The Damage Done by Being Perfunctory

November 30, 2022

By Xing Zi, Italy

In October 2021, I started practicing watering newcomers. One week in, I realized there was too much I had to learn. I had to equip myself with the truth of visions, and I also had to practice fellowshiping on the truth to resolve their issues, but my understanding of the truth was superficial and chatting wasn’t my forte. I found it to be a really difficult duty. When the team leader wanted me to resolve newcomers’ issues quickly, that in particular felt hard to accomplish. All newcomers had quite a few problems, so to resolve them, I had to seek lots of targeted truths, and consider how to fellowship clearly. This took a lot of effort. So I told the team leader I was lacking caliber and couldn’t do it well. The team leader gave me fellowship and said I needed to take on a burden in my duty and I shouldn’t fear suffering. I reluctantly agreed after hearing her fellowship, but in my heart, I didn’t want to pay a price. In gatherings, I kept fellowshiping with newcomers like I always had, and because I didn’t understand their struggles, I’d just ramble on in my fellowship and not achieve results, causing the number of newcomers attending gatherings regularly to start declining. When the team leader found problems she asked me to help support them right away, but I thought to myself, “The gospel staff has already given them lots of fellowship on the truth of visions, so if they still aren’t coming to gatherings, would my going accomplish anything? Besides, all those newcomers haven’t been gathering recently, so going to fellowship with them will certainly take lots of time, which will be exhausting.” At that thought, I just sent them messages to briefly say hello, and shelved those that didn’t respond, paying them no mind. Those that had more troubles, I put off to last on my list for fellowship, or just fobbed them off onto gospel workers to support. Before long, some newcomers stopped gathering because their issues had been unresolved for so long. I felt guilty and upset whenever I noticed newcomers weren’t gathering, that I should pay more of a price to address their issues. But when I thought of what a hassle that would be, I just let it pass.

I remember one newcomer, a former Catholic, who developed notions about God incarnating and working in the last days, and stopped gathering. No matter how I messaged or called her, she just ignored me. Two days later, she left me this message: “I was born into a Catholic family. I’ve been a Catholic since I was a little girl, and now it’s been 64 years. I can only believe in the Lord Jesus—I can’t believe in Almighty God any longer.” My response was: “Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned. The only way to enter God’s kingdom is to accept the Lord’s appearance and work in the last days.” But, she didn’t respond. I sought her out a few more times, but she ignored me. So I pushed this problem off onto the team leader, and I was surprised when she sent me some relevant passages of God’s words, asking me to seek the truth to resolve this. Seeing I needed to equip myself with lots of truths and give thought to how to fellowship to achieve results, it all felt so taxing. The newcomer wasn’t responding to me and even if I spent time equipping myself, she still might not listen to my fellowship, so I just put her to one side and ignored her. There was a newcomer who was really busy with work every day, and she never had time to attend the gatherings I invited her to. At first, I kept sending her words of God and hymns every day, but each time she’d just respond with an “Amen,” and then not show up to gatherings. Eventually, I stopped sending her God’s words. I felt like she was too busy with work, and that this was her reality, and no matter how much time I invested, I couldn’t solve that problem. I knew I should plan gathering times around her difficulties, and then find relevant passages of God’s words to fellowship on her notions, and that this was the only way to achieve results. I felt doing this was too complicated and bothersome, so I didn’t want to pay this price. But if I didn’t share that fellowship and the leader found out, she’d deal with me for not doing real work. So I had to force myself to fellowship with the newcomer a couple of times, and when I saw she still wasn’t attending gatherings, I felt she didn’t thirst for the truth, and that it wasn’t a lack of effort on my part. So eventually I just ended up disregarding her. I’d always been perfunctory in my duty, ducking all hardships. When I encountered newcomers with notions or real hardships, I didn’t want to put in the effort of considering how to resolve their issues, and I’d just hand them off to the team leader. After a few months, very few newcomers were gathering normally. The church leader dealt with me after she discovered this issue. She said I was being perfunctory in my duty and told me I needed to change right away. So I swore that I would forsake my flesh and water the newcomers well. But when faced with newcomers with lots of issues, I was still unwilling to pay a price in resolving their problems. Instead, I’d just say I was lacking caliber and wasn’t fit for that duty. I remained perfunctory, didn’t make amends, and nothing was coming of my duty, so the leader dealt with me harshly: “You’re too perfunctory in your duty. You never ask about newcomers’ hardships, and even when you do learn a bit about them, you don’t put effort into resolving them. How is that doing a duty? You’re just harming the newcomers. If you don’t change you’ll be dismissed!” Having been dealt with and warned like that, I felt both guilty and afraid. I started to self-reflect: Why couldn’t I do this duty well, and I always felt it was too hard?

One day in my devotionals, I read this passage of God’s words: “Some people lack any principle when they perform their duty, they always follow their own inclinations and act arbitrarily. This is cursoriness and perfunctoriness, is it not? These people are cheating God, are they not? And have you ever considered what the consequences of this are? If you pay no attention to God’s will when you perform your duty, if you are not conscientious, if you are ineffective in all you do, if you are entirely unable to act with all your heart and with all your strength, will you be able to gain God’s approval? Many people perform their duty quite reluctantly, and they cannot sustain it. They cannot stand suffering, even a little, and feel always that they have done a great disservice, nor do they seek the truth to resolve any difficulties. Can you follow God to the end by performing your duty in this way? Is it alright to be careless and perfunctory in whatever you do? Will this be acceptable, from the point of view of your conscience? Even measured according to man’s criteria, this is unsatisfactory—so may it be accounted as the satisfactory performance of duty? If you perform your duty in this way, you will never gain the truth. You are unsatisfactory even to render service. How, then, could you gain God’s approval? Many people fear hardship when performing their duty, they are too lazy, they covet the comforts of the flesh, and never put any effort into learning specialist skills, nor do they try and contemplate the truths of God’s words; they think that being perfunctory in this way saves trouble: They don’t need to look anything up or ask anybody questions, they don’t need to use their brains or think—it really saves a lot of effort and doesn’t cost them any physical hardship, and they still manage to complete the task. And if you deal with them, they are defiant and make excuses: ‘I wasn’t being lazy or shirking off, the task was done—why are you being so picky? Isn’t this just nitpicking? I’m already doing well by performing my duty like this, how are you not satisfied?’ Do you think that such people can make any further progress? They are consistently perfunctory when they perform their duty, and still come out with a bunch of excuses, and when problems occur they don’t let anyone speak out. What disposition is this? This is the disposition of Satan, is it not? Can people perform their duty satisfactorily when they follow such a disposition? Can they satisfy God?(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only One Who Performs Their Duty With All Their Heart, Mind, and Soul Is One Who Loves God). God exposes many people for being too lazy in their duty, always craving carnal comforts, lacking diligence, and for being satisfied with the appearance of being busy. You can’t ever do your duty well that way. I realized that the reason I wasn’t getting results in my duty wasn’t because I lacked caliber, rather, I was just lazy, and afraid of suffering for my duty. I felt watering newcomers meant I had to know lots of truths, that I had to learn to resolve the various problems they had, and that made it a really taxing duty, so I just muddled through. The team leader wanted me to see to newcomers’ issues ASAP, and I could have if I’d worked hard. But when I saw this needed more time and effort from me, I fobbed it off onto the team leader and the gospel workers. I’d see newcomers not attending gatherings because they had notions or were facing difficulties, and yet I’d be indifferent. I was unresponsive when others told me of paths of resolution. Sometimes I sent newcomers God’s words or hymns, but after a few days I couldn’t keep it up, and I’d just disregard them. I saw I really was lazy, greedy for pleasures of the flesh, and that I wasn’t genuine in my duty at all. I was just being deceitful, drifting along in the church. I was so disgusting and odious to God!

I read this in God’s words after that. “There are not many opportunities currently to perform a duty, so you must take hold of them when you can. It is precisely when faced with a duty that you must exert yourself; that is when you must offer yourself up, expend yourself for God, and when you are required to pay the price. Do not hold anything back, harbor any schemes, leave any leeway, or give yourself a way out. If you leave any leeway, are calculating, or are wily and treacherous, then you are bound to do a poor job. Suppose you say, ‘No one saw me acting in a slick way. How cool!’ What kind of thinking is this? Do you think you have pulled the wool over people’s eyes, and over God’s, too? In actual fact, though, does God know what you have done or not? He knows. In fact, anyone who interacts with you for a while will learn of your corruption and vileness, and though they may not say so outright, they will have their assessments of you in their hearts. There have been many people who were exposed and cast out because so many others came to understand them. Once everyone saw through to their essence, they revealed those people for who they were and kicked them out. So, whether they pursue the truth or not, people should do their duty well, to the best of their ability; they should employ their conscience in doing practical things. You may have defects, but if you can be effective in performing your duty, this will not rise to the level of your being cast out. If you are always thinking that you are fine, that you are sure not to be cast out, and you still do not reflect or try to know yourself, and you ignore your proper tasks, always careless and perfunctory, then when God’s chosen people really do lose their tolerance with you, they will expose you for who you are, and in all likelihood, you will be cast out. That’s because everyone has seen through you and you have lost your dignity and integrity. If no one trusts you, could God trust you? God looks upon man’s innermost heart: He absolutely could not trust such a person. … Trustworthy people are people who have humanity, and people who have humanity are possessed of conscience and sense, and it should be very easy for them to perform their duty well, because they treat their duty as their obligation. People without conscience or sense are bound to perform their duty poorly, and they have no sense of responsibility toward their duty no matter what it is. Others always have to worry over them, supervise them, and ask about their progress; if not, things could go awry while performing their duty, things could go wrong while performing a task, which would be more trouble than it’s worth. In short, people always need to self-reflect when performing their duties: ‘Have I adequately fulfilled this duty? Did I put my heart into it? Or did I just muddle through it?’ If you are always careless and perfunctory, you’re in danger. At the very least, it means you have no credibility, and that people cannot trust you. More seriously, if you always just go through the motions when doing your duty, and if you always deceive God, then you are in great danger! What are the consequences of being knowingly deceitful? Everyone can see that you are knowingly transgressing, that you are living according to nothing but your own corrupt disposition, that you are nothing but careless and perfunctory, that you do not practice the truth—which makes you devoid of humanity! If this is manifested in you throughout, if you avoid major mistakes but are unceasing in the minor ones, and unrepentant from start to finish, then you are one of the wicked, a nonbeliever, and should be cleared out. Such consequences are heinous—you are completely exposed and cast out as a nonbeliever and wicked person(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Life Entry Begins With the Performance of Duty). “How you regard God’s commissions is extremely important, and this is a very serious matter. If you cannot complete what God has entrusted to people, then you are not fit to live in His presence and should be punished. It is ordained by Heaven and acknowledged by earth that humans should complete whatever commissions God entrusts to them; this is their supreme responsibility, and is just as important as their very lives. If you do not take God’s commissions seriously, then you are betraying Him in the most grievous way; in this, you are more lamentable than Judas, and should be cursed(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Know Man’s Nature). Faced with the revelation of God’s words, I could feel His disgust and wrath for those who are perfunctory in their duty. They lack conscience, reason, character, and dignity, and are completely untrustworthy. If they continue to not repent, they are evildoers, nonbelievers, and should be cast out. Watering newcomers is an important job. They’ve just accepted God’s new work, so they need more watering to put down roots on the true way so Satan won’t steal them away. Furthermore, no one who accepts God’s work does it so easily or smoothly, and a number of people have to pay a price in watering and helping them. Only then can they be brought before God. As a waterer, watering newcomers was my responsibility. Especially when I saw newcomers with difficulties, I should have had a sense of urgency and sought the truth to resolve these issues. But instead, I shirked the hard jobs and I was slippery. When I saw newcomers facing difficulties, I’d always choose the problems that were easy to resolve, and set difficult issues aside and ignore them. Even worse, I was clearly being treacherous and irresponsible in my duty, causing some newcomers to not attend gatherings and even drop out, but I shirked responsibility by saying they didn’t thirst for the truth, or else I’d say I lacked caliber and couldn’t solve their problems to deceive others and exonerate myself for being perfunctory. Wasn’t I doing my duty just like an unbeliever works for their boss? I was playing tricks, muddling through my days, without any conscience or awareness. After all my years of faith, I still attempted to fool God without even batting an eyelid. I was so cunning and deceitful! I didn’t have any humanity at all. Back when I first accepted God’s gospel of the last days, I was busy with work every day, and my parents were obstructing my faith. I felt really stressed and even thought about giving up on gatherings. But the brothers and sisters patiently fellowshiped the truth with me time after time and set up gatherings to fit my schedule. Sometimes I couldn’t attend because I was too busy with work, so brothers and sisters rode long journeys on their bikes to fellowship God’s word with me, to help and support me. Only then did I learn about God’s work, and see that the only way to be saved is to pursue the truth. I then became willing to attend gatherings and take on a duty. The church always emphasizes that watering newcomers requires patience and great consideration for their difficulties, that we have to encourage them to attend gatherings so they can put down roots on the true way as soon as possible. I saw that God is full of love and mercy for us, and that He saves us to the greatest extent possible. He’s incredibly conscientious toward every single person who investigates the true way. He won’t give up if there’s even a shred of hope. But as for me, I was cold and had no sense of responsibility toward newcomers. I didn’t care at all about their lives, which meant their problems weren’t getting resolved promptly, and that some didn’t want to attend gatherings anymore. Based on my behavior, how was that doing a duty at all? I was just doing evil, trying to fool and cheat God! I felt so guilty when I realized this and I hated myself for being so lacking in humanity.

I read this passage of God’s words later: “Are you content to live under the influence of Satan, with peace and joy, and a little fleshly comfort? Are you not the lowliest of all people? None are more foolish than those who have beheld salvation but do not pursue to gain it; these are people who gorge themselves on the flesh and enjoy Satan. You hope that your faith in God will not entail any challenges or tribulations, or the slightest hardship. You always pursue those things that are worthless, and you attach no value to life, instead putting your own extravagant thoughts before the truth. You are so worthless! You live like a pig—what difference is there between you, and pigs and dogs? Are those who do not pursue the truth, and instead love the flesh, not all beasts? Are those dead ones without spirits not all walking corpses? How many words have been spoken among you? Has only a little work been done among you? How much have I provided among you? So why have you not gained it? What do you have to complain of? Is it not the case that you have gained nothing because you are too in love with the flesh? And is it not because your thoughts are too extravagant? Is it not because you are too stupid? If you are incapable of gaining these blessings, can you blame God for not saving you? … I give you the true way without asking for anything in return, yet you do not pursue. Are you one of those who believe in God? I bestow real human life upon you, yet you do not pursue. Are you no different from a pig or a dog? Pigs do not pursue the life of man, they do not pursue being cleansed, and they do not understand what life is. Each day, after eating their fill, they simply sleep. I have given you the true way, yet you have not gained it: You are empty-handed. Are you willing to continue in this life, the life of a pig? What is the significance of such people being alive? Your life is contemptible and ignoble, you live amid filth and licentiousness, and you do not pursue any goals; is your life not the most ignoble of all? Do you have the gall to look upon God? If you continue to experience in this way, will you not acquire nothing? The true way has been given to you, but whether or not you can ultimately gain it depends on your own personal pursuit(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment). Reading all of God’s words calling us to account, I felt such guilt and self-reproach. To cleanse and transform our corrupt dispositions, to give us a chance at salvation, God has earnestly nurtured us with so many truths, and He has fellowshiped in great detail on every aspect of the truth, afraid we won’t understand it. God has paid such a great price for us. Anyone with humanity should put effort into pursuing the truth and be devoted to their duty. But I was totally lacking in conscience. I wasn’t pursuing the truth at all, I only cared about physical comfort, and was still just living by satanic philosophies, like “Live life on autopilot,” “Seize the day for pleasure, for life is short.” I felt like we had to treat ourselves well in the few decades we had on earth, and not strain ourselves too much. We should make our lives carefree and happy. I was doing a duty under the condition that I wouldn’t suffer carnal discomfort or weariness. I did whatever was easiest. Any time I had to rack my brains about something, I became resistant and ran away, either pushing the problem off onto someone else or shelving it, ignoring it. I wasn’t taking my duty seriously at all, so some newcomers’ issues weren’t resolved and they stopped attending gatherings. It was only then that I saw that those satanic philosophies had made me more and more depraved. I was like a pig, craving comfort and not pursuing the truth at all, making a mess of my duty, and not being remotely concerned about it. I was neglecting my duties, not gaining the truths I should have gained, and not fulfilling my responsibilities. Was I not a complete good-for-nothing? I really experienced that craving carnal comfort was harming myself and ruining my chance at salvation. Encountering difficulties in a duty is actually a good chance to lean on God and seek the truth. Difficulties forcing me to seek the truth and learn to follow principles in my duty were good channels for me to pursue the truth and life entry. But I was treating these things like a nuisance, a burden to be shrugged off. Realizing that, I really regretted how I’d coddled my flesh, and lost so many good chances to learn the truth. I didn’t want to keep muddling through. I had to forsake the flesh and put my heart into my duty.

One day I read a passage of God’s words that made me better understand the consequences of being perfunctory in my duty. God’s words say, “Say there is a job that could be completed in one month by one person. If it takes six months to do this job, do five of these months not represent a loss? When it comes to spreading the gospel, some people are willing to consider the true way and only need one month to be converted, after which they join the church and continue to be watered and provided for. Six months is all it takes for them to establish a foundation. But if the attitude of the person spreading the gospel is one of indifference and perfunctoriness, and the leaders and workers have no sense of responsibility, and it ends up taking half a year to convert the person, does this half a year not constitute a loss to their life? If they encounter great disaster and lack a foundation, they will be in danger, and will you not owe something to them? Such a loss is not measured financially, or using money. You’ve held up their understanding of the truth by half a year, you’ve delayed them establishing a foundation and performing their duty by half a year. Who is going to take responsibility for this? Are the leaders and workers able to take responsibility for this? The responsibility of someone’s life is beyond anyone’s ability to bear(The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). What God’s words revealed was really distressing and difficult. I was just like a false leader that doesn’t do real work, remiss in my duties and irresponsible, causing newcomers to not gather, and some to even leave the faith because their issues weren’t resolved. Wasn’t watering newcomers that way just hurting them? Even though some didn’t leave the faith, their lives were harmed because they held to notions and didn’t gather for a long time. That’s harm I have no way of making up for. If I had not cared so much about my flesh, been able to pay a price, and had treated each newcomer’s problems seriously, then maybe some of them would have been able to put down roots on the true way and learn the truth earlier, live a life of the church, do a duty, accumulate good deeds sooner, and things wouldn’t have turned out as they did. But at that point, it was too late for words. Thinking of those newcomers who didn’t want to attend gatherings, I felt really upset and guilty, and incredibly indebted to God. That was a transgression, a stain I’d left on my duty! I was filled with regret and fear, too. I felt like I’d caused huge problems and offended God’s disposition. In tears, I prayed, “God, I always covet ease and I’m perfunctory in my duty, which disgusts You. I want to repent to You and make up for my transgressions through practical acts. Please scrutinize my heart, and if I continue to be perfunctory, please chasten and discipline me.”

I then sought the newcomers who were negative, weak, and not attending gatherings, and started looking for words of God to resolve their issues. I also asked sisters who were good at watering about principles and approaches. I then sought out the newcomer with religious notions, who wasn’t gathering. I sent her a number of messages, none of which she responded to. I was feeling kind of deflated and that I should forget about it. Anyway she was the one who stopped responding—this much was true. I also sent the newcomer who was busy with work another message, and when I saw her turn down my gathering invite, I didn’t want to pay any further price in supporting her. I then thought of my prayer to God, as well as these words of His: “When people perform their duty, they are, in fact, doing what they ought to. If you do it before God, if you perform your duty and submit to God with an attitude of honesty and with heart, will this attitude not be far more correct? So how should you apply this attitude to your everyday life? You must make ‘worshiping God with heart and honesty’ your reality. Whenever you want to be slack and just go through the motions, whenever you want to act in a slippery way and be lazy, and whenever you get distracted or would rather be enjoying yourself, you should think it through: ‘In behaving like this, am I being untrustworthy? Is this putting my heart into doing my duty? Am I being disloyal by doing this? In doing this, am I failing to live up to the commission God has entrusted to me?’ This is how you should self-reflect. If you can come to know that you are always careless and perfunctory in your duty, and disloyal, and that you have hurt God, what should you do? You should say, ‘I felt in the moment that there was something wrong here, but I didn’t treat it as a problem; I just glossed it over carelessly. I didn’t realize until now that I really had been careless and perfunctory, that I hadn’t lived up to my responsibility. I truly am lacking in conscience and reason!’ You have found the problem and come to know a bit about yourself—so now, you must turn yourself around! Your attitude toward performing your duty was wrong. You were careless with it, as with an extra job, and you did not put your heart into it. If you are careless and perfunctory like this again, you must pray to God and have Him discipline and chasten you. One must have such a will in performing their duty. Only then can they truly repent. One turns oneself around only when their conscience is clear and their attitude toward performing their duty is transformed(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only in the Frequent Reading of God’s Words and Rumination on the Truth Is There a Way Ahead). God’s words helped me see that doing a duty well isn’t hard, that we must be genuine, accept God’s scrutiny, and do our utmost to carry out what we know, what we can, not use trickery or be perfunctory, and that we need this type of attitude to do our duty well. So I resolved that this time I wouldn’t disappoint God again. I had to show God my repentance, that I was truly hardworking and sincere, and even if those newcomers didn’t attend gatherings after my help and support, I’d still have fulfilled my responsibility, and be without guilt.

I went to talk to another sister seeking a path of practice and I also sought out that newcomer with religious notions for fellowship. I opened up to her about my own path of faith. To my surprise, she responded to my messages. She actually really enjoyed the gatherings, but had a few unresolved notions and confusions. I was really stirred by this newcomer’s heartfelt words and I shared fellowship directed at her notions. In the end, she agreed to attend gatherings and before long, she took on a duty. I had this indescribable feeling when I saw things turn out that way. I felt both joy and remorse. Without the enlightenment of God’s words allowing me to know myself and amend my attitude toward my duty, I would have committed another transgression. After that, I sought out the newcomer who was busy with work again. Before, I’d always been pushing her to attend gatherings without considering her difficulties. This time, I fellowshiped on God’s words to help her based on her actual situation, and adjusted gathering times appropriately. When she didn’t have time for a gathering, I’d read God’s words with her when she had free time, and patiently share fellowship. Then she became willing to open her heart to me and talk about God’s words she’d read. She also told me happily that no matter what, she wouldn’t just give up on gathering, or eating and drinking God’s words. After that, she never missed another gathering, and no matter how busy her work was, she devoted time to pondering God’s words. Later, I supported more newcomers, getting them back into the fold. Once I corrected my attitude, leaned on God, and put genuine effort in, I got better results in my duty.

I was always being treacherous and perfunctory in my duty before. Though I wasn’t physically suffering, I was always living in hardship. I couldn’t sense God’s guidance, I was accomplishing less and less in my duty, was totally lacking enlightenment, and I always worried that God would abandon me and cast me out. I was so depressed and in pain. Once I put my heart into my duty, I could feel God’s presence and guidance. I also made progress in my duty and I gained a sense of peace and comfort. I truly experienced how important your attitude toward your duty is. Facing difficulties, only by paying a real price and heeding God’s will can we gain the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and make gains in our duty.

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