gone, we can train someone else. Aren’t you being selfish, trying to stop Sister Yang from leaving?” But I didn’t reflect on myself, and instead thought, “You’re so generous. You think it’s easy to train people?” I was feeling more and more upset and resistant and I resented my work partners for not being able to see my side. Shortly after that, I started to feel like I was burning up, just like I was on fire, and I felt weak all over. I thought, “The weather is fine, and I don’t have a cold. This is really weird.” I realized that this was God chastening and disciplining me. I thought of God’s words: “Now, when I am at work among you, you behave in this way—if the day comes when there is no one to watch over you, will you not be as bandits who have declared themselves kings?” (“A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I was stunned to realize that God’s words were revealing exactly my own state. I was treating Sister Yang like she was my property. I thought that since I’d trained her, she should be mine and she should stay in my church and put me in a good light. I wouldn’t let anyone have her. In reality, brothers and sisters all do their duty in God’s house and their commissions are all from God. They do their duties whenever and wherever God’s house needs them to and as God arranges. And yet I’d been deceitful and cheated others for the sake of my own prestige and status, doing what I could to keep Sister Yang all to myself. Wasn’t I one of the “bandits who have declared themselves kings”? I had tried to control Sister Yang and wrest her from God. This was what antichrists did and it was a path to ruin. Realizing this, I felt really remorseful. I was so arrogant and selfish.
I then read these words of God: “What is the standard by which a person’s deeds are judged to be good or evil? It depends on whether or not you, in your thoughts, expressions, and actions, possess the testimony of putting the truth into practice and of living out truth reality. If you do not have this reality or do not live this out, then you are without a doubt an evildoer” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “If one believes in God but does not heed His words, accept the truth, or submit to His arrangements and orchestrations; if they only exhibit certain good behaviors, but are unable to forsake the flesh, and relinquish nothing of their pride or interests; if, though to all appearances they perform their duty, they still live by their satanic dispositions, and have not in the least given up the philosophies and modes of existence of Satan, and do not change—then how could they possibly believe in God? That is belief in religion. Such people forsake things and expend of themselves superficially, but the path they walk and the source and impetus of everything they do are not based on the words of God or the truth; instead, they continue to act according to their own imaginings, desires, and subjective assumptions, and the philosophies and dispositions of Satan continue to be the basis of their existence and actions. In matters whose truth they do not understand, they do not seek it; in matters whose truth they do understand, they do not practice it, exalt God as great, or treasure the truth. Though they are nominally a follower of God, it is in word only; the substance of their actions is nothing but the expression of their corrupt dispositions. There is no sign that their motive and intent are to practice the truth and act according to God’s words. People who consider their own interests before all else, who fulfill their own desires and intents first—are these people who follow God? (No.) And can people who do not follow God bring about change in their dispositions? (No.) And if they cannot change their dispositions, are they not pathetic?” (“Belief in Religion Will Never Lead to Salvation” in Records of Christ’s Talks). I thought over God’s words and reflected on my behavior. I looked as though I made sacrifices for God, but my motive in my duty was to satisfy my own interests. When my leader asked for someone who could put documents together, I knew Sister Yang was the best one for the job. But I lied and deceived to protect my own interests, and suggested Sister Tang instead. Even when I saw Sister Tang struggling with that job and knew she would cause delays to the work, I still didn’t recommend Sister Yang. I didn’t think about God’s house or pay any mind to God’s will. I just used brothers and sisters as tools to safeguard my own prestige and status. I was so wicked, selfish and mean. I’d believed in God for years, yet all my thoughts and views were based on my satanic dispositions and on Satan’s survival tactics. I didn’t go by God’s words or practice the truth. I was a nonbeliever, just like what God’s words describe. I couldn’t be selfish anymore. I had to supply someone with talent and then train more people for our church. We arranged for someone to take on Sister Yang’s work in our team and she was transferred. Later, I learned that Sister Yang had quickly compiled the documents on purging and expelling people. I felt bad when I heard this. If I’d only suggested her sooner and set my own interests aside, this work wouldn’t have been delayed for so long. This had happened because of my selfishness. I’d transgressed and done evil. I took this as a warning not to prioritize my interests over God’s house again.
I thought this experience had changed me a little, but this same old problem was just waiting for the right conditions before rearing its ugly head again. Not long afterward, my leader asked me about Sister Liu. She wanted her to go help out with watering new believers in a church nearby. I felt some reluctance, but I figured I shouldn’t be selfish, that I had to uphold the Church’s work, and I could always train someone else. I agreed to let Sister Liu go. But then she said Sister Li who was in charge of putting documents together was to be promoted and asked me to write an evaluation. This was too much for me. If Sister Li left, who would be in charge of putting documents together? I didn’t want to let Sister Li go so I put off writing her evaluation. I wanted to delay her going for a few days so that my leader might find someone else in the meantime and let Sister Li stay. My work partner noticed I wasn’t writing the evaluation and pressed me to do it. I just palmed her off and said I’d get right on it, but I still didn’t write it. About 10 days later, my work partner said, “Our leader has transferred Sister Li without the evaluation.” It took me a while to process this. This was happening too fast! All my good team members had been taken away. We wouldn’t be able to get anything done in the church now. These thoughts filled my mind to exploding. I felt like a heavy weight had settled on my heart. I had no appetite over the next few days. I just thought about how I had to find people and how much pressure was on me. It was all going to be so much effort. The more I thought about it, the more I was consumed with worry, and I was exhausted.
One day I was going down the stairs when I lost my footing. I heard a snap in my foot, like a bone breaking. I thought, “Now I’ve done it. I can’t do my duty with a broken foot.” I knew this was God disciplining me. I thought about how I’d watched people get transferred one by one and how I’d argued with God in my heart and resisted it all. My attitude toward my duty must have disgusted God, so God had taken my duty away. I felt very afraid at this thought. My foot hurt like crazy, too. I kept praying to God, willing to truly repent. To my surprise, after lunch that day my foot suddenly stopped hurting, as though I’d never injured it at all. I knew in my heart that this had been a warning from God so that I’d reflect on and know myself. I wondered, “Why do I always put my own interests first?”
I later watched a video of a reading of God’s words. Almighty God says, “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).
God’s words say that after mankind was corrupted by Satan, all kinds of satanic poisons were planted in our hearts and they became our nature. Like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” Everyone lives by this satanic poison, everything we do is for our own profit, and we think this is right and proper, so we become more and more selfish and deceitful. I reflected on myself. When the leader transferred people out of my church, I resisted and tried to obstruct it, even to the point of deceitfulness. I treated people like they belonged to me and refused to let God’s house have them. I was so selfish and despicable, totally unreasonable. I was standing in the way of the work of God’s house! When the Lord Jesus came to work, the Pharisees tried to protect their own status and livelihoods by stopping people from following Him. They treated believers as their own and vied with the Lord over them. In the end they offended God and He punished them. How was I behaving any different from the Pharisees? Brothers and sisters are God’s sheep and God’s house has the right to allocate them however it wishes. I had no right to interfere. As a church leader, I should do my duty as God’s house requires and in line with principles, fellowship on the truth to resolve problems and train people. This was my duty, my responsibility. But I hadn’t been considerate of God’s will or allocated people in line with the principles. I hadn’t been willing to make the effort to train more people. I hadn’t volunteered those I knew to be talented, but had tried to keep them under my control, making them work and serve for my own prestige. Hadn’t I been doing my own thing in opposition to God’s house? I was defying God and walking the path of the antichrists. I was afraid at this thought and I thanked God for disciplining me when He did and stopping me from doing more evil.
Later, I watched another video reading of God’s words. Almighty God says, “The emotions of mankind are selfish and belong to the world of darkness. They do not exist for the sake of the will, much less for the plan of God, and so man and God can never be spoken of in the same breath. God is forever supreme and ever honorable, while man is forever base, forever worthless. This is because God is forever making sacrifices and devoting Himself to mankind; man, however, forever takes and strives only for himself. God is forever taking pains for mankind’s survival, yet man never contributes anything for the sake of the light or for righteousness. Even if man makes an effort for a time, it is so weak that it cannot withstand a single blow, for the effort of man is always for his own sake and not for others. Man is always selfish, while God is forever selfless. God is the source of all that is just, good, and beautiful, while man is he who succeeds to and makes manifest all ugliness and evil. God will never alter His essence of righteousness and beauty, yet man is perfectly capable, at any time and in any situation, of betraying righteousness and straying far from God” (“It Is Very Important to Understand God’s Disposition” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words showed me that God is selfless. Everything He does is done to save us, it all benefits us. God’s house promotes and trains people so that truth-seekers who have good caliber can get more practice and ultimately undertake God’s commissions. This benefits brothers and sisters, and the work of God’s house. As for me, I’d freely received the watering and sustenance of God’s words, and training from God’s house, but I didn’t think about doing my duty to repay God’s love. All I thought about was how to keep people under my control. For my own prestige and status, I didn’t hesitate to stand in the way of God’s house training people, which held up its work. I’d been so selfish and malicious, unfit to live before God. I knew I couldn’t go on that way. I had to provide God’s house with talented people so that more brothers and sisters could do the duty they were meant to do in the right place. Once I’d gotten my mind right, I quickly found someone to take on Sister Li’s work and I offered up my thanks to God. Although the new person didn’t know the principles and I had to work harder, I felt peaceful and at ease. I was willing to make sacrifices to do whatever I could do, and pray with my brothers and sisters to do our church work well.
Two weeks later, my leader said, “We need Sister Zhao to go edit draft articles in another church.” Hearing this, I thought, “I must consider the overall work of God’s house. I can’t be selfish anymore. Then again, we’ve only just started to train another sister to do this work and she doesn’t know the principles. Our work is bound to suffer. Better if Sister Zhao stays where she is.” I realized that I was thinking of my own interests again. I thought about how I’d walked the path of the antichrists, disrupting church work over and over and offending God’s disposition. I felt so afraid. Just then, God’s words came to mind: “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. If you are of poor caliber, your experience is shallow, or you are not proficient in your professional work, then there may be some mistakes or deficiencies in your work, and the results may not be very good—but you will have put forth your best effort. When you are not thinking of your own selfish desires or considering your own interests in the things you do, and are instead giving constant consideration to the work of God’s house, bearing its interests in mind, and performing your duty well, then you will be accumulating good deeds before God. People who perform these good deeds are the ones who possess truth reality; as such, they have borne testimony” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words gave me the path to practice. I had to be mindful of God’s will and church work. I couldn’t be selfish and try to keep talent to myself. So I said a prayer to God: “Dear God, I’ve been so selfish and mean, always stopping God’s house from promoting people and impacting church work. I don’t want to resist You anymore. Please guide me to forsake my flesh and practice the truth …” After praying, I went and spoke to Sister Zhao about her transfer. Although she was transferred, I didn’t feel as upset as I had before. Instead, I felt it was God’s kindness and blessing that I’d been able to supply such talent to God’s house. I’d also been able to do my own duty and my heart was filled with peace and joy. Thanks be to Almighty God!