40. What Comes of Not Striving in My Duty
By Linda, Italy
In 2019, Sister Andrea and I were put in charge of the art design work in the church. When I first started this duty, there were many principles that I didn’t grasp, so Andrea patiently fellowshiped with me and took on most of the work herself. Later, I learned she had held this duty for two years, and had some work experience, and in everything from solving problems at gatherings to summing up work, her thinking was more comprehensive than mine. When the brothers and sisters raised questions, she always had good solutions. Compared to her, I felt I was really far behind. I thought, “How much suffering will I have to go through and how much of a price will I have to pay to be like Andrea? Since she has more experience and bears more of the burden, I’ll let her do more of the work.”
Before the work summaries, Andrea asked me to consider ahead of time how to fellowship to solve problems, and I just thought, “That’s a lot of trouble. On top of summarizing existing problems in our duty, I have to find the relevant words of God and principles to fellowship on a solution. Especially in professional issues, I don’t have much experience. To provide a solution, I’d have to put in so much effort into finding much information, and seek fellowship on what I don’t understand. That would take so much time and effort. Andrea knows this field, so she can do the summaries. I’ll leave her to it.” I never thought about work summaries again after that. During the summary, when Andrea asked what ideas and thoughts I had, I said, “I’m not familiar with the field, so you’d best do the summaries.” Sometimes, when she was planning our direction of study, she’d ask me if I wanted to participate, so as to give my advice and help to avoid potential problems. I thought, “Andrea has always been the one responsible for our study. To participate, I’d have to think about it, and study things I don’t know in great depth. That’s too much effort! Forget it, I won’t get involved.” So, I rejected Andrea.
Later, we were learning a new drawing technique. Over the course of learning this we kept running up against difficulties and problems, but Andrea discussed and solved them with us. Since I didn’t know the technique well, I was still confused after hearing things explained twice, and I thought, “Learning new skills in this field is so tiring. I don’t think I’ll get involved this time. At any rate, we’ve got Andrea, she can help us learn.” Later, when I was studying, I didn’t listen carefully. Sometimes I didn’t say a word during the whole time; at other times, I went to work on other things. When Andrea asked my ideas and thoughts, I always carelessly answered that I had none. Gradually, I bore less and less of a burden in my duty and I stopped noticing problems in following up work. During that period, my heart felt empty every day, and I became more and more negative. I felt my caliber was low, and that I was not up to the duty.
One day, after discussing work with me, Andrea said, “You’ve had this duty for a while now, yet you still keep saying you lack experience or don’t understand. You just don’t want to bear a burden or make an effort. The reason why I have some good ideas is that I often pray, rely on God, and seek principles to understand things. Especially when it comes to professional matters we don’t understand, we must take the initiative to study. Otherwise, how can we perform our duty well?” Then she talked about how she relied on God and sought to find solutions when encountering difficulties. However, at the time I still didn’t realize my problem whatsoever. Instead, I felt Andrea didn’t understand my difficulties, so I didn’t take her suggestions to heart, nor did I go on to reflect on myself.
Before long, Andrea was put in charge of other work. I was really sad when she left, because faced with so much work, my mind was blank. I thought, “I’ve been in charge of this work for over a year now, so how am I still unable to take on this work?” This is when I remembered what Andrea had said to me. Had I really not borne a burden in my duty? I prayed to God to ask for His guidance to reflect and know myself. I read this passage of God’s word: “Much of the time, you are unable to reply when asked about work issues. Some of you have gotten involved in the work, but you have never asked how the work is going or carefully thought about this. Given your caliber and knowledge, you shouldn’t know nothing, because all of you have taken part in this work. So why do most people say nothing? It is possible that you really don’t know what to say—that you don’t know whether or not things are going well. There are two reasons for this: One is that you are totally indifferent, and have never cared about these things, and have only ever treated them as a task to be completed. The other is that you are irresponsible and are unwilling to care about these things. If you truly cared, and were really engaged, you would have a view and perspective on everything. Having no perspective or view often comes from being indifferent and apathetic, and not taking any responsibility. You are not diligent toward the duty you do, you do not take any responsibility, you are not willing to pay a price or get involved, nor do you take any pains, or are willing to expend any greater energy; you merely wish to be an underling, which is no different from when an unbeliever works for their boss. Such performance of duty is unliked by God and does not please Him. It cannot meet with His approval” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Being Honest Can One Live as a True Human Being). God’s word precisely revealed my state. When I partnered and discussed work with Andrea, I never had my own views or ideas. I had always felt it was because I didn’t know the field or the work well. Only after reading God’s word did I understand that it was due to my carelessness and irresponsibility. Thinking back on my time partnering with Andrea, each time I had a professional problem, I never worried about it. I used my inexperience with the duty and poor understanding of principles as an excuse to shirk the problem and avoid it. When discussing work, I was just a listener. I’d never thought about it carefully. I often said in front of Andrea that I didn’t understand, that I wasn’t able, and that she had more work experience, but these were really just excuses. My real purpose was to gain her sympathy and understanding, so that she would do more of the work and I could keep enjoying my leisure. I was so cunning and deceitful! I had been put in charge of this duty for over a year, and I had a professional foundation, so if I were responsible and studied diligently, I would have had some of my own views when I discussed work. I may have been able to take up the work when Andrea was transferred. I had done nothing but been irresponsible in my duty, as if I was simply working for a wage, surviving day to day with as little effort or worry as I could get away with. I never thought about how to do things properly, do my best, and fulfill my responsibility. I was simply muddling through my duty, thinking only how to avoid carnal suffering. I didn’t consider God’s will whatsoever. How could I say I had a place for God in my heart? How could God not detest me for my attitude toward my duty?
After that, I read another passage of God’s word: “The Lord Jesus once said, ‘For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has’ (Matthew 13:12). What is the meaning of these words? What they mean is that if you don’t even carry out or dedicate yourself to your own duty or job, God shall take away what was once yours. What does it mean to ‘take away’? How does that feel, as a human? It could be that you fail to attain that which your caliber and gifts could have allowed you to, and you feel nothing, and are just like an unbeliever. That is what it is to have everything taken away by God. If, in your duty, you are remiss, and do not pay a price, and are not sincere, God shall take away what was once yours, He shall take back the right of performing your duty, He shall not accord you this right. Because God gave you gifts and caliber, but you did not perform your duty properly, did not expend yourself for God, or pay a price, and did not put your heart into it, God not only does not bless you, but also takes away what you once had. God bestows gifts on man, giving them special skills as well as intelligence and wisdom. How should man use these things? You must dedicate your special skills, your gifts, your intelligence and wisdom to your duty. You must use your heart and apply everything you know, everything you understand, and everything you can achieve to your duty. By doing so, you will be blessed. What does it mean to be blessed by God? What does this make people feel? That they have been enlightened and guided by God, and that there is a path when they perform their duty. To people it can seem that your caliber and the things you have learned are insufficient to allow you to do things to completion—but if God works and enlightens you, you will not only be able to understand and do those things, but also to do them well. In the end, you will even wonder to yourself, ‘I wasn’t that skilled. It feels that there are now many more things inside me, all of them positive. I never studied these things, but now I understand them all of a sudden. How did I suddenly become so smart? How are there so many things I can do?’ You cannot explain it. This is the enlightenment and blessing of God; this is how God blesses people. If you do not feel this when performing your duty or doing your job, then you have not been blessed by God” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Being Honest Can One Live as a True Human Being). After contemplating God’s word, I understood that God blesses honest people and those who expend themselves sincerely for Him. The more a person is diligent and tries to improve in their duty, the more the Holy Spirit enlightens them, and the more effective they are in their duty. Conversely, if you perform your duty with deception, aren’t diligent, and don’t pay a price, you’ll never make progress or receive any benefit from your duty, and you may even lose what you could have achieved. At this moment, I recalled the experience Andrea told me about. The truth was that there had been a lot of work she had not understood at first, but she often brought her difficulties to God, praying, seeking, and contemplating them deeply, and also fellowshiping and summarizing them with others, and, unconsciously, she was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and was always able to come up with new ideas. She made more and more progress and became more and more effective in her duty. However, I tried to maintain the status quo, didn’t seek progress, tried to enjoy leisure, and never wanted to suffer or pay a price. As a result, I never even reached my potential. Just as God’s words say, “Whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has” (Matthew 13:12). God detested my slipshod and irresponsible attitude toward my duty. I realized that if I didn’t repent, I’d certainly be spurned by God, and ultimately, I’d lose my chance to do a duty altogether. Thinking of this, I felt afraid, so I immediately prayed to God to repent and seek His guidance in finding a path of practice.
Later, I read God’s word: “How should people understand their duties? As something that the Creator—God—gives them to do; this is how people’s duties come about. The commission that God gives you is your duty, and it is ordained by Heaven and acknowledged by earth that you perform your duty as God asks. If you can see that you are receiving God’s commission, that this is God’s love and God’s blessings coming upon you, then you will be able to accept your duty with a heart that loves God, and you will be able to be mindful of God’s will as you perform your duty, and you will be able to overcome all difficulties to satisfy God. Those who truly expend for God could never refuse God’s commission, they could never refuse any duty. No matter what duty God entrusts you with, regardless of what difficulties it entails, you should not refuse, but accept. This is the path of practice, which is to practice the truth and live up to your devotion in all things, in order to satisfy God. Wherein lies the focal point here? It is ‘in all things.’ ‘All things’ does not necessarily mean things that you like or are good at, much less things with which you are familiar. Sometimes you are not good at something, sometimes you need to learn, sometimes you will encounter difficulties, and sometimes you must suffer. However, regardless of what task it is, as long as it is commissioned by God, you must accept it from Him, receiving that duty and performing it well, such that you live up to your devotion and meet God’s will. This is the path of practice” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). After pondering these words of God, I was deeply inspired. A duty is a commission from God, and regardless of whether or not we are skilled at it, or whether it is simple or complex, it has come from God, so we have to be responsible, and we have to be as loyal as we can. Only once we do our best and fulfill our responsibility can we receive God’s guidance. I thought of all the times I swore before God that I’d loyally perform my duties to repay His love. Now that the duty was a little complicated and challenging, and I had to suffer and pay a price, I just muddled through and tried to avoid it. When I realized this, I felt I owed God and was unworthy to enjoy His love. I couldn’t go on like that. I had to practice according to God’s word, treat my duties sincerely, and fulfill my responsibilities fully to avoid having regrets in the future.
So after this, I took the initiative and started to look into and become familiar with the work that was once unfamiliar to me, and when I encountered complicated problems I no longer tried to avoid them. Instead, I took the initiative to discuss and solve them with my brothers and sisters and asked them to teach me when I didn’t understand. Gradually, I began to master the details, and was able to provide appropriate solutions when others encountered difficulties. When I summarized our work, at first I had no ideas and still wanted to avoid it, but I recalled what I’d read in God’s word, so I consciously forsook my flesh, thought about the problems that were present in our duty, and worked to seek principles and look up information. After practicing that way for a while, I clearly felt God’s guidance. Without even noticing, I started understanding a lot of things I didn’t understand or that confused me, and every time we summarized the work, we achieved results. My brothers and sisters practiced what we had summarized, and also made progress.
I thought my attitude toward my duty had changed somewhat, but when I encountered the same situation again, I fell back into my old ways.
In September 2021, due to work needs, I started to partner with Sister Rosie to water newcomers. I thought this duty wouldn’t involve technical issues, so it’d be less of a headache, but in reality, once I started doing it, I discovered watering the newcomers well wasn’t easy. I not only had to communicate in a foreign language, I also had to fellowship on the truth to quickly resolve their notions and confusion. I saw that Rosie was very proficient in all aspects of the work. She could quickly find the relevant truth to resolve the newcomers’ problems, but I saw that I was really bad at it. I couldn’t fellowship on the truth clearly or resolve their problems. To reach Rosie’s level, I’d need to study and equip myself over a long time and pay a significant price. I thought, “Forget it, Rosie is my partner now anyway, so I don’t need to worry.” At this thought, I didn’t equip myself with the truths regarding watering so eagerly, and after gatherings, I didn’t proactively ask newcomers about their problems and difficulties. One day, I reflected that I’d already been doing this duty for two months, yet I still couldn’t water a newcomer alone. I always made the excuse that I didn’t understand, but in reality I didn’t strive to pay a price. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why is it that as soon as I encounter a duty I’m not skilled at, I use my ‘lack of understanding’ and ‘inability’ as excuses to muddle through the duty, and don’t want to pay a price?” I brought my state and my confusion before God and prayed.
One day, during my devotionals, I read God’s word: “When performing a duty, people always pick light work, that will not tire them out, that will not involve braving the elements outdoors. This is called picking easy jobs and shirking hard ones, and it is a manifestation of coveting the comforts of the flesh. What else? (Always complaining when their duty is a little hard, a little tiring, when it involves paying a price.) (Being preoccupied with food and clothing, and the indulgences of the flesh.) These are all manifestations of coveting the comforts of the flesh. When such a person sees that a task is laborious or risky, they foist it off on someone else; they themselves only do leisurely work, and make excuses for why they cannot do this one, saying that they are of poor caliber and do not have the requisite skills, that it is too much for them—when in fact, it is because they covet the comforts of the flesh. … There’s also when people always complain while performing their duty, when they don’t want to put any effort in, when, as soon as they have a little down time, they take a rest, chatter idly, and gossip. And when work picks up and it breaks the rhythm and routine of their lives, they are unhappy about it. They grumble and complain, and they are dissatisfied, and they become careless and perfunctory in performing their duty. This is coveting the comforts of the flesh, is it not? … Are people who covet the comforts of the flesh suitable for performing a duty? Bring up the subject of performing their duty, talk about paying a price and suffering hardship, and they keep shaking their head: They would have too many problems, they are full of complaints, they are negative about everything. Such people are useless, they are not entitled to perform their duty, and should be cast out” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). “Some false leaders do have a little caliber, but they do not do practical work, and they covet fleshly comforts. People who covet fleshly comforts are not much different from pigs. Pigs spend their days sleeping and eating. They do nothing. It is hard work keeping them fed for a year, but when the whole family eats their meat at year’s end, they may be said to have been of service. If a false leader is kept like a pig, eating and drinking for free three times each day, growing fat and strong, but they do not do any practical work and are a wastrel, has keeping them not been futile? Has it been of any use? They are only good as a foil to God’s work and should be cast out. Really, it is better to keep a pig than a false leader. False leaders may have the title of ‘leader,’ they may occupy this position, and eat well three times a day, and enjoy many of God’s graces, and at the end of year, they have eaten themselves fat—but how has the work gone? Look at all that has been accomplished in your work this year: Have you seen results in some area of work this year? What practical work did you do? God’s house does not ask that you do every job perfectly, but you must do the key work well—the work of the gospel, for example, or AV work, the text-based work, and so on. These must all be fruitful. Under normal circumstances, an effect—an outcome—can be seen after three to five months; if there is no outcome after a year, then this is a serious problem. After a year, see what work within your scope of responsibility has been most successful, in which you paid the greatest price and suffered the most. Look at your achievements: In your heart, you should have some idea of whether you have made any valuable achievements from your year of enjoying God’s grace. Just what were you doing while you ate the food of God’s house and enjoyed God’s grace for all this time? Have you achieved anything? If you have achieved nothing, then you are a freeloader, a veritable false leader” (The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). As I pondered these words of God, I felt like they had pierced my heart. Only then did I understand that I always shrank back from difficulty in my duty and used my “lack of understanding” and “inability” as excuses, because I was too lazy and craved carnal comfort too much. In the past, when I was in charge of a duty with Andrea, I’d always picked easy and simple tasks for myself and given her anything I wasn’t skilled in or that required careful thinking. Now, in watering newcomers with Rosie, I still didn’t want to worry or pay a price. I reflected on my behavior, and realized the main reason for it was that I was controlled by satanic philosophies. Things like “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Seize the day for pleasure, for life is short,” and “Treat yourself while you’re alive” had taken root deep in my heart. I’d always felt people have to live for themselves, and that when we are not suffering and have carnal comfort, we are living as we should. When I came to the church to fulfill my duty, I still held this view. When there were duties I wasn’t good at, when I encountered difficulties that required me to pay a price, I shrank back like a turtle pulling its head in and put my carnal comfort first. Pigs don’t have any thoughts or do anything. They only know to eat, drink and sleep. I was the same, concerned only with my comfort. I was living such a vulgar life! I thought of how in the past as a supervisor, and now in watering, God had been gracious to me, but I didn’t try to make progress, or consider my responsibilities and duties at all. I was irresponsible with the work of the church and with my brothers’ and sisters’ lives. I didn’t have the slightest conscience! I didn’t want to suffer or pay a price, but I used the excuses of “lacking understanding” or being “unable” for sympathy, and to make others think I could admit my flaws, so they’d see me as reasonable and honest. The truth is that I used these words to cover up my own laziness and irresponsibility. I was so cunning and deceitful, and I cheated all my brothers and sisters! Although I could cheat them for a while, God sees everything, and God is righteous. I was trying to fool and cheat God, so how could God not detest me? This is why I never saw God’s guidance in my duties during that time. My being constantly at a loss and lack of obvious progress were signs of danger!
I read the word of God, “From when God entrusted the construction of the ark to Noah, at no point did Noah think to himself, ‘When is God going to destroy the world? When is He going to give me the signal that He will do so?’ Rather than pondering such matters, Noah tried hard to commit each thing God had told him to memory, and then to carry each one out. After accepting what was entrusted to him by God, Noah set about carrying out and accomplishing the construction of the ark spoken of by God as if it was the most important thing in his life, without any thought of delay. Days passed, years went by, day after day, year after year. God never put any pressure on Noah, but throughout all this time, Noah persevered in the important task entrusted to him by God. Every word and phrase that God had uttered was inscribed on Noah’s heart like words carved upon a stone tablet. Heedless of the changes in the outside world, of the ridicule of those around him, of the hardship involved, or of the difficulties he encountered, he persevered, throughout, in what had been entrusted to him by God, never despairing or thinking of giving up. God’s words were inscribed upon Noah’s heart, and they had become his everyday reality. Noah prepared each of the materials needed for building the ark, and the form and specifications for the ark commanded by God gradually took shape with each careful strike of Noah’s hammer and chisel. Throughout wind and rain, and regardless of how people mocked or slandered him, Noah’s life proceeded in this manner, year after year. God secretly watched Noah’s every action, without ever uttering another word to him, and His heart was touched by Noah. Noah, however, neither knew nor felt this; from start to finish, he simply built the ark, and assembled every kind of living creature, in unwavering fealty to God’s words. In Noah’s heart, there was no higher instruction that he ought to follow and carry out: God’s words were his lifelong direction and goal. So, no matter what God said to him, no matter what God asked him to do, commanded him to do, Noah completely accepted it, and committed it to memory, and took it as his life’s endeavor. He not only did not forget, he not only fixed it in his mind, but also made it the reality of his own life, using his life to accept, and carry out, God’s commission. And in this way, plank by plank, the ark was built. Noah’s every move, his every day, were dedicated to the words and commandments of God. It might not have seemed that Noah was performing a momentous undertaking, but in the eyes of God, everything Noah did, even his every step he took to achieve something, every labor performed by his hand—they were all precious, and deserving of commemoration, and worthy of emulation by this mankind. Noah adhered to what had been entrusted to him by God. He was unwavering in his belief that every word uttered by God was true; of this, he had no doubt. And as a result, the ark came to completion, and every manner of living creature was able to live upon it” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Excursus Two (Part One)). As I pondered God’s words, I was very moved. Noah was obedient and considerate of God. When God told Noah to build the ark, Noah cherished His commission and obeyed His requirements. At first, he didn’t know how to build the ark, and the difficulty of building it was truly too great. At every stage, he had to suffer and pay a price, but Noah was faithful to God’s commission. To complete God’s commission, he willingly suffered, paid the price, and built the ark nail by nail. Noah persisted for 120 years and finally completed God’s commission. Although Noah suffered much to build the ark and didn’t enjoy carnal comfort, he had carried out God’s commission, satisfied Him, and earned His approval. Compared with Noah’s attitude toward God’s commission, I saw that I had no humanity at all. When performing my duty, I was not loyal, I was lazy and cunning, I only craved carnal comfort, and wasn’t willing to suffer at all. I truly was living a despicable life! If I continued like this and didn’t change, in the end I’d lose my duty, which I’d regret for the rest of my life.
In the days that followed, I properly arranged my time, and persisted in equipping myself each day with required truths regarding the watering of newcomers. At a gathering one day, the brothers and sisters raised a problem in the watering work, and when I heard something I didn’t understand, I wanted to avoid it. I thought of letting them talk it out among themselves. But this time, I was suddenly aware of my wanting to muddle through and not take responsibility. I thought of Noah’s serious and responsible attitude toward his commission, and then I rapidly corrected my incorrect state. I listened intently to how they fellowshiped on the truth to solve the problem. In the final summary, I put forward my thoughts and advice. I was surprised when they said my advice was good. When I watered newcomers with Rosie, I took the initiative to practice resolving the practical difficulties of newcomers, and if there were problems I couldn’t solve, I’d ask her for help right away. After a while, I could water the newcomers independently, too. While I still have many shortcomings and flaws, I can feel myself growing and making gains, and I feel more at ease. The understanding and benefits I’ve been able to receive are entirely the effect of God’s work. Thank God!