What Stopped Me From Practicing the Truth
By Si Ai, Italy
I partner with several others in the church to do graphic design work. One day, the leader said to me that two sisters had mentioned issues with Brother Zhang, saying he liked things to be done his way and was slowing down the pace of work. The leader asked me if I’d discovered these problems when working with him. I remembered how when I worked with Brother Zhang, I could see he definitely clung to his own opinions. When everyone had discussed and decided on an idea according to the principles, he would always have a different opinion, but could never explain his idea clearly. Everyone needed to think along with him and it wasted a lot of time. There were also some relatively minor issues with the pictures which could be corrected later, and which we didn’t need to take up everyone’s time to discuss, but he insisted we solve them before moving on. He would delay things until everyone had reached a consensus, which made progress relatively slow. So, I told the leader about the problems I had seen. The leader reprimanded me when she saw I’d known about these problems all along, saying, “You knew that Brother Zhang was doing things his way and slowing down work, so why didn’t you restrict him rather than appeasing and going along with him? Isn’t this delaying work?” The leader’s words made me feel bad.
I thought back to when I was discussing the picture concept with Brother Zhang. I saw he clung to his own opinions and it made me worried. I wanted to point out his problem, but then I remembered how I am an arrogant person to begin with. The leader had dealt with me before too, telling me to forsake myself and cooperate with others, because I was arrogant and self-righteous, clung to my own opinions, and argued with my partners, delaying work. If I pointed out Brother Zhang’s problems in front of everyone, or challenged his opinions, people might think I was still too arrogant and lacked sense, that I was unable to calmly take others’ suggestions or cooperate with others. So, no matter how long things were delayed, I patiently listened to what Brother Zhang said. Sometimes, when we considered Brother Zhang’s suggestions according to principles, we felt it wasn’t doable. We would point out where the issue was, but he wouldn’t take it well, insisting on his views. If we didn’t do as he suggested he would get upset and not speak, making it extremely awkward and putting a halt on work. Originally I wanted to tell the leader. But I worried that since the leader had just dealt with my arrogance, if I were to report someone else’s problems, the leader might think I was focusing on other people’s problems and nit-picking, that nothing had changed after dealing with me. In that case, how much longer could I perform my duty? At this thought, I didn’t report or point out Brother Zhang’s problem. As a result, because we couldn’t agree and were always negotiating and discussing back and forth, we ended up spending a day on something that could clearly be finished in half a day, making the pace of work slow. Thinking of these things made me feel guilty and I blamed myself. It’s not that I hadn’t noticed Brother Zhang’s problem, but I held back and never pointed it out to him. At this point, I thought of a passage from God’s word. “Once the truth has become life in you, when you observe someone who is blasphemous toward God, unfearful of God, and careless and perfunctory while performing their duty, or who interrupts and interferes with church work, you will respond according to the principles of the truth, and will be able to identify and expose them as necessary. If the truth has not become your life, and you still live within your satanic disposition, then when you discover wicked people and devils who cause interruptions and disturbances to the work of the church, you will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear; you will brush them aside, without reproach from your conscience. You will even think that anyone causing disturbances to the work of the church has nothing to do with you. No matter how much the work of the church and the interests of the house of God suffer, you don’t care, intervene, or feel guilty—which makes you someone who has no conscience or sense, a nonbeliever, a service-doer. You eat what is God’s, drink what is God’s, and enjoy all that comes from God, yet feel that any harm to the interests of the house of God is not related to you—which makes you a traitor who bites the hand that feeds you. If you do not protect the interests of the house of God, are you even human? This is a demon that has insinuated itself into the church. You feign belief in God, pretend to be a chosen one, and you want to freeload in God’s house. You are not living the life of a human being, and are clearly one of the nonbelievers. If you are someone who truly believes in God, then even if you have yet to gain the truth and life, at the very least you will speak and act from the side of God; at the very least, you will not stand idly by when you see the interests of the house of God being compromised. When you have the urge to turn a blind eye, you will feel guilty, and ill at ease, and will say to yourself, ‘I can’t sit here and do nothing, I must stand up and say something, I must take responsibility, I must reveal this evil behavior, I must stop it, so that the interests of the house of God are not harmed, and the church life is not disturbed.’ If the truth has become your life, then not only will you have this courage and resolve, and will you be capable of understanding the matter completely, but you will also fulfill the responsibility you should bear for God’s work and for the interests of His house, and your duty will thereby be fulfilled” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only Those Who Truly Submit to God Have Hearts of Fear for Him). From, I saw that those with a conscience who truly believe in God are of one heart with God and side with Him on issues. If they see someone disrupting and disturbing the church’s work, they stand up and expose and stop it. They protect the church’s work. But me? I clearly saw that Brother Zhang was clinging to his opinions and not accepting others’ opinions. He slowed the pace of work time and time again, yet in order to avoid people saying I was arrogant and picked fights, not only did I not stop and resolve it, or offer pointers and help, I just stood idly by, turning a blind eye, thinking only of protecting my own interests, rather than the effectiveness of our work. As a result, work was delayed. On the surface, I was busily performing my duty every day. But in reality, I was not truly bearing a burden in my duty, and was not loyal to God at all. Disasters are growing in scale, and many people are starting to seek and investigate the true way. If we can quicken our pace and make more gospel photos, then we can do our small part for gospel work. But I was not heeding God’s will. For so long I watched on as the pace of work got delayed, and did not stop or solve it in a timely manner. I was so lacking in conscience and humanity, like “a traitor who bites the hand that feeds you,” exposed in God’s word. I used the church as a meal ticket, and was useless in critical moments. When I realized this, I was filled with regret, and prayed to God, “God, I neglected the church’s work to protect myself. I am willing to repent to You, and please lead me to be truly self-aware.”
Later, I began to reflect on why it was so hard for me to practice the truth, and what was stopping me. I ate and drank two passages of God’s words that applied to my state. “Some people follow their own will when they act. They violate the principles, and after being pruned and dealt with, they admit in mere word that they are arrogant, and that they made a mistake only because they do not have the truth. But in their hearts, they still complain, ‘No one else sticks their neck out, just me—and in the end, when something goes wrong, they push all the responsibility onto me. Isn’t this stupid of me? I can’t do the same thing next time, sticking my neck out like that. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down!’ What do you think of this attitude? Is it an attitude of repentance? (No.) What attitude is it? Haven’t they become slippery and deceitful? In their hearts they think, ‘I’m lucky this time it didn’t turn into a disaster. A fall in the pit, a gain in your wit, so to speak. I have to be more careful in the future.’ They do not seek the truth, using their pettiness and cunning schemes to attend to and handle the matter. Can they gain the truth in this way? They cannot, because they have not repented” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Resolve Their Notions and Misunderstandings of God). “What disposition is it when people take no responsibility toward their duty, do it in a careless and perfunctory manner, act like yes-men, and do not defend the interests of the house of God? This is cunning, it is the disposition of Satan. The most striking item in man’s philosophies for living is cunning. People think that if they are not cunning, they will be liable to offend others and unable to protect themselves; they think they must be cunning enough not to hurt or offend anyone, thereby keeping themselves safe, protecting their livelihoods, and gaining a firm foothold among the masses. Unbelievers all live by Satan’s philosophy. They are all yes-men and do not offend anyone. You have come to the house of God, read the word of God, and listened to sermons of God’s house. So why are you always a yes-man? Yes-men only protect their own interests, and not the interests of the church. When they see someone do evil and harm the church’s interests, they ignore it. They like to be yes-men, and do not offend anyone. This is irresponsible, and that kind of person is too cunning and untrustworthy” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). God’s words weighed on my heart, and I finally saw that the root of my not being able to practice the truth or uphold its principles, was that my nature was too deceitful. Ever since the leader dealt with my arrogance, I had never truly reflected on myself or sought the path to fix my arrogant disposition. Instead, I schemed and used superficial tolerance and deference to protect myself, making others mistakenly think I was demure and that my arrogant disposition had changed. That way the leader wouldn’t deal with me again, or even dismiss me. I saw that living by satanic ideas and views like, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” “Silence is golden, speech is silver, and he who talks a lot errs a lot,” and “Seek only to avoid mistakes, not great merit,” had made me extremely selfish, base, crafty and deceitful. I clearly saw that Brother Zhang’s problem had already impacted our work. I should have stood up and exposed and stopped it. But instead, I acted like a people-pleaser to dissolve conflict. When faced with problems or discord, I said as little as possible. I never argued with people, and did not uphold the principles at all. I protected my interests well, but let the church’s work be harmed. I was so false and deceitful. I truly incurred God’s disgust and hate. Especially when I read that God says, “They do not seek the truth, using their pettiness and cunning schemes to attend to and handle the matter. Can they gain the truth in this way? They cannot, because they have not repented.” I felt even more remorseful. Before, I performed my duty with an arrogant disposition. I always upheld my own views, and didn’t listen to others’ suggestions. Not only did this constrict others, it also affected the church’s work. The leader dealt with me so that I could reflect on myself and become self-aware, so that I could change my ways in a timely manner and do my duty well. But I didn’t repent. Instead, I shielded myself from God and others. Not only did I not perform my duty well, I didn’t even care when the church’s work was disturbed. I could see that in no way was I someone who accepted the truth. If this continued, my corrupt disposition would worsen, and eventually I would be revealed and cast out! At this thought, I was scared, and quickly prayed to God, “God, I am no longer willing to protect my own interests through these worldly philosophies. I am willing to seek the truth and fix my corrupt disposition. I ask You to help me find the path to practice.”
After that, I read a passage of God’s words. “If you wish to avoid arguments, is compromise the only way? In what situations can you compromise? If it has to do with small matters, such as your own self-interest or your reputation, then there is no need to argue about it. You can choose to be tolerant or to compromise. But with matters that can affect the church’s work and harm the interests of the house of God, you must stick to the principles. If you do not observe this tenet, then you are not being loyal to God. If you choose to compromise and abandon the principles in order to save face or preserve your interpersonal relationships, is this not selfish and base of you? Is it not a sign of being irresponsible and disloyal in your duty? (It is.) So, if a time comes during the course of your duty when everyone is in disagreement, how should you practice? Is arguing about it with all your might going to solve the problem? (No.) Then how should you resolve the problem? In this situation, a person who understands the truth should come forward to resolve the issue, first laying the issue on the table and letting both sides say their piece. Then, everybody is to seek the truth together, and after praying to God, the relevant words of God and truth are to be brought out to fellowship on. After they have fellowshiped on the principles of truth and gained clarity, both sides will be able to submit. … If a person gets into conflicts and debates with others in order to protect the interests of the house of God and the effectiveness of the church’s work, and their attitude is a bit unyielding, would you say that is a problem? (No.) Because their intent is right; it is to protect the interests of God’s house. This is a person who stands on God’s side and sticks to the principles, a person in whom God delights. Having a strong, resolute attitude when protecting the interests of the house of God is a sign of a firm stance and sticking to the principles, and God approves of it. People may feel there is a problem with this attitude, but it is not a big one; it does not have to do with the display of a corrupt disposition. Remember, sticking to the principles is what is most important” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only in the Practice of the Truth Is There Life Entry). After reading God’s words, I understood. No matter when, the ability to forsake one’s personal gain, uphold the principles of truth, and protect the church’s work is the most important thing. Even if you sometimes get into conflicts with people because of this, or speak a bit harshly, none of these are big issues. What God looks at is our attitude towards the truth. He looks at whether we can uphold the principles of truth, and whether we practice the truth. Before, I always thought that if upholding principles causes conflict, I must be displaying an arrogant disposition and not cooperating harmoniously with others. So, in order to avoid others saying I was arrogant, I compromised everything, and did nothing to uphold the principles. Now I finally understood that the best path of practice to avoid arguments and conflict is to practice according to the principles, to have each person speak their view, and then seek truth together. If, after seeking, you are sure your actions are in line with the principles of truth, then you should uphold them. This is proper. If your view is obviously wrong, but you insist on upholding it, and make people listen to you and accept it, this is a display of arrogance and self-righteousness. At this point, you should learn to forsake yourself and partner harmoniously with others. Afterwards, when I partnered with Brother Zhang, I tried practicing God’s words.
One day, I was picking images and discussing ideas with Sister Liu and Brother Zhang. Brother Zhang voiced an idea. We felt the message his overall design conveyed didn’t quite fit with the theme, but we weren’t quite sure. At first, I wanted to go along with it and compromise. I thought, “Then let’s try your idea first and see, lest everyone say I’m arrogant, self-righteous, and cling to my own opinions.” But then I remembered some of the principles and requirements for the design, and felt that Brother Zhang’s concept really did have issues. If we were to do the design according to his concept and then have to redo it, wouldn’t that be a waste of time and delay our work? At this point, I realized I needed to uphold the principles, so I explained to Brother Zhang the problems with his concept, and reminded him to follow the original concept, rather than cling to his own views. Sister Liu agreed, and Brother Zhang said nothing further. But situations like this happened multiple times throughout the day. Whenever our opinions differed, Brother Zhang always took his own side, dragging out our work. Also, because we didn’t change things the way he suggested, he got upset again and barely spoke. I realized that if this kept up it would definitely delay our work, so I told the leader what was happening. The leader planned to go find Brother Zhang together with us to expose his problem, fellowship on the truth, and help him. I knew this was my chance to practice the truth, so I read two passages of God’s words before going to talk with Brother Zhang. “All of the church’s work is directly connected to the work of disseminating God’s kingdom gospel. In particular, the work of spreading the gospel and each item of work that involves professional knowledge have an important, inseparable connection with the work of disseminating the gospel. Therefore, what pertains to the work of disseminating the gospel pertains to God’s interests and the interests of God’s house. If people can correctly understand the work of disseminating the gospel, then they should have the correct approach toward the duty they perform and toward the duty of others. And what is this correct approach? It means trying their utmost to do as God asks. At least their behavior and actions should not be deliberately harmful or disruptive. They should not knowingly transgress. If they know they are disrupting and disturbing the church’s work, yet they insist on doing so no matter who urges them not to, this is doing evil and asking for death; it is the devil rearing its head. Quickly let the brothers and sisters discern this, then clear the evil person out of the church. If the evil-doer was momentarily muddle-headed and was not deliberately doing evil, then how should the issue be treated? Shouldn’t we teach and help them? If they are taught but still do not listen, then what should be done? The brothers and sisters stand up together and reprimand them” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part One)). “You must focus on the truth—only then can you enter into life, and only when you have entered into life can you provide for others and lead them. If it is discovered that others’ actions are at odds with the truth, we must lovingly help them to strive for the truth. If others are able to practice the truth, and there are principles to the way they do things, we should try to learn from and emulate them. This is what mutual love is” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only One Who Performs Their Duty With All Their Heart, Mind, and Soul Is One Who Loves God). God’s word is clear. When we notice other people’s problems, we must fellowship quickly, and expose and reprimand them if needed. This is all to protect the church’s work, and it also helps people see their problems, solve them quickly, and do their duty well. Brother Zhang did have some talent at drawing images, but his corrupt disposition caused him to unintentionally do things which disrupted and disturbed our work. If he was able to become self-aware, seek truth, change his corrupt disposition, cooperate with everyone harmoniously, and play to his strengths, then this would benefit the church’s work and his own life entry. So, I found several passages of God’s words that addressed Brother Zhang’s issues, tied in my own experiences, and fellowshiped on it with Brother Zhang. After listening, Brother Zhang gained some awareness of his corrupt disposition, even saying that sometimes he was aware he was in the wrong, but couldn’t forsake himself. Now that I had pointed it out, he finally felt bad about it, and was willing to seek the truth and rely on God to change his corrupt disposition. When I heard this, I was happy for Brother Zhang. But at the same time, I regretted I had lived according to worldly philosophies and not told him sooner. I had truly hurt him and hurt the church’s work.
After that event, during the course of my duty, if I saw someone do something that didn’t align with the principles of truth and delayed work, I consciously practiced the truth and pointed out the problems I saw to fulfill my responsibility. Practicing this way made me feel at peace and relieved. Thank God!