The Tranquility of Victory and the Calm of Defeat —Obeying God Is Best
Ma Na, USA
During a person’s life, facing success and failure is unavoidable. There are many people who are happy when they have success, and who are frustrated and pained when they face failure. There are even many people who stake all their efforts in wanting to reach a point at which all their hopes are fulfilled, but things are often not how people would like them to be. Because of this, many people think that this life is not as they want it to be. Previously, I also always relied on my own ability in the work I did, and all that I got from that was the pain of failure. But afterward, through experiencing some things, my perspective had a bit of a transformation: Tranquility in success, and calmness in failure—obeying the sovereignty and arrangements of God is the best, and one can also be liberated and free in life that way.
Because I stood out in the realm of sports, there was one time that I represented my school in participating in a city-wide sprinting competition. Before, when I took part in sports at school, I always won every gold medal in the sprint event. So I was full of confidence about this race, and showed disdain for all others just as if I were some great sports hero. In my training before the race, I was undisciplined, and thought to myself: Anyway, with my ability it’s all but guaranteed that I will win the trophy, and the race is simply running, that’s it. But mom always said to me: “The most important thing isn’t what place you get; what’s most important is learning to rely on God and being able to experience God’s work. Entrust everything to God, for only by obeying God’s sovereignty will you be able to be calm and liberated. If you rely on yourself, you will certainly fail.” In theory, I knew that what my mom said was right, but I thought in my heart: “God is the one true God who created the universe and everything in it. Does God need to be bothered about a competition as small as this?” Besides, the result of this competition isn’t of any concern at all, since the prize was essentially something I could have just reached out my hand and taken.
In the blink of an eye, the day of the competition had arrived. I strode into the stadium and saw athletes who had come from a variety of school districts, each of them rubbing their hands together with anticipation, eager to give it a shot. Looking at their professional and matching uniforms, and the orderly and disciplined way they did their warm-up movements, it made me nervous about a competition for the first time. This was especially so when I saw there were some physiques which were clearly far beyond those of the athletes in our age group, and just their legs were a great deal more developed than mine. When I found out that I was to compete together with them, the confidence that “I have the power to pull up the mountains and the might that surpasses the world; I will bravely seize first place and will not give up” as well as the “primeval power” stored in my body vanished without a trace in an instant. But at that time I already could not back out, and I could only summon up my resolve and enter the playing field. There were eight teams altogether in the men’s 100 meters sprint, and in the first round only the top two members of each team would qualify to go to the semifinals. Finally, the eight athletes with the best results would compete for the trophy, for second place, and other prizes. I was placed in group seven, and looking at the other athletes in my group, they all had dark skin and a sturdy build, and this made me feel the greatest kind of pressure for the first time. The first six teams had already finished running, and soon it was our turn to take the field. With a nervous heart, I took my place on the track. At that moment, I realized that in doing my warm-up exercises I still had not stretched. Flustered, I quickly stretched a few muscles, but there was already not enough time for me to get ready, so I put my feet into the starting marks, and stretched my palms out over the line, and waited for the referee to call out. “Everyone...on your mark…get set…” In the few seconds waiting for the sound of the starting gun, it was like a century had passed. The sun was scorching my skin and my fingers were aching from supporting my body, but what I felt most deeply was the unforgettable anxiety and sound of my heartbeat. My coach once said that anxiety before a match can help one’s performance, but I felt like this kind of anxiety would be fatal for me. It was as if the whole world was calm, and the only thing I could hear was the beating of my heart as it went “thump thump, thump thump…” At last, the starting gun sounded, and instinctively I shifted my legs, moved my arms, and charged forward. But somehow, a tendon in my left thigh seemed to be intentionally making things difficult for me. I clearly felt that my steps lacked that grace and fleet-footedness that I had had before on the racetrack. Soon I saw in my field of vision that two athletes alongside me had passed me by several lengths, and I quickly became agitated. I sprinted forward with all my might but I couldn’t catch up to them. Usually, I was the only one passing people, so how could it be that there were others beating me? In that moment, the confidence I had before the match collapsed and disappeared in an instant. Looking back, I have no idea how I finished running the remaining few dozen meters. I just remember that after running I immediately gathered up my things and left the field.
Because I got third place in my team, there was no way for me to continue on to compete in the semifinals. I was enveloped in frustration and dismay, and sat alone on the bleachers lost in thought, thinking back over every scene of when I entered the field. I complained to myself about why I hadn’t prepared better and had been beaten by them like that. At the same time, I also blamed God somewhere deep in my heart, and thought: “God! Why, when I believe in You, did I not receive any special care from You? How did You let me be eliminated in the first round? …” After feeling depressed for some time, I suddenly thought of what my mom had said to me that morning: “The result isn’t the most important thing; what is most important is to learn to obey God…” Yes! God requires people to obey Him in their faith. Now, my reproachful heart faded away in a flash, and I sat on the bleachers thinking: I didn’t get any of the prizes I had originally expected, so hadn’t I come here today in vain? Actually, that’s not entirely so. Looking at it from another perspective, being able to come and participate in the municipal track and field competition broadened my perspective and gave me some more life experience. Wasn’t all of this arranged by God, and wasn’t it God who added character to my journey in life? What’s even more important is that this experience caused me to understand the true meaning of God’s statement: “If you rely on your knowledge and ability in your undertakings, then you shall always be a failure.” Isn’t all of this quite a rare benefit? Isn’t it all God’s blessing for me? So I whispered to God in my heart: “God! Even though this result today went against my expectations, and I suffered a bit of a loss, I’m still grateful to You and want to obey You. I know that everything You arrange is good, and it is only because I don’t know You that I came up with misunderstandings and complaints about You. I was wrong.” In a few short phrases, even though it wasn’t in the form of a prayer, it still made my heart tranquil and there was a great deal of calm and steadiness in my heart.
The fantastic thing was that when my heart was willing to obey, the environment around me also changed, andtruly came to fruition: “Any and all things, living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear according to God’s thoughts. This is how God rules over all things” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God Is the Source of Man’s Life). Before long, a student ran by and said to me, “Your name showed up on the semifinals board.” After I heard it, I simply didn’t believe it. I hurriedly ran over to see the results. I discovered to my surprise that I had broken through third place on the team on an exception and entered the semifinals! (Later, I learned that the athlete who got first place had participated in another competition, he had been disqualified from taking part in the semifinals.) I was very tranquil in my heart, because I became clearly aware that all this was ordered by God. In the following races, I learned to look up to God and entrusted the results of the match to God. I obeyed God’s sovereignty and in the end obtained fifth place.
At that time, the results of the competition already were not the most important thing to me. What was important was that after the experience my faith in God increased greatly. I clearly came to know that if a person relies on one’s own strength in his struggles, he is bound to face defeat. The sovereignty and arrangement of everything is in the hands of God. As long as one maintains dependence on God and keeps inside himself a heart that obeys God in all that he does, he can remain calm and tranquil in the face of success and defeat. He can also receive God’s blessing. It is just as God’s word says: “Because people do not recognize God’s orchestrations and God’s sovereignty, they always face fate defiantly, with a rebellious attitude, and always want to cast off God’s authority and sovereignty and the things fate has in store, hoping in vain to change their current circumstances and alter their fate. But they can never succeed; they are thwarted at every turn. This struggle, which takes place deep in one’s soul, is painful; the pain is unforgettable; and all the while one is frittering away one’s life. … But when you truly know, when you truly come to recognize that God has sovereignty over human fate, when you truly understand that everything God has planned for and decided for you is a great benefit, and is a great protection, then you feel your pain gradually lighten, and the whole of you become relaxed, free, liberated” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique III). Looking back on myself before and after the competition, when I didn’t know God’s sovereignty and wanted to rely on my own strength to strive for first place, there was a disparity between what I expected and the results that showed up. I had an indescribable pain in my heart; but when I realized that God is the sovereign of everything, and when I wanted to obey God, I understood God’s intention by seeking to figure it out and my viewpoint also changed. I no longer lived within the pain of losing the prize and the glory, but instead had a real understanding and experience of God’s word through this defeat. I gained something that was true, and obtained relaxation and liberation in my heart. After this, I practiced obedience to God in many matters, and discovered more and more that when I myself obey God, even if sometimes things didn’t actually turn out how I wanted, I still had in my heart a totally different kind of feeling of tranquility and liberation. Even more so in victory and defeat, I tasted God’s authority and sovereignty for myself and saw God’s marvelous deeds. I felt deeply that obeying God was truly precious!
The word ofsays: “At all times God wields His authority, shows His might, continues His management work as always; at all times He rules all things, provides for all things, orchestrates all things, just as He always did. No one can change this. It is fact; it has been the unchanging truth since time immemorial! … All things under God’s arrangements and sovereignty obey natural laws, and if you resolve to let God arrange and dictate everything for you, you should learn to wait, you should learn to seek, you should learn to submit. This is the attitude that every person who wants to submit to God’s authority must take, the basic quality that every person who wants to accept God’s sovereignty and arrangements must possess” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique III).
“That you can submit to each day’s environment that God prepares and each day of life He gives you, letting Him lead you, that you can most happily and peacefully live in His presence, allow Him to lead you, and are able to submit to His sovereignty. If you have this kind of attitude, you will then come to see without conscious effort that all this is under God’s command” (“A Person Can Live Life With Dignity Only by Submitting to and Revering God” in Records of Christ’s Talks). The more I experienced, the more I have learned that obeying God is a most excellent endeavor, much better than all subjects in school. It is what is most worthy of every person learning and entering into carefully. No matter if the things a person encounters are great or small, they are all under the sovereignty of God’s authority. No matter if you can feel it, God is with us controlling everything. As long as we can have faith in God’s sovereignty in everything we encounter, and can obey all that God controls and arranges, we will be able to see that everything God arranges for us is for the best. We will be able to calmly confront all people and things that we are faced with, and live happily in the presence of God. Thanks be to Almighty God! All honor and glory be unto God!