3. What are the differences between performing one’s duty and rendering service?
Relevant Words of God:
Whatever sort of talents, gifts, or skills one has, if they simply take action and exert themselves in performing their duty, and, no matter what they do, rely on their imaginings or notions, or on their own instincts as they exert themselves, and never seek the will of God, and there is not any concept or need in their heart that says, “I must put the truth into practice. I am performing my duty”; and their sole impetus is to do their job well and complete their tasks, then are they not someone who lives entirely by their gifts, talents, abilities, and skills? Are there many such people? In faith, they think only of exerting themselves, selling their own labor, and selling their own skills. Particularly when God’s house gives people general work to do, most will take such a point of view in doing it. All they do is exert themselves. Sometimes that means using their mouth to speak a bit; sometimes it means using their hands and physical strength; and sometimes it means using their legs to run about. Why is it said that relying on those things to live is using one’s strength, rather than putting the truth into practice? When someone has accepted a task given to them by God’s house, they think only of how to complete it as soon as possible, so that they can give an account to their leaders and gain their praise. They might lay out a step-by-step plan, and they may appear quite earnest, but they focus only on completing the task so that others may see, or when they are doing it, they set their own standards to judge their performance, based on how they can act such that they might arrive at happiness and contentment, and achieve the level of perfection they strive for. No matter what standards they set for themselves, if they are unconnected to the truth, and they do not seek the truth, or to understand and confirm what God asks of them before taking action, instead acting blindly, in bewilderment, then what they are doing is mere exertion. They are acting according to their own wishes, by dint of their own mind or their gifts, or on strength of their own abilities or skills. What is the consequence of acting this way? The task may have been accomplished, and perhaps no one found fault with it, and you may feel very pleased—but, in the course of doing it, firstly, you did not understand God’s will, and secondly, you did not act with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength—you did not put your whole heart into it. If you had sought the truth principles and sought the will of God, then you would have accomplished nine-tenths of the task, and you would also have been able to enter into the truth reality and to understand correctly that what you were doing was in accord with God’s will. If you acted carelessly and haphazardly, however, though the task was done, you would not know in your heart how well it was done. You would have no benchmark, and you would not know whether it accorded with God’s will or with the truth. Therefore, to describe any performance of duty in such a state, two words will suffice—exerting yourself.
Everyone who believes in God should understand His will. Only those who perform their duties well can satisfy God, and only by completing the tasks with which He entrusts them can one’s performance of their duty be satisfactory. There are standards for the accomplishment of God’s commission. The Lord Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Loving God is one aspect of what He requires of people. In truth, so long as God has given people a commission, and so long as they believe in Him and perform their duty, these are the standards that He requires of them: that they act with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and with all their strength. If you are present but your heart is not—if the memory and thoughts of your mind are present, but your heart is not—and if you accomplish things by means of your own abilities, are you fulfilling God’s commission? So, what is the standard that must be met in order to fulfill God’s commission, and to perform your duty loyally and well? It is to do your duty with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. If you attempt to perform your duty well without a heart of love for God, it will not work. If your love for God grows ever stronger and more genuine, then you will naturally be able to perform your duty with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
Excerpted from “Exactly What People Have Been Relying on to Live” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Most people do their duties in this state of mind: “If someone leads, I follow. I will follow them wherever they lead, and do whatever they ask me to do.” Taking on responsibility or concern or paying extra attention, on the other hand, are things they cannot achieve and prices they are unwilling to pay. They have a share in exerting physical effort, but they do not share in the responsibility. This is not truly doing one’s duty. You must learn to put your heart into your duty; if one has a heart, one must be able to use it. If someone never uses their heart, this proves they are heartless, and a heartless person cannot attain the truth! Why can they not attain the truth? They do not know how to come before God; they do not know how to put their heart into perceiving God’s enlightenment and guidance, or how to put their heart into contemplation, or into seeking the truth, or into seeking, understanding and showing consideration for God’s will. Do you have those states in which you are able to be quiet before God often, and in which, no matter what arises and no matter your duty, you are able to come often before God, and use your heart to contemplate God’s words, and put your heart into seeking the truth and contemplating how your duty should be performed? Are there many such times? Putting your heart into your duty and being able to take responsibility require you to suffer and to pay a price—it is not enough simply to talk about it. If you do not put your heart into your duty, instead wanting always to exert physical effort, then your duty will certainly not be done well. You will simply go through the motions and nothing more, and you will not know how well you have done your duty. If you put your heart into it, you will gradually come to understand the truth; if you do not, then you will not. When you put your heart into performing your duty and pursuing the truth, you then become gradually able to understand God’s will, to discover your own corruption and deficiencies, and to master all your various states. If you do not use your heart to examine yourself, and focus only on making external efforts, then you will be unable to discover the different states that arise in your heart and all the reactions you have to different external environments; if you do not use your heart to examine yourself, then it will be hard for you to resolve the issues in your heart. Therefore, you must use your heart and your honesty to praise and worship God. To use your heart and honesty to worship God, you must have a heart that is quiet and sincere; in the deepest recesses of your heart, you must know to seek God’s will and the truth, and you must contemplate how to do your duty well, contemplating which parts of your duty you do not yet understand and how to do your duty better. Only by thinking of these things often in your heart will you be able to gain the truth. If these things are not what you contemplate often in your heart, and your heart is filled instead with things of the mind or external things, occupied with such things that have nothing to do with using your heart and honesty to worship God—nothing whatsoever to do with it—are you then able to gain the truth? Do you have a relationship with God?
Excerpted from “Only by Being Honest Can One Live Out a True Human Likeness” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Service-doing means that you do whatever you want to, at least, provided that what you do does not offend God’s disposition. As long as nobody investigates your actions and as long as what you do is passable, then that is good enough. You do not concern yourself with changes of disposition, with doing things in accordance with the truth principles, with satisfying God’s will, and even less with how to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements, or with how to do your duty well and give an account of it to God. You pay no mind to any of these things, and this is what is called service-doing. Service-doing is about exerting oneself with all that you have and working as though you were a slave, from morning until night. If you ask such a person, “All these years of bitter, hard work that you have immersed yourself in, what has it all been for?” then they will reply, “Why, so that I may gain blessings.” If you ask them whether their disposition has had some change as a result of all of their years of believing in God, whether they have become certain of God’s existence, whether they have some degree of true understanding or experience of the Creator’s orchestrations and arrangements, the answer to all of these will be a categorical “No,” and they will be unable to speak about any of these things. When there has been no improvement or progression in any of the indicators relating to changes in disposition, such a person just constantly renders service. Supposing a person does service for many years and, without realizing it, comes to understand that they possess a corrupt disposition, that they often rebel against God, that they often utter complaints, that they often are unable to obey God, that they are deeply corrupted, that no matter how God tells them to submit to Him they are unable to do so. They attempt to restrain themselves but this does not work, and neither does cursing themselves or swearing oaths. In the end, they discover: “Man truly does possess a corrupt disposition, and that is why he is able to rebel against God. Whenever something happens people always have their own desires, and they are always researching God’s orchestrations and arrangements. Although they are willing to exert themselves, the moment something implicates their disposition and their wild ambitions and desires, intentions and wishes, they are unable to forsake them or let them go. They always want to do things in a way that satisfies themselves. This is me, and I am truly a handful to manage! What can be done?” If they have begun to ponder these things, then they already have some small understanding of human ways. If at some time people who are engaged in service-doing are able to take up the real work, are able to focus their minds upon changes of disposition, gain understanding that in fact they also have a corrupt disposition, that they too are arrogant and unable to submit to God, and that it will not do to continue in this way; when the time comes that they are able to think of these things, then they will have begun to turn themselves around and there is hope that their disposition might change and that they might attain salvation. Suppose that someone never thinks of these things, and all they know is how to labor, thinking that finishing the work in their hands is all that is required to complete God’s commission, and that once they have finished exerting themselves they will have properly performed their duty, never thinking about what God’s requirements are, about what the truth is, or about whether they may be counted as someone who obeys God—they never ponder these things. Can someone who approaches their duty in such a way attain salvation? The answer is no. They have not set foot upon the path to attaining salvation or on the right track of belief in God, nor have they established proper relations with God, and yet still they exert themselves and engage in service-doing in the house of God. This kind of person does service in the house of God, and God looks after and protects them, but He does not plan to save them, nor does He deal with them and prune them, nor judge and chastise them, nor subject them to trials or refinement; He only allows them to gain some measure of blessings in this lifetime, and nothing more. If a time comes when these people know to reflect on these things and understand the sermons they hear, they will realize: “So, this is what believing God is all about. Well then, I must seek to attain salvation. If I don’t, and instead settle for rendering service, then that will have nothing to do with belief in God.” They then ponder: “What aspects of a corrupt disposition do I possess? What exactly is this thing, this corrupt disposition? No matter what, first I must submit to God!” These things relate to the truth and to changes of disposition, and there is hope for them.
Excerpted from “Only by Seeking the Principles of the Truth Can One Perform Their Duty Well” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Your attitude toward your duty is, I’ll see how little I can do, what I can get away with; you drag your feet, unconcerned with how long a delay you cause. But if you took things seriously, you would get them done in no time at all. There are some things you do not know how to do, so I give you exact instructions. You do not have to think, you just have to listen and get on with it—but even that is beyond you. Where is your loyalty? It is nowhere to be seen! You are all talk and no heart. Even when your heart understands, you do nothing. This is someone who does not love the truth! If you can see it with your eyes and feel it in your heart but still do nothing, then why even have a heart? Your scrap of conscience does not govern your actions, it does not direct your thoughts—so what use is it? It counts for nothing; it is just decoration. Man’s faith is truly pathetic! And what is pathetic about it? Even when he does understand the truth, he does not put it into practice. Even when he thoroughly understands the problem, he does not take responsibility for it; he knows that it is his responsibility, but he does not put his heart into it. If you do not take on the responsibilities that are within your grasp, what is the value of those meager responsibilities that you do undertake? What effect do they have? You are just making a token effort, saying things for the sake of it. You do not put your heart into it, much less all your energy. This is not performing your duty to an acceptable standard, there is no loyalty involved; you are just living by the sweat of your brow, getting by as a follower of God. Is there any significance to faith like this? Such faith is so paltry—what is it worth? When you perform your duty, you must pay a price. You must take it seriously. What does it mean to take it seriously? Taking it seriously does not mean putting in a little effort or suffering some physical torment. What is key is that there is God in your heart, and a burden. In your heart, you must weigh the importance of your duty, and then carry this burden and responsibility in all you do and put your heart into it. You must make yourself worthy of the mission God has given you, as well as everything God has done for you, and His hopes for you. Only doing so is being serious. There is no use in you going through the motions; you may trick people, but you cannot fool God. If there is no real price and no loyalty when you perform your duty, then it is not up to standard. If you do not take your faith in God and performance of your duty seriously; if you always go through the motions and are perfunctory in your actions, like an unbeliever working for their boss; if you just make a token effort, muddling through each day as it comes, ignoring messes when you see them, seeing a spill and not cleaning it up, and indiscriminately dismissing everything that is not to your own benefit—then is this not trouble? How could someone like this be a member of God’s household? Such people are outsiders; they are not of the house of God. In your heart, you are clear about whether you are being true, being serious, when you perform your duty, and God keeps account, too. So, have you ever taken the performance of your duty seriously? Have you ever taken it to heart? Have you treated it as your responsibility, your obligation? Have you taken ownership of it? Have you ever spoken up when you have discovered a problem when performing your duty? If you have never spoken up after discovering a problem, nor even thought to, if you are disinclined to concern yourself with such things, and think the less trouble the better—if that is the principle you take toward them, then you are not performing your duty; you are living by the sweat of your brow, you are doing service. Service-doers do not belong to the house of God. They are employees; after finishing their work they take their money and leave, each goes their own way and becomes a stranger to the other. That is their relationship with the house of God. Members of the house of God are different: They take pains over everything in God’s house, they take responsibility, their eyes see what needs doing in God’s house and they keep those tasks in mind, they remember everything they think and see, they are emburdened, they have a sense of responsibility—these are members of God’s house. Have you reached this point? (No.) Then you still have a long way to go, so you must keep pursuing! If you do not consider yourself a member of God’s house and eliminate yourself, then how does God look upon you? God does not treat you as an outsider; it is you who put yourself beyond His door. So, objectively speaking, what kind of person are you exactly? You are not in His house. Does this have anything to do with what God says or determines? It is you who have placed your end and position outside the house of God—who else is there to blame?
Excerpted from “Performing Duty Well Requires a Conscience, at the Very Least” in Records of Christ’s Talks
For some people, no matter what issue they might encounter when performing their duties, they do not seek the truth, and they always act according to their own thoughts, notions, imaginings, and desires. They are constantly satisfying their own selfish desires, and their corrupt dispositions are always in control over their actions. Though they may complete the duties to which they have been assigned, they do not gain any truth. So, what are such people relying on when performing their duties? They are relying neither on the truth nor on God. That bit of truth that they do understand has not taken up sovereignty in their hearts; they are relying on their own gifts and abilities, on whatever knowledge that they have acquired, and on their talents, as well as on their own willpower or good intentions, to complete these duties. This is a different sort of nature, is it not? Though you may sometimes rely on your naturalness, imagination, notions, knowledge, and learning to fulfill your duty, no issues of principle emerge in some of the things you do. On the surface, it looks as though you have not taken the wrong path, but there is one thing that cannot be overlooked: During the process of performing your duty, if your notions, imaginings, and personal desires never change and are never replaced with the truth, and if your actions and deeds are never done in accordance with the truth principle, then what will the final outcome be? You will become a service-doer. This is precisely what was written in the Bible: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out devils? and in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity” (Mat 7:22–23). Why does God call these people who exert effort and who render service, “you that work iniquity”? There is one point we can be sure on, and that is that no matter what duties or work these people do, their motivations, impetus, intentions, and thoughts arise entirely from their selfish desires, are totally based on their own ideas and personal interests, and their considerations and plans completely revolve around their reputation, status, vanity, and future prospects. Deep down, they possess no truth, nor do they act in accordance with the truth principle. Thus, what is crucial for you to seek now? (We should seek the truth, and perform our duties in accordance with God’s will and requirements.) What specifically should you do when performing your duties in accordance with God’s requirements? With regard to your intentions and ideas when doing something, you must learn how to discern whether or not they accord with the truth, as well as whether your intentions and ideas are geared toward fulfilling your own selfish desires or the interests of God’s house. If your intentions and ideas accord with the truth, then you can do your duty in line with your thinking; however, if they do not accord with the truth, then you must quickly turn around and abandon that path. That path is not right, and you cannot practice that way; if you continue to walk that path, then you will end up committing evil.
Excerpted from “How to Experience God’s Words in One’s Duties” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Peter’s work was the performance of the duty of a creature of God. He did not work in the role of an apostle, but worked whilst pursuing the love for God. The course of Paul’s work also contained his personal pursuit: His pursuit was for the sake of nothing more than his hopes for the future, and his desire for a good destination. He did not accept refinement during his work, nor did he accept pruning and dealing. He believed that as long as the work he did satisfied God’s desire, and all that he did was pleasing to God, then a reward ultimately awaited him. There were no personal experiences in his work—it was all for its own sake, and not carried out amid the pursuit of change. Everything in his work was a transaction, it contained none of the duty or submission of a creature of God. During the course of his work, there occurred no change in Paul’s old disposition. His work was merely of service to others, and was incapable of bringing about changes in his disposition. Paul carried out his work directly, without having been made perfect or dealt with, and he was motivated by reward. Peter was different: He was someone who had undergone pruning and dealing and had undergone refinement. The aim and motivation of the work of Peter were fundamentally different to those of Paul. Although Peter did not do a large amount of work, his disposition underwent many changes, and what he sought was the truth, and real change. His work was not carried out simply for the sake of the work itself. Although Paul did much work, it was all the work of the Holy Spirit, and even though Paul cooperated in this work, he did not experience it. That Peter did much less work was only because the Holy Spirit did not do that much work through him. The quantity of their work did not determine whether they were made perfect; the pursuit of one was in order to receive rewards, and that of the other was in order to achieve an ultimate love for God, and fulfill his duty as a creature of God, to the extent that he could live out a lovely image in order to satisfy God’s desire. Externally they were different, and so too were their essences different. You cannot determine who of them was made perfect based on how much work they did. Peter sought to live out the image of one who loves God, to be someone who obeyed God, to be someone who accepted dealing and pruning, and to be someone who fulfilled his duty as a creature of God. He was able to devote himself to God, to put the entirety of himself in the hands of God, and obey Him until death. That was what he resolved to do and, moreover, that was what he achieved. This is the fundamental reason why finally his end was different to that of Paul. The work that the Holy Spirit did in Peter was to make him perfect, and the work that the Holy Spirit did in Paul was to use him. That is because their natures and their views toward pursuit were not the same. Both had the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter applied this work to himself, and also provided it to others; Paul, meanwhile, only provided the entirety of the work of the Holy Spirit to others, and gained nothing from it himself. In this way, after he had experienced the work of the Holy Spirit for so many years, the changes in Paul were close to non-existent. He still remained almost in his natural state, and he was still the Paul of before. It was merely that after enduring the hardship of many years of work, he had learned how to “work,” and had learned endurance, but his old nature—his highly competitive and mercenary nature—still remained. After working for so many years, he did not know his corrupt disposition, nor had he rid himself of his old disposition, and it was still clearly visible in his work. In him there was merely more work experience, but such little experience alone was incapable of changing him and could not alter his views about existence or the significance of his pursuit. Though he worked many years for Christ, and never again persecuted the Lord Jesus, in his heart there was no change in his knowledge of God. This means that he did not work in order to devote himself to God, but rather he was compelled to work for the sake of his future destination. For, in the beginning, he persecuted Christ, and did not submit to Christ; he was inherently a rebel who deliberately opposed Christ, and someone who had no knowledge of the work of the Holy Spirit. When his work was almost concluded, still he did not know the work of the Holy Spirit, and merely acted of his own accord pursuant to his own character, without paying the slightest attention to the will of the Holy Spirit. And so his nature was in enmity to Christ and did not obey the truth. Someone like this, who had been forsaken by the work of the Holy Spirit, who did not know the work of the Holy Spirit, and who also opposed Christ—how could such a person be saved? Whether or not man can be saved does not depend on how much work he does, or how much he devotes, but is instead determined by whether or not he knows the work of the Holy Spirit, whether or not he can put the truth into practice, and whether or not his views toward pursuit are in conformity with the truth.
Excerpted from “Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Peter was made perfect through experiencing dealing and refinement. He said, “I must satisfy God’s desire at all times. In all that I do I only seek to satisfy God’s desire, and whether I am chastised, or judged, still I am happy to do so.” Peter gave his all to God, and his work, words, and entire life were all for the sake of loving God. He was someone who sought holiness, and the more he experienced, the greater was his love for God deep within his heart. Paul, meanwhile, did only outward work, and though he also worked hard, his labors were for the sake of doing his work properly and thus gaining a reward. Had he known that he would receive no reward, he would have given up his work. What Peter cared about was the true love within his heart, and that which was practical and could be achieved. He did not care about whether he would receive a reward, but about whether his disposition could be changed. Paul cared about working ever harder, he cared about outward work and devotion, and about the doctrines not experienced by normal people. He cared nothing for changes deep within him nor for the true love for God. The experiences of Peter were in order to achieve true love and true knowledge of God. His experiences were in order to gain a closer relationship to God, and to have a practical living out. The work of Paul was done because of that entrusted to him by Jesus, and in order to obtain the things that he longed for, yet these were unrelated to his knowledge of himself and God. His work was solely for the sake of escaping chastisement and judgment. What Peter sought was pure love, and what Paul sought was the crown of righteousness. Peter experienced many years of the work of the Holy Spirit, and had a practical knowledge of Christ, as well as a profound knowledge of himself. And so, his love of God was pure. Many years of refinement had elevated his knowledge of Jesus and life, and his love was an unconditional love, it was a spontaneous love, and he asked for nothing in return, nor did he hope for any benefits. Paul worked for many years, yet he did not possess a great knowledge of Christ, and his knowledge of himself was also pitiably small. He simply had no love for Christ, and his work and the course that he ran were in order to obtain the final laurel. What he sought was the finest crown, not the purest love. He did not seek actively, but passively; he was not performing his duty, but was compelled in his pursuit after having been seized by the work of the Holy Spirit. And so, his pursuit does not prove that he was a qualified creature of God; it was Peter who was a qualified creature of God who performed his duty. Man thinks that all those who make a contribution to God should receive a reward, and that the greater the contribution, the more it is taken for granted that they should receive God’s favor. The essence of man’s viewpoint is transactional, and he does not actively seek to perform his duty as a creature of God. For God, the more that people seek a true love for God and complete obedience to God, which also means seeking to perform their duty as a creature of God, the more they are able to gain God’s approval. God’s viewpoint is to demand that man recover his original duty and status. Man is a creature of God, and so man should not overstep himself by making any demands of God, and should do nothing more than perform his duty as a creature of God. The destinations of Paul and Peter were measured according to whether they could perform their duty as creatures of God, and not according to the size of their contribution; their destinations were determined according to that which they sought from the beginning, not according to how much work they did, or other people’s estimation of them. And so, seeking to actively perform one’s duty as a creature of God is the path to success; seeking the path of the true love for God is the most correct path; seeking changes in one’s old disposition, and seeking the pure love for God, is the path to success. Such a path to success is the path of the recovery of the original duty as well as the original appearance of a creature of God. It is the path of recovery, and it is also the aim of all of God’s work from beginning to end. If the pursuit of man is tainted with personal extravagant demands and irrational longings, then the effect that is achieved will not be changes in man’s disposition. This is at odds with the work of recovery. It is undoubtedly not work done by the Holy Spirit, and so this proves that pursuit of this kind is not approved of by God. What significance has a pursuit that is not approved of by God?
Excerpted from “Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh