13. Where Does This Voice Come From?
By Shiyin, China
I was born into a Christian family, and a lot of my relatives are preachers. I believed in the Lord along with my parents from the time I was little. After growing up, I made this prayer to the Lord: If I could find a husband who was also a believer, I would offer myself up together with him in service to the Lord. After I got married, my husband really did come to believe in the Lord, and in fact became a full-time, devoted preacher. So that my husband could keep his mind on his work for the Lord and honor the commitment he had made before the Lord, I took the initiative to take on the difficult task of managing our household affairs. Although it was a little bit difficult and tiring, my heart was filled with joy and peace no matter how hard things got because I had the Lord as my support.
The year 1997 came and went, and at some point I realized that my husband’s sermons didn’t contain the light they once had. Whenever I asked him to do something around the house he would just make excuses about being busy with his preaching work. Even if he did do some housework, his heart just wasn’t in it, and he would often lose his temper with me over trivial things. Although on the outside I kept my patience and didn’t argue with him, in my heart I really felt dissatisfied with my husband’s behavior. The heavy burden of our household and the darkness within my spirit left me in agony. All I could do was come before the Lord to pray and pour my heart out in the dead of night when everyone was asleep, and ask Him to give me more faith and strength. At the same time, I yearned for the Lord to return soon and save me from my miserable existence.
One day in April of 2000 when I was putting some clothing away I stumbled across my husband’s bag and saw that it was stuffed completely full. I unzipped it out of curiosity and saw a Bible and a hymnal as well as a brand-new book that had an outer cover. I thought to myself: “How have I never seen this book before? It has to be some kind of reference book for preaching or the experiences of some spiritual personage. I have to read it—maybe I can gain some sustenance from it.” I opened it up out of curiosity and saw a title which read, “Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement.” “What a novel title!” I thought, “Judging by the title, the experience of refinement is not a bad thing! I am now undergoing refinement that I can’t surpass, so I need to read this carefully to see his experience of refinement. Then I’ll be able to find a path of practice from within that.” At that, I began to read: “In the past, people would all come before God to make their resolutions, and they would say: ‘Even if no one else loves God, I must love Him.’ But now, refinement comes upon you, and since this does not align with your notions, you lose faith in God. Is this genuine love? You have read many times about the deeds of Job—have you forgotten about them? True love can only take shape from within faith. … 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. No matter what your actual stature is, you must first possess both the will to suffer hardship and true faith, and you must also have the will to forsake the flesh. You should be willing to endure personal hardships and suffer losses to your personal interests in order to satisfy God’s will. You must also be capable of feeling regret about yourself in your heart: In the past, you were unable to satisfy God, and now, you can regret yourself. You must not be lacking in any of these regards—it is through these things that God will perfect you. If you cannot meet these criteria, then you cannot be perfected” (The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words really touched my heart. I wept while reading this—wasn’t this precisely what I was going through? In the past I had resolved to dedicate myself and my husband to the Lord. I was perfectly happy to undertake all the burdens of running a household in order to support my husband in the work he was doing for the Lord outside of the house, no matter how arduous or exhausting it was. But at that point, because of difficulties at home and my husband’s lack of consideration for me, I lived with a perpetual feeling of having been wronged; I was living in the midst of refinement and losing hold of the faith and love that I once had. I had become unable to hold fast to the resolution I had made before God, and would often cry alone in secret. I thought about how Job was able to stand witness to God in the midst of such a great and arduous trial and not lose faith in God. He even said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). How could I have forgotten even that? I then felt deeply regretful about all that I had done in the presence of the Lord. Job would rather personally suffer and sacrifice his own interests than fail to satisfy God. In spite of so many years of belief in the Lord, I had lost faith in Him. I complained to the Lord while enduring refinement and wasn’t remotely expressing my love for Him! As I realized this I secretly resolved that I could no longer be as I had been before, that I should support my husband in his work for the Lord, and that it was right for me to suffer a bit of hardship.
Once my thoughts reached that point my mood took a strong turn for the better. I felt these words were very well spoken and really got to the heart of my actual circumstances. They pointed out a path of practice to me and before I realized it, strength and faith arose within me. I wondered, “Who said these words? How could he have such lofty understanding? I’ve read books written by well-known spiritual personages, and although they are somewhat edifying, they are not written in as clear and elucidating a way as this book, nor do they possess truth. Who did these words really come from?” I was drawn in by the words in this book and wanted to continue reading on; the more I read the more I felt how wonderful those words were. Each and every line spoke directly to my heart. They allowed me to understand that no matter how great one’s suffering is, we must follow God to the very end and happily submit to God in the face of suffering. Even if one becomes weak in the midst of a trial, they should have faith in the Lord and rely on God to stand firm. The more I read, the more I felt illuminated within my heart and the more I felt I had a path of practice. My husband came home right then, and I asked him right away, “Where did you get this book?” He smiled and said, “I borrowed it from somebody, and I have to give it back to him soon.” I didn’t say anything else.
One day while I was cooking, I could hear bits and pieces of a hymn my husband had on. “Who is not adoring? Who does not long to see God? … God once shared joys and sorrows with man, and today He has been reunited with mankind, and shares tales of times gone by with him. After He walked out of Judea, people could find no trace of Him. They yearn to once more meet with God, little knowing that today they have again met with Him and have been reunited with Him. How could this not stir thoughts of yesterday? Two thousand years ago today, Simon Barjona, the descendant of the Jews, beheld Jesus the Savior, ate at the same table as Him, and after following Him for many years felt a deeper affection for Him: He loved Him from the bottom of his heart; he loved the Lord Jesus profoundly. Today God has been reunited with mankind, and shares tales of times gone by with him.” (“Two Thousand Years of Longing” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). The lyrics of this hymn gave voice to my own innermost thoughts and evoked my feeling of longing for the return of the Lord. I wept as I listened, and thought to myself: “Since I became a believer all the way up until now, I have thought of the Lord Jesus every single day, hoping that He might return soon so that we could come together and reminisce over times gone by.” The hymn lyrics were so genuine and moving, and particularly able to express the feeling of longing that people have for the Lord. I then set aside the food that I was making and listened with full attention. Another hymn came on next, called “A Loyal Heart for God”: “I ask for nothing in my life but that my thoughts of love for God and my heart’s desire be accepted by God” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). I thought, “Who wrote this hymn? How can his resolve be so great?” This line in particular was really inspiring for me: “I ask for nothing in my life but that my thoughts of love for God and my heart’s desire be accepted by God.” That kind of love for God is so pure! In my faith in the past, I did not know to love the Lord, but just wanted to enjoy His grace, and pursue peace and joy. This hymn really opened up my worldview that day, and I saw that those who believe in God must love God, and must not seek anything for themselves—only this kind of love can be pure. This hymn was so well-written. I then secretly resolved within my heart that I too wanted to pursue this goal, and that I would love the Lord whether anyone else did or not.
After reading the words in that book and listening to those hymns, I began to act according to what they said. When my husband went out to work again and had no time to help with the housework, I didn’t feel as distressed as before. If the other brothers and sisters slipped up in something they said, I was able to be tolerant because I wanted to satisfy God. I just sought to love God as the hymn described with all of my heart.
In the blink of an eye it was time to plant our crops. One evening, while tidying up, my husband said to me, “I need to go to another church out of town tomorrow.” My immediate response was, “Will you be back within a few days?” “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll try my best to come back soon. Don’t stress yourself out about the work here at home.” I pulled a long face right away and thought, “You say don’t stress about it, but how can I not be stressed? You’re going off without any idea of when you’ll be back, and everyone else’s fields have already been sown. We haven’t even plowed ours, and if the seeds are planted late, we won’t have a good harvest in the fall. And then what will we do? If only you would finish sowing the fields and then go off to help the brothers and sisters!” That evening I lay in bed, totally unable to get to sleep. I was completely wracked with turmoil, thinking: “The last time my husband left, he was gone for over two weeks, but we didn’t have any work on the farm then. This is a critical time for planting, so if he’s gone for two weeks again, what will I do? Maybe I should ask him to get a co-worker to do the work and be done with it.” But I gave it more thought: “No, that won’t do. The brothers and sisters are awaiting his support. If he doesn’t go, won’t that be an offense against the Lord?” In the midst of this refinement I came into the presence of the Lord and prayed: “Lord! It isn’t that I am unwilling for my husband to go support the brothers and sisters, it’s just that we need to plant the fields now. I’m really feeling the effects of this refinement and I don’t know what to do. Lord! I ask for Your help, to safeguard my heart and to keep me from being disturbed by these things.” After praying, these words came into my mind very clearly: “No matter what your actual stature is, you must first possess both the will to suffer hardship and true faith, and you must also have the will to forsake the flesh. You should be willing to endure personal hardships and suffer losses to your personal interests in order to satisfy God’s will. …” (“Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words instantly took hold of my heart and brightened it considerably. “That’s right,” I thought, “If someone wants to satisfy the Lord, they need the resolve to endure hardship, and should be happy to suffer in the flesh and have their own personal interests compromised as long as it means meeting the will of God!” These words gave me faith, and I thought: “If the fields are planted a bit late, then so be it! However much we harvest is up to God, and my husband working for the Lord is what’s most important.” With this in mind, I felt a sense of ease and release in my heart, and before I knew it I had fallen asleep. The next morning I said to my husband: “Go do your work for the Lord and don’t worry about anything. Whenever you come back will be just fine. I’ll submit to what the Lord arranges.” Thinking about the fact that my actions were satisfying the Lord, I felt joy and steadiness in my heart.
My husband came back a few days later, and he seemed to me like a completely different person. He helped me with the housework, and even said to me: “You’re working too hard! These last few years have been hard enough for you, handling all our affairs, both inside and outside of the house. I’m aware of this. I’ve been just heading out to work without helping to share the burden of housework with you. From now on I’ll help out more whenever I have time.” Hearing him say this was very moving for me, because my husband had never spoken like this before. I thought to myself: “Ever since he read that book I’ve seen such a big transformation in him. Not only are his sermons filled with light, but his attitude toward me is different. Reading the Bible all these years hasn’t changed him, but now he’s changed so much in such a short time. It seems the words in that book really have the power to change people!” At the same time I sensed that what was in that book had been of great benefit to me, as well. Reading it imbued me with faith and strength, and when I acted in accordance with what it said, the dissatisfaction I felt toward my husband just melted away. And after reading it his attitude toward me had also changed; he understood how to be considerate of me and take care of me. All these changes deepened my feeling that the content of that book is truly powerful and authoritative. But I wondered, who was it who had written the words in this book? I had not found the answer.
One day, two months later, my husband said he wanted to take me with him to attend a gathering. I had a feeling that this gathering would be something very special, otherwise he wouldn’t take me along. I was filled with anticipation and looked forward to seeing that book again. The following day, my husband and I along with two sisters were happily in a car on the way to a sister’s house. There were a number of other brothers and sisters taking part, among them a sister in her thirties who integrated the Scripture into the fellowship shared with us many truths about God’s work in the last days. My heart really lit up as I listened to her, and I gained a clear understanding of many Bible verses that I had never understood before and of God returning to do the work of judgment. I thought to myself, “How is it that her fellowship is so wonderful, that she can explain the Bible so clearly? How does she understand so much?” Just then, this sister said to us loudly, a smile filling her face, “I’d like to tell you, brothers and sisters, an incredibly good news that is truly thrilling. The Lord Jesus we have long been yearning for has returned incarnate among us to carry out His new work; to utter words and unveil all truths and mysteries; to lay bare the mysteries of the three stages of God’s work, His six-thousand-year management plan, the incarnations of God, and the Bible. Everything I shared in fellowship today came from the words that have been uttered by God.” All the brothers and sisters in attendance and I heard this great news and finally realized: It turned out that this sister understood so much because it had all been shared with mankind by the Lord, who had returned. Now we too were hearing the voice of the Lord. We all happily embraced each other and shed tears of excitement—the entire place began to quiver with exuberance. I was so happy that I felt like jumping for joy, and thought: “I’ve always hoped for the Lord Jesus to return soon, and now He really has returned! I am so incredibly blessed that I can welcome the Lord Jesus’ return during my lifetime!”
When the gathering was about to come to a close, the sister gave each of us a book called Judgment Begins With the House of God. Carefully holding the book of God’s words in both hands, that book I had read before suddenly came to mind. Could it be the same book? After we got back home I couldn’t wait to ask my husband, “The book that I saw that day—was it the same book of God’s words that the sister gave us today?” He smiled and said, “It is.” I then felt like I was just waking up from a dream. That voice was from God after all—that is the voice of the returned Lord Jesus, the voice of God! No wonder those words had been so moving to me, giving me faith and strength, changing me, and taking me out of my suffering. I then reproached my husband, “Why did you hide from me that you had accepted God’s new work?” He said, “At the time I really wanted to tell you, but most of the people in your family are preachers in religious circles, and they oppose and condemn God’s work in the last days. They’ve been standing in the way of us investigating the true way all along. I was afraid that if I couldn’t explain it clearly enough and then your relatives found out about it, as soon as they started coming out of the woodwork to disrupt and hinder you, not only would this ruin your chance at salvation, but it would also make me an evildoer! So, I decided to tell you after I had investigated it and gained clarity on it.” Hearing this explanation dispelled my misunderstanding of my husband, and I was all the more thankful for God’s salvation for me. I resolved to read this book of God’s words carefully.
Reading Almighty God’s words brought nourishment and sustenance to my parched spirit. I never thought that I would be able to hear the words of the returned Lord with my own ears, to be raised up before God, or to be face-to-face with God. I felt especially grateful to God for His love and salvation. Ten or so days later, my husband and I worked with the sisters who spread the gospel to bring the other brothers and sisters in our church with true faith in the Lord into the presence of Almighty God.