A Choice While in Peril
By Li Xinmo, China
One winter, several years ago, an upper leader told me that leaders and workers in a neighboring church had been arrested by the police. There was some follow-up work that had to be dealt with in the church, and the brothers and sisters didn’t have anyone to support them. Some felt timid, negative and weak, and couldn’t participate in church life. She asked if I’d be willing to preside over that church’s work. When she asked me, I felt a bit conflicted: Some brothers and sisters had just been arrested at that church. If I took over at that church, what would happen to me if I were arrested? Given my advanced age, could my body really withstand the great red dragon’s torture and beatings? If I couldn’t take the torture and became a Judas, betraying God, wouldn’t my years of faith have all been in vain? But then I thought that given the adversity of the current circumstances, the church’s work needed someone to step up in this crucial moment, so I reluctantly agreed.
When I arrived at the church, Sister Wang Xinjing informed me that some leaders, workers and brothers and sisters had been arrested, and she’d only been able to contact a few brothers and sisters in the whole church. She couldn’t reach most church members and so they couldn’t gather. Hearing this, I thought to myself: “The great red dragon is using our neighbors to monitor us. What if when I go and support these brothers and sisters, the neighbors take notice and report me? Also, so many brothers and sisters were arrested—if any of them couldn’t withstand the torture and ratted out other brothers and sisters, the police will be monitoring them. So won’t I just be walking right into their trap if I go see these brothers and sisters? If I’m arrested, can’t withstand the torture and become a Judas, won’t my days as a believer be numbered? And I certainly won’t attain salvation then.” The more I thought, the more scared I became and it seemed like it was just too dangerous to do my duty there. It felt like walking in a mine field—one wrong step and it’d all be over. At that time, I really regretted coming to oversee the work at this church and I couldn’t get motivated to fulfill my duty. Then I thought, “Xinjing is a member of this church and is more familiar with the overall situation here, so it would be more convenient for her to go visit the brothers and sisters. I’ve only just arrived and am not up to speed yet. I can have Xinjing go visit the brothers and sisters, that way I don’t have to risk it myself.” But then I thought, “Xinjing doesn’t have a good grasp of many principles and lacks experience. Can she really do the follow-up work well given all this? Will she be able to resolve the brothers and sisters’ issues? But if I go personally, won’t I just be setting myself up for disaster?” After turning the matter over in my head, I decided to have Xinjing perform that work. But after a few days, she still hadn’t made any progress. Seeing this, I knew that I ought to go support the brothers and sisters. Otherwise, their problems wouldn’t be resolved and their life entry would be damaged. But given how treacherous the current circumstances were, I’d be in danger of being arrested any time I made contact with the brothers and sisters. So I just didn’t dare do the work myself. As a result, a whole month went by and we hadn’t made much progress in the church’s work. Xinjing was living in a state of negativity. I was aware of that, but I was living in timidity and fear those days, so I didn’t dare collaborate with her in the work.
One day, I felt some pain in my left knee, and within a few days it had swollen up like a balloon and was black and blue. It hurt so much that I could barely walk. At the time, I realized that this might have been God disciplining me, and so I prayed to Him, asking Him to enlighten me so I could know His intentions. After prayer, I saw this passage of (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. It Is Very Important to Understand God’s Disposition). God’s words had a deep impact on me. Especially when I read God’s words: “His sorrow is due to mankind, for whom He has hopes but who has fallen into darkness,” I felt quite guilty. Due to the great red dragon’s arrests, the brothers and sisters couldn’t live a normal church life, and so they sunk into depression and darkness and their lives were damaged. Seeing this, God felt anxious and distressed and urgently hoped that someone would heed His will and quickly come to the brothers and sisters’ aid so they could live a normal church life. But as for me, I passed my work off onto Xinjing to preserve my safety, and retreated into my shell to drag out an ignoble existence. I was clearly aware that the brothers and sisters couldn’t live their normal church life and that their lives had been damaged, but I didn’t step in to resolve the issue. Where was my humanity? I was being so selfish and despicable! I thought about how normally, when I wasn’t in a dangerous situation, I believed myself to be someone that loved God and was able to make sacrifices and expend themselves. I would even often fellowship with others about the need to love and satisfy God. But when faced with this situation, all I could think about was my own safety. I didn’t consider God’s will at all or whether the brothers and sisters’ lives would be damaged. I saw that I had just been speaking of doctrinal knowledge—I was deceiving God and people. This was hurtful and abhorrent to God. Having realized this, I felt deeply remorseful and prayed to God: “Dear God, I’m always protecting my own interests and have failed to heed Your will. I am truly lacking in conscience and reason. God, I’m ready to heed Your will and do my best to support the brothers and sisters.”. “His sorrow is due to mankind, for whom He has hopes but who has fallen into darkness, because the work He does on man does not come up to His expectations, and because the mankind He loves cannot all live in the light. He feels sorrow for the innocent mankind, for the honest but ignorant man, and for the man who is good but lacking in his own views. His sorrow is a symbol of His goodness and of His mercy, a symbol of beauty and of kindness”
After that, I started helping and supporting the brothers and sisters and resolving their issues. One day, I heard a sister say: “Two years ago, over ten brothers and sisters from this church were arrested. Even now, some of them still haven’t been released. The police have even threatened they’ll raze our church to the ground.” I was so angry when I heard that—these demons were so arrogant and despotic! But I also unconsciously became afraid: After only two years, they’d come and arrested so many more members. And they threatened to raze the church to the ground. If the police found out I was the church leader, wouldn’t I become their primary target? The thought of how brothers and sisters had been tortured after arrest made me quake with fear. If I really were arrested, would I be able to withstand their torture? If I were beaten to death or became a Judas, wouldn’t that be the end of me? When I heard that even more brothers and sisters had been arrested, it seemed that it was just too dangerous to do my duty in this kind of environment. I thought I might be arrested by the police at any moment and I felt incredibly timid and scared. One day, I saw this passage of God’s words. “Regardless of how ‘powerful’ Satan is, regardless of how audacious and ambitious it is, regardless of how great is its ability to inflict damage, regardless of how wide-ranging are the techniques with which it corrupts and lures man, regardless of how clever are the tricks and schemes with which it intimidates man, regardless of how changeable is the form in which it exists, it has never been able to create a single living thing, has never been able to set down laws or rules for the existence of all things, and has never been able to rule and control any object, whether animate or inanimate. Within the cosmos and the firmament, there is not a single person or object that was born from it, or exists because of it; there is not a single person or object that is ruled by it, or controlled by it. On the contrary, it not only has to live under the dominion of God, but, moreover, must obey all of God’s orders and commands. Without God’s permission, it is difficult for Satan to touch even a drop of water or grain of sand upon the land; without God’s permission, Satan is not even free to move the ants about upon the land, let alone mankind, who was created by God. In the eyes of God, Satan is inferior to the lilies on the mountain, to the birds flying in the air, to the fish in the sea, and to the maggots on the earth. Its role among all things is to serve all things, and work for mankind, and serve God’s work and His plan of management” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique I). Through God’s words I realized that all things are within God’s control. No matter how savage Satan is, it is still within God’s dominion. Without God’s assent, Satan wouldn’t dare make any false moves. I recalled how when Job was tested, without God’s assent, Satan could only injure his flesh, but wasn’t able to rob Job of his life. In the situation I found myself in, wasn’t it entirely up to God whether I’d be arrested? No matter how savage and ferocious Satan was, without God’s assent, it wouldn’t get its way even if the great red dragon tried to apprehend me. If God did assent, then I wouldn’t be able to escape even if I tried. My life was in God’s hands and Satan had no say over it. Pondering over God’s words, I gained some knowledge of His authority and sovereignty and I felt less timid and much more liberated. I wanted to arrange for the brothers and sisters to begin living their church lives again right away. During that time, Xinjing and I prayed and relied upon God. We made contact with the brothers and sisters and provided support for them. As a result, they gradually started attending gatherings, living their church lives and doing their duties to the best of their abilities.
Later on, a sister that had been arrested and then released wrote me a letter, informing me that I’d been ratted out. The police already knew I was a leader and what village I lived in and they even said they’d have the Security Bureau put out a warrant for me. To locate me, the police had even taken the sister to the village I lived in to identify me, but the surveillance footage was lost and so their plan failed. When I learned of that, my heart was in my throat and I felt terribly anxious and scared. Given that the police already had so much information about me, I was liable to be arrested at any moment. And if I were arrested, I’d certainly be tortured and tormented. The more I thought, the more frightened I became and I had a temporary lapse into weakness. It seemed like believing in God in the land of the great red dragon was like walking on thin ice, mortal danger awaited me with every step. At the time, I thought: “Maybe I can go and hide out at my relatives’ place for a bit. Once things have cooled down here I can continue doing my duty.” But then I remembered that some brothers and sisters were feeling timid, negative and weak and were in dire need of watering and support. If I deserted my post at this crucial moment, wouldn’t I be rebelling against God and hurting His feelings? I felt agonized and tormented, and didn’t know what I should do, so I prayed to God, asking that He give me strength and faith to continue fulfilling my duty. After prayer, I saw this passage of His words. “In mainland China, the great red dragon continues its brutal suppression, arrests, and persecution of believers in God, who often face certain dangerous circumstances. For example, the government conducts searches under various guises for people of faith. When they find an area in which an antichrist lives, what is the first thing the antichrist thinks of? They do not think of properly arranging the work of the church; rather, they think about how to escape this dangerous predicament. When the church is faced with oppression or arrests, an antichrist never does work to clean up the aftermath. They make no plans for important resources or personnel of the church; instead, they think up all sorts of pretexts and excuses to find a safe place for themselves, and, having set themselves up there, they are done with the matter. … In the depths of an antichrist’s heart, their personal safety is of utmost importance and the central issue which they are constantly reminding themselves to consider. They think to themselves, ‘I absolutely must not let anything happen to me. I can’t get arrested, no matter who else does. I need to keep on living. I’m still waiting for the glory I’ll gain with God when His work is done. If I get caught, I’ll be a Judas—and if I’m a Judas, I’m done for; I won’t have an outcome and will be punished as I deserve.’ … Once an antichrist has gotten themselves safely settled and feels that nothing bad is going to happen to them, that they are not threatened, only then will they do some superficial work. An antichrist arranges things very carefully, but it depends on who they are working for. If the work is beneficial to themselves, then they will think it through very thoroughly, but when it comes to the work of the church or anything to do with the antichrist’s duty, they will show their selfishness and vileness, their irresponsibility, and they have not a jot of conscience or reason. It is due to such behavior that they are characterized as an antichrist” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Two)). God revealed how antichrists are particularly selfish and lacking in humanity. They only care about their own interests and well-being and don’t show the slightest concern for the church’s work. In periods of calm, they give people the false impression that they’re passionate about their duties, but at the slightest sign of danger, or any situation that may risk their personal safety, they retreat into their shells, abandoning their duties. No matter how much damage this causes to the church’s work and the brothers and sisters, these antichrists don’t care at all. I realized that my own actions were no different from an antichrist’s. When there was no present danger, it outwardly seemed like I could suffer and expend myself in my duty, but when things really got dangerous, I would shirk back, only thinking of protecting myself and passing off the risky duty to my sister. I looked on passively as the church’s work failed to make progress and the brothers and sisters were bereft of church life. I didn’t rise to the occasion and do the church’s work and only snapped out of it when I was disciplined. Once I heard that I’d been ratted out and the police were searching for me, I wanted to desert my post and didn’t consider the church’s work at all. I was just so selfish and despicable and didn’t act like a believer in the slightest. Where was my true faith in God? The reality of that situation revealed that I was as selfish as an antichrist and didn’t have the slightest conscience or reason. Whenever I felt in danger, I would want to abandon my duty and find a way to ensure my safety. I didn’t have the slightest loyalty to God and this was abhorrent to Him. Having realized this about myself, I felt remorseful and guilty. I saw a passage of God’s words. “Perhaps you all remember these words: ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ You have all heard these words before, yet none of you understood their true meaning. Today, you are profoundly aware of their true significance. These words shall be fulfilled by God during the last days, and they shall be fulfilled in those who have been brutally persecuted by the great red dragon in the land where it lies coiled. The great red dragon persecutes God and is the enemy of God, and so, in this land, those who believe in God are thus subjected to humiliation and oppression, and these words are fulfilled in you, this group of people, as a result. Because it is embarked upon in a land that opposes God, all of God’s work faces tremendous obstacles, and accomplishing many of His words takes time; thus, people are refined as a result of God’s words, which is also part of suffering. It is tremendously difficult for God to carry out His work in the land of the great red dragon—but it is through this difficulty that God does one stage of His work, making manifest His wisdom and His wondrous deeds, and using this opportunity to make this group of people complete. It is through people’s suffering, through their caliber, and through all the satanic dispositions of the people of this filthy land that God does His work of purification and conquest, so that, from this, He may gain glory, and so that He may gain those who will bear witness to His deeds. Such is the entire significance of all the sacrifices that God has made for this group of people” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Is the Work of God As Simple As Man Imagines?). Pondering over God’s words, I got a sense of His intentions. It was inevitable and also God’s preordainment that we believers living under the CCP’s domain would be subject to persecution and hardships. God was using the great red dragon’s persecution as a way of perfecting our faith and love. But when faced with a dangerous situation, I didn’t seek God’s will and felt timid and scared, only caring for my own safety and not even wanting to do my duty. I saw that my faith was truly weak and instead of bearing witness before God, I had become Satan’s laughingstock. Realizing this, I felt quite remorseful and indebted, and I didn’t want to abandon my post and live an ignoble existence any longer. I was ready to submit and put myself in God’s hands. I was happy to let God arrange whether I would be arrested and whether I’d live or die. If I were arrested by the great red dragon, it would be with God’s assent and even if it meant my death, I would bear witness for Him. If they didn’t arrest me, it would be due to God’s mercy and protection and I’d be that much more moved to do my duty. Having realized this, I felt a bit more peaceful and my previous anxiety and fright faded away.
After that, I reflected: Why did I only consider my own interests when faced with danger, instead of heeding God’s will? One day I came upon a passage of God’s words. “All corrupt humans live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of human nature. People believe in God for their own sakes; when they forsake things and expend themselves for God, it is in order to be blessed, and when they are faithful to Him, it is in order to be rewarded. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of being blessed, rewarded, and entering the kingdom of heaven. In society, people work for their own benefit, and in the house of God, they perform a duty in order to be blessed. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: There is no better evidence of man’s satanic nature. People whose dispositions have changed are different, they feel that meaning comes from living by the truth, that the basis of being human is submitting to God, fearing God and shunning evil, that accepting God’s commission is a responsibility ordained by Heaven and acknowledged by earth, that only people who fulfill the duties of a creature of God are fit to be called human—and if they are not able to love God and repay His love, they are unfit to be called human; for them, living for oneself is empty and devoid of meaning. They feel that people should live in order to satisfy God, to perform their duties well, and to live lives of meaning, so that even when it is their time to die, they will feel content and not have the slightest regret, and that they have not lived in vain” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Through God’s words, I saw that the reason I continually protected myself in dangerous situations, wanting to abandon my duty, was because my thinking was dominated by Satan’s philosophies like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Let things drift if they do not affect one personally,” “Never lift a finger without a reward,” and so on. These philosophies became a part of my nature and I always acted out of self-interest no matter what. I would betray God whenever my own interests were at stake. I thought about how ever since I’d gone to that church, I only ever thought of my own safety when put in a perilous situation. Despite knowing that I had to support those brothers and sisters in a hurry, so that they could live a normal church life, I still hid away because I was scared of being arrested and tortured, and passed my work off onto my sister without the slightest consideration of the church’s work or my sister’s safety. Even seeing that it was becoming too much for the sister to work alone, and the brothers and sisters couldn’t live their church life, I still wouldn’t step up and do my duty. I was living according to Satan’s philosophy. I acted selfishly and despicably and I didn’t have the slightest humanity, conscience or reason. God saves those that are loyal and obedient to Him, those that abandon their personal interests and safeguard the church’s work in crucial moments; only such people attain God’s commendation. But in crucial moments, I abandoned ship and didn’t have any sincerity toward God. Seeing how selfish and despicable I was, even if I was able to evade the police and drag out an ignoble existence, why would God then choose to save me? I thought of how, in order to save humanity, God incarnated in China and endured incredible humiliation and suffering, braving enormous danger to express His words and do His work, undergoing constant pursuit and persecution by the great red dragon, as well as the rejection and slander of the religious world, but God has never given up on saving us. God has given His all in His single-minded quest to save humankind. God’s substance is so unselfish and kind. As for me, I didn’t have any sincerity toward God, and still lived according to Satan’s philosophy in selfishness, despicableness and treachery. I only considered my own safety while doing my duty and didn’t safeguard the church’s work at all. If I didn’t repent, God would get fed up with me and cast me out.
During my devotionals, I came across this passage. “Those who serve God should be God’s intimates, they should be pleasing to God, and capable of the utmost loyalty to God. Whether you act in private or in public, you are able to gain the joy of God before God, you are able to stand firm before God, and regardless of how other people treat you, you always walk the path you should walk, and give every care to God’s burden. Only people like this are intimates of God. That God’s intimates are able to serve Him directly is because they have been given God’s great commission and God’s burden, they are able to make God’s heart their own, and take God’s burden as their own, and they give no consideration to their future prospects: Even when they have no prospects, and they stand to gain nothing, they will always believe in God with a loving heart. And so, this kind of person is God’s intimate. God’s intimates are also His confidants; only God’s confidants could share His restlessness, and His thoughts, and although their flesh is painful and weak, they are able to endure pain and forsake that which they love to satisfy God. God gives more burdens to such people, and that which God desires to do is borne out in such people’s testimony. Thus, these people are pleasing to God, they are servants of God who are after His own heart, and only people such as this can rule together with God. When you have truly become God’s intimate is precisely when you will rule together with God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How to Serve in Harmony With God’s Will). Through God’s words, I realized that God loves those that heed His will and bear His burdens. No matter what situation arises, no matter what suffering they endure, and even if the road ahead looks bleak, they withstand any torment to fulfill God and don’t think about their own interests. Only such people will ultimately be the ones that God obtains. In that crucial moment, when the church was facing persecution, I knew I should heed God’s will, concern myself with God’s concerns, protect the church’s work and fulfill my responsibilities and duties. Having realized this, I made a resolution: No matter what danger lay ahead, I would do my duty well to comfort God’s heart.
One day, I heard that a leader from a neighboring church had been arrested. The church’s books had to be transferred elsewhere quickly, otherwise they’d end up in the great red dragon’s hands. So I contacted Sister Zhang Yi right away to help move the books together. When I arrived at our meeting place, she rushed over to me with a nervous look on her face and told me that she had been followed. It had been hard to lose her tail and she told me to transfer the books out as quickly as possible. Hearing that, my heart was in my throat and I felt nervous and scared. I thought: “The police are hiding in secret while we’re fully exposed. If the police track me down and arrest me, they’ll be likely to beat me to death.” The more I thought, the more scared I became and I wanted to have someone else transfer the books. But then I remembered that Zhang Yi had already set a time for us to meet with the book manager and there was no time to find a replacement. Also, the more delays there were during transfer, the higher the risk. While going back and forth in my mind, I realized that I was being timid and so I continually called out to God to give me faith and strength. Just then, I thought of another passage of God’s words. “Those who are loyal to God know clearly when an environment is dangerous, but still, they brave the risk of handling the work of cleaning up the aftermath, and they keep the losses to God’s house to a minimum before they themselves withdraw. They do not give priority to their own safety. What do you say to this: Could people not even care a little bit about their own safety? Who isn’t aware of the dangers of their environment? However, you must take risks in order to fulfill your duty. This duty is your responsibility. You should not give priority to your own personal safety. The work of God’s house and that which God entrusts to you are most important, and they take priority above all else” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Two)). Those who are loyal to God can heed His will. No matter how perilous the circumstances, they’re able to risk it all to complete the follow-up work and fulfill their responsibilities. I thought of how in my years as a believer, I’d enjoyed so much of the watering and supply of God’s words, so now that it was time for me to fulfill my duty, I couldn’t betray my conscience and stand by while the church’s interests were compromised. No matter how dangerous the circumstances, I had to find a way to transfer those books out of there. I couldn’t let them end up in the hands of the great red dragon. I thought of the ’ words which say: “For whoever will save his life shall lose it: but whoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). Even if I were arrested and beaten to death while performing my duties, it would be meaningful and commended by God. I thought of how Peter was crucified upside down for God and had no concern for his own life, bearing strong and resounding testimony for God. I knew that I should emulate Peter, be loyal to God no matter what situation arose, and do my duty well to comfort God’s heart. After that, I teamed up with the other brothers and sisters, using our wits to evade the great red dragon, and with God’s protection, we successfully transferred the books.