By Tong Xin, Fujian Province
I was born in the countryside. I came from a line of honest farmers and on top of that our family was few in number, so we were often bullied. When I was 13 years old, there was a child beaten by someone from outside of our village. The villagers falsely accused my father of instigating it and they said they were going to search our house and confiscate our property, take away our pigs and beat my father. There was also a time when another villager took our fishing net and kept it as his own. When my father went to get it back, the villager actually hit my father, relying on his own power and influence. My father had to just eat humble pie as he knew that he had neither money nor power. My mother told my brothers and me that we must fight for ourselves in the future, and never live a life of oppression like this. Being young and detesting the injustice in society, I was determined that in the future I would stand out from the crowd and earn their respect, and never be oppressed. So I studied very hard, but I wasn’t smart enough and I couldn’t get into any universities, so I chose to seek good prospects in the army and joined easily by going through connections.
When I first joined the army, I scrambled to take on all the difficult and dirty work and to show my proactiveness to impress my leaders so that I could be promoted in the future. However, after a few years, I could not even get a position of squad leader no matter how hard I tried. I was also constantly made fun of and bullied by my comrades because of my shabby clothes and thriftiness, which just intensified my desire to stand out. Later, based on advice from my fellow villager, I learned that evaluations and promotion in the army did not depend on hard work, but rather gift-giving. Even though I found this kind of thing was disgusting, I had to take the only path to promotion. Therefore, I determined to take all my savings to give gifts to my leaders and make connections; after that I was finally able to enroll in the military academy. But when I returned to the army after graduation, I was assigned to cook in the canteen because I didn’t have enough money for gift-giving, and later I became a quartermaster, but in name only. After several years of army life, I understood such sayings as “Officials do not make things difficult for those who bear gifts,” and “You can’t accomplish anything without licking their boots.” If you want to keep a foothold, you have to try every means to make money and give gifts, otherwise you won’t achieve anything no matter how great your abilities are. In order to achieve my aspiration, I started to making money through underhanded means: I over quoted and exaggerated the quantity on purpose when buying food, getting some extra dirty money; seeing other quartermasters selling rice, I secretly sold a truck of rice from the army and made several thousand yuan, and so on. Though I had believed in Jesus since childhood and clearly knew that these things I was doing were crimes, I was also constantly worried about being found out and convicted someday, the desire to be promoted still drove me to do those things against my conscience. Once I had saved up some money, I started to flatter my leaders and give them gifts catering to their likes. Every time the leaders came to carry out inspections I would busy myself going to drink with them, sing, get in touch with prostitutes…. I did every possible thing to curry favor with them. Whenever the leaders needed some help, I was happy to offer my services. Whoever had a good relationship with the leaders, I would try to get close to him in order to get a positive recommendation. During those years, I rose quickly to the position of battalion commander by resorting to this kind of worldly philosophy. I finally stood out and I could return home gloriously! After that, every time I went back home, the villagers would crowd around me, flattering and complimenting me, which greatly satisfied my vanity. My ambitions and my desires grew then. As people say, “Officials are just looking out for number one, not the public,” “Use power when you have it, because after it’s gone, you can’t use it,” and “There’s no such thing as an official who’s not corrupt.” So, I started to enjoy the privileges of an official. I would get things for free wherever I went, and if someone sought help from me, I would ask them for gifts and I wouldn’t help them if the gifts were inadequate. I started to go after fancy food and clothing, and began to indulge in extravagance. Relying on the fact that I was like a “golden child” with important leaders such as the commander and political commissar, I even became so arrogant that I would bully people by flaunting my powerful connections, requesting gifts from my subordinates in the names of these leaders. This was how I degenerated from a simple Christian country boy into a greedy, slick, treacherous, and arrogant man.
Being corrupt and fallen, I even projected my own terrible nature onto others. I often suspected for no good reason that my beautiful wife who worked for a foreign company was having affairs; this led to more conflict between us and growing estrangement. In 2006, my wife was pushed to her limit and initiated divorce; this felt like a great disgrace to me, so I would not agree to it. Late at night I would often think about my life. I thought to myself: I have been determined to stand out since childhood and my wife and I are both successful in our careers. Conditions in our home are good in every way and other people envy us, so why am I living in such pain, and why has it gotten to the point that my wife wants to divorce me? Even our son is suffering along with us. Is my life the way I want it to be? What exactly am I living for? Just as I was feeling lost and confused, my wife accepted’s salvation in the last days. Through frequent meetings and fellowship with sisters and brothers, she became more and more optimistic, stopped arguing with me, and never mentioned divorce again. Instead, she was busy preaching the gospel and fulfilling her duty. Later, driven by my wife and mother, I also started to believe in Almighty God.
Because of the life in the church, I understood that God is holy and righteous, and that He most hates the filth and corruption of humans. I thought of the filthy ways I developed in the army and that I could not possibly be saved by God if I didn’t change my old disposition, so I started to hungrily read God’s words, hoping that I could find a solution in them. One day, I read these words from God: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him” (“To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words exposed the secrets in the bottom of my heart; I was badly shaken. Over those years of serving in the army, I had followed the unspoken rules of the world for the sake of standing out. I had done many things which burdened my conscience. I had become wealthy from ill-gotten gains and lived a dark and corrupted life—I constantly indulged myself in sin but felt no shame. Then, God’s words not only allowed me to distinguish good from evil, but also made me see clearly the origin of my fall and my corruption. It turned out that these scourges came from Satan. It was Satan that turned this country into a morass of evil and viciousness where powerless, honest people were oppressed and struggled to get by while the powerful, influential and tyrannical prospered. In this society was full of heresies and fallacies like “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Officials do not make things difficult for those who bear gifts,” “You can’t accomplish anything without licking their boots,” “Officials are just looking out for number one, not the public,” “Use power when you have it, because after it’s gone, you can’t use it,” and so on. I was taken in by these terrible sayings, and because of the oppression around me I lost my way, abandoned human principles, sought high positions unscrupulously, and became entrenched in a mire of sin. I eventually became an evil person who sought nothing but wealth, abused power for personal gain, and embezzled public funds. From the judgment in God’s words, I saw the intense rage and holiness of God, and understood that offending His righteous disposition was not permitted. I regretted my evil actions and my heart was filled with fear. I felt that if it had not been for God saving me in time and pulling me from the evil mire, I would have been cursed and punished by God for what I had done. Thank God for letting me see light again, and understand human principles. From then on, I never again did those things that brought shame to God’s name.
As I understood more and more of the truth, I experienced more and deeper salvation from God. In 2009, I had served in the army for 20 years. According to national regulations, I was permitted to go out and look for work on my own. I determined to shun evil and do good, so I left the army and chose to be transferred to civilian work, and put my heart and soul into working for God. However, my leader tried to persuade me to stay and asked me to think it over thoroughly, and another older leader in a high position made me a promise: “You will be promoted to deputy regimental commander if you continue to work hard.” I hesitated a bit—this was the opportunity that I had longed for day and night! I couldn’t let go of the idea of that position, so I sought help from God and prayed, “Oh, God, being in a high position has always been my dream. Now I have that opportunity and I don’t know how to choose. May You enlighten and lead me!” The following words of God brought me enlightenment, “If you are of high station, of honorable reputation, possessed of abundant knowledge, the owner of plentiful assets, and supported by many people, yet these things do not prevent you from coming before God to accept His calling and His commission, to do what God asks of you, then all that you do shall be the most significant on earth and the most righteous of mankind. If you reject the call of God for the sake of status and your own goals, all that you do shall be cursed and even despised by God” (“God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “People come to the earth and it is rare to encounter Me, and it is also rare to have the opportunity to seek and to gain the truth. Why would you not prize this beautiful time as the right path of pursuit in this life?” (“Words to the Young and Old” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Everystruck my conscience, and I was awoken from my hesitation. I had the privilege of encountering the work on the earth of God incarnate and the precious opportunity to pursue the truth and work for God. What an exaltation and grace from God! What career in the world could be more meaningful than working for the Creator? Even if you were in the highest position and were the highest official, if you did not know God and had not made any changes in your disposition, you would eventually be punished by God. So many people in prestigious positions had fallen into disaster and died a premature death, and so many high-ranking officials had had an ignominious fall and a terrible end. As for me, I had fought and tried desperately to stand out as an official, resulting in me ruining myself to such an extent that I was tarnished and filthy, and lived the life of someone who was barely human. God had then led me back from the wrong path and clearly showed me the path for a human life. How could I still choose to take those risks and return to my old ways? The first half of my life had been subject to Satan’s affliction and trickery and brought me great pain. I could not be enslaved, exploited, and corrupted by Satan for the latter half. I had to change my way of living, follow God wholeheartedly, walk the path of pursuing the truth, and live a meaningful life. So I resolutely determined to find a job on my own and leave the army completely. However, because my corruption from Satan was so profound, its poisonous idea of standing out and being an important person had been deeply rooted in my heart and often hindered me from taking the right path of life.
After fulfilling my duty in the church for some time, I saw that some of the church leaders were quite young and one of them had been my friend, which made me feel uncomfortable. I thought: None of your positions in the earthly world were as high as mine, but your current positions in the church are higher than mine. If you are capable of being leaders, then I am even more so! So I worked hard in this pursuit; I got up at five every morning to read God’s words, and set goals for myself—listening to at least two hours every day of sermons on entering into life, learning three songs every week, and planning to learn all the songs of God’s word. I was even more proactive and hardworking at performing my duty. As long as it was something that I was capable of dealing with in the church, I would rush to do it regardless of how difficult or tiring it was. Meanwhile, I bragged my experience and skills in the army in front of my sisters and brothers, turned my nose up at the fellowship of the church leaders or subtly belittled how they approached issues or dealt with problems. So, I charged straight ahead, struggling to seek fame and status, hoping to get a position in the church as soon as possible. In 2011, I was finally selected to be a leader in the church as I had expected. I was very excited and I wanted to distinguish myself and accomplish a great many things in order to impress others. At that time, for various reasons, I had no choice but to resign and I recommended a sister as the leader. However, I had not reconciled myself to this in my heart. After some time, I found that the leader had some shortcomings in how she dealt with problems, and my ambition once again reared its head. I indirectly suggested to her that she take the blame and resign, which would give me the chance to be selected in the next election. However, the sisters and brothers who heard of this analyzed me, saying that I was too deceitful and ambitious, and that I always wanted to take control of the church, so they dismissed me from my post of group leader. I simply could not accept it. I was such a capable person; how could it be that I was not even fit to be a group leader! For months, I was very dissatisfied in my heart and I was not happy with my sisters and brothers, so I did not talk much in the meetings. My spirit was full of darkness and I could not find God. In the midst of this pain, I asked God to lead me out of the darkness. And one day, I read God’s words, “Today, in man’s experience, every single step of God’s work strikes back at his conceptions, and all lies beyond man’s intellect and outside his expectations. God provides everything that man needs, and in every respect this is at odds with his conceptions. … By striking back at your conceptions, He makes you accept the dealing of God; only in this way can you rid yourself of your corruption” (“Only Those Who Know God Can Bear Testimony to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “If you do not obey now, in the end you will be cursed—will you be happy then? You do not pay attention to the way of life but only focus on your status and title; what is your life like? … You don’t focus on pursuing personal transformation and entering in; you always focus on those extravagant desires, and things that constrain your love for God and restrain you from getting close to Him. Can those things transform you? Can they bring you into the kingdom?” (“Why Aren’t You Willing to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words were like a two-edged sword cutting into my heart, making rebellious me feel ashamed and embarrassed. Not until then did I realize that all the things that had happened to me recently, while not what I wanted, did not mean that people were just giving me a hard time. Rather, they were the just judgment of me from God, and His timely salvation of me. God’s work this time was meant to change people’s old thoughts and perspectives, to save them from the influence of Satan, and for them to gain the truth and life from God to live a bright life. I did not take the correct path and seek to gain the truth as my life, but pursued status and fame, and I even played tricks and hatched schemes, no different than the pursuit of becoming an official and someone of importance. Wasn’t this against God’s work and His will to save mankind? How could I gain the truth and live a meaningful life if I continued to pursue these? If I had not turned back, wouldn’t it have ruined me and made me a target for punishment by God when He completes His work? In order to prevent me from taking the wrong path and correct my flawed ideas of pursuits, God pruned me and dealt with me “ruthlessly,” through those people and events around me, took away my status, and shattered my ambitions and desires, so that I could reflect on myself and turn back. I then understood the righteous and holy disposition of God, and that my intentions, motivations, and even every single thought and action were under His observation. God carried out the most genuine salvation of me at the same time that He demonstrated His majesty. After recognizing the grace of God’s salvation, I no longer allowed myself to get entangled in the loss of a position, and I had the will to pursue the truth. God loved me so much that He tried to save me, so I could not let Him down. I had to obey God’s arrangements, and no matter whether I was a leader or just a regular believer, I should pursue the truth and do my duty as well as possible.
Half a year later, the leader in my church arranged for me to continue my church life at another church. Its church leaders were being selected at that time. When I learned that I had believed in God longer than all the sisters and brothers there, I felt very happy and I thought: “Now comes my chance. I can finally show my abilities as a leader. After all, I have more life experience and I believed in God earlier than they did. I am the best person for the position.” As I was about to present myself well to them, one of the sisters from my previous church was transferred to join the election. I was afraid that she would reveal my previous scandal of jostling for position, which would be an embarrassment to me, so I had to give up my initial plan. I decided to try to get elected as a group leader, then work my way up step by step after that. I hadn’t imagined that I would not be elected as a group leader, but I would instead be arranged to deliver books of God’s words to sisters and brothers. I really hadn’t expected that I, a dignified battalion commander, would be running around doing little errands. I found this difficult to accept. However, after undergoing the judgment and chastisement of God, I understood that this was from the rule of God and His arrangements. God was dealing with my desire to pursue status, so I forsook myself and obeyed. However, before long the place where I attended meetings was spotted by the police, so the church arranged for me to meet with another two elderly sisters somewhere else. As for the leader of the church, she could not come very often to perform her watering duty for us as she was being persecuted by the Communist Party of China. At that time, I could not bear it any longer: “Aside from having me do petty work, I have to meet with those elders with poor caliber. How did I get to this situation?” The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. I even felt that life was not worth living. In pain, I earnestly prayed unto God and asked for His enlightenment. One day, I read God’s words, “What’s the most appropriate method of pursuit on today’s path? What kind of figure should you see yourself as in your pursuit? You should know how to handle everything that is befalling you now, be it trials or suffering, merciless chastisement or curses—you should give careful consideration to all of this” (“Aren’t Those Who Do Not Learn and Know Nothing but Beasts?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s words, I understood that I was driven by my arrogant satanic nature, deviated from God’s will, and walked on the wrong path of pursuing fame and positions. As a result, I only regarded those duties with “official titles” as important and despised other duties, and even detested those sisters and brothers of low caliber in the sense that I felt my status was lowered by being with them. The status and fame had gone to my head. However, I did not know that in the house of God, all duties were equal, and my sisters and brothers as well as I were all creatures with equal status. Thinking of this, I felt greatly relieved. However, I knew that fame and status were my fatal weaknesses and I couldn’t just easily let go of them, so I prayed unto God to seek more truth to resolve this issue. Later, I heard a sermon, saying: “In your opinion, is it meaningful for people to hold positions and cherish them? You should see clearly status and fame and be indifferent to them. They are empty and meaningless. A high position does not guarantee blessings. If you don’t have a good disposition, a high position may bring you misfortune. If you do not pursue the truth, that position will be a source of great evil for you. Without the truth, you cannot see things clearly, and might easily be ruined by positions. … You cannot be a leader without pursuing the truth; it can only ruin you. If you pursue the truth, leadership can make you perfect” (“The Differentiations of and Solutions to the False Leaders, Antichrists and the Wicked” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life VII). “People appear to be good when they don’t have power but as soon as they have it, they will show their true colors. How can power expose people? When someone is an ordinary person, they seem decent and appear to be dignified and upright. Once they hold some power, they become perverse” (“How People Should Cooperate With God’s Work of Perfecting Man” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life III). These words suddenly opened my eyes and I saw the void and meaninglessness of pursuing status. Valuing status and failing to pursue the truth can only lead to people’s ruin. Take my experience in the army as an example—I hated those corrupt officials when I was a soldier. However, as my status continued to grow, I started to become perverse and in the end I became a truly corrupt official. Those who were in high positions seemed to be good and honest when they didn’t have high status. However, as soon as they held power, they started to behave tyrannically and commit countless crimes. These facts were enough to illustrate that after people had been corrupted by Satan, they would without exception be subject to its affliction and trickery; if they did not pursue the truth and have a change in disposition, they could only become perverse and do evil once they held power and status, be it in the earthly world or in God’s house, with an end result of being punished justly by God. Thinking of this, I felt both fear and gratitude. It turned out that my repeated frustrations were my salvation, done out of love for me! Because I struggled to ascend in the world of officialdom for many years, I had been sullied with the poisons of Satan. It could be said that I was a combination of arrogance, deceit, selfishness and greed. After believing in God, I valued status too much and did not really pursue the truth. As a result, even by then I had gained little of the truth, and I had little fear of God. If I had actually been in a high position, I would only have become ambitious and behaved tyrannically as I did in the army, and I would end up being punished for offending God’s disposition. Thanks be to God’s enlightenment, I could see clearly the essence and the outcome of pursuing fame and status, and more than that, I could see the importance of pursuing the truth.
After that I started to concentrate my efforts on God’s words. I deeply longed for God’s words to be my life and paid no attention to duties with “official titles,” and never belittled other duties. I felt that every duty had its meaning, that it was all ruled and preordained by God, and that my duty was the responsibility I should bear. When I longed for God’s words with all of my heart and tried to complete my duties, I not only understood many truths which I had not understood before, but also enjoyed God’s presence quite often. I received the enlightenment and leadership of the Holy Spirit, which made me feel grounded and unspeakably joyful. After a period of time, I found myself keeping a low profile when interacting with others, and I no longer boasted about my old positions in the army or used them to show off. No matter who pointed out my shortcomings, I would obey first and reflect on myself later. I could treat the sisters and brothers in the church with poor education and low caliber equally, and I no longer regarded myself as superior to them. Before I knew it my opinions on pursuit changed a lot, and I became indifferent to status and fame and was not so constrained and controlled by these. When I saw sisters and brothers who had believed in God for less time than me get elected as leaders of the church, I felt a little bit of jealousy. However, I was able to let it go through prayer. I felt embarrassed thinking of the fact that I used to struggle for fame and gain; I felt it was ugly and inhumane. Now, my wife and I fulfill our duties at home together. Though they are not significant, I feel very content and I experience enjoyment. My son now also believes in Almighty God, which makes our family a true Christian family where God’s words rule in our daily life. No matter who speaks in line with the truth, we will listen to that person. Even if there is revelation of corrupt dispositions, we can forbear and forgive each other, and know ourselves according to God’s words, which has made our family happier and happier. I strongly feel that it is Almighty God who has changed me and my wife, who has saved my marriage and family, and what’s more, has saved me from extreme corruption and transformed me from an arrogant, evil and filthy seeker of fame into a person who pursues light and justice, who has real life goals. When I read these words of God, all sorts of feelings well up in me: “From the creation of the world until now, all that God has done in His work is love, without any hatred for man. Even the chastisement and judgment you have seen are also love, a truer and more real love, a love that leads man to the right way of human life. … All the work He has done is for the purpose of leading people to the right way of human life, so that they can have the normal life of mankind, because man does not know how to lead a life. Without such leading, you would only be able to live an empty life, would only be able to live a worthless and meaningless life, and would not know at all how to be a normal person” (“The Inside Truth of the Conquering Work (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Yes, without God’s salvation, I would not have taken the right path in life; I would only have become more and more degenerate, and would have become filthy scum who would be cursed by God in the end. It is the just judgment of God that has saved me, and ruthless refinement that has changed me. This allows me to understand what is ugly and what is holy as well as God’s greatness, beauty and goodness, and Satan’s meanness and evilness. I will never follow Satan again, and will only pursue the truth wholeheartedly, rid myself of Satan’s corruption, and live out a real human likeness. Although I have experienced the suffering of many chastisements and refinements, I have gained the most precious way of life, allowing me to be reborn and enter a true path in life.
This year, I went back to my former workplace to take care of some procedural tasks. I saw that my previous colleagues and my previous leaders had all been promoted. When my previous colleagues saw me, they said, “If you had not left the army, you would have been promoted by now.” I remained unmoved, and thought: “Of what use is a high position? If you live without any goal, direction or meaning as a person but just churn in that mire of evil, isn’t it the most degrading kind of life? Aren’t you just Satan’s slaves, its toys? You will suffer God’s just punishment and retribution in the end! Though I do not have a high position, I never regret my choice, because I have truly experienced peace and ease in my heart, which is true happiness. Only being the creature you should be, obeying and worshiping God is a true human life, and only through this can you have a bright future!”