Acting Arbitrarily Harmed Me

October 17, 2022

By Zhou Xuan, China

At the end of 2012, I began serving as a church leader. I noticed that all the projects in the church were making slow progress and only a few members could do their duty well. Knowing that I’d only been a believer for a short time and didn’t have a good grasp of how to select workers, I often presented my difficulties to God in prayer and sought for the relevant principles. If I didn’t understand something, I’d seek and fellowship with my co-workers. Gradually, my judgment of people and situations began to improve, I was able to assign people duties based on their strengths and we began to see some progress in the church’s work.

I remember once when discussing the work, I suggested cultivating Sister Li as a group leader, but several other co-workers didn’t agree with my viewpoint, arguing that Sister Li was constrained by her family and didn’t take responsibility in her duty. She didn’t water the newcomers in a timely fashion, and even after several times of fellowship, she still hadn’t improved. Given her attitude toward her duty, she wasn’t suitable to serve as a group leader. I thought to myself: “Sister Li is new to the faith and her constraint from her family is just a temporary weakness. We shouldn’t delimit her as being unsuitable for cultivation just based on a temporary situation, we should support and help her with love.” After that, I’d often lend support to Sister Li, fellowshiping with her on God’s intentions, and the meaning behind doing one’s duty. Gradually, Sister Li’s state began to improve—she stopped being constrained by her family, and began regularly fulfilling her duty. There was also a brother who had good caliber, fellowshiped the truth clearly and lucidly, and was responsible in fulfilling his duty, so I suggested that he be trained to supervise the watering work. But the sister I was partnered with had her doubts. She thought his arrogant disposition would be constraining to others and so he was unsuitable to train for the time being. I recalled that one of the principles stated: “Those who are arrogant of disposition but can accept the truth, and who are moreover of good caliber and gifted, should be promoted and cultivated. They absolutely must not be excluded” (170 Principles of Practicing the Truth, 135. The Principles of Treating People With Various Arrogant Dispositions). The brother had an arrogant disposition, but he accepted the truth, and when others pointed out his issues, he’d accept the criticism and make changes. So, overall, he satisfied the principles for being promoted and cultivated. I explained my reasoning with reference to this principle and several co-workers agreed with me after hearing me out. After the brother was put in charge of the watering work, he posted great results in his duty and proved to be quite capable in his job. Not long afterwards, he was promoted. After that, I felt quite pleased with myself, thinking: “I might be new to the faith, but I’ve got good caliber and am a better judge of people and situations than the other co-workers. If the church didn’t have a connoisseur like me, who would identify and cultivate these new talents?” For each church project, I had wisely delegated members, replacing those members that weren’t right for their jobs and, soon, the church’s work began to take off. When the brothers and sisters had problems, they’d all come to me for fellowship and would ask my opinion. Some even praised me to my face, saying: “Previous church leaders were long-time believers, but they weren’t able to get the church’s work done well. You haven’t believed for long, but as soon as you came the work started taking off. You must be a talented leader with good caliber.” When I heard that, I became even more pleased with myself, thinking myself to be a truly rare talent in the church.

After that, I presided over the work of a few other churches. Sometimes when the upper leadership were making selections, they would ask for my advice. I became more and more convinced that I had what it took to be a leader: I had good caliber, was good at selecting talent and could resolve issues according to principle. I gained more and more confidence in myself. After that, whenever I thought that I’d made an accurate assessment of a situation, I would make a decision by myself without consulting with other co-workers. I felt that I understood the principles better than them and had better insights. Even if I were to discuss with them, we’d certainly end up going with my plan, so there was no use in discussing. When co-workers brought up suggestions, I’d think they weren’t as good as my ideas, directly reject them and proceed with my own plan.

One time, when the church needed a member to keep our books, I suggested assigning a newcomer named Brother Zheng, as I knew he had good humanity. A co-worker reminded me: “Brother Zheng is new to the faith and his wife is a nonbeliever. If there were some sudden, unexpected situation, I’m not sure if he’d be able to protect the books.” At the time, I thought my suggestion had been rejected and I felt a bit uncomfortable. I thought: “I’m the leader—would I really not be capable of finding someone to keep the books? After all, we’re not selecting a leader, so why set the bar so high?” I didn’t listen to the co-worker’s advice and assigned Brother Zheng to keep the books. When one of the sisters found out, she dealt with me, saying: “Based on what principle did you assign Brother Zheng? We need to find a safe house to keep the books in. Brother Zheng is new to the faith, doesn’t have much of a foundation and his wife opposed his faith. If something were to happen, wouldn’t it be harmful to the church’s work?” I didn’t agree, thinking: “Based on principle, Brother Zheng might not be suitable, but he has good humanity and is willing to do this duty. Aren’t you guys overthinking it a bit? Is it really that serious?” So I said: “I’ve already fellowshiped with him—if you can find someone more suitable, then we’ll go with your selection.” Seeing that I wasn’t accepting her idea in the slightest, she didn’t bother to say anything else. Not long after that, Brother Zheng got in a fight with his wife and she threw all of the books out, and some of the books were damaged. We were forced to stay up late transferring the books to another location. Afterwards, my co-workers dealt with me for not acting according to principle and going by my own convictions, resulting in damage to the books. They told me I should reflect long and hard on what had happened. I perfunctorily agreed, but in my heart, I thought: “This was just a mistake. I assigned him based on the church’s actual situation at the time. Who would have known something like this would occur.” Afterwards, I continued to go my own way in my duty. When discussing our work, I would directly reject my co-workers’ advice and handle things as I saw fit. Gradually, my co-workers became constrained by me and they didn’t dare provide opinions on anything I’d already decided upon.

One time, I went to another church to dismiss a leader named Zhang Fan. Before dismissing her, I should have fellowshiped on and dissected her overall performance in her duty and then dismissed her. But then I thought about how when I’d fellowshiped with her previously about her performance, she hadn’t accepted what I said and even quibbled over details. So I just felt that there was no use in fellowshiping with her and I should just directly dismiss her. Afterwards, I called a meeting with Zhang Fan and a few other deacons and gave a brief explanation for why she should be dismissed. But Zhang Fan wouldn’t relent, kept arguing with me and even questioned me saying: “Be clear with me—based on what principle did you dismiss me?” I thought to myself: “I already explained the issues with your performance before, but you keep nagging and disputing, and try to find fault in me. You don’t know yourself at all and I couldn’t be bothered to fellowship with you.” So I just ignored her. Sister Wang reminded me, saying: “Zhang Fan can be very nitpicky—you should still fellowship with her on principles and make it clear to her why she was dismissed.” Even though I knew Sister Wang was right, I thought that since Zhang Fan was a church leader, she was well aware of these principles, and so it wasn’t necessary to waste time with her on this. So, I just read a passage of God’s words regarding how to treat leaders’ work, but as I read it, I felt a bit guilty. I was using God’s words to suppress her, I wasn’t resolving her issue—that wasn’t right. But then I thought, if I didn’t read it, I wouldn’t be able to keep her under control. After finishing the passage, the room was dead quiet and Zhang Fan just sat there silently, seething with anger. I thought that the matter was finished, but to my surprise, during a gathering, Zhang Fan said some leaders and workers were not following principle, which led to other leaders and workers feeling constrained and disrupted the church’s work. I felt a bit afraid. This was all the consequence of my acting arbitrarily and not following principle, but I just acknowledged that this was wrong without seriously reflecting on the matter.

Later on, when dismissing another leader, I, again, didn’t tell the brothers and sisters the specific reasons for the dismissal. Some of the brothers and sisters didn’t have discernment toward this leader and would often argue during gatherings that I hadn’t followed principle in dismissing the leader. This led to a rather chaotic situation in the church. After learning of the situation, a sister reminded me, saying: “You’d better go fellowship with them in a hurry, otherwise the situation in the church will get more and more chaotic.” I didn’t agree with her, thinking: “False leaders should be dismissed, I wasn’t trying to punish anyone, so why are they making such a big deal out of this?” Because I didn’t act according to principle and didn’t reflect on and know myself, I gradually found my duty more and more laborious. I no longer received enlightenment and guidance from God and when attending to the church’s work I’d often become confused. I didn’t know what to say to God in my daily prayer and the churches I was in charge of were not getting good results in their work. I started to realize that perhaps I couldn’t handle this duty anymore.

Not long after that, some brothers and sisters wrote a letter reporting me and accusing me of acting recklessly and not accepting the truth at all. After an upper leader learned of my situation, she exposed and dealt with me, saying: “As a church leader, when dealing with something important as selecting and dismissing people, you didn’t consult with co-workers, didn’t seek principles, but acted arbitrarily, following your own plan. When brothers and sisters reminded you, you didn’t relent. You are too arrogant and self-righteous. When you failed and were exposed, you didn’t reflect on yourself and continued to do as you pleased. Your arbitrary behavior descended church life into chaos and the lives of the brothers and sisters were damaged. Given your performance, you are no longer suited to serve as a leader. The losses outweigh the gains when deploying you in this capacity.” Hearing how the leader exposed and dealt with me, I felt just gutted and awful and I broke down in tears. I asked myself: “How did I manage to screw up the church’s work so badly? Not only had I failed to do my duties as a leader, I’d also disrupted the church’s work. I just wanted to find a place to hide myself away.” On the way back home, I was in a daze. I thought that since I had acted arbitrarily in my duty, was reckless and disrupted the church’s work, God would certainly despise me. Would God save someone like me? The more I thought, the worse I felt and I don’t even know how I made it home. I knelt on my bed and prayed to God: “Dear God! I don’t know how I’ve come to this point. I don’t have any real knowledge of myself. Oh, God! I know that there are lessons to be learned through being dismissed, but I’m too numb. Please enlighten and guide me to know myself and understand Your intentions.”

During my devotionals, I thought of a hymn of God’s words I often sang: “All that you receive is chastisement, judgment, and merciless smiting, but know this: In this heartless smiting there is not the slightest punishment. Regardless of how harsh My words might be, what befall you are but a few words that might appear utterly heartless to you, and no matter how angry I might be, what rain upon you are still words of teaching, and I do not mean to harm you or put you to death. Is this not all fact?

Righteous judgment is brought to purify man, and heartless refinement is done to cleanse them; harsh words or chastening are both done to purify and are for the sake of salvation. What have you to say in the face of such chastisement and judgment? Have you not always enjoyed salvation, from start to finish? You have seen God incarnate and realized His omnipotence and wisdom; in addition, you have experienced repeated smiting and discipline. However, have you not also received supreme grace?” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs, God’s Judgment and Chastisement Are to Save Man). God’s words really moved me. That’s right. God’s work in the last days is to judge and chastise. Whether it be chastening, discipline, dealing with or exposing, He does all this to purify and save humankind. I might have felt awful after being dismissed, but this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on and come to know myself. This was God’s love and salvation. I couldn’t misunderstand God’s intention. Having realized all this, I felt a bit more at peace. I just wanted to seek the truth, reflect upon and come to know myself and truly repent as quickly as possible.

Thinking of how the leader had exposed and dealt with me for acting arbitrarily and recklessly, I sought out relevant passages of God’s words to eat and drink and reflect upon. I saw some of God’s words that say: “Some people like to do things alone, without discussing things with anyone or telling anyone. They simply do things as they come to them, however others might view them. They think, ‘I’m the leader, and you are God’s chosen ones, so you need to follow what I do. Do exactly as I say—that’s how it ought to be.’ They do not notify others when they act; their actions have no transparency. They are always privately striving for something and acting in secret. Just like the great red dragon, which maintains its single-party monopoly on power, they wish always to hoodwink and control others, whom they see as insignificant and worthless. They always want to have the final say in matters, without discussing or communicating with others, and they never consult other people’s opinions. What do you think of this approach? Is it possessed of normal humanity? (It is not.) Is it not the nature of the great red dragon? The great red dragon is dictatorial and arbitrary. Are those with this type of corrupt disposition not the offspring of the great red dragon?” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. On Harmonious Cooperation). “To perform your duty adequately, it does not matter how many years you have believed in God, how much you have done in your duty, nor how many contributions you have made to God’s house, much less does it matter how experienced you are in your duty. The main thing God looks at is the path a person takes. In other words, He looks at one’s attitude toward the truth and the principles, direction, origin, and impetus behind one’s actions. God focuses on these things; they are what determine the path you walk. If, in the process of your fulfilling your duty, these positive things cannot be seen in you at all, and the principles, path, and basis of your action are your own thoughts, aims, and schemes; your impetus is to protect your own interests and safeguard your reputation and position, your modus operandi is to make decisions and act alone and have the final say, never discussing things with others or cooperating harmoniously, and never listening to advice when you have made a mistake, let alone seeking the truth, then how will God see you? You are not yet up to standard if you perform your duty so; you have not set foot on the path of pursuing the truth, because, as you do your work, you do not seek the principle of the truth and always act as you wish, doing whatever you like. This is the reason why most people do not perform their duties satisfactorily” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Adequate Performance of Duty?). God’s words really hit me hard as I thought over these passages. They exposed how it is the nature of the great red dragon to be arrogant, egotistical and act arbitrarily. Such people’s viewpoints of pursuit and the paths they walk are all at odds with God. The church had given me an opportunity to serve as a leader, not as a bureaucrat. They had given me a responsibility and wanted me to heed God’s will, work harmoniously with others to do the church’s work well and fulfill my duty. But, instead, I took the church’s work as my own private business. When I started getting some results in my work and had gained a little experience in selecting talent, I thought I had good caliber, exceptional work skills and was a good judge of situations and people. Especially after brothers and sisters started coming to me with their questions, I put myself on a pedestal, and believed I understood the truth better than them. I couldn’t get off my high horse, and believed that the progress in the church’s work was all my doing, and that the brothers and sisters were all my inferiors and didn’t have the right to voice opinions. My opinions should be prioritized for any work that required discussion. So when the brothers and sisters pointed out how I’d gone astray in my work, I didn’t pay any attention to them and continued doing things my way. Sometimes when they voiced different opinions, I’d reject them without even considering first. I insisted that they follow my plan and sometimes I would just go ahead with plans without first consulting with co-workers. Because I insisted on selecting someone that didn’t accord with principle to keep the books, and I didn’t listen when my co-workers reminded me and warned against doing so, the books were damaged. Even despite that, I still didn’t reflect on myself. I dismissed Zhang Fan without pointing out and fellowshiping on her issues, which caused her to be resentful, uncompliant, and looking to find fault. This caused a great disturbance and led to chaos in church life. In my duties, I didn’t prioritize seeking the truth and didn’t guide others to enter into the reality of the truth. Instead, I led the way in violating principles, forced everyone to follow my orders, didn’t allow them to voice differing opinions and wanted to have the last word on everything. Wasn’t I acting just like an autocrat? As a church leader, I clearly understood that we must work according to principles, but I ignored them, going my own way and always wanting the last word. Wasn’t I pitting myself against God? My every action betrayed my antichrist disposition. Reflecting on how I’d acted, I saw that all my behaviors were repugnant to God. If I didn’t repent and rectify my behavior, wouldn’t I meet the same outcome as the antichrists?

Later on, I saw a passage of God’s words that said: “Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if you have an arrogant and conceited disposition, then being told not to oppose God makes no difference, you can’t help yourself, it is beyond your control. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display; they would make you scorn others, they would leave no one in your heart but yourself; they would rob you of God’s place in your heart, and ultimately cause you to sit in the place of God and demand that people submit to you, and make you venerate your own thoughts, ideas, and notions as the truth. So much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition). Through God’s words, I realized that the root cause of my going by my own plan and acting arbitrarily was that my nature was too arrogant. I thought so highly of myself, thinking that I was better than the others, a better judge of people and situations. I didn’t have any respect for anyone. When discussing work with co-workers, I always thought I was right, and no matter who disagreed with me, I never listened. Even when I caused disturbances and chaotic situations in the church due to my arrogance and self-righteousness, I still wouldn’t allow myself to be humbled, believing this was just a one-time mistake. When a sister gave me reminders, I failed to reflect upon and come to know myself, thinking others were making a big deal out of nothing. I realized I was really arrogant. Where was my rationality? The results I had gotten in work and the good selections I had made were the result of God’s guidance and the effect His words produced in me. If I didn’t have God’s enlightenment and guidance and the principles of God’s house, I wouldn’t be capable of anything. Yet I took all the credit, and used these results as capital for my arrogance and self-righteousness. I was just shameless. If it hadn’t been for my leader’s harsh exposition and dismissal, I never would have reflected on myself. Only then did I recognize that being exposed and dismissed was God’s way of guarding me. Otherwise, who knows what other evil I would have perpetrated by my arrogant disposition? Having realized all this, I felt really scared and ashamed and I prayed to God: “Dear God! I don’t want to live by my arrogant disposition anymore, nor do I want to act arbitrarily and recklessly. Please guide me to find a path of practice.”

After that, I sought with regard to my issue and found this passage of God’s words: “How, then, do you resolve your arbitrariness and rashness? Say, for example, something happens to you and you have your own ideas and plans; before determining what to do, you must seek the truth and you should at least fellowship with everyone about what you think and believe about this, asking everyone to tell you if your thoughts and plans are correct and in line with the truth, asking that everyone make final checks for you. This is the best method of solving arbitrariness and rashness. First, you can shed light on your view and seek the truth; this is the first step you put into practice in order to solve arbitrariness and rashness. The second step happens when other people voice dissenting opinions—what practice can you put in place to keep from being arbitrary and rash? You must first have an attitude of humility, set aside what you believe to be right, and let everyone have fellowship. Even if you believe your way to be correct, you should not keep insisting on it. That is a kind of step forward; it shows an attitude of seeking the truth, of denying yourself, and of satisfying God’s will. Once you have this attitude, at the same time that you do not adhere to your own opinion, you should pray, seek the truth from God, and then look for a basis in God’s words—determine how to act on the basis of God’s words. This is the most suitable and accurate practice. When people seek the truth and hold up a problem for everyone to fellowship together and seek an answer for is when the Holy Spirit provides enlightenment. God enlightens people according to principle, He takes stock of your attitude. If you stubbornly stick to your guns regardless of whether your view is right or wrong, God will hide His face from you and ignore you; He will make you hit a wall, He will expose you and reveal your ugly state. If, on the other hand, your attitude is correct, neither insistent on your own way, nor self-righteous, nor arbitrary and rash, but an attitude of seeking and acceptance of the truth, if you fellowship this with everyone, then the Holy Spirit will set to work among you, and perhaps He will lead you to understanding by means of someone’s words. Sometimes, when the Holy Spirit enlightens you, He leads you to understand the crux of a matter with just a few words or phrases, or by giving you a sense. You realize, in that instant, that whatever you have been clinging to is erroneous, and, in the same instant, you understand the most appropriate way to act. Having reached such a level, have you successfully avoided doing evil and bearing the consequences of a mistake? How is such a thing achieved? This is only attained when you have a heart that fears God, and when you seek the truth with a heart of obedience. Once you have received the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and determined the principles for practice, your practice will be in line with the truth, and you will be able to satisfy God’s will” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). God’s words laid out a path of practice. To resolve one’s arrogance, self-righteousness and recklessness, the most important thing is to have a God-fearing heart, a truth-seeking attitude, and a will to cooperate harmoniously with others. When confronted with problems, one should discuss with others and reach an agreement before proceeding. If others bring up different opinions, one should learn to lower oneself, and seek the truth and principles with others. No one is perfect—none of the church’s projects can be completed by just one person, they all require cooperation and discussion to be done properly. This failure allowed me to truly realize how important it is to seek the truth and work according to principle in one’s duty. Working in this way would allow me to avoid causing interruption and disruption. If one is arrogant, self-righteous, arbitrary and reckless, then no matter how smart one may be, they still won’t achieve good results and will only cause interruptions and disruptions to the church’s work. Some time later, when the brothers and sisters saw that I had repented and changed a little while doing my duty, they once again selected me as the church leader. Thinking of how I used to always want the last word in my duty, and that this had been quite harmful to the others and had left me with many regrets, I made a promise to God: I wouldn’t act arbitrarily and force others to submit to me and I would cooperate harmoniously with others.

One time, while discussing the watering work in a certain church with co-workers, I felt that Sister Wang was responsible, talented in her work and should be cultivated as a watering deacon. But two partners didn’t agree: They felt that despite Sister Wang being fairly responsible and a talented worker, she didn’t have much life experience and didn’t prioritize seeking the principles of the truth when faced with issues, so she was not a good fit for supervising the watering work. When I heard this, I could feel the rage well up inside me: “I’m the leader here—do you think you’re a better judge of people than me?” Just as I was about to reiterate my view, I suddenly realized I was once again revealing my arrogant disposition and wanting to act arbitrarily. Recalling my previous failure, I prayed to God, asking God to help me lower myself and proceed according to principle. After prayer, I realized that if we selected the wrong person to the watering position, it would bring a lot of harm to the brothers and sisters’ life entry, so I had to proceed carefully. After that, I sought the principles for promoting and training people with the others, and after gathering and fellowshiping with Sister Wang, I found that she really was lacking in life experience, didn’t reflect on and know herself when faced with issues, didn’t seek the truth to resolve those issues, and was not fit for the watering work. Ultimately, I agreed with the others’ opinions. I felt much more at ease after practicing in this way. Looking back on my experience, suffering the consequences of acting arbitrarily brought on a lot of emotional pain, regret and hate for myself. It also allowed me to recognize my own arrogant disposition and to realize that I shouldn’t act based on my own ideas alone in my duty, that I should seek more of God’s intentions, work according to principle, and exalt God above all else. Only in so doing would I receive God’s guidance and not go astray. Thank God!

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