Rising Up in the Face of Failure
By Fenqi, South Korea
Before I believed in God, I was educated by the Chinese Communist Party, and I thought of nothing but how to make something of myself and bring honor to my family. Later, I tested into graduate school, and then became a lawyer. I always felt that I stood head and shoulders above others. So, no matter where I went, I always tried to show off, expecting others to see everything my way and do things according to what I said. Back then, I didn’t realize this was a kind of arrogant disposition. I felt I was actually a pretty great person. After I began to believe in God, through reading’s word, I finally recognized my own arrogant disposition and saw that I not only had ambitions and desires, but was also very self-important and self-righteous. At times, when I spoke or did things, I didn’t discuss them with anyone else, and insisted on getting my own way. Even though I gained some understanding of myself, I felt that these weren’t major problems. I remember once in I read, “To have an unchanged disposition is to be in enmity to God,” and “Those who are incompatible with Christ are surely opponents of God.” I considered these words, “To have an unchanged disposition is to be in enmity to God.” So, what about people of good humanity? Or people who are obedient to God? Do their dispositions still need to change? Just what does a changed disposition mean? I thought that I was believing in Christ, and Christ is the practical God, so shouldn’t believing in Christ mean obeying Christ? So, obeying Christ means to be compatible with Christ. Especially when I thought of how I had given up my career and left my family, which was me choosing to expend for God, I thought, wasn’t this a sign of me believing in Christ and being compatible with Christ? But at the time, I didn’t know that I had to achieve change in my life disposition to be compatible with Christ, so I performed my duties purely out of enthusiasm. I also didn’t know what life entry was, and didn’t know what dispositional change was. You could say I had no life experience at all. When did I finally come to gain some genuine understanding? It was after I experienced a very harsh pruning and dealing that I reflected on myself and saw that my own nature was actually very arrogant. I did not know to seek the truth or focus on practicing God’s word when things happened to me, and I had no obedience to God at all. You could say that, basically, I was not someone who was compatible with Christ. After experiencing that pruning and dealing, I finally gained a real appreciation of what God means when He says, “To have an unchanged disposition is to be in enmity to God.”
Because I believed in God, I was persecuted by the CCP government, and so I was forced to flee abroad in 2014. After I arrived abroad, my brothers and sisters saw that I expended myself enthusiastically and was of good caliber, so they selected me as church leader, and often recommended me to participate in certain events and give media interviews. But these things became my capital. I was already arrogant, and with this capital, I became impossibly arrogant. I felt that the church couldn’t function without me, and that I was doing important work. When my brothers and sisters wanted to discuss matters with me that I saw as too trifling, I didn’t want to bother with it and thought they were making a fuss over nothing. If they persisted in asking me about it, I would get annoyed, thinking, “Why are you asking me about such small things? Is this worth my time? Just deal with it yourself.” And if they asked further, then, my tone immediately became interrogative and critical, and I even lectured them as if I was superior. Actually, when I treated my brothers and sisters like this, even I felt it was inappropriate. I felt it was hurting them in some way. But during that period, I was living within that arrogant disposition and had lost all humanity. Even that shred of self-reproach vanished. This was how I acted at work and in life. In everything I did in the course of my duties, I wanted to have the final say. When I discussed things with my brothers and sisters and I heard opinions or suggestions I didn’t like, I immediately rebuked them without thinking and belittled their opinions as if they were worthless. I wanted everything to go exactly as I wanted. I also rarely raised problems at work with my co-workers for discussion and seeking because I thought after doing my duties for a period of time, I had gained enough experience to be able to work things out by analyzing and studying them, and that my co-workers weren’t familiar with the work, so they didn’t quite understand. I thought, if I spoke to them, they wouldn’t be able to add anything, nor understand things better than me. I thought going through the process of discussion was simply a waste of time, that it was just going through the motions. So I gradually stopped wanting to work with them. When my leaders came to find out about my work, I also got very annoyed, and I didn’t want to accept other people’s supervision or promptings. At the time, I actually felt that my state wasn’t right. My brothers and sisters also warned me, saying, “You’re too arrogant and self-righteous, and you don’t want to work with anyone. You refuse to accept others’ supervision and promptings in your duties and work, and you don’t want anyone interfering in your work.” These warnings and this help from my co-workers actually were a kind of pruning and dealing, but I ignored them. What I felt was, even though I was arrogant, had not achieved much life entry, and had achieved no change, I was still performing my duties, so this wasn’t a major problem. I didn’t take the help and warnings of my brothers and sisters seriously. I didn’t think much of it. I thought my arrogant disposition, or my satanic nature, wasn’t something I could change overnight. So, I thought, this is a long-term process, and that for the moment I should deal with my work and perform my duties well.
When I lived within such an arrogant disposition, it doesn’t mean I felt nothing. In fact, my heart felt very empty at the time. Sometimes, after I finished a task, I would reflect and ask myself, “While I am doing it or after it is finished, what truths have I gained? Which principles have I gained entry into? Has my life disposition changed in some way?” But I never accomplished anything. Everyday I was scrambling and exhausting myself to finish my work, and whenever I had too much to do, I became full of frustration and anger. It was as if a single thing could spark me into becoming totally unable to control myself. When I prayed to God, I was simply going through the motions. I had nothing to say to God from the heart. Neither did I get any illumination or enlightenment from eating and drinking God’s words. At the time I felt very empty and very anxious. The more I performed my duties, the further I was from God, and I couldn’t feel God in my heart. I was afraid of being abandoned by God. So, I urgently went before God and prayed: “God! I am unable to save myself, and I can’t control myself, so I ask You to save me.” Not long after, sudden pruning and dealing came to me.
Once, when one of my leaders inquired about my work, he discovered a problem in how I had handled the spending of church money. He found that when I had decided how to spend this money, I hadn’t discussed it with my co-workers or leaders. He said to me, “This is a matter of church expenses, why didn’t you discuss it with your co-workers or leaders? Is this the kind of decision you can make on your own?” I felt there wasn’t anything I could say in answer to his question. At the time, I really didn’t know how to answer him. I didn’t know why at all, because I’d really never thought about it. After that, I started to think back. During that period, because I was living within my arrogant nature, I didn’t have any normal sense at all, I didn’t know that my duties were God’s commission to me, and that I should have performed them according to principles and sought the truth. I didn’t know that I should have discussed and decided things together with my co-workers and leaders. I lacked that sense because I lived within my arrogant disposition. And I wasn’t even aware of it at all. I even thought this was something I understood, and that I didn’t need to seek or look into it. My leader dealt with me by saying, “You are arrogant and self-righteous, and you lack any sense. These offerings were given to God by His chosen people, and they should have been spent reasonably according to principle. Now the offerings have been squandered, so we have to assign responsibility according to principle.” I didn’t say anything back to him, but inside, I still felt I was right. I hadn’t stolen the offerings, I had spent them in the course of doing church work, so why should I bear any responsibility?
After that, my leaders came to the church to meet with us, and they fellowshiped and analyzed my problem using God’s words. At the time, I also used God’s words to explain my understanding of myself, but in my heart, I knew that I was using this fellowship on God’s word simply to let out the defiance, dissatisfaction, and lack of understanding that had built up in my heart. I felt that I worked hard despite not receiving any recognition. My leaders saw that I had no genuine understanding of my own nature, so after seeking the agreement of my brothers and sisters, they dismissed me from my position as church leader. I didn’t actually feel much regret at that moment. But after that, the leaders started going over the details of every expense, and during that process, I finally realized that there really were some problems. As the losses piled up and the amount grew, it passed beyond what I could afford to pay, and I began to feel afraid. I began to think back on my decisions to spend that money and my dismissive, disregarding attitude, and I genuinely began to feel regret, and loathe myself. I never imagined that relying on my own satanic nature in my duties could cause such losses to the church. Faced with the facts, I couldn’t help but lower my head, which I had so proudly held high, I wanted nothing more than to slap my own face. I was in disbelief that these were actually things I had done.
After that, I listened to a sermon: “Today, there are some leaders and workers who have believed in God for 10 or 20 years, but why don’t they practice even a little truth, and instead do things according to their own will? Don’t they realize that their notions and imaginings are not the truth? Why can’t they seek the truth? They tirelessly expend themselves, performing their duties from dawn till dusk with no fear of hard work or exhaustion, yet why do they still lack principles after so many years of believing in God? They perform their duties according to their own ideas, doing whatever they want. I am sometimes shocked when I see what they do. They usually appear to be quite good. They are not evildoers, and they speak well. It’s hard to imagine they are capable of such ridiculous things. In such important matters, why don’t they seek or ask for advice? Why do they insist on getting their own way and having the final say in things? What is this but a satanic disposition? When I handle important things, I often speak with God, and seek and ask Him for help. Sometimes God says things that are at odds with my imaginings, but I have to obey and do things God’s way. In important matters, I don’t dare act on my own ideas. What would happen if I made a mistake? Best let God determine things. This basic level of reverence for God is something all leaders and workers should possess. But I’ve discovered that some leaders and workers are very impertinent. They demand to have their way in all things. What is the problem here? It truly is dangerous when our dispositions haven’t changed. … Why does God’s house establish decision groups? A decision group is several people who discuss, investigate, and decide a matter together to avoid any major mistakes or losses. But some people circumvent decision groups and do things their own way. Aren’t they Satan the devil? Anyone who bypasses decision groups and does things their own way is Satan the devil. No matter what level of leader they are, if they bypass decision groups, do not submit plans for approval, and act on their own, then they are Satan the devil, and must be eliminated and expelled” (Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life). Each word of the sermon pierced my heart. They completely laid my condition bare. Especially when I heard in the sermon that people like this are Satan the devil who must be eliminated and expelled, I felt suddenly stunned. I felt as if I had just been sentenced to death. I thought, “I’m finished. Now I will never be saved, this is the end of my life of believing in God—my belief in God is over.” At the time, I was terribly afraid. I had always felt that God took very good care of me. I had a good education and job, the duties I performed in God’s house were very important, and my brothers and sisters looked up to me, so I always viewed myself as someone very special to God. I thought I was the key person to be trained in God’s house. I never imagined I would be loathed and eliminated by God because I had offended God’s disposition. From that moment, I began to feel that God’s disposition is righteous and brooks no offense, that God’s house is ruled by truth and righteousness, and that it never allows anyone to engage in misconduct. In the church, we should perform our duties according to principle and seek the truth, not simply do whatever we want or act however we like. I thought that, since I had caused a disaster and carelessly spent the church’s offerings, I had offended God’s disposition, and no one could save me. I had only to wait to be eliminated by God’s house.
In the days that followed, each morning when I opened my eyes, I felt a moment of terror, and I became so dispirited I didn’t even have the strength to get out of bed. I felt that I didn’t know where I would be next, that the mistake I had made was too great, and that no one could save me. I could only go before God, pray to God, and tell Him what was in my heart. I said to God, “God, I was wrong. I never thought things would end this way. In the past I didn’t know You, and I did not revere You in my heart. In Your presence I was arrogant and self-righteous, I engaged in misconduct, and was completely without sense, and so today I am undergoing this pruning, dealing, chastisement, and judgment. I see Your righteous disposition. I wish to obey and learn lessons from this situation. I beg You, God, not to leave me, because I cannot be without You.” In the days that followed, I continued to pray like this. One morning, I heard aof God’s words: “You must have this kind of understanding whenever something occurs: No matter what happens, it is all a part of my achieving my goal, and it is God’s doing. There is weakness in me, but I will not be negative. I thank God for the love He bestows upon me and for arranging such an environment for me. I must not abandon my desire and my resolution; giving up would be tantamount to making a compromise with Satan, tantamount to self-destruction, and tantamount to betraying God. This is the kind of mindset you must have. No matter what others say or how they act, and no matter how God treats you, your determination must not waver” (“The Resolve Necessary to Pursue the Truth” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). When I heard this hymn of God’s words, I felt I had found a hope of saving myself. I sang it over and over, and the more I sang, the more strength I felt surging up in my heart. I realized that I was exposed, pruned, and dealt with this way because God wanted me to know myself so that I could repent and change, not because God wanted to expel and eliminate me. But I didn’t know God, I misunderstood God, and guarded myself against God, and so I lived in a negative state of total despair because I thought God didn’t want me. But that day I saw God’s word and realized God’s will was not as I had imagined at all. God knew my spiritual stature was too immature, and He knew I would become negative and weak in these circumstances, and even give up my determination to seek the truth. And so God used His words to console and encourage me and make me realize that people always need to pursue the truth, no matter the circumstance. When we fail and fall, or when we are pruned and dealt with, these are all necessary steps in the process of being saved. As long as we can reflect and come to know ourselves, and can repent and change, then after we experience these steps, we experience growth in life. Once I understood this, I no longer misunderstood God as much, and I wasn’t as guarded against God. I felt that no matter what God planned and arranged, it was surely all beneficial to me, and that God was taking responsibility for my life. So, I plucked up my courage and prepared to face whatever would happen next.
Afterward, I also calmed myself and reflected again. Why had I failed and fallen so badly? What was the root of my failure? Only after I read God’s word did I finally understand. God’s word says, “If you really possess the truth within you, the path you walk will naturally be the correct path. Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if arrogance and conceit existed within you, you would find it impossible to keep from defying God; you would feel compelled to defy Him. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display, and, finally, sit in God’s place and bear testimony for yourself. In the end, you would turn your own ideas, your own thinking, and your own notions into truths to be worshiped. See how much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature! To resolve their evil acts, they must first resolve the problem of their nature. Without a change in disposition, it would not be possible to bring a fundamental resolution to this problem” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). In the past, I admitted my own arrogance theoretically, but I had no genuine understanding of my own nature, so I still admired myself, living within my own notions and imaginings. I felt that I was arrogant because I was qualified to be, which is why, when my brothers and sisters pruned and dealt with me and tried to help me, I ignored it. I completely disregarded it. But when I read these words of God, I finally understood that my arrogant, conceited nature was the root of my rebelliousness and resistance to God. It was a classic satanic disposition. When people live within such an arrogant, conceited nature, doing evil and resisting God become involuntary. I thought back about how I had always thought very highly of myself since I started performing the duty of a church leader. I thought I could do anything, that I was better than everyone, and I wanted to have my way in everything. Not only that, but I wanted to take over and lead the work of my whole group and make my brothers and sisters do what I wanted. I never thought about whether my thoughts and decisions were right, or whether they were biased, or whether they would cause loss to the church work until I heard the brother from the Above say in his sermon that when things happened to him, he would ask God, because he was afraid of doing the wrong thing, and that he would only act after receiving a clear answer from God. The brother from the Above is someone who possesses the truth, who has a God-fearing heart and does things according to principle. Yet he still doesn’t dare entirely trust himself. When things happen to him, he asks God and allows God to decide. A church leader, more than anyone, needs to seek truth in all things. But I didn’t seek God or have a God-fearing heart at all. Whenever things happened to me, I relied on my notions and imaginings to direct me and treated my own ideas as the truth. I considered myself high and important. Isn’t that a classic satanic disposition? I was just like the archangel who wanted to sit equal with God. And that was something that severely offended God’s disposition! Once I finally understood these things, I felt that my arrogant, conceited nature was terrifying. It made me live without sense, made me do many things that harmed people and offended God, and it made me live like a monster. But God is righteous. How could God allow someone like me, so full of satanic dispositions, to run amok and disrupt the work of God’s house? So, I deserved to be dismissed from my leadership duty, I had done this to myself. I realized that in all the years I’d believed in God, I’d relied on my gifts, and my notions and imaginings to do my work, and had rarely sought the truth. So after all that time, I now had almost no reality of the truth, and actually I was spiritually impoverished and to be pitied. I thought, why can’t I seek the truth? Why do I always think my own ideas and judgments are right? This actually proved that I had no place for God in my heart at all, much less did I have a God-fearing heart. That I was exposed by God in my duty today was actually God’s reminder and warning for me, and if I didn’t turn around, my end would be to be eliminated and sent to hell. Once I understood these things, I felt that God’s judgment, chastisement, pruning, and dealing is actually God’s love and protection for people and God’s good intentions are behind it all. God judges and chastises people not because He hates them, but to save them from Satan’s influence and their satanic dispositions. And once I understood this, I felt like I had fewer misunderstandings of God and was less guarded against God. I also felt that no matter what circumstances God arranged for me in the days to come, God’s sovereignty and arrangements would be behind it all, and I wished to obey them.
My duties had some follow-up work I needed to complete, and I felt that this was God giving me a chance to repent, so I resolved to perform this final duty well. After that, in the course of my duties, when I discussed the work with my brothers and sisters, I no longer dared to rely on my arrogant disposition thinking myself right and making everyone else listen to me. Instead, I allowed my brothers and sisters to express their opinions and finally decided what to do by weighing up everyone’s ideas. Of course, when our views differed, I could still be arrogant and self-righteous, hold to my own views, and be unwilling to accept the opinions and advice of others. But I would remember how I had failed, fallen, and been pruned and dealt with, and I would feel afraid, and then I would go before God to pray. I would consciously forsake myself, after which I sought the truth and principles with a heart that feared God along with my brothers and sisters. I felt very secure performing my duties this way, and our decisions could stand up to scrutiny. And when I was partnered with my brothers and sisters, I realized that some of my ideas were actually one-sided. Fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters, and then delving into things, at least to me, in matters of the truth, of principle, and of insight, was exceptionally helpful. Especially when I saw how when things happened to my brothers and sisters, they would pray to God, seek, and fellowship, and they didn’t trust themselves lightly, I wondered why I didn’t seek the truth and so easily trusted myself. I saw that my arrogance and conceitedness made me capable of anything. I was so deeply corrupted by Satan and was no better than my brothers and sisters. It was only after that that I realized I may have had a little more knowledge than my brothers and sisters, but deep in my spirit, I couldn’t even compare to them. I had less of a God-fearing heart than they did. In this, my brothers and sisters were far beyond me. And when I saw that, I realized that each of my brothers and sisters had particular strengths, which was different from how I saw my brothers and sisters in the past. I felt that my brothers and sisters were in fact better than me, and I had nothing to be arrogant about, so I began to keep my head down, and I was able to get along with my brothers and sisters and work well with them. When I was finished with the follow-up work, I waited calmly for the church’s decision on how to handle me. I never expected that the leader would tell me that I could continue my duties because I was still able to carry on with things and perform my duties after being pruned and dealt with, and had gained some understanding of myself. He also pointed out some problems in the performance of my duties. When I heard him say I would be allowed to continue my duties, at that moment, there wasn’t anything I could say but thanks to God. I felt that after experiencing this, after going through being exposed, after experiencing such pruning and dealing that cut straight to the bone, I finally had some understanding of my satanic nature. But the price was very high. Because I had relied on my corrupt satanic disposition in my duties, I had caused losses to the church, and according to principles, I should have been punished. But God didn’t treat me according to my transgressions, but instead gave me the chance to continue my duties. I personally experienced God’s incredible mercy and tolerance!
Each time I think back on this experience, I feel regret for the losses I caused to the church because of relying on my satanic nature in my duties. I also completely agree with God’s words, “To have an unchanged disposition is to be in enmity to God.” But, even more, I feel that God’s chastisement, judgment, pruning, and dealing are God’s greatest protection and most sincere love for corrupt mankind!