The Consequences of Faith Based on Notions and Imaginings

June 7, 2024

By Qi Zhao, China

In 2004, I was chosen by God to come to His house. Gathering with brothers and sisters, sometimes I would hear them fellowship their experiences, saying that they did not give up their duties during illness, and miraculously recovered. I also read experiential testimony articles written by some brothers and sisters. One sister had cancer but still insisted on doing her duties, and unknowingly God removed her cancer. Hearing these testimonies, I thought to myself, “When the brothers and sisters encountered trials of illness, they relied on faith to experience them—they stood firm in their witness, and their illness got better. In the future, I must learn from them. No matter what sickness or disaster comes, I must hold fast to my duties and stand firm in my witness. This way, I will also live in God’s blessings just like the brothers and sisters.”

In the summer of 2011, one day at noon, my seven-year-old son was playing in the living room wearing roller skates. Accidentally, he knocked down the television set, which fell on him, causing him to bleed heavily everywhere, even from his nose. I was shocked and my heart jumped into my throat. I prayed to God immediately, “God, regardless of what happens to my child, whether he lives or dies, please keep my heart from complaining.” After my son was examined at the hospital, the doctor said to observe him at home and that as long as he didn’t have a fever, everything would be fine. Later, my son recovered. Afterward, I pondered this incident. I did not complain during this crisis, and my son quickly recovered. This made me even more convinced that not complaining during calamities and standing firm in my witness would allow me to see God’s protection and blessings. Since then, I expended myself with even more zeal. No matter what duties the church assigned me, no matter how much suffering or cost was involved, I obeyed everything. I felt that I was someone who loved God and would definitely be blessed by God in the future.

In May 2016, I was doing my duties away from home. One day, I received a letter from home saying that my son had leukemia and was seriously ill, already admitted to the hospital. After reading the letter, my mind went blank, and I went to my room to pray. I knelt on the bed, sobbing uncontrollably, saying, “God, my son is only twelve years old. Are you really going to take him away?” After that, I couldn’t say anything more. I wanted to go back immediately to take care of my son, to comfort and encourage him, but I thought about how there were antichrists disturbing the church life, hindering various work, and causing damage to the lives of brothers and sisters. At this critical moment, God was watching how I would choose—whether to uphold the church’s work or set aside my duties to take care of my son. I thought of Job enduring such great trials, covered with sores, yet not complaining against God but standing firm in his witness. In the end, God appeared to him, not only healing him but also blessing him abundantly. When I thought about my son’s illness being in God’s hands, I also had to choose to satisfy God and uphold my duties, not letting Satan’s schemes prevail. I believed that if I stood firm in my witness, God would bless my son to recover. Especially considering how Abraham submitted to God and was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and how God did not take his son but blessed him even more, I felt that God was also testing me through my child. If I entrusted my son into God’s hands and stood firm in my witness, I believed that God would bless my son to recover. After that, I no longer dwelled on my son’s illness but immersed myself in my duties.

When I returned home, my husband told me that our son did not have leukemia; it was just an excess of white blood cells and low immunity, which might progress to leukemia without timely treatment. We visited several renowned hospitals, but even after multiple expert consultations, they couldn’t diagnose the illness. We had no choice but to return home for conservative treatment. We spent over two thousand yuan on Chinese medicine, but there was no improvement. I thought to myself, “With God, there are no difficult cases. As long as people sincerely rely on God and submit to Him, isn’t it easy for God to heal them?” After that, I often fellowshipped with my child, “In this illness, we must not complain and must submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. If we stand firm in our witness, God will ensure that you recover from your illness.” Meanwhile, I also inquired everywhere about folk remedies to treat my son’s illness. However, after a month passed, not only did my child’s condition not improve, it worsened. I began to feel negative and weak in spirit, thinking, “I have been doing my duties diligently since my child fell ill. Why isn’t God preserving my son’s health? Why is his condition getting worse with more treatment? If it really turns into leukemia as the doctors said, won’t my son have no hope left?” The more I thought about it, the more frightened I became.

One morning, my husband said to me almost in tears, “We’ve tried every method for this child’s illness, but not only is it not getting better, it’s getting worse. What should we do?” Seeing my husband’s anguish, I felt indescribably distressed. So, I took out God’s words to read. Almighty God says: “While undergoing trials, it is normal for people to be weak, or to have negativity within them, or to lack clarity on God’s intentions or their path for practice. But in any case, you must have faith in God’s work, and not deny God, just like Job. Although Job was weak and cursed the day of his own birth, he did not deny that all things in human life were bestowed by Jehovah, and that Jehovah is also the One to take them all away. No matter how he was tested, he maintained this belief. In your experience, no matter what refinement you undergo through God’s words, what God requires of mankind, in brief, is their faith and their God-loving heart. What He perfects by working in this way is people’s faith, love, and aspirations. God does the work of perfection on people, and they cannot see it, cannot feel it; under such circumstances, your faith is required. People’s faith is required when something cannot be seen by the naked eye, and your faith is required when you cannot let go of your own notions. When you do not have clarity about God’s work, what is required of you is to have faith and to take a firm stance and stand witness. When Job reached this point, God appeared to him and spoke to him. That is, it is only from within your faith that you will be able to see God, and when you have faith God will perfect you. Without faith, He cannot do this(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement). After reading God’s words, I gained some understanding of what true faith is—believing in God and standing firm in our witness for Him even when we cannot see or touch something, just like Job, who never denied God at any time. This is what God desires. I fellowshipped with my husband, “Merely believing in God and doing our duties when everything is going well doesn’t necessarily reflect true faith. When we face trials and are unable to see what the results will be, yet are still able to persist in believing in and following God—this faith is genuine, and is the desired result of God’s refinement and trials. Otherwise, we would only be believing in God for His grace and benefits, and Satan would accuse us and refuse to acknowledge us. Regardless of whether our son’s condition improves or not, if we continue to follow and submit to God, Satan will be defeated and put to shame, and God will gain glory from us.” After my husband heard this, he nodded in agreement.

After that, our son’s condition showed no signs of improvement. One day, our son was leaning against the windowsill, watching other children go to school with their backpacks. He looked envious, with tears in his eyes, and choked up as he said, “Mom, all the other kids are going to school, but I’m sick and can’t go. You always tell me to submit to God. How long do I have to submit before I get better?” Hearing my son’s words was like a knife in my heart. My faith couldn’t bear it anymore. I thought to myself, “Since my child got sick, I have suffered, but I have always held fast to my duties. I have already done my best to cooperate. How come God still hasn’t healed my son’s illness? Is my heart not sincere enough? The doctor said if my son’s illness wasn’t cured, he might need amputation. If so, how would he live in the future?” Thinking about these dreadful consequences, my heart was in agonizing pain, as if put through a meat grinder. Upon reaching this level of pain, I prayed to God, “God, why won’t my son’s illness get better? My stature is too small; I truly can’t bear this anymore. God, please enlighten me to understand Your intention.”

At the end of September, our leader sent me a letter requesting my cooperation with a certain duty. I refused because I was worried about my son’s illness. Later, I realized that in all my years of believing in God, I never refused a duty no matter how great a difficulty I faced. But today, I rejected a duty because of my son’s illness. I felt upset about this realization. Reflecting on my attitude toward God during this time, I realized that I had just been praying and reading God’s words in a perfunctory manner. I had no strength in my heart. Every day, aside from giving my son medicine, my heart was filled with fear and anxiety. I was constantly worried that my son’s illness wouldn’t improve and that I might lose him, so I wasn’t focused on my duties. When I thought of this, it suddenly dawned on me—wasn’t I betraying God? I thought of a passage of God’s words: “How you regard God’s commissions is extremely important, and this is a very serious matter. If you cannot complete what God has entrusted to people, then you are not fit to live in His presence and you should be punished. It is perfectly natural and justified that humans should complete whatever commissions God entrusts to them. This is man’s supreme responsibility, and is just as important as their very lives. If you do not take God’s commissions seriously, then you are betraying Him in the most grievous way. In this, you are more lamentable than Judas, and should be cursed(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Know Man’s Nature). I felt God’s anger from His stern words of judgment. It turned out that taking God’s commission lightly is a serious matter. God’s attitude toward those who reject His commission is one of loathing and cursing. Reading these words made me shudder. I had believed in God for many years without having the truth reality; when faced with situations that didn’t align with my notions, I could still abandon my duties and betray God. Recognizing this, I prayed to God in repentance.

While seeking, I read a passage of God’s words: “These days, most people are in this sort of state: In order to gain blessings, I must expend myself for God and pay a price for Him. In order to gain blessings, I must abandon everything for God; I must complete what He has entrusted me with, and I must perform my duty well. This state is dominated by the intention to gain blessings, which is an example of expending oneself for God entirely for the purpose of obtaining rewards from Him and gaining a crown. Such people do not have the truth in their hearts, and it is certain that their understanding merely consists of a few words and doctrines which they show off everywhere they go. Theirs is the path of Paul. The faith of such people is an act of constant toil, and deep down they feel that the more they do, the more it will prove their loyalty to God; that the more they do, the more He will certainly be satisfied; and that the more they do, the more they will deserve to be granted a crown before God, and the greater the blessings they gain will be. They think that if they can endure suffering, preach, and die for Christ, if they can sacrifice their own lives, and if they can complete all of the duties with which God has entrusted them, then they will be those who gain the greatest blessings, and they will be certain to be granted crowns. This is precisely what Paul imagined and what he sought. This is the exact path that he walked, and it was under the guidance of such thoughts that he worked to serve God. Do those thoughts and intentions not originate from a satanic nature? It is just like worldly humans, who believe that while on earth they must pursue knowledge, and that after obtaining it they can stand out from the crowd, become officials, and have status. They think that once they have status, they can realize their ambitions and bring their businesses and family practices up to a certain level of prosperity. Do not all nonbelievers walk this path? Those who are dominated by this satanic nature can only be like Paul in their faith. They think: ‘I must cast off everything to expend myself for God. I must be loyal before God, and eventually, I will receive great rewards and great crowns.’ This is the same attitude as that of worldly people who pursue worldly things. They are no different at all, and they are subject to the same nature. When people have this sort of satanic nature, out in the world, they will seek to obtain knowledge, learning, status, and to stand out from the crowd. If they believe in God, they will seek to obtain great crowns and great blessings. If people do not pursue the truth when they believe in God, they are sure to take this path. This is an immutable fact, it is a natural law. The path that people who do not pursue the truth take is diametrically opposed to that of Peter(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Walk the Path of Peter). Through the exposure of God’s words, I saw that over these many years, my forsaking and expending were not to fulfill my duties and satisfy God, but rather to engage in transactions with God, always governed by the intent to gain blessings—what I followed was Paul’s path of pursuing blessings. Since I accepted God’s work in the last days, I’d seen that when some brothers and sisters stood firm in their witness during sickness and trials, they received God’s care, protection, and blessings. Therefore, no matter how difficult or risky the duties assigned to me by the church were, I would cooperate without any reservations. In my heart, I firmly believed that as long as I suffered and paid a price for God, did not complain when faced with tribulations, and persisted in doing my duties, I would surely receive God’s blessings. When I learned that my son had a serious illness, I still chose to do my duties and expend myself for God, so that God might heal my son. However, when my son’s illness didn’t get better for a long time, I began to hold grievances against God. I used my past forsaking and expending as a bargaining chip with God, arguing with and clamoring against Him, complaining about His lack of protection over my son, and even refusing to do my duties. I saw my selfish, vile, and advantage-seeking satanic nature fully exposed. I was using my forsaking and expending for God as a means to demand blessings from Him. I realized that I was walking the same path as Paul. Paul expended and paid the price for God with the expectation of rewards and a crown, engaging in transactions with God. He was cheating and resisting God, and ultimately received His condemnation and punishment. Reflecting on my many years of faith in God, due to not pursuing the truth or seeking God’s intentions in His words, I had taken my expenditure for God and my performance of duty as transactions. I saw how selfish and despicable I truly was, completely unworthy of God’s salvation!

Then I read these words of God: “You undergo the trials of Job, and at the same time you undergo the trials of Peter. When Job was tested, he stood witness, and in the end, Jehovah was revealed to him. Only after he stood witness was he worthy of seeing the face of God. Why is it said: ‘I hide from the land of filth but show Myself to the holy kingdom’? That means that only when you are holy and stand witness can you have the dignity to see the face of God. If you cannot stand witness for Him, you do not have the dignity to see His face. If you retreat or make complaints against God in the face of refinements, thus failing to stand witness for Him and becoming Satan’s laughing stock, then you will not gain the appearance of God. If you are like Job, who in the midst of trials cursed his own flesh and did not complain against God, and was able to detest his own flesh without complaining or sinning through his words, then you will be standing witness. When you undergo refinements to a certain degree and can still be like Job, utterly submissive in front of God and without other requirements of Him or your own notions, then God will appear to you(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement). “Although, in different contexts, God uses different ways of testing each person, in Abraham God saw what He wanted, He saw that Abraham’s heart was true, and that his submission was unconditional. It was precisely this ‘unconditional’ that God desired. People often say, ‘I’ve already offered this, I’ve already forgone that—why is God still not satisfied with me? Why does He keep subjecting me to trials? Why does He keep testing me?’ This demonstrates one fact: God has not seen your heart, and has not gained your heart. This is to say, He has not seen such sincerity as when Abraham was able to raise his knife to slay his son by his own hand and offer him to God. He has not seen your unconditional submission, and has not been comforted by you. It is natural, then, that God keeps trying you(The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). From God’s words, I understood that God blesses those who sincerely expend themselves for Him. No matter how God acts, they unconditionally submit to His orchestrations and arrangements, without having any demands, requests, or personal adulterations. This is a true testimony. I couldn’t help but think of Job. He had only heard about God, and yet when he lost all his possessions and children, was covered in sores, and was even mocked by his wife, he still adhered to the way of fearing God and shunning evil, saying, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). Job did not try to bargain with or demand things from God; he kept a pure heart toward Him. I also thought of Abraham. He was a hundred years old when he had his son Isaac, whom he dearly loved. When God asked him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, although he felt affection for his son, he didn’t live by this affection. He willingly offered Isaac on the altar. Their faith and submission to God were absolute and unconditional, with no bargaining or demands. What they did was purely to follow God’s way, not for blessings or personal gain. Their testimonies were truly commendable and admirable. However, I had always misunderstood. When faced with sickness or calamity, as long as I could maintain my duties without complaining, I thought these good behaviors were sufficient to stand firm in my witness and satisfy God, and I would receive His blessings. But behind my expending, there was no sincerity or submission to God. My sacrifices were fully driven by cheating, bargaining, and demanding things. It was not genuine testimony at all, and this behavior was detestable to God and didn’t deserve His blessings. In the past, I had read about Job’s and Abraham’s testimonies countless times, but I didn’t focus on how they followed God’s way, feared Him, shunned evil, and remained loyal and submissive to God. Instead, I focused on the blessings they received after standing firm in their testimony. This was all because I was driven by my advantage-seeking satanic nature. Through the exposure of God’s words, I gained some knowledge of what constitutes a genuine testimony.

Later, I pondered: Over the years of believing in God, I always thought that if I expended and sacrificed for God, then God should bless me; this was what God’s righteousness was about. So when my son’s illness did not improve and even worsened, my heart was filled with complaints and misunderstandings, and I even refused my duty. I sought how to handle this situation correctly. During my seeking, I came across a passage of God’s words: “Righteousness is by no means fairness or reasonableness; it is not egalitarianism, or a matter of allocating to you what you deserve in accordance with how much work you have completed, or paying you for whatever work you have done, or giving you your due according to what effort you expend. This is not righteousness, it is merely being fair and reasonable. Very few people are capable of knowing God’s righteous disposition. Suppose God had eliminated Job after Job bore witness for Him: Would this be righteous? In fact, it would be. Why is this called righteousness? How do people view righteousness? If something is in line with people’s notions, it is then very easy for them to say that God is righteous; however, if they do not see that thing as being in line with their notions—if it is something that they are incapable of comprehending—then it would be difficult for them to say that God is righteous. If God had destroyed Job back then, people would not have said He was righteous. Actually, though, whether people have been corrupted or not, and whether they have been profoundly corrupted or not, does God have to justify Himself when He destroys them? Should He have to explain to people upon what basis it is that He does so? Must God tell people the rules He has ordained? There is no need. In God’s eyes, someone who is corrupt, and who is liable to oppose God, is without any worth; however God handles them will be appropriate, and all are the arrangements of God. If you were displeasing to God’s eyes, and if He said that He had no use for you after your testimony and therefore destroyed you, would this, too, be His righteousness? It would. You might not be able to recognize this right now from the facts, but you must understand in doctrine. … Everything that God does is righteous. Though humans may not be able to perceive God’s righteousness, they should not make judgments at will. If something He does appears to humans as unreasonable, or if they have any notions about it, and that leads them to say that He is not righteous, then they are being most unreasonable. You see that Peter found some things to be incomprehensible, but he was sure that God’s wisdom was present and that His good will was in those things. Humans cannot fathom everything; there are so many things that they cannot grasp. Thus, to know God’s disposition is not an easy thing(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Upon reflecting on God’s exposure, I realized that I did not have a pure understanding of God’s righteous disposition. I used to think that if we expended ourselves for God and stood firm in our witness, then God should bless us, taking away all our difficulties and pain, allowing us to live in His blessings. This seemed fair and reasonable to me; I thought this was God’s righteousness. However, this kind of understanding does not align with God’s intention. God is the Creator, and humans are created beings. How God treats us is His own affair, and we should not make unreasonable demands of God. Just like when Job stood firm in his witness, God blessing Job was His righteousness, and even if He didn’t bless Job, He would still be righteous. God’s disposition essence is righteousness. However, I failed to see this. I believed that righteousness meant egalitarianism, fairness, and reasonableness. I thought that if I sacrificed for God, I should be rewarded with blessings. This mindset was filled with transactions. When my son fell ill, although I persevered in doing my duties, there was a personal agenda behind it—to demand grace from God, to have God remove my son’s illness. This was actually a transaction, not a witness. If it weren’t for my child’s illness, my vile motives of bargaining with God wouldn’t have been exposed. I saw God’s wisdom at work and realized my lack of conscience and reason. So, I made a resolution: Regardless of my child’s illness, I would submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements and fulfill my duties as a created being.

Later, I read a passage of God’s words: “There is no correlation between the duty of man and whether he is blessed or cursed. Duty is what man ought to fulfill; it is his heaven-sent vocation, and should not depend on recompense, conditions, or reasons. Only then is he doing his duty. To be blessed is when someone is made perfect and enjoys God’s blessings after experiencing judgment. To be cursed is when someone’s disposition does not change after they have experienced chastisement and judgment, it is when they do not experience being made perfect but are punished. But regardless of whether they are blessed or cursed, created beings should fulfill their duty, doing what they ought to do, and doing what they are able to do; this is the least that a person, a person who pursues God, should do. You should not do your duty only to be blessed, and you should not refuse to act for fear of being cursed(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). God’s words gave me a clear answer: Doing one’s duty is a heaven-sent vocation. It has nothing to do with blessings or misfortunes; it’s what we ought to do. In the past, I lived with notions and imaginings, believing that if I could persevere in my duties, then I deserved God’s blessings, and God should keep my family safe. Now I understood that this was a mistaken viewpoint. Regardless of whether my child’s illness improved or not, I shouldn’t bargain with God. From then on, I was willing to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements and fulfill my duties and responsibilities. Three days later, I received a letter from upper leadership stating that there was urgent work for me to do. Although I was reluctant to leave my child, I understood that I shouldn’t live based solely on affections. I had my own mission to fulfill, and my child’s illness was in God’s hands. I was willing to entrust my child to God and submit to His orchestrations and arrangements. After that, I went to do my duty.

Three months later, I returned home to visit my son and learned that my husband had taken him to a rural doctor for treatment. The swelling in my child’s legs had reduced, and he was gradually improving day by day. By the end of the year, the doctor said, “This child recovered very quickly. His illness has been cured.” When I heard this result, I was extremely excited, unable to express it in words.

After this experience, I gained some knowledge of God’s righteous disposition. I also realized that pursuing to gain the truth and fulfilling one’s duties as a created being are the most important parts of believing in God. We shouldn’t ask God for physical benefits, family peace, freedom from illness and disaster, or favorable outcomes and destinations. These are unreasonable demands. Relying on notions and imaginings in our faith, we can never enter into the truth reality. Only through experiencing the judgment and chastisement of God’s words as well as trials and refinement can we gain the truth, cast off corruption and live in the light of God’s presence. Although I endured some pain and refinement through my son’s illness, it exposed my long-standing corrupt impurities and the fallacious viewpoints I held about believing in God. This experience helped me know myself, seek the truth, and realize what kind of testimony God approves of. It enabled me to promptly correct my mistaken viewpoints and walk the right path. This is God’s favor toward me!

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