A Duty Requires the Truth
By Teresa, Philippine
In May 2021, I took on a leadership role, responsible for the work of quite a few churches. I was thinking that I really had to pay a price and do my duty well, or else God would disapprove. So I busied myself with church work every day, spending lots of time and energy fellowshiping with the churches’ leaders, discussing how to advance their gospel work and water newcomers, and in my free time I went to check in on new believers. I put a lot of effort into all of this. My schedule was so crammed full every day sometimes I didn’t have time to eat, and it got so bad I couldn’t even fit in devotionals. I thought I just needed to put effort into my duty and pay a price to get results, then I’d gain God’s approval and blessings, and have a good destination.
For my duty, I forsook the flesh and put everything I had into it, even spending my lunch breaks reaching out to new believers or planning for gatherings, never caring how tired I got. Later, a church was going to set up a gospel team, so I immediately looked for good candidates and figured out who to train. Seeing newcomers lacking enthusiasm, I’d rush to find words of God to share with them so they’d find meaning in their duty. After a period of hard work, we finally had a gospel team established. But I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like I had to pay more of a price, get more real work done, and lead brothers and sisters to get more new members, so I’d contribute more and God would approve, and I’d have a good destination. But whenever I ran into difficulties in my duty, I felt negative and weak. For example, when I saw church leaders confused in their work or newcomers unenthused in their duty, or when things weren’t planned very well, I felt like I wasn’t competent in that duty. If I didn’t achieve anything, how would I have a good destination? That thought would always really stress me out and I’d feel tired, depressed, and really worried. I wasn’t aware of my problem, and I only readwhen I was in a bad state. Most of the time I was busy with my duty. I felt like eating and drinking God’s words and pondering them took too much time and I wouldn’t have enough time for my duty, so I’d put it off. Sometimes I’d wait until evening, but then I’d be worn out from a day of work and sleepy. So I wouldn’t do it. I wasn’t working on my life entry, but just made efforts on the surface, and doing my duty in that state left me feeling exhausted. One day I wondered if doing my duty that way was in line with God’s will, if He’d approve of it. I felt like something was off, and I realized there was a problem with my attitude. I was just busy working and ignoring my life entry. I’d never really thought about how God would want me to do my duty. I came before God and prayed, “God, I’m afraid I’ll be unsuccessful in my duty and You won’t approve, that my future will be impacted. God, if I’m on the wrong path, please enlighten me and show me where I’m going wrong. Oh God, I want You to be satisfied, but I don’t know what to do. I need Your guidance.”
One day a sister told me that she didn’t know how to seek the truth when she had issues and she wasn’t sure how to do her duty well. She didn’t understand her own state, so she wanted me to tell her how to get a better grasp on that and what to do when she showed corruption. I told her that to understand our own state, we have to reflect on our own thinking, and whether our thoughts, perspectives, aims, and behaviors meet God’s will. Following that, she asked me how I got an understanding of my thinking to reflect on and know myself. I was stumped. Her question felt like a slap in the face. I didn’t practice that, so how could I help her out? I got a lot of work done, but I wasn’t seeking the truth in my duty. I ran into lots of problems and revealed plenty of corruption, like lacking patience and love while trying to support new believers, and criticizing leaders’ work performance when I checked on their work. I felt like nothing ever went my way, but I didn’t reflect on or learn about myself. I thought that I just had to get my duty done, and if I did more, God would approve and that was enough. So I totally put life entry to the side and didn’t spend time with God’s words, either. I felt like eating and drinking God’s words was wasting time I could spend on my duty. I was always busy superficially, but I wasn’t expending for God sincerely. I was just working, completing tasks. I didn’t self-reflect or seek the truth when I was in a bad state. I was neglecting my life entry and didn’t have a proper relationship with God. I was doing my duty in my own way, the way I wanted to. At that point I felt worried about my own state. I wondered how God saw me, and if He’d approve of my pursuit.
Seeing the issue I had, I told that sister, “I have the same problem. I just keep myself busy with tasks, but don’t understand my own state. Lots of times I find I’m not in the right state, but I just ignore it. I don’t reflect on myself or have life entry.” Then we read a passage of God’s words together. “If you would have your heart truly at peace before God, then you must do the work of conscious cooperation. This is to say that every one of you must have a time for your devotions, a time when you put aside people, events, and things; settle your heart and quiet yourself before God. Everyone must keep individual devotional notes, recording their knowledge of God’s word and how their spirit is moved, regardless of whether they are profound or superficial; everyone must consciously quiet their heart before God. If you can dedicate one or two hours each day to true spiritual life, then your life that day will feel enriched and your heart will be bright and clear. If you live this kind of spiritual life every day, then your heart will be able to return more into God’s possession, your spirit will become stronger and stronger, your condition will constantly improve, you will become more capable of walking the path on which the Holy Spirit leads, and God will bestow increased blessings upon you. The purpose of your spiritual life is consciously to gain the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is not to observe rules or conduct religious rituals, but truly to act in concert with God, truly to discipline your body—this is what man should do, so you should do this with the utmost effort” (“A Normal Spiritual Life Leads People Onto the Right Track” in). This helped me see that I need a proper spiritual life and time for God’s words no matter how busy I am, and to reflect on whether my ideas and actions are in line with God’s will. But I hadn’t been focused on reading or pondering God’s words. I even felt like my devotionals were wasting time I could use for work. I wasn’t seeking truth in my duty or reflecting on whether I was doing what God requires. I didn’t seek the truth when I ran into problems, but just focused on work, trying to get things done with my own smarts and experience. Sometimes when I was already in a bad state and I couldn’t feel the Spirit’s work, I’d still just force myself to keep trudging on. I looked really busy, but my heart was empty and dark, and I wasn’t learning anything. After reading God’s words, I could see how important it is to eat and drink His words, to do devotionals and self-reflection. If we don’t read God’s words, we won’t be able to analyze our own thoughts and behaviors with them, and we won’t know what kind of corruption we show. Then our corrupt dispositions will never change and we’ll never gain God’s approval. Realizing all of this kind of woke me up. Seeing the states I’d been in frightened me and I didn’t want to keep being that way, but wanted to focus on my spiritual life while doing my duty, to practice and enter into God’s words.
We read some of God’s words about that.says, “If you wish to be praised by God, then you must first escape from Satan’s dark influence, opening your heart to God and turning it toward Him completely. Would God praise the things you are doing now? Have you turned your heart to God? Have the things you have done been what God requires of you? Are they in line with the truth? Examine yourself at all times and concentrate on the eating and drinking of God’s words; lay out your heart before Him, love Him with sincerity, and devotedly expend yourself for God. People who do this will surely receive God’s praise.” “If men live within the words of God, then the Holy Spirit will be with them and perform work on them. If men do not live within the words of God, then they live in Satan’s bonds. If men live with corrupt dispositions, then they do not have the presence or the work of the Holy Spirit. If you live within the boundaries of the words of God, and if you live in the state that God requires, then you are one who belongs to Him, and His work will be performed on you; if you are not living within the boundaries of God’s requirements, but living instead under the domain of Satan, then you are decidedly living within Satan’s corruption. Only by living within the words of God and giving your heart to Him can you meet His requirements; you must do as God says, making His utterances the foundation of your existence and the reality of your life; only then will you belong to God” (“Escape From the Influence of Darkness, and You Will Be Gained by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I reflected on myself in light of God’s words. I was enthusiastic in my duty, but I was doing everything according to my own ideas. I strayed from God’s words, not seeking truth, and was only focused on my work. That wasn’t God’s will. I used to think that as long as I gave my all in my duty and paid more of a price, God would approve, but that wasn’t the case. God doesn’t just look at superficial contributions, but He looks at our hearts, hoping we can obey His words, pursue the truth in our duty, put His words into practice, and escape the bonds of Satan’s corruption. But I just wanted to get things done. I didn’t seek the truth, nor did I think about the corruption I showed, or practice God’s words. That’s when I saw I was on the wrong path, and continuing down that road would be dangerous—God would never approve.
Later I thought of a passage of God’s words exposing Paul, which helped me understand the problems in my own pursuit. Almighty God says, “These days, most people are in this sort of state: ‘In order to gain blessings, I must expend myself for God and pay a price for Him. In order to gain blessings, I must abandon everything for God; I must complete what He has entrusted me with, and perform my duty well.’ This is dominated by the intention to gain blessings, which is an example of expending oneself entirely for the purpose of obtaining rewards from God and gaining a crown. Such people do not have the truth in their hearts, and surely their understanding merely consists of a few words of doctrine which they show off everywhere they go. Theirs is the path of Paul. The faith of such people is an act of constant toil, and deep down they feel that the more they do, the more it will prove their loyalty to God; that the more they do, the more He will certainly be satisfied; and that the more they do, the more they will deserve to be granted a crown before God, and will certainly receive the greatest blessings in His house. They think that if they can endure suffering, preach, and die for Christ, if they can sacrifice their own lives, and if they can complete all of the duties with which God has entrusted them, then they will be among God’s most blessed—those who gain the greatest blessings—and will then be certain to be granted crowns. This is precisely what Paul imagined and what he sought; it is the exact path that he walked, and it was under the guidance of such thoughts that he worked to serve God. Do those thoughts and intentions not originate from a satanic nature? It is just like worldly humans, who believe that while on earth they must pursue knowledge, and that only after obtaining it can they stand out from the crowd, become officials, and have status; they think that once they have status, they can realize their ambitions and bring their homes and businesses up to certain levels. Do not all unbelievers walk this path? Those who are dominated by this satanic nature can only be like Paul in their faith. They think: ‘I must cast off everything to expend myself for God; I must be faithful before Him, and eventually, I will definitely receive the most magnificent crown and the greatest blessings.’ This is the same attitude as that of worldly people who pursue worldly things; they are no different at all, and are subject to the same nature. When people have this sort of satanic nature, out in the world, they will seek to obtain knowledge, status, learning, and to stand out from the crowd; if they believe in God, they will seek to obtain crowns and great blessings. If people do not pursue the truth when they believe in God, they are sure to take this path; this is an immutable fact, it is a natural law” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I used to think my goal in my duty was to satisfy God, but after reading God’s words I saw that I was actually wrong. I seemed enthusiastic about my duty, but I wasn’t trying to gain the truth or satisfy God. I wanted to be blessed by God and have a good destination. I thought that as long as I did my job and paid a price, worked hard and suffered more, God would approve, and I’d have a good destination. For God’s blessings, I could postpone my meals and sleep less, and even skimp on devotionals and reading God’s words to save time. I wanted to exchange my work effort for a beautiful destination in the future, like an employee working for a boss. It was like laboring to get a salary from an employer. I was being transactional with God in my duty, cheating God. God wants us to be heartfelt in our duty, not transactional or demanding, but I was trying to make deals with God, to exchange my effort for a ticket to heaven. That was Paul’s pursuit, too. Paul was only focused on work, wanting to be crowned, to be rewarded, but he didn’t pursue the truth or take God’s words seriously at all, much less did he try to change himself. He was on a path against God. I was the same—I put a lot of work in, also hoping for more blessings from God so I could get a better destination. I saw I didn’t pursue the truth, or truly love God, so how could I gain God’s approval? Without reading God’s words, I didn’t know my own corruption or that I’d turned my back on God’s path. Later, I thought of the consequences of leaders taking the wrong path and found this passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “What is the cause of the emergence of the category of people who are leaders and workers, and how did they emerge? On a grand scale, they are required for God’s work; on a smaller scale, they are required for the work of the church, they are required by God’s chosen people. … The difference between their duty and that of other people is a matter of a special characteristic of theirs. What special characteristic is that? What is principally highlighted is the function of leadership. For example, no matter how many people a church has, the leader is the head. So what role does this leader play among the members? (They take the lead.) They lead all of the chosen ones in the church. So what effect do they have throughout the whole church? If this leader takes the wrong path, this will have a huge impact on all of the chosen ones in the church: They will all follow the leader in taking the wrong path. It’s like how Paul led all of the churches he founded and people he had spread the gospel to and converted; when Paul went astray, the churches and people he led also went astray. When leaders go astray, they are not the only ones who are impacted; all the brothers and sisters who are within the scope of their leadership are, too” (“They Try to Win People Over” in Exposing Antichrists). God’s words called to my attention that the path I took as a leader was really important. My attitude toward the truth, the path I took, and how I did my duty had a direct impact on others’ entry. If I took the wrong path, I’d guide others along with me. As a leader, I was responsible for guiding brothers and sisters in their pursuit of the truth, but I was focused on work instead of pursuit of the truth. I put reading God’s words and seeking the truth aside, distancing myself from God. I wasn’t focused on my own life entry, so how could I lead brothers and sisters to pursue the truth? I’d just guide them onto the same path as Paul, and if they ended up eliminated because they weren’t pursuing the truth, that would be evil on my part, and I’d be ruining their chance at salvation. That kind of work wouldn’t be doing good, but doing evil and working against God! I also realized how dangerous it is to just lead the others to do superficial work, but distance ourselves from God and the truth. God’s words revealed my corruption and showed me the right path of pursuit and a leader’s responsibility. I knew I had to focus on reading God’s words more, seeking the truth and resolving my corruption. Then I wouldn’t take a wrong path.
I read a couple more passages later on. Almighty God says, “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?” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “I decide the destination of each person not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, and least of all, the degree to which they invite pity, but according to whether they possess the truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God shall also be punished. This is an immutable fact. Therefore, all those who are punished are so punished for the righteousness of God and as retribution for their numerous evil acts” (“Prepare Sufficient Good Deeds for Your Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This helped me understand that God doesn’t determine our outcome based on the extent of our contributions, our work, or suffering. He’s never said He blesses us based on how much we’ve worked or that our toil can bring us a good destination. But I used to think as long as I worked hard, did my duty, and contributed more, I’d gain God’s approval and have a good destination. So I was really enthusiastic in the church’s work and resolving others’ problems, and I was perfectly willing to suffer for my duty. But reading God’s words made me see that I had the wrong perspective, that God determines our outcome based on whether we pursue the truth and have personal change. Just like Paul—he expended lots of effort, did a lot of work, suffered plenty, and set up quite a few churches. People think he made great contributions, but his motivation was to be rewarded, to be crowned, so all that effort he expended didn’t gain God’s approval. He was eliminated by God because he never changed his disposition. But even though Peter didn’t do a great deal of work, he focused on truth-seeking and self-reflection based on God’s words. He put God’s words into practice and ended up achieving dispositional change. His pursuit was in line with God’s will. I never used to understand God’s standard for determining people’s outcome, but had my own notions in faith. I thought hard work would get me into God’s kingdom, and I wished to exchange my paltry effort for a beautiful destination. That pursuit had nothing to do with God. I wasn’t pursuing the truth with a pure heart to satisfy God, and my faith became meaningless with that kind of pursuit. No matter how busy I seemed, I wasn’t changing my corrupt disposition. I was still full of arrogance, greed, pride, envy, and craftiness. How could someone like me, so full of satanic corruption, have a good destination? And in my duty, I wasn’t focused on self-reflection or seeking God’s will. I wasn’t doing what God requires, so how could my work be in line with God’s will? The judgment and chastisement of God’s words gave me some understanding of my wrong approach to pursuit. Without that, I would have just kept blindly toiling, full of deceit and a transactional mentality, and that pursuit would only lead me to resist God and end up punished. After seeing the importance of pursuing the truth, I started to shift my improper pursuit, not wanting to live in a state of just performing labor anymore.
After that, no matter how busy I was, I’d take time to eat and drink God’s words every day and tried to experience God’s word through my duty. When I ran into problems I’d seek principles of the truth, and I fellowshiped on the truth to help others with their problems. Practicing God’s words, I got confused less and had more direction in my duty. And before when things were busy, I was concerned I wasn’t working quickly, that it would impact my destination if I didn’t do well, but now I’m not so anxious when I have lots of work. First I seek the principles of the truth to see what God requires, and when I cooperate with God that way, I can see His guidance, and I’ve been getting better and better results. And at one point, I noticed brothers and sisters were kind of passive in their duty and I got really frustrated and angry. I spent so much time fellowshiping with them, but nothing came of it. Some of them were still really passive and it was holding up our progress. So I came before God in prayer about why I was getting angry, and what I was actually motivated by. Reading God’s words, I saw I was feeling that way because I thought not getting good results would make me look bad and I might lose my position. That’s when I realized that was my corruption. I had to forsake the flesh for the truth. My reputation and status were nothing. No matter what others thought of me or whether I had a leadership role, I needed to do my duty. That’s all that mattered. So I went to look into the reason behind them being passive and to see what attitude they had toward their duty. We read God’s words together, and through fellowship, everyone’s state gradually took a turn for the better, and they were achieving more. This experience showed me that pursuing the truth is the only path of true belief, of following God. I can’t be content just to get stuff done, but I need to read God’s words, experience His work, and pursue dispositional change. Thanks be to God!