27. Rectifying My Motives in My Duty
By Xia Yu, China
I was elected as a church leader last June. At the time, I was thrilled and felt that the brothers and sisters must think well of me, and that so many people voting for me meant that I was a cut above the others. I told myself that I really had to work hard to do this duty well, so that the brothers and sisters would see how capable I was. I was really unfamiliar with the church’s work when I started out, so I was really attentive in listening and remember things while working alongside the sister I was paired with, who was more familiar with the duty. I was constantly thinking, “Since I’m a church leader now, I have to do a good job and accomplish some things, to live up to the title. I can’t gain the notoriety of being someone who doesn’t do practical work, who’s greedy for the blessings of status. How could I show my face, then?” I also pondered how to really do the duty well. I was facing the brothers and sisters of the entire church, some who had been doing their duty for many years and understood more principles of the truth than I do. What would they think of me if I try to help them resolve their problems but I couldn’t put my finger on the root of it, and I couldn’t share a path of practice in my fellowship? Would they think I was totally incapable, that I wasn’t fit for leadership duties? I felt fellowship on a higher level than them was crucial as a leader, so I had to waste no time in equipping myself with the truth so that when brothers and sisters did encounter problems, I would be ready to help resolve them. Then they would see that I did possess a bit of the reality of the truth, and I was doing just fine as a leader. So on top of being busy with the church’s work every day, I would also read some of God’s words whenever I had a spare moment. My schedule was packed full every single day, and even though other sisters would remind me when they were about to go to bed, “It’s getting late. You should get some sleep,” I didn’t feel sleepy at all and I’d often work late into the night. And even though I put a lot of effort into preparing for them, I still didn’t feel confident in gatherings with brothers and sisters.
One evening, the sister I worked with told me that the next day we needed to hold a gathering for the gospel team. This made me incredibly nervous. I thought, “The brothers and sisters on that team have been believers for quite a while, and I’m new to leadership duty. I don’t really have a grasp on what kinds of problems and difficulties they face in their gospel work. If they mention issues that I can’t address, will they think I’m no good at my duty? Won’t that ruin my image as a leader? No, some last-minute preparation is better than nothing, and I should make the most of this time to equip myself with some relevant truths.” However, as I couldn’t really get a grasp of everything on such short notice, I was unsettled. I flitted around looking at this and that on my computer, one thing for a moment, then another thing for a moment. My mind was all tangled up into knots and I couldn’t make sense of anything—there was nothing for it but to go to sleep. In the gathering the following day I watched the sister I worked with fellowshiping on the truth with all of them, helping them resolve the issues they encountered in sharing the gospel, while I just sat there with no clue what to say. It felt really awkward to me. I thought, “If I don’t say anything at all, won’t they think that I’m just ornamental as a leader? I should speak up. Some of these sisters already know me, and now that I’m a leader, shouldn’t I be able to share fellowship that’s more profound? Otherwise, what will they think of me? Would they say I was no good?” I was racking my brains to come up with some experiences I had had that I could share, but the more nervous I got, the more I was thrown into turmoil. I didn’t know what to say. So that everyone wouldn’t see that I didn’t have anything to fellowship, I listened intently to my partner’s fellowship, and as soon as she was done, I just jumped in to basically summarize what she had said. That way it would show that my fellowship and understanding were better than hers, and everyone would see that I was doing fine, that I was up to the position of leader. I knew very well that everything I was saying was my partner’s understanding that I was appropriating. I knew it was a really despicable way to act. I felt a total void in my heart after the gathering; I also knew that all the people, events, and things that I encounter every day are orchestrated by God, but I had no idea how to experience them. I hadn’t learned anything. This thought left me feeling awful and I even regretted taking on that duty a bit. For the next few days, I felt like there was a heavy weight pressing down on my head—I felt foggy and like I couldn’t get a deep breath. Being faced with problems in the church’s work and not even knowing where to start was really painful for me. I prayed to God, “Oh God, I want to do this duty well, but I always feel like I’m not up to the task. I don’t know what to do. Please guide me to know myself so I can escape from this state.”
After that, I opened up to my partner and told her about my state. She gave me a passage of God’s words to read, taken from “To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice.” It says: “All corrupted humans exhibit this problem: When they are ordinary brothers and sisters without status, they do not put on airs when interacting or speaking with anyone, nor do they adopt a certain style or tone in their speech; they are simply ordinary and normal, and do not need to package themselves. They do not feel any psychological pressure, and can fellowship openly and from the heart. They are approachable and are easy to interact with; others feel that they are very good people. However, as soon as they attain status, they become high and mighty, as if no one can reach them; they feel that they deserve respect, and that they and ordinary people are cut from different cloths. They look down on ordinary people and stop fellowshiping openly with others. Why do they no longer fellowship openly? They feel that they now have status, and are leaders. They think that leaders must have a certain image, be a bit loftier than ordinary people, and have more stature and be able to assume more responsibility; they believe that compared to ordinary people, leaders must have more patience, be able to suffer and expend more, and be able to withstand any temptation. They even think leaders cannot cry, no matter how many of their family members might die, and that, if they do have to cry, they must cry into their bedsheets, so that no one can see any shortcomings, defects, or weakness in them. They even feel that leaders cannot let anyone know if they have become negative; instead, they must hide all such things. They believe this is how one with status should act” (Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). Reading this was a huge jolt for me—God’s words had revealed my exact state! Why was I so afraid to be on the spot in every gathering? Why did I feel so stressed? It was because I was trying to elevate myself. Ever since becoming a leader, I’d been feeling like I had a position and status, so I was different from before. Now as a leader, I thought I had to uphold the image of a leader, that I should be on a higher rung than the others and more capable than them. My fellowship needed to be more insightful and I had to see into the essence of problems better, and to resolve any issues brothers and sisters encountered in their entry into life. I felt like I needed to be the one who stood out from the crowd in gatherings no matter which team I was with, that that was the only way to be worthy of the title. So, after accepting that commission, I was speaking and acting for the sake of my position in all things. In fact, I was lacking in every aspect, but I wanted to disguise myself, pretending to be lofty, and I even engaged in cunning behaviors, trying to snatch away the light of my partner’s fellowship to shine on myself so that others would look up to me. Day in, day out, all I thought about was how to maintain my status, not at all about how to do my duty well, how to fulfill my responsibilities. I wasn’t remotely focused on real, proper work. How was that pursuing the truth and doing my duty? That was pursuing and being utterly controlled by status—it was becoming a slave to status. Even though I had been elected as leader, I didn’t just instantly possess tremendous stature or the reality of the truth, but I was still the same person. All that was different was my duty. God wanted me to get more training through my duty as a leader, to seek the truth to resolve problems and to do practical work. It wasn’t to give me status at all. But I elevated myself to the status of a leader, even falsely thinking of being a leader as just like serving as a government official out in the world, that it meant having status. Wasn’t that the perspective of an unbeliever? It was absurd!
After realizing all this, I prayed to God: “God, thank You for Your enlightenment and guidance that have allowed me to understand that the reason behind my incorrect state was me pursuing status. I was on the wrong path. God, I’m ready to repent and seek the truth to resolve this state of mine. Please guide me.” I read a passage of God’s words after that in which Almighty God says, “People themselves are objects of creation. Can objects of creation achieve omnipotence? Can they achieve perfection and flawlessness? Can they achieve proficiency in everything, come to understand everything, and accomplish everything? They cannot. However, within humans, there is a weakness. As soon as they learn a skill or profession, people feel that they are capable, that they are people with status and worth, and that they are professionals. No matter how ‘capable’ they think they are, they all want to package themselves up, disguise themselves as lofty personages, and appear perfect and flawless, without a single defect; in the eyes of others, they wish to be regarded as great, powerful, fully capable, and able to accomplish anything. … They do not wish to be ordinary people, normal people, or mere mortals. They just want to be superhuman, or someone with special abilities or powers. This is such a huge problem! With regard to the weaknesses, shortcomings, ignorance, foolishness, and lack of understanding within normal humanity, they will wrap it all up, package it, and not let other people see it, and then keep on disguising themselves. … They do not know who they themselves are, nor do they know how to live out normal humanity. They have never once acted like practical human beings. In conducting themselves, if people choose this sort of path—always having their heads in the clouds instead of their feet on the ground, always wanting to fly—then they are bound to encounter problems. The path in life you choose is not right. To be honest with you, if you do this, then no matter how you believe in God, you will not understand the truth, nor will you be able to obtain the truth, because your starting point is wrong” (“The Five States Necessary to Be on the Right Track in One’s Faith” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). Reading this felt like I was face-to-face with God, being judged by Him. It was really distressing and upsetting for me, especially reading, “If you do this, then no matter how you believe in God, you will not understand the truth, nor will you be able to obtain the truth, because your starting point is wrong.” I realized how critical someone’s motives and the path they take are in their duty, that these directly determine whether or not they can gain the truth. If we don’t pursue the truth in our duty, if we aren’t considerate of God’s will, but instead uphold our own status, it doesn’t matter how hard we work, how much we suffer and pay a price—we’ll never gain God’s approval, but we’ll be rejected, condemned by God. God is holy, and He can see into the depths of our hearts and minds. After I became a leader, I was only thinking of my image and status in other people’s eyes. Wanting to protect my leadership position, I was always disguising, hiding my faults and inadequacies so that other people would look up to me and admire me. God’s commission wasn’t what was in my heart—I was pursuing status, taking a path of resisting God. How could I gain the work of the Holy Spirit that way? The darkness I had fallen into then was God’s righteous disposition coming upon me. If I still didn’t repent, I would certainly be despised by God. I thought about the antichrists that had been expelled from God’s house. They had status and always felt that they weren’t like everybody else; they became greedy for the blessings of status, elevating themselves and showing off, struggling to wrest God’s people away from Him. They did evil and resisted God, and ultimately, their end was to be kicked out, eliminated. As I realized all this, I reflected on how I had been controlled by status since taking on the duty of leadership. I thought of duties as hierarchical, ascribing a title to myself and elevating myself. I thought that I had attained status, and I wanted to show off by resolving other people’s issues so that they would look up to me. I was shameless! This thought left my face burning with embarrassment; I felt that I was disgusting, and that protecting my status in other people’s eyes that way was essentially vying for status with God. It was the path of an antichrist. It was then that I realized what a dangerous state that was to be in, and that if I didn’t repent, I would ultimately be punished, just like an antichrist.
In my later seeking and reflection, I read this passage of God’s words: “When you have no status, you can dissect yourself often and come to know yourself. Others can benefit from this. When you have status, you can still dissect yourself often and come to know yourself, allowing others to understand truth reality and comprehend God’s will from your experiences. People can benefit from this, too, can they not? If you practice so, then, whether you have status or not, others will benefit from it just the same. So, what does status mean to you? It is, in fact, an extra, additional thing, like a piece of clothing or a hat; as long as you do not take it as too great a matter, it cannot constrain you. If you love status and place special emphasis on it, always treating it as a matter of importance, then it will have you under its control; after that, you will no longer want to know yourself, nor will you be willing to open up and lay yourself bare, or set aside your leadership role to speak and interact with others and fulfill your duty. What sort of problem is this? Have you not assumed this status for yourself? And have you not then just continued to occupy that position and are unwilling to give it up, and even vie with others to protect your status? Are you not just tormenting yourself? If you end up tormenting yourself to death, whom will you have to blame? If, when you have status, you can refrain from lording it over others, focusing instead on how to perform your duties well, doing everything you should and fulfilling all the duties you ought, and if you see yourself as an ordinary brother or sister, then will you not have cast aside the yoke of status?” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words provided me with a path of practice and entering in. Regardless of whether I have any status or not, I have to properly do my own duty, fellowship on whatever I understand, and when I encounter something I don’t understand, I should openly fellowship with brothers and sisters to seek the truth and resolve it together. I was just performing a different duty than the others, but no one was higher or lower than anyone else. And the fact that I was serving as a leader absolutely didn’t mean that I was better than them, more capable than them. But I acted like a buffoon, utterly lacking self-awareness. I also had all sorts of shortcomings and needed help from brothers and sisters, but even so, I thought I needed to be better than them. That was so arrogant and ignorant! I felt like my disgracefully putting myself up on high was simply laughable. I thanked God from my heart for exposing me through this situation, allowing me to see that I was taking the wrong path. I prayed to God, “God, thank You for exposing me so that I could see how preoccupied I was with status, and that I was on a path of resisting You. I don’t want to stay on the wrong path. I wish to repent, let go of the idea of status, change my attitude toward my duty, and do my duty in accordance with the principles of the truth.”
One time I went to a group’s gathering in which three of the brothers and sisters there had been doing their duty longer than me, and a couple of them had already served as leaders. They had shared fellowship on the truth with me and helped me resolve issues before, so I felt kind of constrained in the gathering. I was afraid that if my fellowship wasn’t very good and I failed to help them with their problems, they might think I totally lacked the reality of the truth and I wasn’t fit for leadership. I didn’t dare ask them what kind of state they were in, afraid they’d say something that I couldn’t deal with. At that point I realized that I was trying to protect my own face and status again, and so I said a prayer to forsake myself. Then these words from God came to mind: “If, when you have status, you can refrain from lording it over others, focusing instead on how to perform your duties well, doing everything you should and fulfilling all the duties you ought, and if you see yourself as an ordinary brother or sister, then will you not have cast aside the yoke of status?” (“To Resolve One’s Corrupt Disposition, One Must Have a Specific Path of Practice” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). I knew I had to tailor my practice to God’s requirements, and even though my understanding of the truth was shallow, I was willing to lean on God and do my duty to the best of my ability. Under the guidance of God’s words, I gained a great sense of release and no longer cared what other people would think of me. I decided to share fellowship on the understanding that I did possess. Hearing what I had to say, the brothers and sisters didn’t look down on me at all, but they all said that they had gained something from it.
In the gathering, I read a passage of God’s words that appears in “The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct.” God’s words say, “No matter what duty a person performs, achieving results to satisfy God and gain His approval and performing their duty up to standard rests upon God’s actions. If you carry out your responsibilities, if you do your duty, but God does not act and God does not tell you what to do, then you won’t know your path, your direction, or your goals. What ultimately comes of that? That would be fruitless labor. Thus, doing your duty up to standard and being able to stand firm within God’s house, providing edification for brothers and sisters and gaining God’s approval depends entirely upon God! People can only do those things that they are personally capable of, that they ought to do, and that are within their inherent capabilities—nothing more. Therefore, the results ultimately reaped from your duty are determined by the guidance of God; they are determined by the path, goals, direction, and principles provided by God” (Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days). Reading God’s words brightened my heart. I saw that the work of God’s house is actually all done and upheld by God, and as human beings, we just do our own duty as far as we are able. But without the work of the Holy Spirit, without the enlightenment and guidance of God, we won’t accomplish anything in our duty no matter how hard we work. In our duty, we have to understand what God requires, take on a burden for it in our hearts, seek and practice the truth in all things, and work according to the principles. That’s the only way to gain the work of the Holy Spirit and gain God’s approval. My position as a leader was just for me to fellowship on the truth to help resolve brothers’ and sisters’ difficulties in their duty and their entry into life. Even though there were times I couldn’t solve a problem right away, I could always make a note of it and then do more seeking to resolve it later. And so, I was able to very naturally ask them about what kind of state they were in and what difficulties they were having in their duty. When they shared fellowship on how they were doing, I quieted my heart before God, and attentively sought and pondered it. That way I was able to figure out their deficiencies and shortcomings and use God’s words accordingly to find a path for them to resolve these things and enter in. I knew this was entirely God’s guidance. I was thrilled, and got a taste of how freeing it is to let go of status. That experience personally showed me that by rectifying my attitude in my duty, setting my heart on doing the work of God’s commission, reflecting on and seeking how to do my duty well, and how to achieve the best results, before I knew it, I had been freed from the bonds and strictures of status. I could reap the leadership and blessings of God!