When the Lord returns, how can we recognize His voice and welcome Him?
By Xiuhan, Thailand
Editor’s Note: Gatherings provide the best opportunity to draw close to God and obtain the truth, and yet we, as Christians, are often disrupted by the people, events and things around us, which prevent us from regularly attending gatherings and cause us to lose our normal. These things appear to just happen by accident, but what is concealed behind them? How exactly should we deal with these people, events and things so that they do not interfere with our attendance at gatherings?
I am a Christian. In early 2017, by chance I came to know several brothers and sisters, and by readingand attending gatherings with them, I discovered that the Lord had returned already, and was expressing many truths and performing His work to judge and cleanse mankind. Normally, whenever I had the time, I would gather with my brothers and sisters and fellowship God’s words. Because I was very vain and self-regarding, I would very seldom be open with my brothers and sisters if I had a difficulty or if there was something in God’s words that I didn’t understand, as I was always afraid that they would laugh at me. The brothers and sisters then fellowshiped with me about how God loves those who are pure, open and honest, and so I began to train to be an honest person. While at gatherings, I would be open with my brothers and sisters and tell them about any difficulty I was having, and we would seek the truth to resolve it. After some time had gone by, I began to feel more and more liberated, my heart was filled with joy, and I enjoyed gathering with my brothers and sisters more and more.
Later, I began working in a coffee shop. This job was more laid back, I didn’t have to work many hours, and I found more time to attend gatherings with my brothers and sisters. I felt that God was being so kind to me! Before long, however, I encountered some issues that prevented me from regularly attending gatherings …
One day, a gathering was just about to begin when the manager at work suddenly sent me a message on LINE saying that something had come up for one of my colleagues and that they’d had to take the day off, and he asked me if I could fill in. Looking at the message, I felt a little uneasy: If I filled in for my colleague, I wouldn’t be able to attend this gathering and I would miss out on understanding some truths. What was more, I’d already agreed to attend a gathering at this time with my brothers and sisters. If I didn’t go, would they think that I’d gone back on my word? But then I thought that this was a last-minute thing that no one could have predicted, and so I told the manager that I would fill in for my colleague. Although I was at work, whenever I thought about the fact that I hadn’t attended my gathering, I would feel like I owed them an apology and I reproached myself. That evening, when I got online, I told one of the sisters about what had happened that day and I apologized to her. The sister said not to worry, and we arranged a time for our next gathering.
The day of our next meeting arrived and, after breakfast, I cheerfully looked forward to the gathering. Seeing that there was still some time before it was due to begin, I went into work to help my colleagues for a while. Just then, the owner of the coffee shop suddenly came in. I looked at him in surprise and thought: “I’ve been working here over two months and I’ve never seen him come into the shop. Why has he come in today, all of a sudden?” Seeing me, the owner said, “Ying, you haven’t been working here long and you’re not yet familiar with how to brew the coffee. If you worked every day of the week, you’d not only be able to learn how to brew coffee, but you’d earn more money too—wouldn’t you then have the best of both worlds? Go get changed into your work clothes and get to work! I’ll sort out your wages.” Hearing him say this, a part of me was happy. “Yes,” I thought, “if I work an extra day then I’ll make a bit more money.” But then I thought: “But then I won’t have time to attend gatherings with my brothers and sisters. But what will the owner think of me if I refuse his offer? Will he think that, being a newbie, I don’t respect him because I’ve refused his offer the very first time we’ve met?” My thoughts struggled back and forth for a while, and in the end, I decided to accept his offer.
After having abandoned yet another gathering, I really felt like I’d broken my word and I was too ashamed to face my brothers and sisters. I therefore chose to avoid them and to cut all contact with them. Over time, I gradually became more and more distant from God. In order to fit in with social trends, I began to drink alcohol and to spend time on my appearance and on using makeup. When I was bored, I would watch the fashion channel, watch Thai soap operas and play computer games, and so on. But my heart felt very empty, and I would frequently lose my temper. Seeing myself living without any semblance of a Christian, I felt a great sense of guilt. I later thought that only God could change man, and I wanted to rejoin my brothers and sisters in attending gatherings and fellowshiping God’s words. But when I thought of how I’d twice backed out of attending gatherings, I couldn’t move past my shame, and I lacked the courage to get in touch with them.
A month later, I absent-mindedly logged on to Facebook. Once online, I saw that a sister had sent me a message asking if I’d not been attending gatherings because she’d done something wrong, and I felt even more guilty. I thought of how the brothers and sisters were always so concerned about me and how they always fellowshiped about the truth with me so patiently. They hadn’t done anything wrong; it was I who had intentionally avoided them and caused this sister to think that it was something she had done wrong. Thinking this, I explained my reasons for missing gatherings to the sister. She told me not to feel bad about it, and she encouraged me to attend gatherings online. I saw that God was helping me through this sister and I felt very moved, and I once again began attending gatherings with my brothers and sisters.
At a gathering, the sister sent me God’s words: “In every step of work that God does within people, externally it appears to be interactions between people, as if born of human arrangements, or from human interference. But behind the scenes, every step of work, and everything that happens, is a wager made by Satan before God, and requires people to stand firm in their testimony to God. Take when Job was tried, for example: Behind the scenes, Satan was making a bet with God, and what happened to Job was the deeds of men, and the interference of men. Behind every step that God does in you is Satan’s wager with God—behind it all is a battle.” She then gave fellowship, saying, “As we can see from God’s words, the people, events and things we encounter every day appear on the outside to be people interacting with one another. In the spiritual world, however, it is Satan disrupting us and making a wager with God, and we must stand firm in our testimony. It’s like the trials that Job encountered, for example. All his wealth was taken from him in just one night. From the outside, it seemed as though it had all been stolen by thieves, but in actual fact this was a temptation of Satan, and when Job stood firm in his testimony, Satan was shamed and fled. Satan knows that by attending gatherings, we are then able to understand more truths. But it does not want us to gain the truth and attain God’s final salvation, and so it always tries to disrupt us through the people, events and things around us, so that we grow distant from God and live being harmed by Satan. Recently, you have been asked by your manager to fill in for a colleague and the owner of the coffee shop has asked you to do overtime. From the outside, these things appear as though people are requiring things of you, but in fact they are secretly Satan causing disruptions. Satan uses work to take up the time that should be spent attending gatherings, to stop you from coming before God and to destroy your normal relationship with God. This then causes you to grow distant from God and you get into an increasingly bad state, until you end up living in darkness. We must therefore see through Satan’s deceitful schemes, persevere to attend gatherings with brothers and sisters and fellowship God’s words, for only by doing these things can we maintain a normal relationship with God and walk the path to salvation.”A brother then sent a passage of Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life: “Satan’s carrying out schemes refers primarily to all types of tests that people encounter every day, including all sorts of evil thoughts that they themselves generate in their hearts and natures. When Peter was faced with such things he prayed to God, sought God’s words, and sought the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. It might be that it took days of seeking and several times of fellowship before he understood God’s intention,. In this way he achieved the result of understanding God and at the same time saw through Satan’s schemes as well.” The brother then gave fellowship, saying, “Apart from using the people, events and things around us to stop us from drawing close to God, Satan also uses our own wrong thoughts and ideas, such as ‘If I don’t do overtime, will my line manager think I don’t respect him?’ ‘I can make more money if I do some overtime,’ and ‘Since I’ve missed two gatherings, will my brothers and sisters say I’ve gone back on my word?’ and so on. Satan uses these thoughts and ideas to disturb you, to make you give up attending gatherings in order to protect your own vanity and self-regard, and to make a little extra money, so much so that you even avoid brothers and sisters. In short, any behavior, thought or idea that makes us backslide and become negative, or that makes us grow distant from God, comes from Satan. When we encounter issues, we have to emulate Peter and pray more to God, seek God’s will, learn how to discern which thoughts and ideas come from God and which ones come from Satan’s disruption, and avoid getting caught by Satan’s deceitful schemes.”
Only after the fellowships given by my brothers and sisters did I learn that Satan is everywhere: It was using money to seduce me and to stop me from attending gatherings and drawing close to God, and it was putting ideas in my head to make me think that I was not trustworthy, and that I was too ashamed to see my brothers and sisters, thereby shirking gatherings. In that way, I would grow distant from God and I would get into an increasingly bad state. Thanks be to God for arranging a situation that allowed me to come before God once again, and for using the fellowships given by the brothers and sisters to allow me to understand the truth and see through Satan’s deceitful schemes. From that moment on, I decided, I would draw closer to God and pray more to Him, establish a normal relationship with Him, learn how to see things from the perspective of the spiritual world, and not sink into Satan’s temptations. Afterward, I would read God’s words and sing hymns whenever I had the time, I maintained a normal relationship with God and my state gradually returned to normal.
One day, a sister and I arranged to attend a gathering in the evening. Unexpectedly, the manager at work suddenly came into the coffee shop and said to me, “Ying, our coffee has won second place in a competition in another province. The boss has invited everyone out tonight to go for hotpot and celebrate. Would you like to go?” I thought of the gathering that evening. Whereas before I had lost my testimony because of my greed for money and because I’d wanted to protect my vanity and self-regard, today I had once again come up against temptation, and I wanted to practice the truth and satisfy God, so I refused the invitation.
One day, a couple of weeks later, because I didn’t quite understand some truths that I’d read that morning, I planned to ask my brothers and sisters to give me fellowship on them at our gathering that evening. When it got to the afternoon, however, the manager suddenly said, “The boss’ wife has invited everyone out tonight for hotpot, so we’ll be closing an hour early today.” Everyone happily said, “Great!” I thought: “I have a gathering tonight so I’ll tell them that I can’t go for hotpot.” Before I had a chance to speak, a colleague said to me, “Ying, you can’t refuse to go like you did last time. This time, you have to go! Tell your church sister that you have something on this evening. Missing one gathering isn’t a big deal!” Listening to my colleague speak, my heart was a little swayed, and I wondered what they would all think of me if everyone went out for hotpot, and I didn’t. Would they become prejudiced against me and think me antisocial? If they then ostracized me, how would I be able to get along with them in the future? So I decided that I’d better go out with them just this once.
And so, I abandoned my gathering. I felt very guilty because I hadn’t stood firm in my testimony, and I didn’t feel like eating any hotpot. After I got home, I felt constantly uneasy and guilty. I prayed to God, saying: “O God! Faced with this decision, I once again chose to abandon my gathering. I feel very distressed and I ask You to illuminate me and allow me to understand Your will.” After I’d quietened my heart, I thought about everything that had happened over the past two weeks. Why had the two invitations to go out for hotpot happened to coincide with my church gathering times? Just then, I remembered the fellowship my brothers and sisters had given previously about how things appeared from the outside to be the arrangements of man, when in actual fact they were a battle in the spiritual world that was raging behind the scenes. I finally realized that Satan’s deceitful schemes were secretly hidden behind these events. Satan knew that I was very self-regarding and was always worrying about what other people thought of me and worrying that my work colleagues would exclude me, and so it used my weaknesses to attack me, to make me follow my flesh and betray God. Without the truth, I had no way to see things from the perspective of the spiritual world, and so I became caught in Satan’s deceitful schemes, and I even gave up attending gatherings so as to maintain my relationship with my work colleagues.
Afterward, I read a passage of God’s words that said: “If you don’t have a proper relationship with God, no matter what you do to maintain your relationships with other people, no matter how hard you work or how much energy you exert, it will still belong to a human philosophy of life. You are maintaining your position among people through a human perspective and a human philosophy so that they will praise you. You do not establish proper relationships with people according to the word of God. If you don’t focus on your relationships with people but maintain a proper relationship with God, if you are willing to give your heart to God and learn to obey Him, very naturally, your relationships with all people will become proper.” God’s words enabled me to understand that normal relationships formed between people are to be built upon the foundation of practicing God’s words and are not to be maintained by relying on worldly philosophies, and I understood that, when one has a normal relationship with God, one’s relationships with other people naturally normalize. Looking at how I was behaving when I encountered issues, I was not focusing on practicing in accordance with God’s words or establishing a normal relationship with God, but instead I was relying on my own methods to maintain my relationships with others. Like when the owner had asked me to do overtime and give up my days off, for example. I knew perfectly well that I could only attend gatherings on my days off, but in order to avoid him saying that I did not respect him, I agreed to the overtime and I gave up attending gatherings. When all my colleagues went out for hotpot, I once again followed them and gave up attending gatherings just so that they wouldn’t develop prejudices against me and ostracize me. I thought about how I believed in God and yet had no place for God in my heart, and whenever temptation befell me, I always tried to maintain my interpersonal relationships and I grew farther away from God. Practicing in that way was not standing firm in my testimony, and instead I had become Satan’s laughingstock, and God did not approve. God’s will was that I practice the truth and satisfy Him first and foremost whenever I encountered an issue, and that I not try to maintain my interpersonal relationships for the sake of my own vanity and self-regard, always worrying about what other people thought of me, or what my boss and my work colleagues thought of me. Having come to this realization, I said a prayer to God in my heart: “I no longer wish to maintain interpersonal relationships in the future, and no matter what happens to disrupt me or obstruct me from attending gatherings, I will always practice the truth and stand firm in my testimony to satisfy God!”
Later on, the owner came to the coffee shop and invited us staff out that Saturday to eat BBQ seafood. I thought about how I had a gathering to attend that Saturday, so I said I couldn’t go. My work colleagues told me that the manager had said that we all had to go, and to not go would cause him to lose face. When I remembered what had happened the last time, I decided that I couldn’t maintain my interpersonal relationships this time and that I had to practice the truth and stand firm in my testimony in order to satisfy God. So I said firmly to them, “I’m really not going!” Unexpectedly, one of my colleagues asked me, “What’s more important, your gatherings or us?” I knew that this was Satan tempting me to see whether I would allow myself to be constrained by other people, and so I laughed and said, “My gatherings are more important, of course! If you’d be willing to go with me to one, you would understand my decision.” My work colleague said nothing and left.
That evening, at a gathering, we mainly fellowshiped truths such as the importance of knowing ourselves and how to recognize our own corrupt dispositions, and I found this to be greatly beneficial to my life. In the past, whenever I encountered something that did not accord with my own ideas, I never reflected on my own issues, and this led me often to blame the people, events and things around me. Through fellowshiping the truth of knowing oneself, I came to have a path of practice. After the gathering was over, my heart was at ease and my spirit felt enjoyment. Just then, I finally came to truly appreciate what it says in God’s words: “When you have satisfied God, inside you there will be the guidance of God, and you will be especially blessed by God, which will give you a sense of enjoyment: You will feel especially honored that you have satisfied God, you will feel especially bright inside, and in your heart you will be clear and peaceful, your conscience will be comforted and free from accusations, and you will feel pleasant inside when you see your brothers and sisters. This is what it means to enjoy God’s love, and only this is truly enjoying God.”
Through my experiences over this period, I came to have some discernment of the various temptations of Satan, and I came to understand that, when adverse conditions present themselves, we must pray more, seek God’s will and rely on the truth to approach the people, events and things around us, for only by doing this can we avoid being caught in Satan’s deceitful schemes. Now, I will never again allow any person, event or thing to stop me from attending gatherings! Thanks be to God. From this day on, I shall attend more gatherings and do my utmost to pursue the truth and satisfy God!