23. A Battle
By Zhang Hui, China
My name is Zhang Hui, and in 1993 my entire family came to believe in the Lord Jesus. I was an enthusiastic seeker, so I quickly became a preacher. I would often travel around to different churches to work and preach. After a few years, I quit my job and began to serve the Lord full time. However, for some unknown reason, my brothers’ and sisters’ faith and love gradually cooled, and jealousy and strife grew between co-workers. I also felt that my spirit was withering, and I had nothing left to preach on. In 2005, my wife got cancer, and she died soon after that. This was a huge blow for me and I became even weaker. One day, I went to stay at my cousin’s house and met two sisters there who preached Almighty God’s gospel of the kingdom. Over several days of fellowship and debate, I came to truly believe that the Lord Jesus had returned and that He is Almighty God in the flesh. Through reading Almighty God’s words, my thirsty heart was watered and supplied, and I savored the sweetness of the Holy Spirit’s work, understanding many truths and mysteries I had never understood before. However, just as I was immersed in the joy of reunion with the Lord, the temptations and attacks of Satan came creeping ever closer to me …
One afternoon, I was practicing spiritual devotions when there was a sudden knock on the door. When I opened it, I found Pastor Li Yang and Co-worker Wang Jun from my old church standing outside. I startled with surprise, and wondered: “What are they doing here? Could it be that they have learned of my faith in Almighty God? Before, when the brothers and sisters who were good seekers began to believe in Almighty God, Pastor Li and Co-worker Wang frightened them with rumors and incited their families to coerce them into shunning The Church of Almighty God. They did everything in their power to block them from following Almighty God. Today, I don’t know what kind of tactics they’re going to use to disturb me.” I greeted them and sat them down. Soon after, my daughter Xiaoyan and my son Dayong came back too. I was puzzled: My kids had said they were really busy with work, so why would both of them come home today? Could it be that Pastor Li had them come? It seemed that Li Yang and Wang Jun had come prepared! I hurriedly prayed to God: “Almighty God! Today, they have definitely come to hinder and disrupt me. God, my stature is too small. I beg You to guide me and help me to deal with them. I am willing to stand witness for You!” After praying, my heart calmed down. At that moment, Li Yang flashed a disingenuous smile and said: “Brother Zhang, I’ve heard that you believe in Eastern Lightning now. Is that true? No matter how much truth there is in Eastern Lightning, we cannot accept it. Brother Zhang, we’ve all believed in the Lord for many years, and have preached and done work for Him. We are all clear on the fact that the Lord Jesus was crucified and became a sin offering, which has redeemed us from our sin. We have also enjoyed the rich grace, and the peace and joy bestowed on us by the Lord, so we must uphold the name and the way of the Lord at all times. We cannot believe in another God. Isn’t your departing from the Lord Jesus and believing in Almighty God a betrayal of the Lord?”
I calmly said: “Brother Li, when we speak, we ought to be objective and practical, support our contentions with evidence and not make arbitrary condemnations. Have you looked into the way of Eastern Lightning? Have you read Almighty God’s words? You’ve never investigated it, so how can you come to the conclusion that I’ve betrayed the Lord by accepting Eastern Lightning? Do you know where the truth comes from? Do you know who expresses the truth? The Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). God is the truth! How can you say that no matter how much truth there is in Eastern Lightning, you won’t accept it? Isn’t that intentionally resisting the truth, and resisting God? If we were to do that, would we even count as believers in the Lord? To be honest, because the pastors and elders of the religious world openly resist and condemn Almighty God’s work of the last days, when I started believing in Almighty God I too was afraid that I might be wrong, and that I might have gone astray. But, later I read a lot of Almighty God’s words, and I’ve discovered that they are all the truth, that they reveal many mysteries, such as the mysteries of God’s 6,000-year management plan and the inside truth of the three stages of work, the mysteries of God becoming flesh, the true inside story of the Bible, and more. The confusion and difficulties I’ve faced in my many years of believing in the Lord have all been resolved through Almighty God’s words. The more I read God’s words, the more I feel that these are the utterances of the Holy Spirit, that they are God’s voice. I firmly believe that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned, and that the Lord is appearing to us! Brother Li, Brother Wang, Almighty God and the Lord Jesus are the same God. Believing in Almighty God is welcoming the Lord’s coming! Let’s think about it. When the Lord Jesus came to work, many people left the temple to follow Him. At the time, there were certainly many people who passed judgment on them saying that they had betrayed Jehovah God and were guilty of apostasy. Now we all know that although the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption was different from Jehovah God’s work of issuing the law, and God’s name changed as well, the Lord Jesus and Jehovah God are one and the same God. Believing in the Lord Jesus is not betraying Jehovah God, but is rather keeping pace with God’s footsteps and gaining His salvation. In fact, those who believed in Jehovah God but did not follow the Lord Jesus were the ones who were truly forsaking God and betraying Him. The same goes for today. Even though Almighty God’s work of judgment in the last days is not the same as the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption, and God’s name has changed, Almighty God and the Lord Jesus are one and the same God. This is an undeniable fact. In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption only forgave man’s sins, but did not absolve man of their satanic dispositions and sinful nature. Almighty God’s work of judgment in the last days is to resolve man’s satanic dispositions and sinful nature, to fully save them, to have them cast off the influence of Satan and be gained by God. Clearly, these two stages of work are complementary, closely linked and deepen as they progress. This truly is done by one God. My belief in Almighty God is not a betrayal of the Lord Jesus. It is keeping pace with the footsteps of the Lamb. If we only believe in the Lord Jesus and refuse to follow Almighty God, not only will we be the same as the Pharisees who only believed in Jehovah God and rejected the Lord Jesus, losing God’s salvation, but we will also suffer God’s punishment. Only this is true resistance and betrayal of the Lord! Wouldn’t you say so?”
When Li Yang heard me say this, he looked very uncomfortable, and Wang Jun tried to ease the situation by saying: “Elder Zhang, Pastor Li is giving you this advice out of a sense of responsibility for your life, fearing you may take the wrong path. You have believed in the Lord for many years and you have served the Lord together. Over the years, getting through all these ups and downs has not been easy. You are an elder in our church and you have given a lot for the work of the church. All of our brothers and sisters respect you and trust you, but you leaving the church and believing in Almighty God has been so disappointing for them! Elder Zhang, please come back soon!”
Li Yang then took the lead, trying to cajole me, saying: “Brother Wang is right. You’ve worked hard all these years. How can you so cavalierly throw away the prestige and status you’ve built up in the church? It’s such a shame! Turn back now. Everyone is waiting for you to come back! Our church has set up a retirement home, we’ve made connections with churches abroad and they’re giving us financial support. If you come back, we’ll provide a car for you right away. If you’d like to manage the retirement home, or manage the church, or continue to take care of the church’s finances, that’s all up to you. Whatever you want to do is fine!” The more I listened to them, the more I felt something was off. What they were saying didn’t sound at all like things believers in the Lord would say. The devil Satan’s temptation of the Lord Jesus as told in the Bible came to mind: “Again, the devil takes Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said to Him, All these things will I give You, if You will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8–9). Didn’t all those things they were saying have exactly the same feeling, the same tone as what Satan said? Wasn’t this Satan’s temptation? Their goal in enticing me with fame, status, and wealth was to have me turn my back on the true way and betray Almighty God. This was Satan’s trickery! I’d believed in God for over ten years and had finally welcomed the Lord’s return. I could not fall for Satan’s trickery now or else I’d regret it all my life. I realized then that God was leading me, guiding me, so that I could recognize their cunning scheme. Thinking of this, I sternly asserted, “Haven’t I believed in the Lord these years with the hope of welcoming His return? Now that He has returned, my only choice can be to go with God. Don’t try to persuade me anymore. I will not return to religion again.”
At this moment, my daughter said to me in tears, “Dad. Please listen to us! Mom passed away recently and we’re already suffering enough. If you continue to believe in Eastern Lightning, how will we face brothers and sisters from our church in the future? Our brothers and sisters will abandon us!” Seeing my children brimming with tears, I felt much pain and suffering in my heart. I thought of how sad they had been because they had just lost their mother, and how they would be laughed at and abandoned because of my faith in Almighty God. I really didn’t have the heart to allow them to undergo any more suffering. I felt deeply conflicted in my heart: If I agreed to the conditions set out by Li Yang and Wang Jun to return to religion, my family would be able to live harmoniously; if I didn’t follow God’s last incarnation who has come among men to save mankind, that would be a betrayal of God, and I would lose my chance at salvation. I was in a dilemma about how to choose. In the midst of this pain all I could do was silently cry out to God: “Oh God, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place and my heart is weak. I beg You to give me faith and strength so that I can be free of their disturbances and become resolute in my faith to follow You.” After praying, I thought of some of God’s words I had read a few days earlier: “You must be awake and waiting at all times, and you must pray before Me more. You must recognize the various plots and cunning schemes of Satan, recognize the spirits, know people, and be able to discern all kinds of people, events, and things…. Satan’s various hideous features are set before you: Do you stop and edge backward, or do you stand up and, relying upon Me, continue to move forward? Thoroughly expose Satan’s corrupt and ugly features, spare no feelings, and show no mercy! Fight Satan to the death!” (“Chapter 17” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Almighty God’s words gave me strength and served as a reminder that I must learn to have discernment. What I had encountered that day was full of Satan’s deceit and trickery. They used status, money, and my own emotions to tempt and attack me, causing a disturbance in my heart with the goal of having me betray God. I absolutely could not fall into Satan’s trap or fall prey to its tricks! So, I said to my children, “Xiaoyan, Dayong, I’ve looked into it and I have clarity. Almighty God is the true God, and His words and work are the truth and the true way. For so many years we have longed for the Lord’s return, and today we’ve found the footsteps of God and the true way. This is more precious than anything. We can’t give up the true way just because we’re afraid of being abandoned by others. If they abandon us, if they no longer want us, there’s nothing frightening about that. People can always go on living after others turn their backs on them, but if we believe in God, and do not seek or investigate the true way, if we lose our chance to be raptured by the Lord and are cast out and eliminated by God’s work in the last days, we will be ruined. We will definitely meet with disaster and be punished! What meaning would our lives have then? Xiaoyan, Dayong, you don’t understand. If you could investigate the work of Almighty God in earnest, you would recognize that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned.” When Li Yang and Wang Jun saw how resolute I was in my beliefs, all they could do was leave in helpless frustration.
A few days later, Li Yang and Wang Jun came to my house again. This time they did not urge me to return to the church, but instead they used marriage to tempt me. Li Yang said, “Brother Zhang! Your wife passed away, your daughter has gotten married, and your son is not at home. You are all alone. You really should have someone here to cook for you. Sister Wang from our church is single now too, and she’s fairly well-off. Our church can help the two of you make a match, and then you can serve the Lord together. What do you think? You should give it some more thought. Our brothers and sisters in the church are praying for you, hoping that you’ll come back soon. You mustn’t follow that road into darkness!” Sister Wang called me that evening, and during the call she continually urged me to return to the church. She also said that if I was short of money for my son’s marriage, 100,000 or 200,000 yuan, I need only say the word…. Hearing her say this, and thinking of how Sister Wang had always been good to my family and had often looked after my daughter, I felt a deep sense of gratitude to her. I became conflicted because I knew that Sister Wang had come to advise me out of the kindness of her heart and I really didn’t want to say anything that would hurt her, so with a heavy heart, I said, “Sister Wang, I know you’ve always looked out for my family, and I thank you for it.” After we’d ended our call, I felt a battle being waged in my heart. I had always respected Sister Wang, but today I’d hurt her feelings and I felt terrible about it! However, it was God’s protection that saved me from being enticed by her words and betraying Almighty God.
One day, I was working in the fields when Pastor Li found me and said: “Brother Zhang, even if you don’t think of yourself, you have to think of your children. Dayong just got engaged, and his fiancée’s entire family believes in the Lord. If they find out that you believe in Almighty God, would they still let her marry into your family? Wouldn’t that be disastrous for Dayong’s marriage plans? You should give it some more thought.” When I heard what Pastor Li had to say, I thought to myself: “In order to get me back into the church, they’re even using my son’s marriage to threaten me. What does my accepting God’s work in the last days have to do with my child’s marriage? What’s more, my son and his fiancée are so in love, why would they not marry just because I believe in Almighty God?” So, I very calmly told him: “Whether or not my son gets married is all in God’s hands, and it has nothing to do with my belief in Almighty God. Since I have determined that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus, I will follow Him until the end. My children might still not be clear on this and we have our misunderstandings, but one day they will understand me.”
One day, I went to my son’s electric welding shop and saw that he’d been lying on his bed all day and not working, so I was puzzled and asked him what was up. He looked depressed and said in a low voice, “Dad, my fiancée called and said that if you have set your heart on believing in Eastern Lightning, then she won’t marry me.” Hearing this really shocked and angered me, and I thought: “Li Yang and the others hate that I believe in Almighty God and it’s enough that they attack me alone. How could they use something as important as my son’s marriage to threaten me?” Seeing my son so crestfallen, I felt terrible. Tears pooled up in my eyes. My son continued, “She also says that if you do not return to the church, then if I still wanted to get married, I would have to make three promises to her. First, I would have to terminate our father-son relationship. Second, I would not be able to take care of you in your old age. Third, I would have to cut off all family ties with you. Dad, please just return to the church for the sake of our family.” My son’s words pierced my heart like a knife. I thought to myself: “Just because I believe in the true way, they’ve forced my son to cut off ties with me. Why is it so hard to believe in the true way?” I forced back my tears and said to my son, “Son, I must believe in Almighty God and I agree to your fiancée’s demands. I won’t get you mixed up in this anymore from now on. Live a happy life together.” I then turned and walked out of the shop, but as I walked along the street, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Once I got home, I knelt down on the floor and cried out loudly: “O Almighty God! I’m in such pain! O God, I know this is the true way and that You have come, and I cannot not follow You. But ever since I accepted Your work of the last days, people have harassed me, and now my son even wants to terminate our father-son relationship. O God! My stature is too small, and I simply cannot get through this by myself. I ask You to guide me and to give me faith, so that I may stand firm….” After I’d prayed, I opened my book of hymns and read this hymn of God’s words: “When you face suffering, you must be able to lay aside concern for the flesh and to not make complaints against God. When God hides Himself from you, you must be able to have the faith to follow Him, to maintain your previous love without allowing it to falter or dissipate. No matter what God does, you must submit to His design and be prepared to curse your own flesh rather than make complaints against Him. When you are faced with trials, you must satisfy God, though you may weep bitterly or feel reluctant to part with some beloved object. Only this is true love and faith” (“How to Be Perfected” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). As I read God’s words, I felt God comforting me and encouraging me, giving me faith and allowing me to understand His will: God expects me to rely on Him, to keep faith with Him and not to betray Him no matter what adverse environment or trial may befall me. I thought about the co-workers from my old church who had come again and again to harass and pressure me more and more, and yet every time when I was in the depths of suffering, so long as I prayed to God and relied on God sincerely, God’s words always enlightened and guided me, giving me strength and showing me the path to practice. I was not alone after all, for God was always beside me. At that moment, strength returned to my heart, and I became willing to endure the pain and part with the things I most treasured to satisfy God—I would absolutely not betray God and turn back.
The next day, Sister Gao and Sister Zhao from The Church of Almighty God came to my home, and I told them about what had happened over the past few days. “Brother, how do you feel about these things which have befallen?” asked Sister Gao. I thought for a moment, and said, “At first, I thought Pastor Li and the others were acting in my best interests, though they hadn’t investigated Almighty God’s work of the last days and they didn’t understand. But I never would have thought they would have used something as important as my son’s marriage to threaten me. This is really hard for me to get my head around.” Sister Zhao then said, “Brother, how about we read a passage of God’s words? Almighty God said, ‘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 of work that God does in you is Satan’s wager with God—behind it all is a battle. … Everything people do requires them to pay a certain price in their efforts. Without actual hardship, they cannot satisfy God; they do not even come close to satisfying God, and they are just spouting empty slogans!’ (“Only Loving God Is Truly Believing in God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words reveal the true nature of the battle being waged in the spiritual world. When we encounter such things, it appears on the outside as though religious leaders are harassing us, but in reality, a battle is being waged in the spiritual world, and Satan is vying with God over man. Actually, many leaders of religious denominations acknowledge in their hearts that the words expressed by Almighty God are the truth, but because the work of judgment through words that God performs in the last days is so far out of keeping with their own conceptions and imaginings, and it destroys their dream of simply being blessed and being raised up into heaven, they obstinately oppose and refuse to accept God’s new work. Moreover, they are afraid that if more people accept the work of Almighty God then they will lose their status and livelihoods, and so they do all they can to compel people and stop them from turning to Almighty God, making them give up the true way and betray God. In fact, they are the embodiment of Satan in the spiritual world and, in reality, their disrupting people from turning to God is Satan trying to devour people. So long as we can discern the intent and motivation behind their actions and behavior, then we will be able to thoroughly understand their essence. When Job was undergoing trials, people’s physical eyes told them that thieves were taking away Job’s property, but in the spiritual world Satan and God were making a wager. At the time, although Job was unaware that a battle was raging in the spiritual world, he chose to suffer all that pain and even curse the day he was born rather than blame God. Still he extolled the name of Jehovah and stood witness for God, thus shaming the devil Satan and winning God’s praise. Being now besieged by Satan, although we have suffered the pain of duress and abandonment and have lost the transient enjoyments of the flesh, we have kept to the true way, have stood witness for God and obtained God’s praise. The pain we’ve suffered has been so worthwhile!” Hearing Almighty God’s words and the sister’s fellowship, my heart was brightened, and I said, “Yes, I was ignorant before and I hadn’t thoroughly understood the essence of my co-workers from my old church. I thought they were acting in my best interests. Only today do I understand that they are the real-life Satan. Only through this fellowship do I now have some insight into the true situation of the battle in the spiritual world. Although I still don’t understand the truth and there are certain things I still don’t understand thoroughly, through this process I have personally experienced God guiding and protecting me, and this has all been God’s blessing upon me.” The two sisters then said happily, “Truly, thanks be to God! If they come again to harass you, pray more, and you can defeat Satan by relying on God!” Filled with faith, I nodded in agreement.
One morning, some co-workers from my old church came calling again, and I hurriedly prayed in my heart for God to give me faith, wisdom and courage. Pastor Li immediately threatened me, saying, “Brother Zhang, if you don’t leave Eastern Lightning, then our church will abandon you and will not permit you to have any more contact with our brothers and sisters.” I said to him, “You can abandon me if you like, but I hope that you can take responsibility for the lives of the more than one thousand brothers and sisters in the church. You may not accept that the Lord has returned, but don’t try to obstruct the brothers and sisters from investigating and accepting the true way. Look at the current situation in the church—brothers and sisters feel weak and dispirited. Some have gone to find work elsewhere and some have left the church and no longer believe in the Lord, and there are many instances of people being possessed by devils. The church has clearly lost the Lord’s care and protection. Then look at the situation with us preachers—there is not a shred of new light in our sermons, we always preach tired old things and brothers and sisters are simply not being supplied. Is this not worth reflecting on and pondering deeply about? Is it not worth us seeking to find the truth of the matter?” Having said this, my heart felt stirred and I said sincerely to them, “All of us here are the primary co-workers of the church, and we would do well to consider for a moment: We talk about shepherding the Lord’s flock all day long, but the Lord has returned to perform new work and to express new words, and yet we don’t seek or investigate it in the slightest, and we don’t lead our brothers and sisters to accept being watered and nourished by God’s words. Instead, we stop brothers and sisters from investigating the true way by any means possible—by doing this, are we not causing our brothers and sisters to die of thirst and weariness by keeping them bound to religion? Are the people who are capable of this good servants or wicked servants? Have you ever thought of what the consequences of these actions will be?” Just then, Pastor Li said in exasperation, “We’ve come to your home to say this to you today because we mean you well, and yet you lecture us instead!” Speaking with the force of justice, I said, “You have come again and again to harass me, knowing full well that The Church of Almighty God is possessed of the truth, and yet you won’t allow me to accept it and you won’t allow me to gain life. Is this your idea of ‘meaning well’? You have spread rumors about me, sowed discord between me and my children, and caused my son to end our father-son relationship. Is this the love you speak of? Have you really meant me well by cooking up all these schemes or have you some ulterior motives?” Hearing me speak like this, Li Yang’s expression changed at once, and he yelled angrily at me, “You don’t know what’s good for you!” I shouted back at him, “Let’s go our separate ways from now on. God takes responsibility for my life, and you need not concern yourselves with it!” Hearing me say this, Li Yang and the others left looking dejected. From that day on, no one came to harass me again.
Having experienced this spiritual battle, I came to have some discernment of Satan’s trickery and I also came to have a thorough understanding of the God-defying essence of leaders in the religious world. I was never again constrained by the evil forces of religion, and was at last free and liberated to follow Almighty God!