By Ding Ning, Shandong Province
A few days ago, the church leader arranged a change in my duty. I felt a little puzzled: I worked hard here at my duty, so why suddenly change me onto another duty? But then I thought: “Seeing as the church has made this arrangement, I should submit to it.” When it came time to hand over my old duty, I thought, “I need to take this final opportunity to call a meeting with my brothers and sisters, fellowship about the truth, and leave them with a good impression.” Therefore, I met with several deacons, and at the close of our time together, I said, “I have been given a different duty to perform. I hope you will do the church work properly together with the new leader with one heart and one mind.” As soon as the sisters heard me say this, their smiles fell from their faces. Some of them grasped my hands, some of them embraced me, and weeping they said, “You cannot leave us! You cannot abandon us.” The host family sister was especially unwilling to let me go. She said, “It is so good that you are here with us. You are someone who can endure hardship, and you are good at fellowshiping about the truth. No matter when we needed you, you were always there to patiently help us. What will we do when you’re gone?” Seeing their reluctance to part from me, my heart was full of joy and satisfaction, and I comforted them with these words: “Depend more on God. When I can, I will come back and visit you.”
But after that, every time I remembered that scene of parting from my brothers and sisters that day, I became uneasy in my heart. I wondered, “Was it normal for them to make such expressions? Why did they act as if my departure were such a terrible thing? Why did the church want me to change positions anyway?” I just couldn’t understand it, and so I often came before God seeking the answers while carrying this burden. One day I was reading a sermon and came across this passage: “Those who would serve God must in all matters exalt God and bear witness to God. Only thus can they attain the fruit of leading others to know God, and only by exalting God and bearing witness to Him can they bring others into the presence of God. This is one of the principles of service to God. The ultimate fruit of God’s work that must be achieved is to make people come before God by means of knowing the work of God. If those who serve as leaders do not exalt God and bear witness to Him, but instead are constantly putting themselves on display…, then they are actually setting themselves up in opposition to God. They sit in God’s place and have people treat them as God. Their work becomes a work that vies with God over people. Isn’t this exactly how Satan resists God? Now, there are many leaders who each have an entourage of followers under them, and they are promoting and training people as they themselves wish. In the end, God has not gained anyone who knows His heart. For whom do people do all their work? How many people have they trained that are of one mind with God? How many people have they led into truly knowing and loving God? Therefore, if people’s service does not exalt God and bear witness to God, then they are certainly showing themselves off. Even though they purport to serve God, they are really working for their own status and are really working for the enjoyment of their flesh. They are in no way working to exalt God or bear witness to God. If anyone violates this principle of service to God, then it proves they are defying God” (“The Principles That Must Be Understood for Serving God” in Selected Annals of the Work Arrangements of). The more I read, the more my heart was troubled, and the more frightened I became. I doubly reproached myself, and couldn’t help but think of many scenes during the time I spent with my brothers and sisters. I had often said to the host family sister, “See how fortunate you all are. Your whole family are believers. When I am at home, my husband oppresses me all day long. If he’s not hitting me, he’s cursing me.” As a result, my brothers and sisters thought my stature was great, thinking that I had suffered a lot for my belief in God and for my duty. When my brothers and sisters encountered hardships, I didn’t fellowship God’s will with them, and I didn’t bear witness to God’s work and God’s love, and I didn’t lead my brothers and sisters to be loyal to God and fulfill their duties well in times of hardship. Instead, I constantly showed consideration to their flesh, indulged them and tried to make them think I was so kind and considerate. Whenever I saw a brother or sister doing something that ran counter to the principles of the truth, I would not fellowship on the truth to help them and give them direction, or deal with them and prune them, instead always focusing on protecting my relationships with them, and making them keep a place for me in their hearts. I saw that nothing I did was performing my duty and satisfying God, and it became clear that I had worked and spoken for the sake of status, pursuing reputation and status. In my duty, I didn’t bring my brothers and sisters before God and I didn’t enable them to know God. On the contrary, I had made them sympathize with me and look to me, and I had made them give me a place in their hearts. Even more serious was that when my brothers and sisters heard that I was leaving, some of them wept unconsolably and wouldn’t let me leave. God had expressed the truth to supply people and had worked for so long and hadn’t gained their hearts, and yet I had only been leading them for a few days and had become their confidant, their support. Hadn’t I become a highway robber, stealthily stealing people from God and leading them before me? I thought of God’s words, which say, “I am working among you now but you are still this way. If one day there is no one there to care about and watch over you, won’t you all become kings of the hill?[a] By then, who will clean up the mess after you when you cause a huge catastrophe?” (“A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). The words of God again allowed me to see the serious consequences of serving God yet really bearing witness to myself and exalting myself. The words of God helped me see that my own nature, like that of the archangel, could lead me to be a tyrannical bandit, to set up my own independent kingdom and offend God’s disposition, and ultimately be detested and rejected by God. I thought of how God had given me this commission so that I may lead my brothers and sisters before Him and enable them to know Him, but instead I served God without exalting God and without bearing witness to God. My days were spent showing myself off, bearing witness to myself, and leading my brothers and sisters into my presence. Is this kind of service not so contemptible? Is this not simply the service of the antichrist? Thinking about it now, the church giving me a new duty was indeed the protection of God, and it was a timely salvation! Otherwise, if I’d carried on serving in that way, I would only have offended God’s disposition and been punished by Him!
At that time, a sense of fear and shame and the enormous debt I owed overflowed my heart, I prostrated myself upon the ground, weeping bitterly and pleading to God: “Oh, God! If it were not for Your judgment and revelation, I do not know to what depths I would fall. Thank You for Your salvation, for making me see the ugliness and meanness in the depths of my soul, and that my service to You was in truth defiance of You. According to my actions, I deserve nothing but to be cursed by You, but You still have mercy on me, enlighten me, guide me, and give me a chance to repent and start afresh. I truly owe You more than I can ever repay. Oh, God! I am willing to take this experience as a warning to carry with me for my entire life. I wish only that Your chastisement and judgment always accompany me, and enable me to discard my corrupt satanic disposition as soon as may be, and help me become a truly reverent servant of God so that I may repay the great debt I owe.”
a. A Chinese saying, the literal meaning of which is “bandits that occupy the mountains and declare themselves as kings.”