I Feel So Much Lighter After Casting Off the Shackles of Status
By Liang Zhi, Anhui Province
My name is Liang Zhi and I accepted God’s salvation of the last days six years ago. Once, at a democratic election in our church, I was elected to be the church leader, and I found this news both unexpected and exciting. I thought to myself: “To be chosen as church leader amongst all brothers and sisters and to be responsible for all church work shows that I am better than everyone else!” When I thought about this, a sense of superiority began to take root in the deeps of my heart, I began to strut around with my head held high and I was filled with energy at gatherings with my brothers and sisters. After a while, however, I noticed that the sister who I performed my duty with had a good caliber and she fellowshiped about the truth in a clear-headed way. She was able to grasp the root of any problem the brothers and sisters raised and could fellowship with them about how to resolve it and show them the way of practice. All the brothers and sisters wanted to hear her give fellowship and, seeing this situation unfold, I began to feel jealous and envious of her. I was unwilling to admit myself outdone and so, before each gathering, I would make careful preparations in relation to the states and problems of the brothers and sisters, and would rack my brains on how to fellowship in a more comprehensive, more enlightening way than my sister. After I’d given a fellowship and I saw all the brothers and sisters nodding their heads in agreement, I would feel so pleased with myself and very fulfilled. If I saw my brothers and sisters react in a lukewarm manner, I would feel depressed and frustrated. Later, I found that a brother I performed my duty with knew quite a lot about moviemaking and that he was good at computers. When I saw that brothers and sisters were seeking him out to discuss professional problems they encountered when shooting movies, despite being the one in charge of our church, I felt like I couldn’t get a word in edgewise—I felt like a fifth wheel who was being left out. I felt really uncomfortable and unhappy, and I wondered: “The brothers and sisters always seek him out when they have an issue, so do they think he’s better than me? It would be great if I could understand moviemaking skills as well, as then the brothers and sisters would seek me out instead whenever they have a problem.” And so, every day from dawn to dusk I searched for related information and I studied all about how to make movies. Just as I was going hammer and tongs for the sake of status, problems arose one after another in the work of every group in the church, and no matter how much I held gatherings or fellowshiped, it was all to no avail. I felt under so much pressure that I could hardly breathe, and my heart was in torment. I thought to myself: “What will my brothers and sisters think of me? Will they think that, despite being a leader, I have no talent for work and that I’m simply not qualified to do this duty? It looks as though I won’t be able to keep the position of leader for much longer.” The more I thought about it, the more negative I became and my whole being felt like a deflated rubber ball; the energy I’d felt before was completely gone. Ultimately, because I was constantly living in a state of negativity and had become slack in my work, I had lost the work of the Holy Spirit and had achieved nothing real in the performance of my duty, and so I was replaced. At that moment, I felt as though I had lost all my credibility and I wanted the ground to swallow me up. At the same time, I wondered: “Will my brothers and sisters talk about me behind my back and say that I am a false leader, that I only strive for fame and gain and that I don’t do any real work?” The more I thought about this, the more pain I felt envelop my heart, as though many voices of reproach were resounding in my ears …
That evening, I lay on my bed, tossing and turning and unable to sleep a wink. All I could do was pray again and again, calling on God to guide me and lead me. … Afterward, I saw these words of God that say: “In your seeking, you have too many individual notions, hopes, and futures. The current work is in order to deal with your desire for status and your extravagant desires. Hopes, status, and notions are all classic representations of satanic disposition. The reason that these things exist in people’s hearts is entirely because Satan’s poison is always corroding people’s thoughts, and always people are unable to shake off these temptations of Satan. They are living in the midst of sin yet do not believe it to be sin, and still they think: ‘We believe in God, so He must bestow blessings on us and arrange everything for us appropriately. We believe in God, so we must be superior to others, and we must have more status and more of a future than anyone else. Since we believe in God, He must give us limitless blessings. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called believing in God.’ … You are now followers, and you have gained some understanding of this stage of work. However, you have still not put aside your desire for status. When your status is high you seek well, but when your status is low you no longer seek. The blessings of status are always on your mind. … The more you seek in this way, the less you will reap. The greater a person’s desire for status, the more seriously they will have to be dealt with and the more they will have to undergo great refinement. Such people are worthless! They must be dealt with and judged adequately in order for them to thoroughly let go of these things. If you pursue this way until the end, you will reap nothing. Those who do not pursue life cannot be transformed, and those who do not thirst for the truth cannot gain the truth. You do not focus on pursuing personal transformation and entry, but focus instead on extravagant desires and things that constrain your love for God and prevent you from drawing close to Him. Can those things transform you? Can they bring you into the kingdom?” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “Some people are always afraid that others will steal their limelight and surpass them, obtaining recognition while they themselves are neglected. This leads them to attack and exclude others. Is this not a case of being jealous of people more capable than themselves? Is such behavior not selfish and contemptible? What kind of disposition is this? It is malicious! Thinking only of oneself, satisfying only one’s own desires, showing no consideration for the duties of others, and thinking only about one’s own interests and not the interests of God’s house—people like this have a bad disposition, and God has no love for them. If you are truly capable of being considerate of God’s will, then you will be able to treat other people fairly. If you give someone your recommendation, and that person is cultivated into someone of talent, thereby bringing one more talented person into God’s house, will you not then have done your work well? Will you not then have been loyal in performing your duty? This is a good deed before God, and it is the sort of conscience and reason people should possess” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words exposed my inner essence that was in pursuit of status, fame and gain, and I felt terribly upset. Ever since I began performing the duty of church leader, I had always expended myself enthusiastically and had therefore believed myself to be someone who was in pursuit of the truth. But now that the facts had been revealed to me, faced with the judgment and chastisement of God’s words I finally saw the defilements in my belief in God. I reflected on how, every time I gathered with my brothers and sisters to fellowship God’s words, I did not do it to exalt God or bear testimony to God so that everyone could understand the truth in God’s words, understand God’s will and know how to practice in order to enter into the reality of God’s words. Instead, I applied all my energy to thinking how to be better than my sister and how to get the brothers and sisters to agree with me and admire me, in an attempt to establish my own image in their hearts and to further stabilize my own position. When I saw that my brother was more professionally capable than I was and that the brothers and sisters all sought him out to seek and fellowship with him when they had issues, and I did not get a look in, I would then feel jealous of him and would exclude him. I was afraid that he would steal my thunder and leave me powerless, and so I strived to arm myself with professional knowledge in order to consolidate my position. When the church had a problem that I was unable to resolve, I didn’t come before God to pray, I didn’t rely on God or look to God, and I didn’t seek the truth together with my brothers and sisters to resolve the problem, but instead I spent every day swayed by thoughts of gains and losses to my status, afraid that if I didn’t work well then I would be unable to keep my position as leader. I saw that I was not performing my duty in order to pursue the truth and satisfy God’s will, and I was not seeking change in my disposition as I performed my duty. Instead, I was treating my duty as though it were a career and regarding it as a tool that I could use to stand out from the crowd and make a name for myself. All I ever thought about was how to show off and prove myself, to win esteem and appreciation from everyone and to satisfy my ambition and desire to rise high above everyone else. I was not storing up good deeds in the performance of my duty at all, but instead I was completely living for the sake of fame, gain and status!
I then read God’s words which say: “I decide the destination of each person not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, and least of all, the degree to which they invite pity, but according to whether they possess the truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God shall also be punished. This is an immutable fact” (“Prepare Sufficient Good Deeds for Your Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After reading God’s words, I understood His will. When God determines a person’s end, He does not do so based on how high or low their status is, how great their seniority is, how much they have worked for God or how much they have suffered. Instead, God determines a person’s end based on whether or not they pursue the truth and gain the truth, and on whether or not their life disposition has changed. I had believed in God for several years but had never really made any effort with pursuing the truth or practicing God’s words. On the contrary, I had constantly been in pursuit of fame, gain and status, and the views I held on what to pursue were completely at odds with what God required. The result of all this was that, though I had believed in God for years, I had not entered into the reality of the truth whatsoever and my life disposition had not changed at all. At gatherings, I was unable to talk about any experiences or knowledge of God’s words, but had often just preached some letters and doctrines to deceive people. I had therefore lost the work of the Holy Spirit and had achieved nothing in the performance of my duty. If I had continued to follow the wrong path, then I would ultimately have been exposed and weeded out by God, and I would have lost my chance to attain God’s salvation. Thinking about it now, I realized that being replaced was God’s righteous judgment and chastisement. God had done it in order to deal with and purify the ambition and desire within me to strive for fame and gain, and He was leading me onto the right path of pursuing the truth—God was saving me! At that moment, I was filled with gratitude toward God and I couldn’t help but come before God to pray: “O God, I give thanks to You for Your judgment and chastisement, for allowing me to recognize that I was following the wrong path and to see the dangerous consequences of pursuing fame, gain and status. O God, I wish to turn back to You, to let go of fame, gain and status, and I choose to follow the path of pursuing the truth so that I may bring comfort to Your heart.”
Over a period of spiritual devotions and self-reflection, my state gradually improved and the church leader arranged for me to water new believers. I was so thankful to God for giving me a chance to perform my duty, and I silently made a resolution: “I must cherish this opportunity to perform my duty. I cannot make the same mistakes again and follow the path in pursuit of fame, gain and status!” In my duty thereafter, whenever I encountered an issue, I would discuss it more with my brothers and sisters and I would listen to and adopt their suggestions. Whenever I began to reveal my corrupt disposition of striving for fame and gain, I would pray to God, and would purposefully go read more of God’s words which related to His judgment of the corrupt essence of man, and I would then practice in accordance with His words. After experiencing this for a period, I was then able to relinquish fame, gain and status somewhat. However, my satanic nature which strived for fame and gain and which sought to rise above others could not be resolved once and for all just by having a little bit of understanding. I still needed to undergo more judgment and chastisement before I could finally be purified and changed.
Several months later, God once again orchestrated an environment in order to expose and save me. Because more and more people were looking into and accepting God’s work of the last days, and the work to water and support the new believers was getting busier and busier, our church leader said we had to choose a group leader to be responsible for arranging the work. The moment I heard this, I began to weigh up the possibilities in my mind: “Out of the seven of us in this group, Brother Zhang is probably most capable in work. He also has a sense of righteousness, he fellowships about the truth in quite a practical way and he is able to actively safeguard the church work. It’s most likely that he will be chosen to be group leader.” But then I thought of how I had previously been a church leader and how I had always been the one who arranged things for Brother Zhang to do. If he were chosen this time to be group leader, then I would always have to do what he told me to do, and that would show that I had a lower status than him. And then how could I ever face anyone again? When I thought of this, I felt very upset. When the day we were to choose our group leader arrived, I couldn’t help but feel nervous and my mind was constantly battling with itself. Who should I vote for? Brother Zhang? But when I thought of how brothers and sisters always sought him out to discuss their difficulties, I began to feel a little jealous and I no longer wished to vote for him. Perhaps I should vote for myself? But I knew that I was not as capable as Brother Zhang, and if the other brothers and sisters didn’t vote for me then I would not be able to become group leader. I felt so down just then, so much so that a malicious thought arose in my mind: “If I can’t be group leader, then neither will you.” And so, I ended up voting for Brother Wu, whom I normally got on well with but who was less capable. In the end, however, Brother Zhang still got chosen to be the group leader. I was not happy to see this outcome, but a sense of unease then followed, and I felt as though I had done something not altogether honest. On my way back home that day, I reflected on the thoughts and ideas that I had revealed during the vote. Why had I not been willing to vote for Brother Zhang? I had been afraid that Brother Zhang would rise higher than me. Hadn’t I once again sunk back into a state of striving for fame and gain? I felt so distressed. I didn’t want to strive for fame and gain, so why did I always fall back into my old ways whenever this kind of situation arose? I prayed to God in my heart and asked Him to enlighten and guide me so that I would be able to find the root of this problem. When I got home, I saw these words of God that say: “What does Satan use to keep man firmly within its control? (Fame and gain.) So, Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty. For the sake of this fame and gain, mankind shuns God and betrays Him and becomes increasingly wicked. In this way, therefore, one generation after another is destroyed in the midst of Satan’s fame and gain. Looking now at Satan’s actions, are its sinister motives not utterly detestable? Maybe today you still cannot see through Satan’s sinister motives because you think one cannot live without fame and gain. You think that if people leave fame and gain behind, they will no longer be able to see the way ahead, no longer be able to see their goals, that their futures will become dark, dim and gloomy. But, slowly, you will all one day recognize that fame and gain are monstrous shackles that Satan uses to bind man. When that day comes, you will thoroughly resist Satan’s control and thoroughly resist the shackles Satan uses to bind you. When the time comes that you wish to throw off all the things Satan has instilled in you, you will then make a clean break with Satan and you will truly loathe all that Satan has brought to you. Only then will mankind have a real love and yearning for God” (“God Himself, the Unique VI” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
“What kind of behavior will a person with a God-fearing heart exhibit? (They will not just do whatever they please or act wantonly.) So what should someone do so as not to act as they please? (Have a seeking heart.) Some people may feel that their thinking is wrong, but they also feel unwilling to hear the right suggestions of others, thinking: ‘I’m normally better than him. If I listen to his suggestion now, it’ll look like he’s superior to me! No, I can’t listen to him with this matter. I’ll just do it my way.’ Then they find a reason and an excuse to exclude the other person. If they see someone better than they are, they suppress them, start a rumor about them, or employ some unscrupulous means so that other people don’t look highly upon them, and that no one is any better than anyone else, then this is the corrupt disposition of arrogance and self-rightness, as well as crookedness, deceitfulness and insidiousness, and these people stop at nothing to achieve their aims. They live like this and yet still think they’re great and that they’re good people. However, do they have God-fearing hearts? First of all, to speak from the perspective of the natures of these matters, are not people who act this way simply doing as they please? Do they consider the interests of God’s family? They think only of their own feelings and they want only to achieve their own aims, regardless of the loss suffered by the work of God’s family. Not only are people like this arrogant and self-right, they are also selfish and contemptible; they are utterly inconsiderate of God’s intention, and people like this, without a shadow of a doubt, do not possess God-fearing hearts. This is why they do whatever they want and act wantonly, without any sense of blame, without any trepidation, without any apprehension or worry, and without considering the consequences. They do not fear God, they believe themselves to be of utmost importance, and they regard every aspect of themselves as being higher than God and higher than the truth. In their hearts, God is the least worthy of mention and the most insignificant, and God does not have any status in their hearts at all” (“The Five States Necessary to Be on the Right Track in One’s Faith” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
As I contemplated God’s words, I thought back to everything I had thought and done at the election vote, and I felt ashamed beyond words. I understood that the fame, gain and status I had always pursued were actually invisible shackles Satan uses to bind us, and that they are a way in which Satan deceives and corrupts us! I thought back to before I believed in God, when I had regarded such ideas and views of Satan as “Make your name in life and you will not have lived in vain,” “Make sure people know who you are, be you alive or dead,” “Only by suffering great hardships can you rise up in society,” and “Man always climbs upward, water always flows downward” as the axioms of my life and as true sayings. I accepted these satanic ideas and became enamored with power and status, I took the pursuit of fame, gain and status and to rise above others as my goals in life, and I struggled and fought hard for them. As long as I could win fame, gain and status for myself, then I would endure any amount of suffering or exhaustion. After I began to believe in God, I continued to live by these poisons of Satan in my pursuit of fame, gain and status and sought to rise above other people. These things had long since become my life, and they made me unable to stop myself from rebelling against God and resisting God. I knew perfectly well that Brother Zhang would benefit the church work as group leader, but I was envious of him being so capable and was afraid of being surpassed. Therefore, in order to maintain my own position and prestige, I decided that I would rather someone unsuitable got the position of group leader and the work of the church suffered than vote for Brother Zhang. I saw that I was refusing to accept God’s scrutiny in my deeds, that I had no shred of a God-fearing heart, that I only ever considered my own prestige and position whenever I encountered an issue and that I was simply not upholding the work of the church—how then could such selfish and contemptible behavior not have disgusted God and made Him loathe me? I thought of God’s words that say, “Transgressions Will Lead Man to Hell,” and I felt that I was in a very dangerous state. If I carried on that way, then I would become someone whom God detests, rejects and weeds out. Just then, I thought of the Pharisees who had resisted the Lord Jesus. In order to protect their positions and power in the temple, they did not seek the appearance of the Lord Jesus or the truths He expressed at all, but instead just persisted in resisting and condemning the Lord Jesus, so much so that they even crucified Him upon the cross, and thus they suffered the punishment and curse of God. I now saw clearly that, in one’s belief in God, if one does not take heed to seek the truth and enter into the truth, but instead just continually pursues fame, gain and status, then one is following the path of the Pharisees in their defiance of God! Thinking of these things, I couldn’t help but become afraid of following the wrong path, and I decided then and there to free myself from the bonds and harm of fame, gain and status, follow the path of pursuing the truth and faithfully performing my duty, and earn God’s praise.
Afterward, I turned back to God’s words and read: “Those who are capable of putting the truth into practice can accept God’s scrutiny when doing things. When you accept God’s scrutiny, your heart is set straight. If you only ever do things for others to see, and do not accept God’s scrutiny, then is God still in your heart? People like this have no reverence for God. Do not always do things for your own sake and do not constantly consider your own interests; give no thought to your own status, prestige, or reputation. Also do not consider the interests of man. You must first give thought to the interests of God’s house, and make them your first priority. You should be considerate of God’s will and begin by contemplating whether or not you have been impure in the fulfillment of your duty, whether you have done your utmost to be loyal, done your best to fulfill your responsibilities, and given your all, as well as whether or not you have wholeheartedly given thought to your duty and the work of God’s house. You must give consideration to these things. Think about them frequently, and it will be easier for you to perform your duty well. … In addition, if you can fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put the interests of God and His house first, then after experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to live. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being narrow-minded or mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act. Gradually, the desire within your heart to gratify your own interests will lessen” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). These words showed me the goals I should have and the direction I should take to be a human being. My heart was filled with light, and I then knew how to practice in a way which conformed to God’s will. Later, I took the initiative to open up to Brother Zhang about how I had constantly been living in a state of striving for fame and gain, and about how I had been envious of him, and I also disclosed to him my despicable intent during the vote. After listening to me, he did not look down on me, but instead gave me fellowship on the truths concerning my state, and he also opened up to me and talked to me about his experiences and understanding. After this fellowship, any estrangement between us was gone, and I felt an incredible sense of release and ease. Afterward, whenever I had a difficulty in my duty or I came across an issue I didn’t understand, I would always actively seek with Brother Zhang, and he would always fellowship patiently with me until an answer had been found. The more I exercised practicing God’s words in this way, the more I felt my relationship with God and my relationship with the other brothers and sisters get closer, and the results I achieved in my duty got better and better as well. I truly came to appreciate that by giving up fame, gain and status and living by God’s words, and by turning to God and fulfilling one’s duty, one is then blessed by God, and one can then live a just and honorable life with a sense of peace and ease in one’s heart, and one’s relationship with God will get closer and closer.
In October 2017, the annual church elections began again, and I was put forward as a candidate to be a church leader. When I heard this news, I did not feel as excited as I once had, but instead I corrected my state of mind in order to experience God’s work. Participating in the election was not so that I could strive to be church leader, but rather to fulfill my obligation as part of this process, to learn to seek the truth, and to choose the right person to be leader in accordance with the church’s principles on electing leaders. If I was elected to be leader, then I would merely wish to perform my duty as a created being in a sincere and orderly manner so as to satisfy God; I did not wish to be as I once was, striving for fame and gain and causing God to grieve. If I was not elected, I would not blame God, but would continue to cooperate with God, perform my duty to the best of my abilities and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements, for I was one of God’s creations and it was my responsibility to perform any duty I was given, and I should always do it with all my heart and all my strength. When the votes were counted and the results announced, I discovered that I had been elected to be the church leader. I did not feel mightily pleased with myself, however, and I no longer felt myself to be fantastic or better than the other brothers and sisters. On the contrary, I felt as though this were a commission and an obligation, and I felt as though God were placing His hopes on my shoulders. I knew that I must diligently pursue the truth, cooperate with God and fulfill my duty to satisfy Him, and make sure I lived up to the love and salvation He was giving me.
God’s words say, “In his life, if man wishes to be cleansed and achieve changes in his disposition, if he wishes to live out a life of meaning and fulfill his duty as a creature, then he must accept God’s chastisement and judgment, and must not allow God’s discipline and God’s smiting to depart from him, in order that he may free himself from the manipulation and influence of Satan, and live in the light of God. Know that God’s chastisement and judgment is the light, and the light of man’s salvation, and that there is no better blessing, grace or protection for man” (“The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Through my practical experiences, I truly came to appreciate that the judgment and chastisement of God are the light that saves us, and they are God’s truest love. It was the judgment and chastisement, the chastening and disciplining of God’s words which enabled me to see clearly the harm that fame, gain and status were causing me, and which aroused my courage and resolve to pursue the truth. When I let go of fame, gain and status, I felt as though it was not just status I had given up, but rather the shackles which Satan had chained me with, and in the deepest recesses of my spirit I came to feel an unprecedented sense of peace and joy, and a feeling of lightening and release. Although I can still, even now, reveal my corrupt disposition of striving for fame and gain, I am no longer controlled and bound by it. Through my experiences I have learned that, by practicing the truth, one can cast off one’s satanic corrupt dispositions, and the more one practices the truth, the more one can live out the likeness of a human being and be blessed by God. I truly came to feel that every tiny thing God did on me was God paying a painstaking price. God’s salvation of me is so practical, and His love is so great and real! From this day on, I wish to experience even more of God’s judgment and chastisement, to pursue the truth so that I may cast off my satanic corrupt dispositions as soon as possible, and to live out a genuine human likeness so as to bring comfort to God’s heart. Thank God for saving me!