A Fork in the Road

October 17, 2022

By Li Yang, China

I was born in the countryside and grew up in a poor family. My parents were simple-minded farmers who got bullied a lot. As a child, I swore that when I grew up I’d make something of myself, get the other villagers to see us in a new light, to stop looking down on and bullying us. I started learning martial arts when I was 11 years old, and though it was tiring and I got injuries, I never shrank back from training, no matter how extreme the weather. Later on, wanting to start a business and stand out from the crowd, I went all over borrowing money, giving gifts, and cultivating relationships. In 1999, I finally successfully registered a martial arts school.

After the school was built, it thrived more and more under my diligent management, and our profits increased. It won the locals’ approval and my parents felt that I’d brought honor to the family, and were really proud of me. The students and their parents all fawned on me, and the City Sports Bureau and the town mayor really valued me, and were all smiles with me. Seeing everyone’s admiration made me feel really important and well-regarded and my desire for status was fully satisfied. I felt like I’d finally gotten ahead and I was really happy. I participated in lots of social events to help the school gain a firm footing, and gave bribes to various departments and sent gifts to leaders during holidays so they’d award me certificates of merit and promote the school. To curry favor with them, I said and did countless disingenuous things, afraid that if I slipped up with an official, all my hard work to establish my business, status and reputation would come to nothing. I was constantly on tenterhooks and couldn’t relax. It was exhausting both physically and mentally, and a difficult, tiring way to live. I was confused: My business was successful and I’d achieved both name and gain, so why was life so difficult and tiring?

Then in May 2012, I accepted Almighty God’s gospel of the last days. Gathering and interacting with the brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God, I saw it was a place free of deals of power and money, and deception and intrigue. Everyone was focused on pursuing the truth, and they could open up in fellowship and learn about themselves when they showed corruption, and seek the truth to resolve it. That was something I didn’t see out in society. I felt like the path of faith was the right path to take in life. Reading God’s words, I learned that in the last days, God is doing the work of rewarding good and punishing evil, and only those who genuinely believe in God and pursue the truth will have God’s care and protection, and will ultimately be saved and kept through the great disasters. For those who don’t have faith or pursue the truth, no matter how well they run a business or how much money they make, it will all come to nothing in the end, and they won’t be able to save their own lives. Once I understood all that, I wasn’t so focused on the school’s development, but I went out to share the gospel in my free time so that more people could come before God and accept His salvation.

They were supportive of it at first. Later on, my oldest son saw on the news that the government was oppressing and arresting believers. He started to oppose my faith, afraid that it would impact the school, and he threatened to report me to the police. Also a government official I had a pretty good relationship with advised me, “Faith isn’t allowed in this country. You should give yours up. If you’re arrested, not only will you be sentenced, but your school will probably be shut down. Wouldn’t that destroy your family?” I told him that this was the true way and I was determined to keep my faith till the end. When he couldn’t convince me, he told my wife some of the Communist Party’s lies slandering The Church of Almighty God. He also said believers in Eastern Lightning are primary government targets for arrest, and the later generations of their families would be impacted, that their children wouldn’t get into college, be allowed to join the military or become government officials. When my wife heard this, she started a big fight with me, afraid my faith would implicate our children, and she threatened me with divorce. It was really painful for me. Our second son already had a graduate degree and a good job. If he lost his job because of my faith, he’d certainly go head-to-head with me. Also, the school that I’d worked so hard to establish was thriving now. If someday it was closed because of my faith in God, all my years of toil would be in vain. What would the neighbors think of me? For a while I didn’t have any appetite, and couldn’t sleep. I felt really weak and miserable and even had thoughts of giving up my faith. But knowing that that was the only way to gain salvation, I couldn’t not believe.

I opened up about my state in a gathering later on. The leader fellowshiped on lots of God’s words with me, including this passage: “From the moment you come crying into this world, you begin to fulfill your duty. For God’s plan and for His ordination, you perform your role and start your life’s journey. Whatever your background, and whatever the journey ahead of you, no one can escape the orchestrations and arrangements of the Heaven, and no one is in control of their own destiny, for only He who rules over all things is capable of such work” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Is the Source of Man’s Life). She fellowshiped: “Our fates are all in God’s hands and from the moment each of us is born, what we’re going to experience in this life, what setbacks and difficulties we’ll face were predetermined by God. That we’re able to have faith and accept God’s salvation now was also predetermined by Him. The fact that we’re believers in China and undergo this oppression and hardship has God’s permission, and He uses these things to perfect the faith and devotion of God’s chosen people. Whether you’ll be arrested, whether your school will be closed, what your children’s prospects will be, is entirely in God’s hands. No human can determine that, and the government doesn’t have final say, either.” God’s words and the leader’s fellowship were enlightening for me. It’s true. I’d already lived out most of my life and had lots of experiences, and what I’d gone through hadn’t turned out like I’d imagined. When I was in the military, I trained hard and performed well, and thought I’d rise in the ranks, but to my surprise, someone else got the promotion. Then I experienced all sorts of difficulties when setting up the school, but in the end I got it up and running smoothly, and now it was going well. I didn’t get to decide all these successes and failures. Seeing this, I realized that everything we experience in life is determined by God’s rule, and we don’t have a say. Worrying about whether I’d be arrested or not was no use. God decided that long before, so I needed to leave it all in God’s hands and submit to His arrangements.

The leader also fellowshiped with me that the true way has been oppressed since ancient times. The more it’s the true way, the more Satan’s forces brutally persecute it. How could Satan resign itself to God saving people? When the Lord Jesus came to work, He was madly resisted and oppressed by the Roman government and the religious world, and His followers were persecuted, too. Today, we believe in the true God, so it’s inevitable that we’re persecuted by the satanic regime ruled by the Communist Party. And God uses this persecution to help us gain discernment, so we can clearly see the Party’s demonic, anti-God essence. Later, I read this passage of God’s words: “For thousands of years this has been the land of filth. It is unbearably dirty, misery abounds, ghosts run rampant everywhere, tricking and deceiving, making groundless accusations,[1] being ruthless and vicious, trampling this ghost town and leaving it littered with dead bodies; the stench of decay covers the land and pervades the air, and it is heavily guarded.[2] Who can see the world beyond the skies? The devil tightly trusses all of man’s body, it veils both his eyes, and seals his lips firmly shut. The king of devils has rampaged for several thousand years, right up until today, when it still keeps a close watch on the ghost town, as if it were an impenetrable palace of demons; this pack of watchdogs, meanwhile, stare with glaring eyes, deeply fearful that God will catch them unawares and wipe them all out, leaving them without a place of peace and happiness. How could the people of a ghost town such as this ever have seen God? Have they ever enjoyed the dearness and loveliness of God? What appreciation have they of the matters of the human world? Who of them can understand God’s eager will? Small wonder, then, that God incarnate remains completely hidden: In a dark society such as this, where the demons are merciless and inhumane, how could the king of devils, who kills people without batting an eye, tolerate the existence of a God who is lovely, kind, and also holy? How could it applaud and cheer the arrival of God? These lackeys! They repay kindness with hate, they began treating God as an enemy long ago, they abuse God, they are savage in the extreme, they have not the slightest regard for God, they plunder and pillage, they have lost all conscience, they go against all conscience, and they tempt the innocent into senselessness. Forefathers of the ancient? Beloved leaders? They all oppose God! Their meddling has left all beneath heaven in a state of darkness and chaos! Religious freedom? The legitimate rights and interests of citizens? They are all tricks for covering up sin!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Work and Entry (8)). God’s words showed me that the Communist Party is an atheistic party, an enemy of God that doesn’t want God to exist. It claims to allow religious freedom, but that’s just misleading, lying to people. It’s afraid that if people gain faith, read God’s words, and learn the truth, they’ll see it’s the devil Satan that hurts people, then forsake and reject it. Then its ambition and goal to control people forever will be dashed. So to keep people from believing in and following God, it madly arrests and persecutes God’s chosen people and uses the media to malign and slander The Church of Almighty God, even threatening believers’ families, getting them to oppress and go up against them so that people will give up the true way, lose God’s salvation, and be destroyed in hell along with it. The Communist Party is incredibly vile and wicked! My family had been misled by it and started oppressing me. If I went along with them, I’d be falling for Satan’s tricks. I couldn’t be taken in by it. No matter how my family stood in my way, I knew I had to keep my faith and keep doing my duty.

Seeing how determined I was to follow God, my oldest son ramped up his persecution. One day, he ran me out of the school right in front of the students. He yelled at me angrily, “The government doesn’t allow religion, but you insist on believing! If you’re arrested, the whole family will be implicated, even my children. How is that acceptable? If you want to keep your faith you need to leave the school, and don’t drag us into it!” I just couldn’t believe my ears, that my very own son could say something so heartless to me, chasing me out just for believing in God. I was really hurt. If I was kicked out of the school, wouldn’t that mean my whole life’s blood, sweat, and tears was for nothing? Who would call me “Headmaster,” and who would look up to me? I wouldn’t get to enjoy those things anymore and I’d become just an average farmer again. How could I face my friends and acquaintances? These thoughts were unbearably painful for me. Where would I go if my son kicked me out? I felt like maybe I should just listen to him. I thought of God’s words when that occurred to me. “If people do not have any confidence, it is not easy for them to continue down this path. Everyone can now see that God’s work does not conform in the slightest with people’s notions and imaginings. God has done so much work and spoken so many words, and though people may acknowledge that they are the truth, notions about God are still liable to arise in them. If people wish to understand the truth and gain it, they must have the confidence and willpower to be able to stand by what they have already seen and what they have gained from their experiences. No matter what God does in people, they must uphold what they themselves possess, be sincere in front of God, and remain devoted to Him to the very end. This is mankind’s duty. People must uphold that which they should do” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. You Should Maintain Your Devotion to God). “Do not be discouraged, do not be weak, and I will make things clear for you. The road to the kingdom is not so smooth; nothing is that simple! You want blessings to come to you easily, do you not? Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger and you will not have true love for Me. Even if these trials consist merely of minor circumstances, everyone must pass through them; it’s just that the difficulty of the trials will vary from one person to another” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 41). God’s words helped calm me down. It’s true. The path of faith isn’t all smooth sailing. We have to endure some hardship, and without confidence it’s hard to stay on the path. If I became negative and retreated because of this oppression, where was my confidence? Before I believed in God, when I was out in the world struggling all those years to get ahead, it was a difficult and tiring way to live, without anything to look forward to. Now I was lucky enough to encounter this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—God coming to save mankind. How could I just casually give it up? Then how could God save me? The Lord Jesus said, “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26). God creates the birds, who don’t sow or reap, but He still allows them to survive. God would open up a way for me. If my son kicked me out of the house, I believed God would lead me, and I had nothing to worry about. This thought renewed my confidence and I no longer felt constrained by him. Seeing that I was remaining steadfast in my faith, he angrily drove me out the school entrance. I had no choice but to leave the school behind and go stay at my parents’ house for a while.

That evening, thinking about my plight was really miserable for me. I prayed to God, “God, I don’t know what Your will is in this. I believe in You and I’m on the right path, so why is my son treating me this way? Please guide me to understand Your will.” Then I thought of a passage some brothers and sisters had shared with me: “In every step of work that God does within people, externally it appears to be interactions between people, as if born of human arrangements or from human interference. But behind the scenes, every step of work, and everything that happens, is a wager made by Satan before God, and requires people to stand firm in their testimony to God. Take when Job was tried, for example: Behind the scenes, Satan was making a bet with God, and what happened to Job was the deeds of men and the interference of men. Behind every step of work that God does in you is Satan’s wager with God—behind it all is a battle” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God). By pondering God’s words I could see that this issue I was facing looked on the outside like my son had been misled by the Communist Party’s lies, so he oppressed and hindered my faith, kicked me out of the school. But behind that it was Satan being disruptive and manipulating things to see what I’d choose—to maintain my family relationships, protect my name and status and betray God, or to let go of my personal interests and choose to keep following God. I was worried about my situation and felt upset because I was lacking true faith in God, and I didn’t have the resolve to give everything up. Satan was using my weak points—my affections, reputation, and status—to get me to leave God behind, to betray Him, then ultimately it would ruin me, swallow me up. It was so sinister and evil! Understanding this made me feel a little better. I resolved that no matter what my family did to stop me and what hardships I faced later on in life, I’d stay strong in my faith and follow God till the end, humiliating Satan!

I couldn’t stay at my parents’ house long, so I had to go back to the school. I kept attending gatherings and sharing the gospel after I went back. My oldest son and his wife stepped up their oppression when they saw I kept on practicing my faith. They were always saying they were going to kick me out, took control of the school finances and left me without a single cent. They were also constantly saying awful things to me. I’d often get too upset to eat. For a while, I was constantly angry and struggled to eat, so my health really suffered. My vision would go black when I walked, and I nearly fainted several times. I developed erosive gastritis, and I was in so much pain in the evenings that the only way to get some relief was to shove a pillow against my stomach. When I couldn’t sleep at night I’d go out to the sports field and look at the training building, offices, cafeteria, and dorms I’d built, gazing at the school I’d worked so hard to build. It really weighed on me. To open up this school, I had no idea how far I’d traveled, how much I’d tried to ingratiate myself to others, and how much I’d suffered. Now that I’d gained some success, it was being taken away by my very own son. It was my life’s work. If I kept my faith, I was facing losing all of this. Thinking about it this way was like a knife through the heart for me. I felt really weak during that time and was always crying in secret at night. In tears, I prayed to God, “Oh God, I’m going to lose this business I’ve spent my life building, and I can’t let go of it. Please guide me to overcome this situation.”

The brothers and sisters shared some of God’s words with me later that gave me a path of practice. God’s words say, “Now you should be able to clearly see the precise path that Peter took. If you can clearly see Peter’s path, then you will be certain about the work being done today, so you will not complain or be passive, or long for anything. You should experience Peter’s mood at the time: He was stricken with sorrow; he no longer asked for a future or any blessings. He did not seek profit, happiness, fame, or fortune in the world; he only sought to live the most meaningful life, which was to repay God’s love and dedicate what he held utterly most precious to God. Then he would be satisfied in his heart” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How Peter Came to Know Jesus). Thinking over God’s words opened my eyes. Back in the day, Peter suffered his family’s oppression for his faith, too. His family wanted him to make a name for himself and bring glory to the family, but he wasn’t held back by them. When the Lord Jesus called on him, he gave up everything to follow the Lord and pursue a life of meaning. Peter’s experience was enlightening for me. Peter had genuine faith in God and was able to give up everything to follow Him. He pursued the truth, and came to know and love God, ultimately gaining God’s approval. I’d been a believer for a short time and had a shallow understanding of the truth, but thinking about the misery my past pursuit of name and status had brought me, and then looking at the path taken by Peter that gained God’s approval was really inspiring for me. I wanted to follow Peter’s example, let go of name and reputation, and pursue the truth. Later on I decided to leave the school and keep practicing my faith and doing a duty.

A few days later, a few of my old military friends got really angry when they heard about my son kicking me out of the school, and were coming up with ideas left and right for me to get it back. Friends and relatives were all decrying the injustice, and the village secretary helped me by providing official certification that I’d built up the school on my own, and no one else had a stake in it. Hearing all this, I thought that with that certification, if my military friends helped me get the school back, I’d regain that former prestige. But I realized I had the urge to pursue name and status again, so I silently prayed to God, asking Him to give me the strength to forsake the flesh. I thought of Job’s experience after my prayer. All of his possessions were taken away from him overnight, and though it was really painful, he didn’t rely on his own strength to go wrest them back, but he prayed and submitted to God’s arrangements. My property was nowhere near the equivalent of Job’s property, but if I didn’t pray and seek with God in the face of this situation, just wanting to get it back on my own, how was that submitting to God at all? If I did recover the school and became busy every day running it, I wouldn’t have the energy to practice my faith and do my duty well. Now that my son had taken the school from me, I could practice my faith and do my duty wholeheartedly. That was a wonderful thing, and it was God opening up a path for me. This thought brightened my heart quite a bit. I realized that I was never able to let go of the school because I was too deeply corrupted and cared too much about reputation and status.

I read this passage of Almighty God’s words later on: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. Man’s disposition becomes more vicious by the day, and there is not a single person who will willingly give up anything for God, not a single person who will willingly obey God, nor, moreover, a single person who will willingly seek the appearance of God. Instead, under the domain of Satan, man does nothing but pursue pleasure, giving himself over to the corruption of the flesh in the land of mud. Even when they hear the truth, those who live in darkness give no thought to putting it into practice, nor are they inclined to seek out God even if they have beheld His appearance. How could a mankind so depraved have any chance of salvation? How could a mankind so decadent live in the light?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). God’s words revealed my precise state. My parents and teachers taught me things since I was little, like “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” “No pain, no gain,” and “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors.” These satanic philosophies had become deeply entrenched within my heart, getting me to establish a mistaken perspective on life and values. I thought that trying to get ahead, be better than others, and gain reputation and status was the only way to live with integrity and value. I was ready to endure any hardship so I could make a name for myself. When I was establishing the martial arts school, every day was particularly tiring, and I used the money I’d earned with the sweat of my brow to curry favor with government officials, boot-licking, sweet-talking them, living without any dignity. I’d send various department leaders gifts for holidays, afraid of inviting trouble and bringing about misfortune at the slightest misstep. Maintaining these complex interpersonal relationships was exhausting in both body and mind, but I was deeply mired in it and couldn’t extricate myself. The people around me started doing all sorts of outrageous things after gaining name and status, engaging in corruption and bribery, seeing prostitutes, gambling, with no limits. That’s entirely how Satan corrupts and harms people. And my son seizing the school I’d built with my own two hands was also from being overcome by name and gain. He disregarded the love between father and son just to gain these things. It reminded me of the ancient imperial families where brothers, fathers and sons would murder each other to seize the throne. That was Satan’s fallacies and lies corrupting people to the point that they lost all humanity and reason. At that point I saw how name and gain are shackles Satan binds humanity with. If we live by Satan’s philosophies, seeking name and gain, we’ll just become more and more corrupt and life will become increasingly painful. When I was deep in the mire of name and gain, it was God’s words that showed me that pursuing the truth is the right path in life and the most meaningful kind of life. But I was bound and constrained by satanic philosophies, so when I lost the pleasures of money, reputation, and status, I found that hard to let go of, and I was miserable. I even wanted to conduct a lawsuit to get those things back. I was so foolish. If I’d gone on that way, I’d just continue being harmed by Satan and ultimately I’d be destroyed together with it. The Lord Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). It’s true. No matter how much money or status someone has, that can’t buy the truth and life! I’d lost the possessions, reputation and status I’d built up over most of my life, but through this experience, I saw how these things harm people, and the frightening consequences of pursuing them. I also saw the meaning and value of pursuing the truth and became able to let go of them to follow God and do a duty. That was God’s love and salvation for me. Once I understood God’s will, I didn’t want to fight with my son over anything and didn’t want to sue him, either. I just cared about submitting to God’s rule, pursuing the truth, and doing a duty.

Since then, I’ve been sharing the gospel in the church, and though I don’t have others’ admiration anymore, I feel much more at peace in my heart and every day feels very fulfilling. I am certain in my heart that having faith and following God is the best choice and the most meaningful way to live. Thank God!

Footnotes:

1. “Making groundless accusations” refers to the methods by which the devil harms people.

2. “Heavily guarded” indicates that the methods by which the devil afflicts people are especially vicious, and control people so much that they have no room to move.

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