My Story of Collaboration
By Li Xiang, USA
I was responsible for the church’s watering work. As our gospel work expanded and more people accepted God’s last days’ work, I wasn’t just watering newcomers, but I was supporting waterers, and helping resolve their problems. I couldn’t keep up with everything, so some new believers weren’t getting help in time and lost enthusiasm for gatherings. My leader decided to have Sister Zhang work with me, to keep things going. I was happy to hear that. Sister Zhang could resolve problems with fellowship and took on a burden in her duty. She always got results in watering. That would make up for my shortcomings and take some pressure off for me, so I added Sister Zhang to the watering team.
Some people on the team were kind of passive at the time, and she started fellowshiping on God’s will as soon as she joined us, trying to get them more motivated. She responded immediately when team members asked questions. I felt uncomfortable to see all of that. I was thinking that when I was in sole charge before, I was always the one to respond to their questions, but she’d taken on a leading role, leaving me in the shadows. Plus she had illumination in her fellowship that I didn’t, so everyone was going to think she was better than me. This thought left me really uncomfortable. I felt like she was stealing my thunder, making me look inferior to her in every respect, and I didn’t feel great about her. Then I stopped reading the messages she sent to the team and didn’t actively collaborate with her—I was isolating her. Since I wasn’t keeping her up to date with our work, she wasn’t familiar with other people on the team, so even after a few days she didn’t figure out the root of people’s lack of motivation. Our work didn’t pick up. I knew I should have gone to talk to team members about their states and struggles to fellowship right away. But thinking about Sister Zhang taking on a leading role and there being a tacit understanding it was mainly her handling the work, I was afraid that if I resolved people’s problems and it turned out well, everyone would say it was thanks to Sister Zhang, and they’d look up to her. Then I’d be invisible. So, I dragged my feet on dealing with these issues. A few days went by and our effectiveness kept declining. I saw Sister Zhang seemed anxious and she kept sendingto the group, but I was unconcerned, even reveling in it a bit. I felt like it was better she wasn’t doing great, so the leader would say she was no good and didn’t match up to me. I wasn’t really comfortable with these thoughts, but I didn’t seriously reflect on it at the time.
In a gathering once, a leader told me that our watering team hadn’t been doing well, that Sister Zhang wanted to learn about newcomers, so I should add her to their gathering groups. My heart thumped when I heard the leader say I needed to do that. I was thinking Sister Zhang was more skilled than me, so if she joined those group gatherings and resolved the new believers’ issues really quickly, getting a handle on our work, she could take over my position. I didn’t want her to attend, and thought I could figure things out myself. So I found excuses to not add her. I felt guilty about it afterward and prayed to God. I realized that I was just protecting my own name and status, and that wasn’t God’s will. But I wasn’t happy to have Sister Zhang in every gathering group right away, afraid she’d take my position away from me. Then it occurred to me that those religious clergy do everything to seal off their churches to protect their status, keeping believers tightly within their grasp, not letting them look into God’s work of the last days or welcome the Lord’s return. They’re going head-to-head with God and are the antichrists revealed by God’s work of the last days. I wasn’t letting Sister Zhang get involved with our work so I could protect my status. Wasn’t I also keeping brothers and sisters tightly within my grasp? I was opposing God, just like the clergy. I knew I had to forsake myself. The next day, I included Sister Zhang in the gathering groups, and I felt a bit better.
Well, even though I added her to the gathering groups, I didn’t seek her out to discuss the work, so each of us was doing our own thing. A couple weeks went by, and our watering work still wasn’t doing well. When the leader asked me why, I didn’t know how to respond. After the fact, I realized these problems were God’s chastisement coming upon me. But I didn’t really get it. I’d already realized I was chasing after name and status and forsaken myself, bringing Sister Zhang into the groups, so why was I facing that situation?
Then I read two passages of God’s words. “People do not have a fundamental or essential understanding of themselves; instead, they focus on and devote their energy to their actions and outward expressions. Even if someone occasionally said something about understanding themselves, it would not be very profound. No one has ever thought that they are this type of person or have this type of nature due to having done this type of thing or having revealed something. God has revealed the nature and essence of humanity, but humans understand that their way of doing things and their way of speaking are flawed and defective; therefore, it is a strenuous task for people to put truth into practice. People think that their mistakes are merely momentary manifestations that are revealed carelessly rather than being revelations of their nature. People who think this way cannot put the truth into practice, because they are not able to accept truth as truth and do not thirst after truth; therefore, when putting truth into practice, they only perfunctorily follow the rules. People do not view their own nature as being too corrupt, and believe that they are not so bad that they should be destroyed or punished. They think that it is not a big deal to lie occasionally, that they do so much less than before; in fact, however, they are nowhere close to being up to God’s standard, because people only have some actions that do not outwardly violate truth, when they are not actually putting truth into practice” (“Understanding One’s Nature and Putting the Truth Into Practice” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “If you only recognize the ordinarily corrupt disposition in yourself but fail to recognize that the antichrist disposition is there within yourself, then your self-knowledge is skin-deep and partial. This may be something of which you are as yet unaware. Most of you think: ‘I have never walked the antichrist path, I’m not an antichrist, nor do I have the essence of an antichrist, so there is no need for me to go as far as to see myself as having some kind of relationship with antichrists. Seeing myself in that way would be degrading, wouldn’t it?’ And so you don’t take much of an interest in this topic. Nevertheless, whether or not you are interested, if you are someone who pursues the truth, one of these days, sooner or later, you will gradually come to understand this aspect of the truth and statements about it. There are some people I’ve listened to fellowshiping about their personal experience and knowledge, in which they made not even the slightest mention that they had within themselves the antichrist disposition, not even the slightest mention that they had themselves walked the antichrist path. It was plain that their disposition, their way of doing things, their thoughts and opinions were none other than behaviors and dispositions that were connected to the antichrist disposition, and yet in their fellowship they showed no awareness of this. This goes to show that many people, in getting to know themselves, only go so far as to come to terms with the fact that they have a corrupt disposition, that they resist and rebel against God, that they do not love the truth that much, and that their humanity is not all that good—such is the superficial degree of their self-knowledge. In actual fact, these behaviors and manifestations of theirs—these dispositions—are none other than antichrist dispositions, and the path they walk none other than the antichrist path, only they are unable to recognize these things in themselves. Why are they unable to recognize them? It is because they have not come to know all the different aspects of behaviors that are connected to the antichrist disposition. Many people are even afraid of admitting that they have the antichrist disposition, that they walk the antichrist path. They do not make the slightest mention of it, as if once they mentioned it their lives would be on the line, as if they would be cursed and condemned. But the fact of the matter is, whether or not you mention it, it doesn’t change things, does it? That you cannot come to terms with it proves that your understanding of the truth is much too superficial” (“They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part Five)” in Exposing Antichrists). Pondering this, I understood that for self-knowledge I should compare my thoughts, words and actions to God’s words, dissect my nature, essence, and the path I was on, and then seek to resolve that with the truth. That’s the only way to truly change and repent. If we just acknowledge we have corruption or that we did something wrong without seeing our own nature and essence, how deeply corrupted we are, or how dangerous the state we’re in is, then we won’t long to seek the truth and pursue change, much less truly repent. I saw I’d just been acknowledging I was pursuing name and status, and how not bringing Sister Zhang into the groups was resisting God, but I didn’t understand what kind of disposition I was revealing, what its essence was, and what path I was on in my duty. I did end up adding her to the groups, but it was just a change in behavior without resolving my internal corrupt disposition, plus I didn’t truly put my ego aside and collaborate with her. How could our work succeed that way? I said a prayer when I realized that, asking God to guide me to truly know myself.
There were two passages I saw in my devotionals one day: “There are some who are always afraid that others are better than they and higher than they, that others will be esteemed while they 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 about one’s own interests, satisfying only one’s own desires, showing no consideration for the duties of others or the interests of God’s house—people like this have a bad disposition, and God has no love for them” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “Antichrists think of the work of the house of God, including the interests of the church, as entirely their own, as their personal property that should be entirely managed by them, without anyone else interfering. And so the only things they think about when doing the work of the house of God are their own interests, their own status and prestige. They reject anyone who, in their eyes, is a threat to their status and reputation; they suppress and ostracize them. They even exclude and suppress people who are useful and suitable for performing certain special duties. They do not give the slightest consideration to the work of the house of God, nor to the interests of the house of God. If anyone may be a threat to their status, does not submit to them, does not pay them any mind, then they exclude and suppress them and keep them at a distance. They do not allow them to be their partner, and would never permit them any significant position, any important role, within their scope of power. No matter what good deeds these people do—deeds that are of benefit to the house of God—the antichrists will try their hardest to cover these deeds up. They will even twist the facts to claim the credit for good things and push wrongdoing onto these people; they stop the brothers and sisters from seeing these people’s strengths and virtues, to prevent them from being commended and endorsed by the brothers and sisters and threatening their own position. … In the eyes of the antichrists, they think, ‘There’s no way I’m going to put up with this. You want to have a role within my domain, to compete with me. That’s impossible, don’t even think about it. You’re more capable than me, more articulate than me, more educated than me, and more popular than me. What would I do if you stole my thunder? You want me to work alongside you? Don’t even think about it!’ Are they considering the interests of the house of God? No. All they are thinking about is how to preserve their own status, so they would rather harm the interests of the house of God than use these people. This is exclusion” (“They Would Have Others Obey Only Them, Not the Truth or God (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). Reading God’s words exposing antichrists was a judgment of me. God says they especially treasure status, and when anyone is threatening their status within their sphere, they oppress and isolate that person. They don’t let them take on important or leading roles, and will even sacrifice the interests of God’s house to protect their own status. They’re selfish and evil. I saw I was acting just like an antichrist. Since Sister Zhang came to work with me, I saw she was better at that work and at fellowshiping the truth. I was upset by that, and took her as my enemy, my adversary. I thought she was taking on a leading role and stealing my thunder, so if our work performance improved, it would make me look incompetent. I intentionally isolated her instead of actively collaborating with her and familiarizing her with our work. I didn’t follow up when I saw our watering work was suffering, but I was afraid that if I resolved problems and we did better, she’d get the credit. Even worse, when I saw the effectiveness of watering work kept declining, I wasn’t worried, but even felt happy about it. I was pleased to see the work suffering, and thought the leader would then think I was better than her, and my position would be secure. I only cared about my own status without remotely considering her struggles or what the consequences would be if it resulted in newcomers being poorly watered. I was so selfish and evil! When the leader had me bring Sister Zhang into the groups, I really dug my heels in. I felt like she was about to overshadow me or even replace me, so I found reasons to refuse. To maintain my position, I ostracized her and treated the church like my personal territory. Within my own terrain, I didn’t give her any chance to stand out or let her strengths shine. I was being a dictator. Wasn’t that revealing an antichrist’s disposition? I was kind of shocked. I never thought I could be so arrogant and evil, that I could be so ostracizing and dictatorial just to maintain my own status. I wasn’t considering newcomers’ watering or whether the work of God’s house was suffering, but I just wanted to satisfy my own wild ambitions. I was really drunk on name and status.
Then I read this passage of God’s words: “If someone says they love the truth and that they pursue the truth, but in essence, the goal they pursue is to distinguish themselves, to show off, to make people think highly of them, to achieve their own interests, and the performing of their duty is not to obey or satisfy God, and instead is to achieve reputation, gains, and status, then their pursuit is illegitimate. That being the case, when it comes to the work of God, the work of the church, and the work of the house of God, are they an obstacle, or do they help move these things forward? They are clearly an obstacle; they do not move these things forward. All who wave the banner of doing the work of the church yet pursue their own personal fortune, prestige, and status, run their own operation, create their own little group, their own little kingdom—is this kind of leader or worker performing their duty? All the work they do essentially interrupts, disrupts, and impairs the work of the house of God. And so what is the consequence of people’s pursuit of status and prestige, judging by its essence? First, this affects the chosen ones’ entry into life, it affects how the chosen ones eat and drink God’s words, how they understand the truth, and shed their corrupt dispositions, it stops them from entering the right track of faith in God, and leads them onto the wrong path—which harms the chosen ones, and brings them to ruin. And what does it ultimately do to the work of God’s house? It is dismantlement, interruption and impairment. When they perform their duty in this way, can this not be defined as walking the path of an antichrist? When God asks that people put aside status and prestige, it is not that He is depriving people of the right to choose; rather, it is because, while pursuing status and prestige, people harm the work of God’s house, they interrupt the brothers’ and sisters’ entry into life, and even have an influence on others eating and drinking God’s words normally and understanding the truth, and thus achieving God’s salvation. What’s even more serious is that, when people pursue their own prestige and status, such behavior and actions can be characterized as cooperating with Satan in harming and obstructing, to the utmost extent, the normal progress of God’s work, and stopping God’s will from being normally carried out among people. They are deliberately opposing and arguing the toss with God. This is the nature of leaders’ and workers’ pursuit of status and prestige. The problem with people pursuing their own interests is that the goals they pursue are the goals of Satan—they are goals that are wicked and unjust. When people pursue these interests, they unwittingly become a tool of Satan, they become a channel for Satan, and, moreover, they become an embodiment of Satan. In the house of God, and in the church, they play a negative role; toward the work of the house of God, and toward the normal church life and normal pursuit of brothers and sisters in the church, the effect they have is to disturb and impair; they have a negative effect” (“They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). I was trembling with fear after I read that. God reveals that our pursuit of status is running our own enterprise, taking an antichrist’s path. In essence, it’s acting as Satan’s slave, disrupting and sabotaging the work of God’s house. It offends God’s disposition. I got more nervous as I thought about it. The gospel work was at a peak, and more and more people were accepting God’s new work. Being in charge of watering, I really should have been thinking of God’s will, immediately supporting newcomers and helping with their confusions so they could quickly lay a foundation on the true way. But I was chasing name and status instead of attending to my work. I wasn’t putting effort into my duty or thinking about how to best water newcomers, and I didn’t even want anyone else involved. Wasn’t I disrupting and dismantling the work of God’s house? Wasn’t I a stumbling block for God’s salvation of others? I was Satan’s tool, playing a negative role, and I was on an antichrist’s path against God. I was responsible for the watering work, but couldn’t handle it on my own, so the leader arranged for Sister Zhang to help me, which was a good thing, and any reasonable person would be happy to collaborate with someone else, to offer support for new believers as soon as possible. But I wasn’t thinking of the work of God’s house. To maintain my status, I excluded Sister Zhang and kept her from helping others with their problems, which was a serious hindrance to our watering work and others’ life entry. That wasn’t doing my duty. It was clearly doing evil. If I still didn’t repent, I knew God would expose and eliminate me as an antichrist. This was a scary thing for me to realize, and I really regretted what I’d done. I said a prayer, “Oh God, I’ve been pursuing name and status nonstop, disrupting the church’s work. I can see I’m a Satan in the flesh without any humanity. Everything I do is against You. God, I want to repent to You….”
I read a passage of God’s words after that. “Do not always do things for your own sake and do not constantly consider your own interests; give no thought to your own status, pride, or reputation, and 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 been loyal, fulfilled 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 figure them out, and it will be easier for you to perform your duty well. If you are of poor caliber, if your experience is shallow, or if you are not proficient in your professional work, then there may be some mistakes or deficiencies in your work, and the results may not be very good—but you will have put forth your best effort. When you are not thinking of your own selfish desires or considering your own interests in the things you do, and are instead giving constant consideration to the work of God’s house, bearing its interests in mind, and performing your duty well, then you will be accumulating good deeds before God. People who perform these good deeds are the ones who possess the reality of the truth; as such, they have borne testimony. Some people believe in God but do not pursue the truth. They always live by the flesh, clinging always to carnal pleasures, always sating their own selfish desires. No matter how many years such people believe in God, they will never enter the reality of the truth. This is the mark of having brought dishonor to God” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words were enlightening for me. In a duty, the interests of God’s house have to come first, and we should put everything we have into that. We shouldn’t calculate things for personal interest, but we have to cooperate and be of one heart and mind with brothers and sisters, do our utmost to follow principles so we can gain the Holy Spirit’s work and get results from our work. So I went to talk to Sister Zhang and opened up to her about my corruption and what I’d learned about myself. I felt so much freer after our conversation, and ready to collaborate with her on our watering work.
Before long, I found out a couple new believers who’d been reluctant to go to gatherings got Sister Zhang’s help, resolved their notions, and were attending gatherings and wanted to take on a duty. I felt a little displeased again. I hadn’t really understood their issues before, but Sister Zhang took care of it. Didn’t that make me look inferior to her? At that thought, I realized I wasn’t thinking about it properly, and I remembered something God said: “Cooperation among brothers and sisters is a process of offsetting one’s weaknesses with another’s strengths. You use your strengths to compensate for others’ shortcomings, and others use their strengths to make up for your insufficiencies. This is what it means to offset one’s weaknesses with others’ strengths and to cooperate in harmony. Only when cooperating in harmony can people be blessed before God, and, the more of this one experiences, the more reality they possess, and their path grows brighter as they walk it, and they become ever more at ease” (“On Harmonious Coordination” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Sister Zhang was better at fellowship and solving problems, so I needed to learn from her. So, I asked her how she resolved things through fellowship, and she gave me some insight into how to handle new believers’ conundrums. I felt like it was great working with her, that she could make up for my faults and that was God’s grace. After that, when I noticed some people were passive in their duty, I sought out Sister Zhang to see what the root of those brothers and sisters being negative was and what kind of truth we should share with them. We really quickly found the right words of God to fellowship with them. They got more interested in their duty after that. Some were watering new believers, some were sharing the gospel. Over time, more people were doing a duty in the church. Through some support and watering, more newcomers gained a foundation, and most of them were gathering and doing a duty normally. After that, when I had problems in my duty, I’d discuss them with Sister Zhang right away, and when she saw that brothers and sisters were having issues she’d tell me about them immediately. We’d work on them together, of one heart and mind, and I felt much more at peace.
This experience showed me that pursuing name and status is taking an antichrist’s path, working as Satan’s minion, just messing up the church’s work. Without the judgment of God’s words, I never would have seen my corruption or antichrist disposition, or let go of my desire for status to collaborate with Sister Zhang. I’m deeply grateful to God for my salvation. Thanks be to God!