God’s Word Eliminated My Defensiveness and Misunderstandings
By Li Jin, China
In 2014, when I was a church leader, I was somewhat effective in my duty and had some experience, so I felt like I understood the truth. When things occurred, I often didn’t seek the principles of truth, but acted arbitrarily. At that time, some people reported that the leaders of two churches had bad humanity, and suppressed and constrained others. I listened, believed the reports, and without investigating the facts, I dismissed one of the leaders who could do practical work, and nearly mistakenly expelled one of the other leaders, which seriously affected the work of both churches. My superiors severely dealt with me for doing my duty arbitrarily, not acting according to the principles of truth, and dismissing and expelling people at will. But I didn’t have much knowledge of myself, I still argued and justified myself, and I thought everyone made mistakes in their duty. Because I didn’t accept the truth, often did things against principles, acted arbitrarily, and my work had no practical effect, I was dismissed by my superiors. After I was dismissed, they didn’t arrange any duty for me, but told me to perform spiritual reflection at home. At that time, I didn’t understand God’s will, and I was very negative. I thought, I had believed in God for years, I had left my marriage, quit my job, and often did my duty in spite of my illness. Even if I hadn’t earned merit, I had at least worked hard. Being dismissed was bad enough, but now I was told I couldn’t perform a duty at all. I only made two mistakes, so I thought dealing with me like this was too harsh, especially when I saw others who weren’t leaders and workers still doing their duty, while I, who had been a leader, had no duty at all. I thought, “It looks like I can’t be a leader. There are high standards and strict requirements to be a leader. If you are even a little careless, your life of belief in God can come to an end. If you can’t even be a service-doer, how can you have an ending and destination? In the future, I won’t be a leader again, no matter what.” For years after that, I’d always done textual work in the church. Although there were opportunities to run for election as a leader or worker, I always avoided taking part. I didn’t realize my problem at the time. I thought doing things this way was wise.
In May of 2020, my brothers and sisters recommended me to run for election, Conflict gripped my mind. I was doing well in textual work, and didn’t want to take part in the election. If I was selected as a leader, it would be bad news. Being a leader is difficult, thankless work, I thought. Doing it well is mandatory, and if mistakes were made, the leader always bore responsibility. The phrase “Everyone reaps the benefits but only one person takes the blame” fit. Previously, when I was a leader, I transgressed. If I served as leader again and did something that went against principles, causing great harm to the work of God’s house, at best, I would be dismissed, and at worst, expelled, after which I would lose my chance at salvation. Thinking of this, I said my heart condition had worsened lately, so I couldn’t take part in the election. At the time, I felt a little guilty. Wasn’t I avoiding the election? But then I thought I really wasn’t up to being a leader, and my heart had been quite uncomfortable lately, so I had a reason not to go. At this thought, the little unease and guilt I felt disappeared. A month later, the leader said in a letter that the brothers and sisters selected me as a candidate again. After reading it, I started to wonder, “Why did they recommend me as a candidate? Being a leader is dangerous! It’s a lot of work and a lot of problems, and I could be revealed at any time. Some people around me didn’t seem to have any problems when they weren’t leaders, but once they were, they were revealed as false leaders and dismissed, while others were shown to be the wicked or antichrists and were expelled. It seems that status can indeed reveal people.” So I decided not to stand in the election. But the leader said I should arrive at the appointed time, so I reluctantly went. During those few days of meetings, I didn’t have much to say. When it came time to vote, I struggled for a long time. Finally, I told everyone, “I abstain. I won’t vote or stand in the election.”
Shortly after I got home, my illness recurred. I had diarrhea and fever, and taking medicine didn’t help. After several days, my condition finally improved, after which my arms and neck became covered in red dots. It got more and more serious, so as soon as I started sweating, I got stinging pains all over my body. After a few days, I was utterly exhausted from these sicknesses. I realized that this illness was not a coincidence, that it was God’s discipline, but I didn’t know how to reflect. I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me in knowing myself and learning my lesson.
Later, when my leader learned that I was suffering from sickness, she reminded me to reflect on my attitude toward the election, and found a passage of God’s word regarding my state. “With satanic nature … once people gain status they are then in danger. So what should be done? Do they have no path to follow? Can this fact not be changed? Tell Me, in the moment corrupt people gain status—regardless of who they are—do they then become antichrists? Is this absolute? (If they do not pursue the truth, then they will become antichrists, but if they do pursue the truth, then they will not.) That is absolutely right: If people do not pursue the truth, they are sure to become antichrists. And is it the case that all who walk the path of the antichrists do so because of status? No, it is chiefly because they have no love of the truth, because they are not right. Regardless of whether they have status or not, people who do not pursue the truth all walk the path of the antichrists. No matter how many sermons they have heard, such people do not accept the truth, they do not walk the right path, and thus inevitably walk the crooked path. This is akin to how people eat: Some do not consume food that can nurture their bodies and support a normal existence, but instead insist on consuming things that do them harm, ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. Is this not their own choice? After being cast out, some leaders and workers spread notions, saying, ‘Don’t be a leader, and don’t let yourself gain status. People are in danger the minute they gain any status, and God will expose them! Once they are exposed, they will not even be qualified to be ordinary believers, and will receive no blessings at all.’ What sort of thing is that to say? At best, it represents a misunderstanding of God; at worst, it is blasphemy against Him. If you do not walk the right path, do not pursue the truth, and do not follow God’s way, but instead you insist on going the way of the antichrists and end up on Paul’s path, ultimately meeting the same outcome, the same end as Paul, still blaming God and passing judgment on God as unrighteous, then are you not the genuine article of an antichrist? Such behavior is cursed! When people do not understand the truth, they always live by their notions and imaginings, frequently misinterpret God, and feel God’s actions to be at odds with their own notions, which produces negative emotions in them; this happens because people have corrupt dispositions. They say things that are negative and resentful because their faith is too paltry, their stature too small, and they understand too few truths—which is all forgivable, and not remembered by God. And yet, there are those who do not walk the right path, who specifically walk the path of deceiving, resisting, betraying God, and fighting against God. These people are ultimately punished and cursed by God, and plunged into perdition and destruction. How do they get to this point? Because they have never reflected on and known themselves, because they do not accept the truth at all, and are reckless and willful, and stubbornly refuse to repent, and complain about God after they are exposed and cast out, saying that God is not righteous. Could such people be saved? (No.) They could not. So is it the case that everyone who is cast out is beyond salvation? It cannot be said that they are utterly beyond redemption. There are those who understand too few truths, and are young and inexperienced—who, once they become leaders or workers and have status, are directed by their corrupt disposition, and pursue status, and enjoy this status, and so naturally walk the path of the antichrists. If, after being exposed and judged, they are able to reflect on themselves, and truly repent, forsaking wickedness like the people of Nineveh, no longer walking the path of evil as they used to, then they still have the opportunity to be saved. But what are the conditions of such an opportunity? After being exposed and identified, they truly repent, are able to accept the truth—which means they still have some hope. If they are incapable of reflecting on themselves, and have no intention of truly repenting, they will be completely cast out” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). After reading, my leader reminded me, “You always feel that as a leader, it is easy to be revealed, replaced, or cast out. Is this view correct? Whether people are finally revealed and cast out depends on whether they pursue the truth and what path they take. It doesn’t matter whether they are leaders. If a person doesn’t pursue the truth or walk the right path as a leader, if they commit evil, disturb the work of God’s house, and refuse to repent, they will definitely be revealed and cast out. But for some people, even if they make mistakes in their duties and commit transgressions, if they can accept the truth, reflect on themselves, and have real repentance, God’s house will give them chances. Even if they have poor caliber and aren’t up to being a leader, they will be transferred to an appropriate duty, and won’t be lightly dismissed or cast out. Of all the leaders in God’s house, why do some increasingly understand the truth and get better in their duties? Why do some people do evil things, and are then revealed as false leaders and antichrists and cast out? Do their failures have anything to do with being a leader? Also, God’s house has revealed and cast out many evildoers, many of whom weren’t leaders. They were cast out because they hated the truth, didn’t walk the right path, ran rampant in their duties, and caused disturbances and disruptions. Does this have anything to do with being a leader?”
At that time, I was a little moved by this. “Right, it’s not all leaders who are revealed and cast out once they have status. It happens because after they gain status, they don’t walk the right path, don’t pursue the truth, only crave the benefits of status, act arbitrarily, run rampant, and cause disturbances and disruptions. This is what makes them false leaders and antichrists who are revealed and cast out.” I thought of Brother Wu, who was dismissed some time ago. As a leader, he was always arrogant, always showed off, belittled and ostracized his partners in all things, causing his partners to feel constrained and unable to perform their duties normally. His leaders fellowshiped with him many times, but he never changed, and he was only dismissed after that. I reflected on my previous years as a leader. I often acted arbitrarily. When my brothers and sisters reported the two church leaders, I didn’t investigate and verify according to principle. Instead, I blindly condemned them, going so far as to dismiss and expel them. As a result, I harmed both leaders and brought chaos to the church. Thinking about it now, I saw everything I did was evil. I was ruining the work of God’s house and the chance of others to be saved. Fortunately, my unjust and false decisions were discovered and reversed. Otherwise the consequences would be terrible. I realized my dismissal actually had nothing to do with having status or being a leader. It was because my disposition was too arrogant, I didn’t seek the truth, I acted arbitrarily and indiscriminately, I disrupted church work, and when I was pruned and dealt with, I didn’t reflect on myself or repent. This is why I was dismissed. This was in line with principles, and was also God’s righteousness. However, I didn’t know myself, and lived in a state of misunderstanding and precaution against God. I thought I was revealed because I was a leader, that the requirements of God’s house were too high, and that I was dismissed for only two mistakes. I was so absurd and unreasonable! I only realized now that if I hadn’t been dismissed in time and been stopped in my tracks, given my arrogant disposition, I would have done much greater evil. My dismissal was God’s protection for me, and also a good opportunity for me to reflect on myself. I thought of Sister Wang, who was previously my partner. She had been dismissed, but after her failure, she could reflect on herself, learn lessons, and repent to God. Later, when she was a leader again, she could seek the principles of truth when she acted, and she made obvious progress. After thinking about this, I understood that people aren’t cast out for having status. They do it to themselves with their own corrupt dispositions. If our corrupt dispositions are not resolved, even if we are not leaders and don’t do evil from a leader’s place of status, we will still be cast out for not pursuing the truth.
Once I recognized this, my state began to change, but I still had some concerns, “My understanding of the truth is shallow, and leaders need to decide many things. If my unsuitable arrangements disrupt the work of God’s house, I might commit transgressions. If I am not a leader, and don’t come into contact with such work, I wouldn’t do evil or resist God because of these matters. I still think it’s best if I don’t stand in the election.” At this time, I read a passage of God’s word, “I do not want to see anyone feeling as though God has left them out in the cold, that God has abandoned them or turned His back on them. All I want to see is everyone on the road to pursuing the truth and seeking to understand God, boldly marching onward with unfaltering determination, without any misgivings or burdens. No matter what wrongs you have committed, no matter how far you have strayed or how seriously you have transgressed, do not let these become burdens or excess baggage that you have to carry with you in your pursuit of understanding God. Continue marching onward. At all times, God holds man’s salvation in His heart; this never changes. This is the most precious part of the essence of God” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in). I was deeply moved by God’s word. God does not give up on saving people over temporary failures and transgressions. Instead, He gives them chances to repent. Making mistakes and transgressing in your duty isn’t something frightening. As long as people can change, God continues to guide them. I recalled that although I had some transgressions, God did not abandon me. He only chastened and disciplined me, and then used people to expose and deal with me, remove me from my leadership role, and make me reflect on myself. But I lived in a state of being guarded against and misunderstanding God, and I was unwilling to be a leader or worker, so God used others to fellowship with me many times and waited for me to change. From the start, God had been patient and tolerant with me, and He gave me enough time and chances in the hope that I would accept the truth and repent. He didn’t, as I thought, condemn and cast me out for a single transgression. When I realized this, I felt remorse and guilt, so I prayed to God, “God! I am too rebellious. I no longer wish to misunderstand and guard against You. Now, I wish to repent. Please guide me, so that I can change my incorrect state.”
After that, I wondered why I had misunderstood and been guarded against God. What was the root cause? At this time, my leader sent me a passage of God’s word that was very helpful to me.says, “If you are deceitful, then you will be guarded and suspicious toward all people and matters, and thus your faith in Me will be built upon a foundation of suspicion. I could never acknowledge such faith. Lacking true faith, you are even more devoid of true love. And if you are liable to doubt God and speculate about Him at will, then you are, without question, the most deceitful of all people. You speculate whether God can be like man: unpardonably sinful, of petty character, devoid of fairness and reason, lacking a sense of justice, given to vicious tactics, treacherous and cunning, pleased by evil and darkness, and so on. Is not the reason that people have such thoughts because they lack the slightest knowledge of God? Such faith is nothing short of sin!” (“How to Know the God on Earth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s word made me realize I misunderstood and guarded against God because my nature was too deceitful. After I was dismissed, I didn’t think about the path I took that led to failure or learn lessons to avoid repeating my mistakes. On the contrary, I thought being a leader meant I would be easily revealed and cast out. I thought the title of “leader” had harmed me. I even imagined God to be like a worldly ruler who would sentence people to death for doing something wrong, so I was terrified at the thought of elections. I feared that if I was chosen as a leader, I would be revealed and lose my ending, so I was always on my guard and defensive in God’s presence. I thought of God’s exaltation of me as malicious, and made excuse after excuse to avoid and refuse standing in elections. I was so deceitful! God’s house trains leaders and workers to give them the opportunity to practice, so that they can understand the truth and bear God’s commission. But I thought God meant to reveal and cast me out. I was misunderstanding and blaspheming God! I believe in God, but I always saw things from the perspective of the unrighteous, doubted, and guarded against God. What I exposed in this were evil and satanic dispositions. Wasn’t belief like this resisting God?
Later, after reading God’s word, I understood more of God’s will. God’s words say, “At times, God uses a certain matter to lay you bare or discipline you. Does this then mean that you have been cast out? Does it mean your end has come? No. … In fact, in many cases, people’s concern stems from their own interests. Speaking generally, it is the fear that they will have no outcome. They always think to themselves, ‘What if God lays me bare, casts me out, and rejects me?’ This is your misinterpretation of God; these are only your thoughts. You have to figure out what God’s intention is. His laying people bare is not done to cast them out. People are laid bare in order to expose their shortcomings, mistakes, and the essence of their natures, to make them know themselves, and be capable of true repentance; as such, being laid bare is in order to help people’s lives to grow. Without a pure understanding, people are apt to misinterpret God and become negative and weak. They may even give in to despair. In fact, being laid bare by God doesn’t necessarily mean that people will be cast out. It is to give you knowledge, and make you repent. Oftentimes, because people are rebellious, and do not seek the truth to find a resolution when they have outpourings of corruption, God must exercise discipline. And so sometimes, He lays people bare, exposing their ugliness and pitifulness, allowing them to know themselves, which helps their life grow. Laying people bare has two different implications: For wicked people, being laid bare means they are cast out. For those who are able to accept the truth, it is a reminder and a warning; they are made to reflect on themselves, to see their true state, and to no longer be wayward and reckless, for to carry on like this would be dangerous. Laying people bare in this way is to remind them, so that when they perform their duty, they are not muddleheaded and careless, are not blasé, are not satisfied with only being a little bit effective, thinking they have performed their duty to an acceptable standard—when in fact, measured according to what God asks, they have fallen far short, yet they are still conceited and complacent, and think they’re doing okay. In such circumstances, God will discipline, caution, and remind people. Sometimes, God lays bare their ugliness—which is patently to serve as a reminder. At such times you should reflect on yourself: Performing your duty like this is inadequate, there is rebelliousness involved, it contains too much that is negative, it is entirely perfunctory, and if you do not repent, you will be punished. When God disciplines you, and lays you bare, this does not necessarily mean you will be cast out. This matter should be approached correctly” (“Only by Practicing God’s Words Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). When I read God’s words, I was very moved. I also felt ashamed and guilty. God reveals, deals with, and disciplines people so that we can know ourselves, repent, and change. God was sincerely trying to save me, but when pruning, dealing, and failure came upon me, I didn’t see God’s good intentions. I insistently clung to Satan’s fallacies and lies like “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” and “It’s lonely at the top.” I thought being a leader in God’s house was like being a worldly official, and that the higher my position, the higher my risk of being revealed and cast out. For all these years, as I misunderstood and guarded against God, my heart remained closed to God. I repeatedly refused God’s commission and His environments for me, avoided elections, and remained extremely cautious and anxious in my duty, so I couldn’t give my all and completely give my heart over to God, and I always had a lukewarm attitude toward the truth, just like a nonbeliever. I was caught in Satan’s snare, being harmed by Satan, and I didn’t even know the great damage it was doing to my life. Now, I was on the brink of danger, so I could no longer misunderstand God and hurt God. I silently prayed to God, “God, I wish to repent to You and treat elections correctly. Whether or not I am chosen, I will submit to Your arrangements.”
When it was time for the election, I was still conflicted, “If they really choose me, I should accept and obey, but as the saying goes, ‘It takes a strong hammer to forge iron,’ my ability and caliber are limited, so it’s best to let someone else do it. That way, I won’t have to be revealed again.” In my dilemma, I suddenly thought of God’s word, “When God’s people perform their duty in the kingdom, and the creatures of God perform their duty before the Creator, they should have a heart that fears God, and proceed calmly, and should not be cowardly, timid, and timorous: Is it shameful to perform one’s duty?” (“The Principles of Practice Concerning Submission to God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s word instantly awakened me. Yes, at the critical moment, I wanted to retreat and escape. I had always been anxious about elections. Where was my courage and dignity? I was just as cowardly and timid as God said! It is right and proper for a created being to perform their duty; it’s honorable. But I shrunk back and hid myself in shameful cowardice. It was so stupid and pathetic! I had to turn toward God, be a simple and honest person, stop worrying about my ending and destination, and give my heart to God. Regardless of whether I was elected, I had to have an attitude of obedience to God, and if I was chosen, I had to accept, obey, and perform my duty well. When I crossed this line in my mind, I felt a great burden lifted from my heart, and I was overcome with relief.
When the results came out, I and another sister were elected. This time, I was no longer defensive and misunderstanding, and I no longer feared being cast out if I didn’t perform my duty well. Instead, I was willing to cherish the opportunity and perform my duty to the best of my ability to make up for my past transgressions. Later, I read another passage of God’s word, “Are you afraid of walking the path of antichrists? (Yes.) Is fear useful on its own? No—fear alone cannot fix the problem. It is normal to be afraid. To be fearful at heart shows one to be a lover of the truth, someone who is willing to strive toward the truth and who is willing to pursue it. If you are fearful at heart, then you should seek the truth and find the path of practice. You must begin by learning to cooperate with others in harmony. If there is a problem, resolve it with fellowship and discussion, so that everyone may know the principles, as well as the specific reasoning and program regarding the resolution. Does this not keep you from taking dictatorial, unilateral action? Additionally, you must learn to let the group supervise and help you. This requires tolerance and breadth of mind. … It is certainly necessary to accept supervision, but the main thing is to pray to God and rely on Him, subjecting yourself to constant reflection. Especially when you have gone the wrong way or done something wrong, or when you are about to take a dictatorial and unilateral action, and someone nearby mentions it and alerts you, you need to accept that and hasten to reflect on yourself, and admit to your mistake, and correct it. This can keep you from setting foot on the path of antichrists. If there is someone helping and alerting you in this way, are you not being preserved without knowing it? You are—that is your preservation” (“The Proper Fulfillment of Duty Requires Harmonious Cooperation” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s word pointed out the principle of practice to avoid taking the wrong path, which is to seek the truth no matter what happens, discuss things with your brothers and sisters, cooperate harmoniously, perform your duty by the principles of truth, not act arbitrarily from your arrogant disposition, not demand the final say, but accept the supervision of your brothers and sisters in your duties. If you fear taking the antichrists’ path and being revealed, and so fail to do your duty, you won’t solve problems, and you will ruin your chance to gain the truth and be saved. It’s like starving yourself for fear of choking. Later, I learned the lessons of my previous failures, and I had a much more correct attitude in my duty. I consciously discussed things with everyone and was able to work well with them. We sought the principles of truth together. Some time passed, I saw God’s guidance, and my duties produced some results.
Through this experience, I saw that God didn’t cast me out because of my transgressions, nor did He forsake me for being guarded against Him. Instead, He arranged people, matters, and things to prompt me to come before God to reflect on my corrupt disposition, so that I could understand God’s will, stop misunderstanding Him, and contentedly perform my duty. Thank God!