My name is Xiaomei. I’m an ordinary Christian. One day in 1996, my only 8-year-old son died of illness. At that time, I was stricken with sorrow, wrapped in depression and in an absent-minded trance all day, and it seemed as if I had no hope of living. At that time, my friend, Xiaozhao came to visit me and preached the ’ gospel to me. She told me that the burden of the Lord was light. As long as we came before the Lord, He would bestow peace and joy upon us. So, I accepted the Lord’s salvation.
After believing in the Lord, I found something to lean on and came out of the sufferings of my son’s passing away unknowingly. In order to repay the Lord’s love and salvation, I attended gatherings actively, gave to charity, donated, and did what I could to help the brothers and sisters in difficulty. At that time, I was full of joy and my life was enriching.
During a meeting one time, the preacher said to us, “Brothers and sisters, please turn to the book of Romans 2:5-7. Let me read it, ‘The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.’ From these verses, we can see that the Lord takes care of those who do good deeds and will give them glory, honor and peace. So good deeds are the most honored, and doing good deeds can glorify God most. As long as people see our good deeds, they will give glory to our Father in heaven. Doing evil and humiliating our own integrity bring shame upon the Lord’s name, only if we do good deeds can we gain peace and joy from the Lord. So, as the Lord’s children, we should do good deeds bravely and abandon sins, and then we will be able to gain the eternal life in the future.”
After hearing his fellowship, I understood: Only those who do good deeds in all things, love to do good and give to others can gain the Lord’s approval and the eternal life. Thinking of this, I made a resolution in my heart: I will practice according to the words in the verses, do more good deeds and do my utmost to cooperate with the Lord. I only wish to gain God’s approval and be accepted by Him.
From then on, I practiced hard according to the words in the Bible. I often donated and helped the brothers and sisters who were in need, bought books for them and also offered money to the church. Even those beggars who came to my house to ask for rice or flour, I never let them leave empty-handed. If I saw the disabled people in the street, I even more pitied and sympathized with them. I thought of the verses: “There is that scatters, and yet increases; and there is that withholds more than is meet, but it tends to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that waters shall be watered also himself” (Pro 11:24-25). I thought: The Lord just asks us to have good intentions and provide convenience to others, to remember that servicing rightness is servicing the Lord at any time and doing good deeds is glorifying the Lord’s name. No matter whom we face, we are able to help them happily, and at last the Lord will bestow the eternal life upon us.
Once, there was a very poor sister in the church. Her son had come a long way to find a partner, but as he couldn’t afford the bride price, the girl’s parents didn’t consent to their daughter’s marriage. The sister was very anxious, for fear that her son’s girlfriend would break it off with her son. On hearing that, I lent thirty thousand RMB to her actively. Holding the money, she said in a moving voice, “Thank the Lord! This is the Lord’s love.” When practicing in this way, I had an unspeakable sense of peace and joy in my heart. I tasted the comfort and enjoyment of my heart after doing good deeds. So, I was even more certain that as long as I continually donated and did more good things, I would surely be able to gain the Lord’s blessings. The Lord would surely approve me and let me enter into the eternal life in the future. Each time when I thought of these, I would have more faith. Afterward, I practiced according to the verses as usual.
However, in the following days, something unexpected happened. Once, I took my daughter to the amusement park and jump on the trampoline. But she fractured her arm in a fall due to carelessness, and had an operation. Hearing my daughter’s heartrending cry, my heart was broken. I prayed to the Lord unceasingly, asking Him to have mercy on my daughter. One trouble followed another. After a period of time, I was found to have gynecological disease. In the face of these misfortunes, I was very confused: I practice according to the words in the Bible all the time—do righteous deeds and good deeds. Moreover, I have done so many good things. Why do I not gain the Lord’s blessings but encounter the misfortunes? Why is this? Are all the good deeds I have done not approved by the Lord? Though I often came before God to pray and seek, I had never grasped His will. Because of that, I lived in distress and confusion, losing the former faith gradually.
One day in 2008, my good friend, Xiaozhao, whom I hadn’t been in contact with for a long time, came to visit me. After an exchange of greetings, we talked about our own situation of believing in the Lord. I told her all my puzzles and difficulties, hoping to gain some help from her. Xiaozhao said with a smile, “Actually, our situations are the same. This is a common problem. In terms of the root cause, when we perform good things and do good deeds, we all have our own intentions, purposes, transactions and impurities. We do so for the sake of our own profits or exchanging God’s blessings, not for satisfying God truly or loving others as ourselves. So, when our family face some misfortunes, we will misunderstand and complain against God for not blessing us. Thereafter, we won’t have faith to do good deeds and perform good things any more. These show that our good deeds are temporary and have transactions. However, God searches all things clearly. He never cares about how many superficial good deeds a person has, how much he has forsaken, how much he has suffered, and how many prices he has paid. Instead, He cares about whether we practice the truth to satisfy Him without any demands and impurities.”
Hearing what she said, I was not convinced. So I interrupted her, “That’s not right! It is said in the Bible clearly, ‘The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life’ (Romans 2:5-7). ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith’ (Galatians 6:10). Is there anything wrong with my practicing according to the words in the Bible?”
Seeing that I was excited, Xiaozhao said to me patiently, “I held the same viewpoint as you before. I considered that practicing in this way was just according to the Lord’s will and He would surly approve me. So I didn’t seek God’s will truly until I saw such two passages words in a spiritual book: ‘Behaving well is not the same as obeying God, much less does it equal being compatible with Christ. Changes in behavior are based on doctrine, and born of fervor—they are not based on the true knowledge of God, or upon the truth, much less do they rest on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is directed by the Holy Spirit, this is not the expression of the life, much less is it the same as knowing God; no matter how good a person’s behavior, it does not prove that they , or that they put the truth into practice’ (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition”). ‘People’s outer actions cannot replace truth, and actions are not completely done according to God’s intentions; rather truth is the true expression of God’s will’ (“Understanding Nature and Putting Truth Into Practice”). Only then did I understand God’s will. Actually, my thought that by doing more good deeds, helping and donating whoever needs help, I would be approved by God and gain the eternal life, was just my conception. It is based on doctrine, born of fervor, and totally for achieving my own intentions and purposes. That I satisfied and loved God was not because I had the true understanding about God’s substance, disposition, what He has and does, or totally understanding His will and demands. So these good deeds could only be practiced in the environment that fit my will. Once God’s work didn’t conform to my conceptions and imaginations—I did good deeds but couldn’t exchange the blessings I wished, my former faith would disappear, and I would still complain about God. I couldn’t practice the truth to satisfy God, be loyal to Him and love Him throughout at all. Therefore, if we and only have changes in behaviors but don’t pay attention to change our disposition or resolve the corrupt satanic disposition inside, we will betray God and stray from God sooner or later. Such good deeds can’t be approved by God but instead be loathed and hated by Him.
The words read by Xiaozhao and her fellowship and knowledge revealed my wrong understanding, thoughts and practice. Her words pricked in my heart and I felt painful. I thought: Since I believed in the Lord, I have practiced according to the words in the Bible— performing righteous deeds and good deeds, and I have done so many good things. I count the good things I have done an honor all the time, but now they all become good deeds on the outside. Besides, they are not after God’s will and demands, much less can make me by God and enter into God’s kingdom. Have I really practiced in a wrong way for these years? But, most brothers and sisters in the church practice in this way, even the pastors and elders also say like that. Everyone does in this way. Could there be mistakes in it? … So, I said, “You said that we have impurities and transactions inside when we do good deeds. I agree with you. But I am practicing the words in the Bible. Moreover, most brothers and sisters have acted in such a way, even the pastors and elders have spoken like this. In Psalms 92:12, it also says, ‘The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.’ Could there be mistakes in it?”