My Choice for My Remaining Years
By Xiao Yong, China
As a child, my family was quite poor and we would often be bullied by other villagers. I would always feel awful when I saw my mom reduced to tears due to their bullying. It seemed like everyone looked down on us because of our lack of status and we’d never have a chance to get ahead. During that time, my parents would often tell me, “‘The poor are alone even in the biggest cities, but the rich will have visitors even in the deepest of mountains,’ so when you grow up, you’ve got to make a name for yourself and outshine your peers to bring honor to our family.” I took these words to heart and worked hard to attain status and the respect of others.
In 1986, I took part in a recruitment training program for a big national company. During the training, I studied hard and won top marks both for grades and behavior nearly every month. But to my surprise, I was assigned a lowly, entry-level position, while others whose grades were worse than mine but had better family pedigrees were given managerial posts. I took this setback really hard, and realized that if I wanted to distinguish myself, it wouldn’t be enough just to perform well, I’d also have to learn to curry favor with the boss. So after that, I’d often go help the boss with work in his house and when he fell ill and was admitted to the hospital, I was there to answer his every beck and call. To gain the boss’ recognition, I bought all kinds of books and threw myself into studies to improve my management skills. After a few years of hard work, I was finally promoted to upper management. In the factory, the workers all greeted me with nods and bows and when I went back home, the neighbors would all come by to pay me a visit. Just like that, I’d become a big name in our village. More and more people came to me asking for favors and even those that had previously looked down their noses at us, had completely changed their tune and now were quite friendly with me. In my vanity, it was extremely satisfying to be the center of attention and showered with admiration.
In 1998, at the age of 35, I was promoted to factory director. Despite having attained status and authority, I still felt uneasy. I was worried that because I lacked personal connections, if I didn’t perform well in my work, I might not be able to maintain my current status. And so, as if treading on thin ice, I approached my work with extreme caution, deeply fearful that I’d be dismissed if anything went wrong. In order to grow our business, I’d often wine and dine our clients, taking them out for drinks and karaoke. I realized some managers would even bribe clients with money and prostitutes. I despised this way of doing business, but after mulling over my options several times, I ended up just relenting to the reality of the situation. During that time, I struggled with anxiety and had trouble sleeping. Due to stress from work and my own anxiety, I developed diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia among other illnesses. Later on, my company converted from a public to a privately owned enterprise. Two or three hundred employees bought shares in the company and took over ownership. Three years later, to maximize our earnings, we bought out the minority shareholders in keeping with the chairman’s plan, and, just like that, I and a few other major shareholders became millionaires and our company became a major source of tax revenue in our region. I often had to attend important meetings in the county seat and even appeared on television. My vanity was gratified like never before. Outwardly, it seemed like I was on top of the world and living the lifestyle of an elite, but inside I felt empty and uneasy. Each night as I lay in bed, I’d think to myself: “These years, I’ve thrown my heart and soul into my work and I’ve attained status and repute, but I’ve lost my dignity and my health. Is this really how I should be living my life? What meaning is there to living a life like this?”
But my busy life didn’t allow for much time to reflect. I’d been inextricably bound by my status and reputation and so all I could do was keep pressing on.
But to my surprise, just as I was reaching the pinnacle of my career, one of our products had a major quality issue due to my own lapse in management, which cost the company several millions yuan. At the time, I felt absolutely awful. In all my years in that company, I had made steady improvements nearly every year, but despite working myself nearly to death for the last six months, I’d ended up ruining my reputation. It felt like I’d fallen from the highest heights down to lowest of lows. In the throes of my pain and anguish, some brothers and sisters came to share’s gospel of the last days with me. I saw that said: “The fate of man is controlled by the hands of God. You are incapable of controlling yourself: Despite man always rushing and busying himself on his own behalf, he remains incapable of controlling himself. If you could know your own prospects, if you could control your own fate, would you still be a created being?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Restoring the Normal Life of Man and Taking Him to a Wonderful Destination). “Man’s heart and spirit are held in the hand of God, everything of his life is beheld in the eyes of God. Regardless of whether or not you believe this, any and all things, whether living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear in accordance with God’s thoughts. Such is the way in which God presides over all things” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Is the Source of Man’s Life). After reading this, I realized that our fate in life is all in God’s hands. We have no control over whether or not we will succeed in our careers. Thinking about it, I realized this was true. I had originally aimed to advance my career through my own efforts, but instead, I failed miserably. This showed me that we are not in control of our fates. It seemed to me that these words were truly practical and right. Through reading Almighty God’s words over a period of time, I became sure that this was God’s work and accepted Almighty God.
After that, I came upon another passage of God’s words: “I urge the people of all nations, of all countries, and even of all industries to listen to the voice of God, to behold the work of God and to pay attention to the fate of mankind, in order to make God the most holy, the most honorable, the highest, and the only object of worship among mankind, and to allow the whole of mankind to live under the blessing of God, just as the descendants of Abraham lived under the promise of Jehovah, and just as Adam and Eve, whom God created first, lived in the Garden of Eden” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind). God’s words had a deep impact on me. I had spent the first half of my life struggling to succeed and though I’d realized my goal of excelling above my peers, had made a name for myself and my own vain desires had been satisfied, inside I felt empty and anguished. I realized that only coming before God to seek the truth and worship Him is the right way and will earn God’s blessings. So I swore an oath to God that I’d do my best to practice faith and follow God going forward.
Two months later, I had become a group leader in my church and was in charge of holding group gatherings. I was really excited and felt ready to heed God’s will and do my duty. Because our gathering spot was near where I worked, I’d often run into coworkers on the way to gatherings. As time went by, I started to get nervous. If my boss found out I was believer, at the least I’d be criticized and would lose face, but at the worst I might even be fired from the company. Then I’d lose the repute and status that I’d struggled for half my life to attain. But then I thought, “After putting faith in God, because I’ve come to understand some of the truth, I’ve been able to avoid many evils. I’m deeply convinced that believing in God, seeking the truth and doing my duty is the right way, and is the most valuable and meaningful thing in my life, so no matter what, I can’t abandon it.” After that, I stopped being constrained and continued to gather and do my duty. As I predicted, after a while, the boss found out that I believed in God and was attending gatherings. One time, I didn’t show up for a meeting our company was having, and so the chairman sent people to look all over for me, even inquiring with people about where the gathering was. Another time, I was heading to a gathering and the chairman found out and intentionally called a meeting of all the middle-managers and sat right next to me so I couldn’t leave. This whole situation was really difficult for me and each time I attended gatherings I always felt constrained. During that period, I felt really stifled and I realized that my current situation was preventing me from believing in God and doing my duty, so I prayed to God asking for His guidance.
Later, I saw a passage of God’s words that said: “You ought to know how you should satisfy Me now, and how you ought to set upon the right track in your faith in Me. What I desire is your loyalty and obedience now, your love and testimony now. Even if you do not know at this moment what testimony is or what love is, you should bring to Me your all, and turn over to Me the only treasures you have: your loyalty and obedience. You should know that the testimony to My defeat of Satan lies within the loyalty and obedience of man, as does the testimony to My complete conquest of man” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. What Do You Know of Faith?). Through God’s words, I realized that no matter what we may go through in our lives as believers, we must always practice devotion and obedience to God and bear testimony for Him. At the time, I had been practicing faith for two years, and even though I outwardly did my duty, I was constrained by my work and I was always worried that I’d be fired and would lose my status, so I was unable to really apply myself to my duty, and even sometimes let my work influence my gathering and duties. Where was my testimony? Later on, another passage of God’s words came to mind. “In his belief in God, Peter sought to satisfy God in everything, and sought to obey all that came from God. Without the slightest complaint, he was able to accept chastisement and judgment, as well as refinement, tribulation and going without in his life, none of which could alter his love for God. Was this not the ultimate love for God? Was this not the fulfillment of the duty of a creature of God?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks). In his faith, Peter sought to submit to and love God. When thecalled to him, he immediately abandoned his fishing boat to follow Him, and when he faced trials and difficulties, he still sought to satisfy God’s will. Ultimately, he was crucified upside down and achieved ultimate love of God and obedience until death, bearing a wondrous and resounding testimony for God, and living a life full of value and meaning. Given that I’d decided to practice faith and follow God, I should emulate Peter by seeking to love and satisfy God—only this would be the right decision. I thought of how in the first half of my life I had taken and given bribes, wallowed in decadence and lied for status and power, living in utter misery. Just like that, my youth had passed me by. Even though I had finally been guided by God onto the right path, I was still constrained by my work and couldn’t focus on practicing faith and doing my duty. If I kept on in this way, could my life really progress? Especially when I thought of God’s words which say: “Time waits for no one!” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique X). I felt a sense of urgency. Thinking of how after over 50 years on this earth, I was given the chance to accept God’s saving grace in the last days, seek the truth and attain God’s salvation, this was all due to God’s kindness. I had to stop being so casual in my faith. After that, I had the idea to quit my job so that I could put all my time and energy into seeking the truth and doing my duty.
But then it occurred to me that I’d spent more than half my life hustling and had finally become a major shareholder with a multi-million yuan portfolio and more admirers than I could count. But if I lost my job, I’d just be an average Joe again, and then who would give me the time of day? My friends and relatives, boss and coworkers would all look down on me and say I was a fool. How could I hold my head high in front of them after that? As soon as I thought of this, I became conflicted and so I prayed to God, asking Him to give me the strength to break free from the fetters and constraints of my work. In the midst of my seeking, I came upon this passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “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” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique VI). Through God’s words, I realized that the reason I couldn’t leave my work and focus my energies on my duty was because I didn’t see how fame and fortune are the shackles Satan uses to bind and control people—it had set a trap for me. Satan had used fame and fortune as a way of deceiving and corrupting me, causing me to pursue it, and stray from and betray God. Because my family lived in poverty and had been bullied and looked down on from the time I was little, and because I was poisoned by satanic philosophies like “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors,” and “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” I took these ideas as the highest truths and swore that I would live the life of an elite. To that end, I swallowed my pride and groveled before and fawned over my boss. Then when I had gained status, I worried constantly that others were conspiring against me, so to cement my status, I went against my conscience and bribed clients with money and prostitutes. I felt scared and on edge every day, terrified that everything I’d done would catch up with me. To attain even higher status, I painstakingly built up our enterprise, but it was like swimming upstream—there was never a moment’s rest, and I eventually became exhausted and succumbed to illness. Back when I didn’t have any status and power, I sought to gain these things by any means necessary, but when I finally did attain what I wanted, I was stuck wining and dining all day and had no choice but to follow evil worldly trends, not feeling like a human being at all. I didn’t have the slightest sense of peace or groundedness and everyday I felt high strung and lived an agonizing and exhausting lifestyle! Satan had used fame and fortune to torture me. I also thought about how despite the fact that famous and rich people have wealth and repute and have succeeded in their careers, some of them still do drugs, commit suicide or are sentenced to prison. Fame and fortune might have given them temporary prestige, but it only brought emptiness and suffering into their minds and bodies. It was only then that I realized that the desire to seek fame and fortune that Satan imbues us with is a negative thing—it’s Satan’s way of toying with and damaging people and only leads to corruption and harm. It robs people of more and more of their humanity and turns them into monsters. Having enjoyed the supply and watering of God’s words, I came to understand that only seeking the truth, revering God, shunning evil and doing my duty as a created being would allow me to live a life of meaning and value. I couldn’t fall into the trap of giving more of my life away to the pursuit of fame and fortune. I had to rely on God to cast off the fetters of status and repute, do my duty well, seek the truth and live a life of meaning. Having realized this, I made the decision to quit my job.
I knew that because I played an important role in the company, the chairman certainly wouldn’t assent if I tried to resign directly. So I decided to apply with the chairman for an extended sick leave. But he must have guessed my motives and said, “I won’t sign off on this. If I let you take a sick leave, then after that you’ll just resign.” Hearing that, I felt a bit at a loss. If the chairman didn’t let me resign and I forced the issue, wouldn’t I offend him? My equity capital was still invested in the company, what if he made things hard for me and didn’t let me reclaim the money I’d invested? During that time, resigning from work became a nagging issue for me and I really didn’t know what I should do. So I continually prayed to God, asking Him for guidance.
One day, a passage of God’s words suddenly came to mind. Almighty God says, “When Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son, were his actions seen by God? They were. The entire process—from the start, when God asked that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, to when Abraham actually raised his knife to slay his son—showed God the heart of Abraham, and regardless of his former foolishness, ignorance, and misunderstanding of God, at that time Abraham’s heart for God was true, and honest, and he truly was going to return Isaac, the son given to him by God, back to God. In him, God saw obedience, the very obedience that He desired” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). Abraham’s experience was very inspiring for me. I saw that God wants people’s sincerity and obedience. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, Abraham was able to bear the pain and forsake his loved one to satisfy God. Through this, God saw that Abraham’s heart was true for Him. I then reflected on my own behaviors. Even though I claimed that I wanted my faith to be the biggest part of my life, and desired to resign so that I could adequately fulfill my duty, it was all just hot air and I hadn’t really offered my true heart. I worried that I’d offend the chairman by insisting on resigning and wouldn’t be able to claim my investment. I only worried about my own interests. Abraham offered up his only son to God, and all I had to do was resign from my job, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have a true heart for God—wasn’t I just deceiving Him? Realizing all this, I felt a bit guilty. I prayed to God: “Dear God! I keep wanting to resign, so I can focus on fulfilling my duty, but I just can’t follow through. Oh God! I don’t want to deceive You any longer. I’m ready to quit my job and fulfill my duty full time.” After praying, I finally had the courage to go discuss my resignation with the chairman. Ultimately, he only allowed me to take leave for half a year, but I was already determined to resign.
Just like that, half a year went by and I planned to extend my leave to maintain my relationship with the company and ultimately reclaim the money I’d invested. But the chairman said he was at our sales company in the provincial capital and asked me to meet him personally to extend my leave. Yet, when we finally met, he didn’t bring up my leave at all and just took me on a tour of all the company’s divisions. All the offices were lavishly decorated and very impressive, everyone was busy at work and the managers of all the divisions warmly addressed me as “Director Wang.” Before I knew it, I was once again caught up in a temptation. I thought: “Even though I’ve been away for half a year, I still have influence in this company. I have a share in this massive company and I’m still a leader in this enterprise! Our company has become increasingly profitable over the past two years. If I give up my duty and keep working here, I could make some serious money and live out my life in wealth—even my descendants could live in dignity.” When this occurred to me, I felt a bit tempted. But I quickly realized that my state was off and so I hurriedly called out to God in my heart. Just then, I recalled the words of the Lord Jesus: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13). I also recalled a story from the Bible in which Satan tries to tempt the Lord Jesus: “Again, the devil takes Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said to Him, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:8–10). Wasn’t the chairman just tempting me into staying with the company by showing off their luxurious office space and thriving work environment? Wasn’t Satan manipulating all this from behind the scenes? Satan was trying to use status and fortune to test and tempt me, so that I’d abandon God and my duty and continue to let it toy with and abuse me. I couldn’t fall for Satan’s cunning plot.
After that, I extended my leave by another three months. When the three months were almost up, I thought: “I can’t just keep requesting leave like this. If I want to cut ties with this company so I can do my duty in peace, I’ll have to sell off all my shares, but there’s only one day a year when such sales are allowed. What if the chairman doesn’t let me sell off my shares? And he still has my 1.5 million in equity capital, if he doesn’t return that to me, I’ll be penniless. I earned that capital with the blood, sweat and tears of my youth!” During that time, I would fret over this all day and was so upset that I couldn’t fulfill my duty properly. So I made a silent prayer to God, asking Him to open a way for me to free myself from this encumbrance.
Later, I met with the chairman to discuss selling off my shares, but he wouldn’t let me withdraw. He made things hard for me, saying: “If you want to leave this company, you’ll have to forfeit some of your shares.” I couldn’t accept forfeiting hundreds of thousands of yuan, I had put in hard work to earn that money! At that moment, I suddenly realized that Satan was once again trying to tempt me. I thought of a passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “In his heart, Job profoundly believed that all he possessed had been bestowed upon him by God, and was not the product of his own labor. Thus, he did not see these blessings as something to be capitalized upon, but instead anchored the principles of his survival in holding on with all his might to the way that should be upheld. He cherished God’s blessings and gave thanks for them, but he was not enamored of blessings, nor did he seek more of them. Such was his attitude toward property. He neither did anything for the sake of gaining blessings, nor worried about or was aggrieved by the lack or loss of God’s blessings; he neither became wildly, deliriously happy because of God’s blessings, nor ignored the way of God or forgot the grace of God because of the blessings he frequently enjoyed. Job’s attitude toward his property reveals to people his true humanity: Firstly, Job was not a greedy man, and was undemanding in his material life. Secondly, Job never worried or feared that God would take away all that he had, which was his attitude of obedience toward God in his heart; that is, he had no demands or complaints about when or whether God would take from him, and did not ask the reason why, but only sought to obey the arrangements of God. Thirdly, he never believed that his assets came from his own labors, but that they were bestowed unto him by God. This was Job’s faith in God, and is an indication of his conviction” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). God’s words showed me how despite the fact that Job had amassed great wealth, he didn’t cherish it. Instead, he placed importance on submitting to and worshiping God. So, when he lost all of his wealth and property, he was still able to extol and praise God. Job’s story was very inspiring to me. I knew I should emulate Job, stop clinging to my wealth and choose to satisfy God instead. Having made up my mind, I assented to giving up 200,000 yuan worth of shares, but the chairman thought that wasn’t enough and demanded that I forfeit more. I really couldn’t stand parting with that much money and so I silently prayed to God. Just then, I realized that Satan was trying to use money to bind and control me. I shouldn’t succumb to Satan’s temptation just because I couldn’t part with my wealth, I had to stand firm in witness and humiliate Satan. After that, I had to give up the equivalent of 500,000 yuan in shares before he let me leave the company. From then on, I could finally focus on practicing faith and doing my duty.
Later on, I heard that a county committee secretary was jailed on corruption and bribery charges and ended up having a mental breakdown due to the stress of incarceration. I thought to myself: “These are the harsh consequences of striving for fame and fortune.” I thought of how I had also given out gifts, given and received bribes, and wallowed in decadence and corruption in order to gain status. If I hadn’t left the company, I might have met the same fate eventually. Almighty God’s words freed me from the fetters of fame and fortune and kept me far away from Satan’s temptation. I thanked God for His grace and protection from the bottom of my heart.
These years I’ve consistently fulfilled my duty, and often gather and fellowship on God’s words with my brothers and sisters. I’ve come to understand much of the truth and have gained insight into many worldly things. I often think of God’s words, which say: “People’s entire lives are in the hands of God, and if it were not for their resolution before God, who would be willing to live in vain in this empty world of man? Why bother? Rushing in and out of the world, if they do not do anything for God, will their entire lives not have been wasted?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Interpretations of the Mysteries of “God’s Words to the Entire Universe”, Chapter 39). Indeed, life is very short. I lived over half of my life in Satan’s domain. I sought after fortune and fame, striving to excel above others. Satan toyed with and abused me and I lived an empty, miserable existence, devoid of meaning. Only God’s mercy and grace allowed me to receive His last days’ salvation, and let me expend myself for Him and do my duty as a created being. If not for God, I would have wasted away my whole life. Doing my duty in the church, I might not have the same status and wealth that I once had, but I live a free, liberated life and my conscience is at ease. I feel like I’ve lived out a bit of human likeness. This is all due to God guiding me on to the right path. I thank God for His love and salvation!