Growing Through Failures and Setbacks

September 28, 2022

By Zhenxin, the Philippines

I accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days in December 2020. I was elected as a church leader a few months later. There was lots of work to be done and issues to be resolved in the church. I threw myself into it enthusiastically. After a while, I became a bit more familiar with the church’s work, but I was still running into plenty of problems. Lots of newcomers weren’t attending gatherings regularly. Some were being impacted by online rumors, some weren’t really understanding truths of visions and they had unresolved religious notions, and some couldn’t attend gatherings regularly because they were too busy with work. Facing these issues, I worked hard to fellowship on God’s will with them to help them through their struggles, but their problems still weren’t resolved. I was really frustrated. I was constantly asking myself why all my hard work still hadn’t borne fruit. Why wasn’t God blessing our church? The brothers and sisters had so many issues and my multiple fellowships with them had failed. Maybe I wasn’t well suited for leadership? I reproached myself: I was the cause for all of this. If I accepted responsibility and resigned, someone else could serve as leader, then the work would be more successful. I started feeling down and got passive in my duty, just waiting to be dismissed. I even thought that God was setting up these difficulties to expose me, to have me fail, and He had probably already deserted me. That thought scared me. Had God abandoned me? I was praying and seeking, but I still didn’t understand God’s will. The thought that God had abandoned me kept surfacing from time to time. I felt depressed, fatigued, and weak all the time. I was really afraid, and felt that I no longer had the Holy Spirit’s work.

The church was short a few team leaders then, so the supervisor recommended some newcomers. I just directly appointed them without looking into things much. At first they all said they wanted to take on a duty, but when they officially began, one said he needed to work and was busy, so he wasn’t up to the job, and another would be late to gatherings because of family matters, and also wouldn’t be able to do the job. I ultimately determined that for now, they weren’t suitable to be cultivated as team leaders. I worked hard to resolve these difficulties I was encountering in work, but for a while wasn’t getting any results. Right then, I really wasn’t able to bear all of these failures. I was really negative, and I was even afraid to face the coming of each new day. I didn’t want to do church work anymore because I’d worked a lot, but hadn’t accomplished anything. I thought I was facing this situation because God wanted to expose me as incompetent, but I didn’t want to allow myself to sink into that kind of state. I didn’t want to be exposed and cast out because I wasn’t getting results in my duty.

Once in my devotionals, I ran into “The Principles of Admitting Responsibility and Resigning”: “Any false leader or worker who does not accept the truth, who cannot do practical work, and who, for some time, has been bereft of the work of the Holy Spirit, must admit responsibility and resign” (170 Principles of Practicing the Truth). Reading this made me feel even more negative. What should I do? I hadn’t resolved any of the church’s problems, so I was a false leader. Should I admit responsibility and resign to let a competent person become leader? I’d already been doing church work for three months, but I still hadn’t resolved the problems that existed within the church. And in that situation, I still didn’t understand God’s will and hadn’t made any progress. I was even misunderstanding God. I was worried the others would think I was too negative, and I was afraid they’d reprimand me for having the thought of resigning.

I read this in God’s words in a gathering once: “You are an ordinary person. You must undergo many failures, many periods of bewilderment, many errors of judgment, and many diversions. This can fully expose your corrupt disposition, your weaknesses and deficiencies, your ignorance and foolishness, enabling you to reexamine and know yourself, and to have knowledge of God’s omnipotence and full wisdom, His disposition. You will gain positive things from Him, and come to understand the truth and enter reality. There will be much amid your experience that does not go as you wish, against which you will feel powerless. With these, you must seek and wait; you must gain from God the answer to each matter, and understand from His words the underlying essence of each matter and the essence of each sort of person. This is how an ordinary, normal person behaves(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Treasuring God’s Words Is the Foundation of Belief in God). God is incredibly wise. I gained a new understanding of how God works. I saw that everyone has to go through some failures and setbacks in their duty, and God’s will was to have me seek the truth through all of this to resolve my corruption. I’d faced some difficulties in my duty and experienced some failures, but I hadn’t sought the truth or God’s will. I just always thought about resigning because I felt like I hadn’t had any success in my duty or done what a leader should do. I even didn’t dare tell the others about my actual state. I was really ignorant. I didn’t understand God’s will or why God would let that sort of thing happen to me. I saw from God’s words that I was just a regular person, so it was normal for me to run into some difficulties and failures in my duty. God’s will was within that. So, I opened up to the brothers and sisters about my recent state and sought their help. I also told them that I’d had thoughts of admitting responsibility and resigning. They didn’t look down on me, but they helped and encouraged me, and fellowshiped on God’s words. I was really moved.

They read me some of Almighty God’s words. God says, “In the course of experiencing the work of God, no matter how many times you have failed, fallen down, been pruned, dealt with, or exposed, these are not bad things. Regardless of how you have been pruned or dealt with, or whether it is by leaders, workers, or your brothers or sisters, these are all good things. You must remember this: No matter how much you suffer, you are actually benefiting. Anyone with experience can attest to this. No matter what, being pruned, dealt with, or exposed is always a good thing. It is not a condemnation. It is God’s salvation and the best opportunity for you to get to know yourself. It can bring your life experience a change of gears. Without it, you will possess neither the opportunity, the condition, nor the context to be able to reach an understanding of the truth of your corruption. If you truly understand the truth, and are able to unearth the corrupt things hidden in the depths of your heart, if you can clearly distinguish them, then this is good, this has solved a major problem of entry into life, and is of great benefit to changes in disposition. Becoming able to truly know yourself is the best opportunity for you to mend your ways and become a new person; it is the best opportunity for you to obtain new life. Once you truly know yourself, you will be able to see that when the truth becomes one’s life, it is a precious thing indeed, and you will thirst for the truth, practice the truth, and enter into its reality. This is such a great thing! If you can grab this opportunity and earnestly reflect upon yourself and gain a genuine knowledge of yourself whenever you fail or fall down, then in the midst of negativity and weakness, you will be able to stand back up. Once you have crossed this threshold, you will then be able to take a big step forward and enter the reality of the truth(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. To Gain the Truth, One Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Nearby). “God’s salvation of mankind is a salvation of those who love the truth, a salvation of the part of them with will and resolve, and the part of them that is their yearning for truth and righteousness in their hearts. A person’s resolve is the part of them in their heart that yearns for righteousness, goodness, and truth, and is possessed of conscience. God saves this part of people, and through it, He changes their corrupt disposition, so that they may understand and gain the truth, so that their corruption may be cleansed, and their life disposition may be transformed. If you do not have these things within you, you cannot be saved. … Why is it said that Peter is a fruit? Because there are things of worth in him, things worth perfecting. He sought the truth in all things, had resolve, and was firm of will; he had reason, was willing to suffer hardship, and loved the truth in his heart; he did not let go of what came to pass, and he was able to learn lessons from all things. These are all strong points. If you have none of these strong points, it means trouble. It will not be easy for you to gain the truth and be saved. If you don’t know how to experience or don’t have experience, you won’t be able to solve other people’s difficulties. Because you are incapable of practicing and experiencing God’s words, and have no idea what to do when things happen to you, and get upset—burst into tears—when you encounter problems, and become negative and run away when you suffer some minor setback, and are forever incapable of reacting in the right way—because of all this, it is not possible for you to enter life(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). After reading this, a sister shared fellowship with me: “No matter what sort of setbacks and failures we face, we should pray and seek God’s will, not give up on the truth and our duty. Giving up on your duty isn’t the path to resolving the problem. It’s only through the difficulties and issues we encounter in our duties that our corruption and shortcomings are revealed, and we can truly know ourselves. Without those experiences, there’s no way we could see our corruption and what we lack. Then how could we change? So, experiencing failure and stumbling isn’t a bad thing. That’s when we should seek the truth and learn a lesson—we can’t misunderstand God. If we just resign, just give up our duty when we encounter difficulties, how would we experience God’s work and pursue salvation? What testimony would we have? God doesn’t ask much of us. If we have resolve when we face problems and hardships, and genuinely pray and seek the truth, then God will guide and help us.” Hearing this sister’s fellowship was really enlightening for me. I realized that experiencing failures and stumbling is God’s love, and it’s a good chance for me to seek the truth and learn a lesson. I thought of how Peter experienced many trials, refinements, setbacks, and failures throughout his life. Sometimes he suffered fleshly weakness, but he never lost faith in God. He kept pursuing the truth and seeking God’s will, making up for what he lacked. In the end, he understood the truth and knew God, and achieved submission and love for God. I should be strong and resolute just like Peter, coming before God in prayer and seeking His will when I face setbacks and failures, reflecting on what I lack instead of misunderstanding and blaming God.

In my devotionals one time, I read a passage of God’s words that helped me understand God’s will a bit. Almighty God says, “People must learn to heed God’s words and understand His heart. They must not misunderstand God. In fact, in many cases, people’s concern stems from their own interests. Speaking generally, it is the fear that they will have no outcome. They always think to themselves, ‘What if God lays me bare, casts me out, and rejects me?’ This is your misinterpretation of God; these are only your thoughts. You have to figure out what God’s intention is. His laying people bare is not done to cast them out. People are laid bare in order to expose their shortcomings, mistakes, and the essence of their natures, to make them know themselves, and be capable of true repentance; as such, being laid bare is in order to help people’s lives to grow. Without a pure understanding, people are apt to misinterpret God and become negative and weak. They may even give in to despair. In fact, being laid bare by God doesn’t necessarily mean that people will be cast out. It is to give you knowledge, and make you repent. Oftentimes, because people are rebellious, and do not seek the truth to find a resolution when they have outpourings of corruption, God must exercise discipline. And so sometimes, He lays people bare, exposing their ugliness and pitifulness, allowing them to know themselves, which helps their life grow. Laying people bare has two different implications: For wicked people, being laid bare means they are cast out. For those who are able to accept the truth, it is a reminder and a warning; they are made to reflect on themselves, to see their true state, and to no longer be wayward and reckless, for to carry on like this would be dangerous. Laying people bare in this way is to remind them, so that when they perform their duty, they are not muddleheaded and careless, are not blasé, are not satisfied with only being a little bit effective, thinking they have performed their duty to an acceptable standard—when in fact, measured according to what God asks, they have fallen far short, yet they are still complacent, and think they’re doing okay. In such circumstances, God will discipline, caution, and remind people. Sometimes, God lays bare their ugliness—which is patently to serve as a reminder. At such times you should reflect on yourself: Performing your duty like this is inadequate, there is rebelliousness involved, it contains too much that is negative, it is entirely perfunctory, and if you do not repent, you will be punished. When God disciplines you, and lays you bare, this does not necessarily mean you will be cast out. This matter should be approached correctly. Even if you are cast out, you should accept it and submit to it, and make haste to reflect and repent(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Practicing the Truth and Obeying God Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition). God’s words showed me that His purpose in exposing people isn’t to cast them out, but it’s to have them recognize their corruption and shortcomings, so they can pursue the truth to resolve their problems and progress faster in life. I began to reflect on myself. Facing various difficulties and issues, I didn’t genuinely ponder and seek God’s will or self-reflect to learn about my own issues. I just thought that God was using these situations to expose me and cast me out, that I wasn’t suitable as a leader and I should quit. I was misunderstanding God. Then I realized that so many issues in work remained unresolved mainly because I wasn’t putting my heart into my duty. I always felt like I had so many things to get done, but I didn’t have any directions or goals when I was working. I just did whatever came to mind without seeking any results. Some people were misled by rumors and I didn’t seek what aspect of the truth I should fellowship on to resolve their notions so that they could discern those rumors and stand firm on the true way. And in cultivating people, I didn’t seek the principles for that or get a clear understanding of their actual circumstances, but I just did it blindly. As a result, I didn’t accomplish anything in that aspect, either. In watering newcomers, I didn’t give prior thought to what aspects of the truth I could fellowship on to resolve their issues, so I also didn’t get any real results in that. Although on the surface it looked like I was working hard, I wasn’t being attentive and I wasn’t summing up the issues in our work in a timely manner, which meant nothing was accomplished. And not only did I fail to reflect and understand myself, but I also failed to seek the truths I should enter into. My first response was to push the responsibility off onto God, guessing that He was intentionally exposing me, making me look bad. I was always grumbling, and didn’t want to encounter failures and setbacks, but just wanted to always have it easy, to have everything be smooth sailing. I misunderstood and blamed God at the slightest difficulty. How could I experience God’s work and do my duty well? I was so unreasonable. That’s not how a created being should act. Realizing this, I felt a lot of regret, and said a prayer to God: “God, You set this situation up to train me, to allow me to grow in life, but I didn’t understand Your will—I misunderstood You. I’m so rebellious. Please guide me and help me understand my own corrupt disposition.” After that, I read a passage of Almighty God’s words that helped me understand myself. God says, “I take pleasure in those who are not suspicious of others, and I like those who readily accept the truth; toward these two kinds of people I show great care, for in My eyes they are honest people. If you are deceitful, then you will be guarded and suspicious toward all people and matters, and thus your faith in Me will be built upon a foundation of suspicion. I could never acknowledge such faith. Lacking true faith, you are even more devoid of true love. And if you are liable to doubt God and speculate about Him at will, then you are, without question, the most deceitful of all people. You speculate whether God can be like man: unpardonably sinful, of petty character, devoid of fairness and reason, lacking a sense of justice, given to vicious tactics, treacherous and cunning, pleased by evil and darkness, and so on. Is not the reason that people have such thoughts because they lack the slightest knowledge of God? Such faith is nothing short of sin! There are even some who believe that the ones who please Me are precisely those who flatter and bootlick, and that those lacking in such skills will be unwelcome in the house of God and will lose their place there. Is this the only knowledge you have acquired after all these years? Is this what you have gained? And your knowledge of Me does not stop at these misunderstandings; even worse is your blasphemy against God’s Spirit and vilification of Heaven. This is why I say that such faith as yours will only cause you to stray further from Me and be in greater opposition against Me(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How to Know the God on Earth). I was really ashamed of myself in the face of what God’s words reveal. I was suspicious of God and misunderstood Him when I encountered failures and setbacks, thinking of Him as being as cold and heartless as people. I thought when God wants to use someone He’d allow them to enjoy His grace, but otherwise, He’d cast them out, fling them to the side and ignore them. I second-guessed and suspected God based on the psychology of the unrighteous. I was so crafty! I hadn’t been a believer for long, the truths I understood were limited, and I had lots of flaws, but the brothers and sisters still chose me as a leader, giving me a chance to practice so that I could learn the truth more quickly and enter into the reality of the truth. Even though not being attentive enough in my duty sometimes led to a lack of accomplishments, the church hadn’t dismissed me. The others still all helped and encouraged me, and gave me fellowship on God’s words, guiding me to understand God’s will and recognize my corruption and shortcomings. Everything God was doing for me was genuinely cultivating and saving me. He is so kind and lovely! But I was on my guard against God, suspicious of Him. How was that having true faith in God? I’d been so deeply poisoned by Satan, always going by Satan’s lies, like “Trust no one because even your shadow will leave you in darkness” and “You can’t be malicious, but you must stay on your guard.” I was on my guard against everyone, even with God. This showed me that my cunning disposition was really very severe, and that’s entirely where my suspicions and misunderstandings of God came from. Facing difficulties, I second-guessed and misunderstood God, but God still guided me to understand the truth, getting me to see my own problems. I could feel God’s love and how real His salvation for me is. I came before God and prayed, ready to repent to Him and stop living by my cunning disposition, suspecting and misunderstanding God.

Later, I read this passage from God’s words: “Though you may now perform your duty willingly, and you make sacrifices and expend of yourself willingly, if you still have misunderstandings, speculations, doubts, or grievances regarding God, or even rebelliousness and resistance against Him, or if you use various methods and techniques to resist Him and reject His sovereignty over you—if you do not resolve these things—then it will be nigh impossible for the truth to be master of your person, and your life will be exhausting. People often struggle and are tormented in these negative states, as if they had sunk into a quagmire, always living among truths and falsehoods, rights and wrongs. How can they discover and understand the truth? To seek the truth, one must first submit. Then, after a period of experience, they will be able to gain some enlightenment, at which point it is easy to understand the truth. If one is always trying to work out what is right and wrong and gets caught up in what is true and false, they have no way to discover or understand the truth. And what will come of it if one can never understand the truth? Not understanding the truth gives rise to notions and misunderstandings about God; with misunderstandings, it is easy to feel aggrieved; when grievances burst forth, they become opposition; opposition to God is resistance against Him, and a serious transgression; and many transgressions turn to manifold evils, and so one should then be punished. This is the sort of thing that comes of being forever unable to understand the truth(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Resolve Their Notions and Misunderstandings of God). Reading this made me afraid about what had happened. If I’d kept on living in a state of negativity, not seeking the truth, not opening up with the brothers and sisters, I would have kept on living by my cunning disposition, misunderstanding God. Then I could easily blame God and resist Him, which would constitute a transgression. I might even do evil and go against God. That’s dangerous! During that time I was misunderstanding and second-guessing God, my negative state practically controlled me. I always worried about being exposed and cast out. I had no sense of freedom—it was so tiring. In my duty I was just expending effort and completing tasks. As soon as problems appeared, I couldn’t help but misunderstand God and I wanted to quit. It was God’s words that guided me to open up to the others and to seek the truth and learn about my corrupt disposition. Otherwise, I would have continued misconstruing God and I would have decided to give up my duty. The consequences of that would have been frightening.

I read another passage of God’s words later that gave me a path for practice when I encounter problems in church work. God says, “Regarding the problems that arise in the church, do not be filled with such heavy misgivings. In the course of building the church, mistakes are inevitable, but do not panic when you meet with problems; rather, be calm and collected. Have I not already told you? Come before Me often and pray, and I will clearly show you My intentions(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 41). I learned from God’s words that running into various difficulties in church work is inevitable. It’s perfectly normal and God allows this to happen. When we encounter difficulties, as long as we genuinely pray and lean on God, He will guide us forward. Some new believers who have just accepted God’s work of the last days don’t fully understand truths of visions and can still be led astray by rumors. I needed to rely on God more and use His words to expose Satan’s tricks and help new believers set roots on the true way. After understanding God’s will, then going back to church work, I summarized the errors and issues that existed in our previous work and equipped myself with truths relevant to issues new believers were encountering, then helped address them through fellowship. As for cultivating people, first I sought those principles and prayed with my heart, then in gatherings I focused on observing who fit the principles for cultivation. Selecting people that way was somewhat more precise. At times I still run into some failures and difficulties in my duty, but I look at these issues from a different perspective now. I ask myself: What lesson does God want me to learn from this situation? I make sure to pray, read God’s words, and seek a path of practice and I’ve learned how to seek help from other brothers and sisters. Others point out problems in my work, and I’m able to see my own faults and shortcomings. I no longer believe that God is trying to make me look bad. Instead, I feel it’s a chance to self-reflect, know myself, and pursue growth in life. Once a sister said to me, “I’ve noticed you’ve become more patient when watering new believers, and when you encounter issues you’re better at seeking God’s will than before.” I was so moved to hear this. Even though it was just a tiny change on my part, I had a real, personal experience that God’s love and salvation for mankind are pure and real. God is always guiding me, leading me—He is by my side. I have more resolve to do my duty and satisfy God.

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