56. How Did My Duty Become Transactional?
By Zhencheng, China
In 2008, I received the work of Almighty God in the last days. By reading the word of God I understood that the purpose of God’s incarnation in the last days and His expression of the truth is to thoroughly cleanse humanity, to save people from sin, and to bring them into a beautiful destination. I was so excited and wanted to expend myself in the performance of a duty for God. Before long a church leader arranged for me to water newcomers and take charge of a few gathering groups. In order to perform my duty well, I shut down the clinic I had been running for many years and spent my days working in the church. Later, due to the arrests and persecution carried out by the Communist Party, my husband divorced me. In those years, I was always performing my duty away from home, and though I felt weak at times, as soon as I thought that the suffering I endured was commemorated by God, I gained faith and strength.
In April of 2017, the church leader considered my high blood pressure and poor physical condition and stopped me from doing my duty for a while so that I could get some rest. I was really upset and thought, “God’s about to wrap up His work, so now is the crucial time to do my duty and prepare good deeds. Without a duty to perform, can I have a good destination and outcome? If I don’t receive a blessing in the end, will all these years of hard work, of paying a price be for nothing?” Later, a sister took me in. She fellowshiped with me on God’s will and helped me, but I was really envious when I saw her always busy with her duty. I couldn’t do a duty because I wasn’t well. Was God using my condition to take away the qualification of my duty, was He trying to expose me and cast me out? This thought left me limp all over, and I felt absolutely miserable and devoid of hope. Misunderstandings and complaints about God also surfaced; I thought of how over these last few years, I had given up everything and suffered so much without a single complaint. How could I have ended up like this? At that time, I couldn’t really take in God’s words and I didn’t know what to say to God in prayer. I lost my appetite and couldn’t sleep properly. My heart was full of darkness. Seeing me like this, the sister dealt with me, saying, “You’re not really reading God’s words, totally like a different person now. You’re not seeking the truth.” Being dealt with in this way was really hard for me to hear, and I prayed to God in my seeking: “God, I don’t know how to handle this situation, I don’t understand Your will, and I don’t know what path I should take. I’m living in darkness and I’m truly miserable. Please enlighten and guide me.”
I kept praying and seeking a lot over the next few days. One morning, a phrase from God’s words suddenly popped into my mind: “Do you have the face of one who could gain blessings?” I quickly turned on my computer to find this passage. Almighty God says, “After several thousand years of corruption, man is numb and dull-witted; he has become a demon that opposes God, to the extent that man’s rebelliousness toward God has been documented in the books of history, and even man himself is incapable of giving a full account of his rebellious behavior—for man has been profoundly corrupted by Satan, and has been led astray by Satan such that he knows not where to turn. Even today, man still betrays God: When man sees God, he betrays Him, and when he cannot see God, so too does he betray Him. There are even those who, having witnessed God’s curses and God’s wrath, still betray Him. And so I say that man’s sense has lost its original function, and that man’s conscience, too, has lost its original function. The man that I look upon is a beast in human attire, he is a venomous snake, and no matter how pitiable he tries to appear before My eyes, I will never be merciful toward him, for man has no grasp of the difference between black and white, of the difference between truth and non-truth. Man’s sense is so benumbed, yet still he wishes to gain blessings; his humanity is so ignoble yet still he wishes to possess the sovereignty of a king. Who could he be the king of, with sense such as that? How could he with such a humanity sit atop a throne? Man truly has no shame! He is a conceited wretch! For those of you who wish to gain blessings, I suggest you first find a mirror and look at your own ugly reflection—do you have what it takes to be a king? Do you have the face of one who could gain blessings? There has not been the slightest change in your disposition and you have not put any of the truth into practice, yet still you wish for a wonderful tomorrow. You are deluding yourself!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God). I also read another passage of God’s word: “People believe in God in order to be blessed, to be rewarded, to be crowned. Doesn’t this exist in everyone’s heart? It is a fact that it does. Although people don’t often talk about it, and even cover up their motive and desire to obtain blessings, this desire and motive deep in people’s hearts has always been unshakable. No matter how much spiritual theory people understand, what experience or knowledge they have, what duty they can perform, how much suffering they endure, or how much of a price they pay, they never let go of the motivation for blessings hidden deep in their hearts, and always silently labor in its service. Isn’t this the thing buried deepest inside people’s hearts? Without this motivation to receive blessings, how would you feel? With what attitude would you perform your duty? What would happen if this motivation to receive blessings that is hidden in people’s hearts was gotten rid of? Perhaps many people would become negative, while some might become demotivated in their duties. They would lose interest in their belief in God, as if their soul has vanished. They would appear as if their heart was snatched away. This is why I say the motivation for blessings is something hidden deep in people’s hearts. Perhaps, as they performed their duty or lived the life of the church, they would feel themselves able to forsake their families and gladly expend themselves for God, and that they now had knowledge of their motivation to receive blessings, and had put this motivation aside, and were no longer governed or constrained by it. Then, they would think that they no longer had the motivation to be blessed, but God would believe otherwise. People only view matters superficially. Without trials, they feel good about themselves. As long as they don’t leave the church or deny God’s name, and they persist in expending for God, they believe they have changed. They feel they are no longer driven by personal enthusiasm or momentary impulses in the performance of their duty. Instead, they believe they can pursue the truth, and that they can continuously seek and practice the truth while performing their duty, so that their corrupt dispositions is purified and they achieve some genuine change. However, when things happen that are directly related to someone’s destination and ending, their behavior completely reveals their truth in its entirety” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Six Indicators of Life Growth). God’s words of judgment left me nowhere to hide. Before, I knew in theory that faith in God couldn’t be for blessings, but I didn’t truly know myself. This situation suddenly laid bare my motivation to obtain blessings. I had given up my home and job over those last few years to carry out my duty no matter what. I thought by paying all these prices I would certainly gain God’s approval and blessings, and that I would have a good destination, so I was really motivated in my duty. Now I couldn’t do my duty because of my health, so I thought I’d lost my destination and my dreams of blessings were dashed. Not only did I regret giving everything up, but I blamed God, reasoned with Him and opposed Him. I was too depressed to move. I treated my sacrifices as capital to trade with God for blessings, thinking that my suffering and contributions meant God owed me a good destination and outcome. Without that, I complained and blamed God. The motive to be blessed was hidden behind my negativity. That perspective in my faith was conducting a transaction with God, and using Him to gain blessings. This was cheating God and resisting Him. Paul’s contributions and expenditures were done to strike a deal with God, and demand a crown of righteousness from Him. This seriously offended God’s disposition and he was punished. After I made some sacrifices and expenditures, I also demanded rewards, promises, and blessings from God. When I didn’t get what I hoped for, I misunderstood and blamed God, and even thought about betraying Him. How was I any different from Paul? Did I have even a shred of reason or conscience? I’d expended some time and paid somewhat of a price in my duty, but because I didn’t understand the principles of the truth, and was still filled with corruption and impurities, I was unable to achieve any good results in my duty, and I was even disruptive at times. In this way I was using my contributions and expenditures as capital to attempt to strike deals with God and obtain blessings. I was so unthinkably shameless! If my health hadn’t kept me from doing my duty, I never would have seen the improper pursuit of blessings in my faith, and would have kept on going down the wrong path, ultimately ending up just like Paul. These thoughts left me with a lingering fear, and I realized that God’s arranging this situation was His love and salvation for me! I was full of regret and self-reproachment once I’d understood God’s will, and in tears, I prayed, “Oh God! I’m so grateful for Your salvation. Without being exposed this way, I would have opposed You without knowing why. God, I wish to repent to You and stop pursuing blessings. I only want to pursue the truth, cast off my corrupt disposition, and live out a human likeness.”
After praying, I read more of God’s words, which discussed Peter’s experiences of refinement. God’s words say: “I subjected him to countless trials—trials, naturally, that left him half-dead—but amidst these hundreds of trials, he never once lost faith in Me or felt disappointed in Me. Even when I said I had forsaken him, still he was not discouraged, and continued to love Me in a practical way and in accordance with past principles of practice. I told him that I would not praise him even though he loved Me, that I would ultimately cast him into Satan’s hands. But amid such trials, trials that did not come upon his flesh, but were of words, he still prayed to Me and said, ‘O God! Among heaven and earth and all things, is there any human, any creature, or any thing that is not in the hands of You, the Almighty? When You are merciful toward me, my heart greatly rejoices with Your mercy. When You judge me, unworthy though I may be, I gain a greater sense of the unfathomableness of Your deeds, because You are filled with authority and wisdom. Though my flesh suffers hardship, my spirit is comforted. How could I not give praise to Your wisdom and deeds? Even if I were to die after knowing You, how could I not do so gladly and happily? Almighty One! Do You really not wish to let me see You? Am I really unfit to receive Your judgment? Could it be that there is something in me You do not wish to see?’ During such trials, even though Peter was not able to accurately grasp My will, it was evident that he was proud and honored to be used by Me (even though he received My judgment so that humanity might see My majesty and wrath), and that he was not distressed by these trials. Because of his loyalty before Me, and because of My blessing of him, he has been an exemplar and model to man for thousands of years. Is this not precisely what you should emulate?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Words to the Entire Universe, Chapter 6). I saw in God’s words that Peter wasn’t constrained by his fate or destination. Even when God said He wouldn’t approve of Peter in spite of his love and would ultimately deliver him to Satan, Peter still pursued loving God and submitted until his death. There wasn’t anything transactional or impure in Peter’s love for God. It was true love and obedience. I found a path of practice from God’s words and became willing to seek to love God like Peter. No matter how God treats me, whether I have an outcome or destination, I will submit to God’s rule and arrangements. Though at that time I wasn’t able to do my duty in the church like before, I’d been enjoying the sustenance of God’s words over those last few years and had some experience, so I could write out what I’d experienced from God’s work to bear witness for Him. This is also doing a created being’s duty. After this, I started quieting myself before God a lot, pondering His words and writing experience testimonials. I felt much closer to God and stopped fretting over my future and prospects. I felt a great sense of release and relaxation. After a period of recuperation, my blood pressure basically normalized, and I resumed doing my duty in the church.
I thought that after that experience I had gained some understanding about my views of belief in God, and that I wouldn’t be constrained by hopes for blessings anymore. But after a little while, the desire for blessings reared its head again.
At that time, I served as church leader. In a gathering, our leader asked us to check each of the group leaders’ ability to do practical work and told us that absolutely no devious people, or people who wouldn’t accept the truth could be chosen for that position. After hearing this I figured I had to do this right away, that using the wrong person could harm the church’s work and the brothers and sisters. In this case, not only could I be dismissed, but this would be a transgression and an evil deed. A month later, the required personnel changes had been made, and I felt very happy. But surprisingly, our leader soon found that one of my choices was a devious person. This was very upsetting for me. I felt I hadn’t done my duty well and that I had disrupted the church’s work. Soon after, some brothers and sisters reported that another of my choices had a very arrogant disposition. He was authoritarian in his duties, didn’t accept the suggestions of others, and that he scolded and constrained the brothers and sisters. Seeing problem after problem crop up in the work, I suddenly felt paralyzed. I felt like I had a shallow understanding of the truth, that I lacked the reality of the truth. If something else went wrong and impacted the church’s work, that would be such a great evil. Then wouldn’t my future and destination be done for? I felt like I should switch duty right away. I started feeling dizzy one morning, and saw my blood pressure was much higher than usual. I told my leader about my physical condition, thinking that since my health problem had come up, it would be great if she switched my duty. Then I wouldn’t have as much responsibility. I said to the sister who worked with me, “If I am made to go back home, I am willing to obey, and I’ll do whatever duty I can after that.” After I said this, the sister dealt with me, saying I was displaying negativity and that I should reflect on myself. I didn’t want to accept this. I thought I was able to obey and willing to do whatever duty I could. How was that displaying negativity? But then I figured God had allowed her to say that, so I prayed to God for His guidance so I could know my state.
Then I read this passage of God’s words: “No matter how they are tried, the allegiance of those who have God in their heart remains unchanged; but for those who do not have God in their heart, once the work of God is not advantageous to their flesh, they change their view of God, and even depart from God. Such are those who will not stand fast in the end, who only seek God’s blessings and have no desire to expend themselves for God and dedicate themselves to Him. Such base people will all be expelled when God’s work comes to an end, and they are unworthy of any sympathy. Those without humanity are incapable of truly loving God. When the environment is safe and secure, or there are profits to be made, they are totally obedient toward God, but once that which they desire is compromised or finally refuted, they immediately revolt. Even in the space of just one night, they may go from a smiling, ‘kind-hearted’ person to an ugly-looking and ferocious killer, suddenly treating their benefactor of yesterday as their mortal enemy, without rhyme or reason. If these demons are not cast out, these demons that would kill without blinking an eye, will they not become a hidden danger?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Practice). God’s words of judgment and revelation made me feel ashamed. Wasn’t I exactly the type of person He was revealing? I was enthusiastic and worked hard when I thought my duty would yield blessings. Otherwise, I’d suddenly become hostile and not want to do the duty anymore. I was thinking only of my future and destination. When I made mistakes in my duty, I didn’t reflect or seek the truth in light of my failures, or make up for my flaws, or strive to do my best in my duty; rather, I was afraid of having responsibility and endangering my future. I wanted to shirk this duty and swap it for one with less responsibility, using my blood pressure as an excuse to do so. I looked reasonable on the outside, but my despicable motives were hidden behind that. I was so devious!
I started reflecting on what the true root of my constant pursuit of blessings in my faith. I read this in God’s words: “All corrupt humans live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of human nature. People believe in God for their own sakes; when they forsake things and expend themselves for God, it is in order to be blessed, and when they are faithful to Him, it is in order to be rewarded. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of being blessed, rewarded, and entering the kingdom of heaven. In society, people work for their own benefit, and in the house of God, they perform a duty in order to be blessed. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: There is no better evidence of man’s satanic nature” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). I learned from these words of God that I was always thinking of my future and destination because I’d been so deeply corrupted by Satan. “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost” and “Never lift a finger without a reward,” these satanic laws of survival had long since become my nature, making me ever more selfish, despicable, and self-serving. I thought about personal gain in everything I did. Looking at my path in faith over those years, my starting point for doing my duty had been being blessed, being rewarded, ultimately getting a good destination by entering into the kingdom of heaven. My many years of hard work and suffering weren’t sincere expenditure for God, or doing a created being’s duty. It was all to use God, to cheat Him, to strike a deal with Him. It wasn’t to love or satisfy God at all. How could I be called a person of faith? Being able to train as a leader was thanks to God’s grace—God’s will was to have me practice using the truth to resolve problems and learn discernment and insight, but I didn’t treasure this chance. I didn’t equip myself with the truth and enter into it, and only thought about my future and fate. I was walking the path of an enemy of God. I knew I had to repent and pursue the truth, or else I’d certainly end up destroyed.
I read these words of God in one of my devotionals: “The only reason that the incarnate God has come into the flesh is because of the needs of corrupt man. It is because of the needs of man, not of God, and all His sacrifices and sufferings are for the sake of mankind, and not for the benefit of God Himself. There are no pros and cons or rewards for God; He shall not reap some future harvest, but that which was originally owed to Him. All that He does and sacrifices for mankind is not so that He might gain great rewards, but purely for the sake of mankind” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Corrupt Mankind Is More in Need of the Salvation of the Incarnate God). I was very deeply moved by God’s love when I pondered this. God—supreme, holy, and honorable—has become flesh twice to save deeply corrupted mankind, suffering terrible humiliation and pain. The Lord Jesus was crucified to redeem mankind, paying the price of His life. Almighty God came to China in the last days, expressing truths to cleanse and save mankind, and has been persecuted, hunted, and slandered by the CCP and the religious world. He suffers everything to work in our midst, to give us His words for nothing in return, just to save us from Satan’s influence. God pays such great prices to save mankind, without ever considering His own gains or losses. He doesn’t require anything from us in return, He demands nothing from us. God’s love is selfless and true. God’s essence is so beautiful and good! Then, looking at me, I had said I had faith and that I wanted to please God, but I wasn’t sincere toward Him at all. I waved the flag of expending for Him, just to attempt to conduct a transaction for blessings. This was using and cheating God. I saw how selfish, devious, debased, and shameful I was. A person like me would never gain God’s approval, no matter how great their sacrifice. I also read this in God’s words: “As a creature of God, man should seek to perform the duty of a creature of God, and seek to love God without making other choices, for God is worthy of man’s love. Those who seek to love God should not seek any personal benefits or seek that which they personally long for; this is the most correct means of pursuit” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks). I saw in God’s words that as created beings, we shouldn’t have faith for the sake of blessings. We should pursue love for God and seek to do our duty properly as created beings. This is the most meaningful way of living. I said this prayer to God: “God, I want to repent to You, to stop seeking blessings. No matter my final destination, I just want to do my duty well to repay Your love.” Once I’d corrected my state, my blood pressure stabilized.
Later, I also read a couple of passages of God’s words: “There is no correlation between the duty of man and whether he is blessed or cursed. Duty is what man ought to fulfill; it is his heaven-sent vocation, and should not depend on recompense, conditions, or reasons. Only then is he doing his duty. To be blessed is when someone is made perfect and enjoys God’s blessings after experiencing judgment. To be cursed is when someone’s disposition does not change after they have experienced chastisement and judgment, it is when they do not experience being made perfect but are punished. But regardless of whether they are blessed or cursed, created beings should fulfill their duty, doing what they ought to do, and doing what they are able to do; this is the least that a person, a person who pursues God, should do. You should not do your duty only to be blessed, and you should not refuse to act for fear of being cursed. Let Me tell you this one thing: Man’s performance of his duty is what he ought to do, and if he is incapable of performing his duty, then this is his rebelliousness. It is through the process of doing his duty that man is gradually changed, and it is through this process that he demonstrates his loyalty. As such, the more you are able to do your duty, the more truth you shall receive, and the more real your expression shall become” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). “Ultimately, whether people can attain salvation is not dependent on what duty they fulfill, but on whether they can understand and gain the truth, and on whether they can, in the end, entirely submit to God, put themselves at the mercy of His arrangement, give no consideration to their future and destiny, and become a qualified created being. God is righteous and holy, and this is the standard He uses to measure all mankind. This standard is immutable, and you must remember this. Inscribe this standard in your mind, and do not think of finding some other path to pursue some unreal thing. The requirements and standards God has for all who want to attain salvation are forever unchanging. They remain the same no matter who you are” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). These words of God helped me understand that our duty has nothing to do with whether we’re blessed or cursed in the end. The key to being fully saved is whether we can pursue and gain the truth, and can change our dispositions. What duty I perform and when I perform it are both determined by God, and my outcome and destination are even more subject to God’s rule and arrangements. What I should do is accept God’s orchestrations and devotedly perform my duty. I also realized that my serving as church leader is God’s exaltation, and is God giving me a chance to practice, allowing me to see my shortcomings and insufficiencies over the course of my duties. Seeking the truth and understanding the principles of the truth in all aspects could spur on my growth in life. In understanding this, I stopped feeling constrained about my future and my fate and didn’t want to switch duties anymore. I was able to submit and perform my duties in a grounded way, seeking the truth to resolve whatever problems arose. Over time, I slowly grasped some principles, and I gradually made fewer mistakes in my duty. Practicing in accordance with God’s words and not performing my duties for the sake of blessings was really freeing for me. My duties have been guided by God, and have had better and better results. Thanks be to the salvation of Almighty God!