A Duty Can’t Bear Fruit Without the Principles
By Shu Qin, China
In February of last year, I was transferred to a church as a leader. I noticed that all aspects of work at the church weren’t very effective, and I thought, “The leaders who arranged for me to come to this church must value me highly and think I can turn the work of this church around, so I have to do well and make the leaders see I can do practical work and that they were right to choose me.” Next, I went to each group at the church to learn about the work situation and resolve the difficulties and problems of brothers and sisters in their duties. Some brothers and sisters were in a bad state, so I lovingly helped and supported them. When I found unsuitable people in jobs, I discussed with my partner and transferred or replaced them according to principles. After some time passed, the work of the church had improved somewhat. I was very happy, and I couldn’t help thinking, “It seems I can still do some practical work. So I have to keep working hard and produce better results so my brothers and sisters see I have the ability to work and say I am a good leader.”
One day, while we went over some work, I noticed that the effectiveness of watering work had significantly declined, and several newcomers weren’t coming to meetings. I thought, “All the other work is more effective now, but the effectiveness of watering work declined. We can’t let watering work affect the overall results, or everyone will say I’m an incapable leader, and that will affect my image in their hearts.” So, I quickly went to the watering staff, looked into it, and learned that the group leader, Sister Wu, didn’t consider newcomers’ difficulties when she arranged their meetings and duties. She arranged meetings for some newcomers when they had to work, making them unable to attend meetings, and some newcomers had difficulties, thought they weren’t up to their duties, and felt negative. Hearing this made me feel a little angry. I thought, “I clearly told her we need to consider newcomers’ situations when we arrange meetings and duties for them. Why can’t she be flexible, master the concept, and use it well? It seems that she doesn’t have the caliber to water newcomers. The poor work results we’ve been having are all linked to her. I can’t let her, alone, impact the work of the entire church. She needs to be dismissed immediately. If I don’t dismiss her, the work results will never improve. Not only will it hinder the work of God’s house, my superiors, brothers, and sisters will think I’m incapable of work or resolving actual problems. I can’t have people questioning my competence.” So, after the meeting, I raised Sister Wu’s dismissal with my partner and the deacons. The watering deacon said, “Sister Wu was effective at watering newcomers in the past. She could be in a bad state recently, and might have been a little too hasty when training the newcomers, is all. We should investigate her situation and then fellowship and help her. If she doesn’t change after some time passes, we can dismiss her then.” But at the time, all I could think of was that my reputation and status might be damaged. I thought, “Sister Wu didn’t just start watering newcomers. I also reminded her of this before. I think she doesn’t accept reminders and help. If we don’t dismiss her in time, and there is a delay or work is impacted, the responsibility will always come back to me, so no matter what, this time I need to make them agree with me and dismiss Sister Wu.” So, I said angrily, “Sister Wu is ineffective in her duty, which proves that she is incompetent and is unsuitable for this duty. If you keep her, and the results of our work don’t improve, which of you can bear that responsibility? You can help her without me!” When they saw my attitude, my partner and the deacons didn’t say anything.
Later, I heard Sister Wu was very negative after being replaced. She felt she had been watering newcomers for many years, with decent results. She was training newcomers who was new to their faith because the church was short on watering staff, and she combined several meeting points. So, problems occurred when she was too busy to take care of all newcomers’ difficulties. She didn’t think she could be dismissed like this, so she felt we dismissed her without principles, and that we did so based on momentary behavior, not on a balanced evaluation of her consistent behavior. But when I heard this, not only did I not seek the truth and reflect on myself, I felt Sister Wu’s stature was too small, and that she couldn’t know herself or learn lessons, so I didn’t take it seriously at all.
After Sister Wu was dismissed, we chose Sister Liu as the group leader. I happily thought, “Now watering work should be more effective.” But after some time passed, I found that Sister Liu’s ability to work was rather poor, and she wasn’t as responsible as Sister Wu. She couldn’t grasp newcomers’ states in time, and she didn’t know how to solve their problems. As a result, after some time passed, the watering work still didn’t improve. I started to feel uneasy, and wondered if dismissing Sister Wu was a mistake, but with things at this point, I decided to fellowship and help Sister Liu more to see if her results could be improved.
As more newcomers came to the church, the top priority was to train more watering staff quickly. So I quickly began looking for candidates. I thought of Sister Chen, who was dismissed and still in isolation and self-reflection. She had preached the gospel before and had produced some results, so I wanted to train her. I just thought she was friendly and good at communicating with people, so if we trained her, the issues with watering work would be handled, and my superiors would definitely say I had good caliber and was a good leader. So, I asked the watering deacon to focus on cultivating Sister Chen. Embarrassed, the watering deacon said, “We thought of arranging things like that, but we saw that Sister Chen still had no self-knowledge after she was dismissed. When she preached the gospel, she competed for fame and gain, and seeded jealousy and disputes, which made it impossible for others to perform their duties normally. If we train her to water newcomers now, won’t she just do more wickedness and cause more disruptions? Watering is one of the most important tasks in God’s house. Those trained for it must have good humanity and must not disrupt the work of God’s house. We have to do things according to principle!” Her words made me anxious. I thought, “Sister Chen is friendly and has caliber. Training her to water newcomers is certain to quickly make work more effective. If we decide not to train her now because she seems to lack genuine repentance, my leaders won’t be able to see my work ability. That’s no good. I have to convince her to do what I want. I can’t just give in.” So, I dealt with the watering deacon, saying, “Is now the time to be blindly following rules? The principles also say those who transgressed in the past should be given the opportunity to repent. Sister Chen is friendly and has the caliber to water newcomers, so we can train her. We just need to watch her closely and not let her cause disturbances. Sister Chen has good caliber and learns quickly. Having another skilled waterer will solve many problems for the church. Go get her and bring her to the meeting!” When the watering deacon saw my stubborn attitude, she didn’t say anything more.
But a few days later, the watering deacon reported that Sister Chen didn’t investigate the notions and confusion of newcomers before watering them and didn’t offer targeted fellowship. Instead, she insisted on fellowshiping based on her own ideas, which caused two newcomers to become opposed, resistant, and stop believing. At the time, I felt a little uneasy. With Sister Chen’s caliber, she shouldn’t have done such a thing. Later, when I spoke to Sister Chen, I realized that she was only outwardly proactive in her duties. She had no understanding of her past transgressions, and after such a major problem occurred in her watering work, she didn’t reflect on herself and learn lessons at all. She was numb. Only now did I feel some awareness that maybe I had been too hasty in cultivating her, and maybe she needed to continue to isolate and reflect. But on second thought, Sister Chen had good caliber and had been a leader, so if I helped her more, she should be able to quickly understand and turn things around. All I had to do was train her and improve the results of watering work, and my leaders would approve of me.
So, as I was expecting good results, one morning, my partner said to me, “The brothers and sisters wrote to say that you don’t perform your duty according to principles. You forcibly arranged Sister Chen, who was still in isolation, to do watering work. During this time, Sister Chen has had many problems when watering newcomers, but she hasn’t reflected or shown awareness of herself. Looking at her consistent behavior, she is completely unsuitable for cultivation, and they recommend that she continue to self-isolate and reflect.” When I heard what my partner said, my heart skipped a beat. “It’s over. I’m finished! This isn’t just simple feedback, it’s a formal report to expose me for not acting according to principles. I have believed in God for years, and I’ve never been reported by anyone. What will my brothers and sisters think of me now?” At the time, I was very embarrassed. I picked up my cup and drank a few gulps of water, trying to calm myself, but my heart was as turbulent as a stormy sea, “If my leaders find out about the contents of that letter, they will say I don’t do my duty in line with principles, and that I am disrupting church work. Will they dismiss me over this?” My mind was in turmoil. In the end, I slumped into my chair like a deflated ball. When my partner saw my state, she said, “Being monitored and exposed by our brothers and sisters is helpful for us. Now, you should receive from God.” I promised to receive from God with my mouth, but I couldn’t calm my mind. The whole day, I couldn’t eat or sleep. The thought of how the facts of my behavior were exposed in this letter pierced my heart. I fell to my knees and prayed to God, “God! I know You have good intentions in letting this happen to me. Please guide me in understanding Your will and learning lessons from it.”
Later, as I reflected and sought, I read some of (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Three)). From what was revealed in God’s word, I understood that everything antichrists do is to protect their own reputation and status. In matters that don’t involve their reputation and status, they can act by the principles of truth, but if acting by the principles of truth threatens their reputation and status, antichrists will blatantly violate principles and act arbitrarily according to their own ideas. They would prefer to harm the interests of God’s house to safeguard their own interests. I reflected on what I did since becoming a leader, and saw it was the same as the antichrists revealed by God’s word. I wanted to show an achievement quickly to prove I was competent and could do practical work, so that my superiors, brothers, and sisters could see making me a leader was the right choice. So, when I selected and used people, I didn’t seek the principles of truth at all, I didn’t think about how to benefit the work of God’s house, I didn’t listen to others’ advice, and I insisted on deciding by myself. When I saw that Sister Wu didn’t arrange meetings and duties for newcomers based on their actual situations, I didn’t ask about her state and difficulties or work with her to find the root of the problems and enter into principles so that she could avoid making the same mistakes. I thought she produced no results in her duty, which would damage my reputation and status, so I unfairly labeled her, excluded her, and wanted to dismiss her. To protect my reputation and status, I ignored principles and the advice of my co-workers and forcibly removed Sister Wu. Still, I had no love or patience for her. I knew she had difficulties in fulfilling her duty, but I didn’t fellowship to help her, I just directly dismissed her. I was like a cold-hearted murderer. I was truly inhuman! After I dismissed her, the new sister I selected couldn’t do the work, which directly impacted watering work. Even then, I didn’t know to reflect on myself, and I continued to promote someone who’d disturbed the church’s work under the banner of cultivating talent and improving watering work. I even took things out of context and absurdly said we should give her a chance to repent. I dealt with the watering deacon for blindly following rules, making her afraid to refute me. The result was that Sister Chen was not suitable at all and harmed the watering work. I saw that for the sake of my own reputation and status, I could take shortcuts in my duty, ignore principles and the reminders of others, and even after being reported and exposed, what I worried about was how the leaders saw me. I didn’t reflect on the reasons for my failures, I stubbornly protected my reputation and status, and I would rather let the interests of God’s house suffer to safeguard my own interests. What I displayed was the disposition of an antichrist!. “No matter what it is they’re doing, antichrists always have their own aims and intentions, they are always acting according to their own plan, and their attitude toward the arrangements and work of the house of God is, ‘You may have a thousand plans, but I have one rule’; this is all determined by the nature of the antichrist. Can an antichrist change their mentality and act according to the principles of the truth? That would be absolutely impossible. … No matter what duty they perform, they always stick to the same principle: They must glean some benefit. The kind of work antichrists like most is when there is no cost to them, when they don’t have to suffer or pay any price, and there is a benefit to their reputation and status. In sum, no matter what they’re doing, the antichrists first consider their own interests, and they only act once they’ve thought it all out; they do not truly, sincerely, and absolutely obey the truth without compromise, but do so selectively and conditionally. What condition is this? It is that their status and reputation must be safeguarded, and must not suffer any loss. Only after this condition is satisfied will they decide and choose what to do. That is, antichrists give serious consideration to how to treat the principles of the truth, God’s commissions, and the work of God’s house, or how to deal with something they are faced with. They do not consider how to fulfill God’s will, how to keep from damaging the interests of God’s house, how to satisfy God, or how to benefit the brothers and sisters; these are not the things they consider. What do antichrists consider? Whether their own status and reputation will be affected, and whether their prestige will be lowered. If doing something according to the principles of the truth would benefit the work of the church and bring benefit to the brothers and sisters, but would cause their own reputation to take a hit and make a lot of people realize their true stature and know what sort of nature and essence they have, then they will definitely not act in accordance with the principles of the truth. If doing some practical work will cause more people to think highly of them, look up to them, and admire them, and enable their words to carry authority and make more people submit to them, then they will choose to do it that way; otherwise, they absolutely will not give any consideration to the interests of God’s house or of the brothers and sisters and then choose to discard their own interests. This is the nature and essence of antichrists”
Later, in my seeking, I read in God’s word, “If someone says they love the truth and that they pursue the truth, but in essence, the goal they pursue is to distinguish themselves, to show off, to make people think highly of them, to achieve their own interests, and the performing of their duty is not to obey or satisfy God, and instead is to achieve prestige and status, then their pursuit is illegitimate. That being the case, when it comes to the work of the church and the work of the house of God, are their actions an obstacle, or do they help move these things forward? They are clearly an obstacle; they do not move these things forward. All who wave the banner of doing the work of the church yet pursue their own personal prestige and status, run their own operation, create their own little group, their own little kingdom—is this kind of person performing their duty? All the work they do essentially interrupts, disrupts, and impairs the work of the house of God. What is the consequence of their pursuit of status and prestige? First, this affects how God’s chosen people eat and drink God’s word and understand the truth, it hinders their life entry, it stops them from entering the right track of faith in God, and leads them onto the wrong path—which harms the chosen ones, and brings them to ruin. And what does it ultimately do to the work of God’s house? It is dismantlement, interruption and impairment” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part One)). After reading God’s word, I understood that when we pursue personal reputation and status under the banner of doing our duty, the essence of it is to act as Satan’s servants and disrupt the work of God’s house. God’s word revealed the essence of my actions. God exalted me to be a leader because He hoped that I could be considerate of His will, water my brothers and sisters well, solve their difficulties and problems in life entry, and promote and train suitable people to do the various work of the church and ensure church work proceeds normally. But I didn’t consider God’s will and requirements, and I didn’t fulfill my responsibilities as a leader. When I selected and used people, I only considered my own interests. As a result, I not only failed to support newcomers, I hindered watering work, which caused the newcomers to withdraw. How was I performing my duty? I was disrupting the work of God’s house, and I was doing evil! Even like this, I had no awareness. I was too selfish and too numb. I thought of the antichrists and wicked people who were expelled from the church. They were always plotting for their own benefit, they ignored the principles of truth to maintain their reputation and status, they did their duties arbitrarily and tyrannically, seriously disturbed the work of God’s house, and finally, because of their many wicked deeds, they were hated and cast out by God. There was no difference in substance between what I did and the deeds of these antichrists! When I recognized this, I broke out in a cold sweat, and I prayed to God, “God, I was negligent in my duty. I pursued fame, status, and quick success, and I took the wrong path. God, I wish to repent to You. Please lead and guide me.”
Later, through reflection and seeking, I realized that to be effective in our duty, we must have the right intentions, focus on seeking the truth, and act according to principles. Only then can we receive God’s guidance, and continuously improve in our results. I thought of some of God’s words. “When people accept a commission from God, they must first understand God’s will in order to fulfill their duties and complete their missions. You must know that this commission came from God; this is His will, and you should accept it, be mindful of it, and, even more importantly, submit to it. In addition, you should seek answers to which truths you need to understand, which principles you should abide by, and how you should practice in order to be of benefit to God’s chosen ones and to the work of God’s house when performing this duty. These should be the principles of how you practice. Once you understand God’s will, you should waste no time in seeking and trying to understand the truths for performing this kind of duty; and once you understand these truths, you should determine the principles and path for putting them into practice. What do ‘principles’ refer to? Specifically, principles refer to the things that must be followed to achieve the standards and effects of practicing the truth; to practice the truth, people must have a grasp of principle—principle is the thing that is most crucial, and most fundamental. Once you have gotten to grips with the basic principles of performing your duty, this is proof that you have gotten to grips with the standards required for performing this duty; and having gotten to grips with principle is equivalent to being able to put the truth into practice. So what foundation is this ability to practice the truth built on? Upon understanding God’s will and understanding the truth. Does merely being aware of what God asks count as understanding the truth? It does not—so what standard is required to count as understanding the truth? You must understand what the significance and worth of performing your duty are; to understand these two things is to understand the truth of performing your duty. What’s more, once you understand the truth, you must get to grips with the principles of performing your duty, and the path for practice. If you are able to grasp and apply the principles for performing this duty, and can also exercise wisdom when needed, then you are guaranteed to be effective in performing this duty; and when you grasp principle and do things according to principle, this will count as practicing the truth. If it is not tainted by human ideas, and is carried out in absolute obedience to God’s requirements and according to the work arrangements of the house of God, and is in full accord with the words of God, then your performance of your duty is fully up to standard, and even though there may be some discrepancy between your effectiveness and what God requires, this will still count as meeting the requirements of God. If your performance of your duty is in full accord with principle, and you have performed it with devotion, if you have put all your effort into it, then your performance of your duty is fully in line with God’s will, and you have attained performing the duty of a creature of God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength—which is the effect achieved by practicing the truth” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Try to Win People Over). God’s words were very clear. To accept God’s commission, we must first seek God’s will, seek the principles of our duty to enter into, understand the truth, obey God, and strictly follow the principles of truth in our duty. In addition, when doing our duty, we must consider the interests of God’s house, often examine ourselves, and not scheme for personal gain. This reduces the adulteration of our own ideas, and the errors we make in our duties. I thought of how I acted solely on my own ambitions and desires in my duty, I seldom sought the principles of truth, and even when I knew a bit, I didn’t obey. In choosing watering staff, the key qualities needed are to fellowship the truth clearly, have patience, and be responsible. Sister Wu was responsible in her duty, and was loving and patient with newcomers. No matter what states or difficulties newcomers had, she could actively fellowship and solve problems, she also grasped some of the principles of watering newcomers. In the past, she had been effective in her duty, and she only made some mistakes now due to some difficulties she couldn’t handle. In this situation, we should offer fellowship and help out of love, or deal with, prune, expose, and rebuke, not just carelessly dismiss her. Also, when I saw that Sister Chen was enthusiastic and friendly on the outside, I imagined she was suitable for cultivation, but now I realized this wasn’t in line with principles. People with bad humanity who do evil and disturb the work of God’s house must not be cultivated. Sister Chen’s desire for name and status was strong, and she often fought for them in the past, disturbed the church’s work. After being dismissed and isolated, she never showed any genuine understanding of her past transgressions. She would still take the wrong path in her duty, and could do things at any time that disrupted the church’s work. Such people cannot be targets for important cultivation. I saw that I didn’t understand the principles of dismissing and using people, so I did things with ambition and desire, which disrupted and hindered the work of God’s house, and was also detrimental and ruinous to Sister Chen. When I realized these things, I thanked God for arranging for my brothers and sisters to write the letter to report and expose me, which stopped me from proceeding down my evil path.
Later, I read another passage of God’s word. “In God’s house, no matter what you do, you are not working on your own enterprise; it is the work of God’s house, it is God’s work. You must constantly bear this knowledge and awareness in mind and say, ‘This is not my own affair; I am doing my duty and fulfilling my responsibility. I am doing the church’s work. This is a task God entrusted to me and I am doing it for Him. This is my duty, not my own private affair.’ This is the first thing people should understand. If you treat a duty as your own personal business, and do not seek the principles of the truth when you act, and carry it out according to your own motives, views, and agenda, then you will very likely make mistakes. So how should you act if you make a very clear distinction between your duty and your own personal affairs, and are aware that this is a duty? (Seek what God asks, and seek principles.) That’s right. If something happens to you and you don’t understand the truth, and you have some idea but things still aren’t clear to you, then you must find a brother or sister who understands the truth to fellowship with; this is seeking the truth, and before all else, this is the attitude you should have toward your duty. You shouldn’t decide things based on what you think is appropriate, and then slam the gavel down and say case closed—this easily leads to problems. A duty is not your own personal affair; whether major or minor, matters of God’s house are no one’s personal affair. As long as it relates to duty, then it is not your private matter, it is not your personal affair—it concerns the truth, and it concerns principle. So what is the first thing you should do? You should seek the truth, and seek the principles. And if you do not understand the truth, you must first seek the principles; if you already understand the truth, identifying the principles will be easy” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Adequate Performance of Duty?). God’s word gave me a path of practice. Duties are commissions from God, not personal affairs, so we can’t do them however we like to satisfy our personal interests. In everything, we must seek the principles of truth and practice according to God’s requirements. If you don’t understand, you should fellowship and seek more with others. No matter what others think, all you need to do is accept God’s scrutiny and do your best. Even if there are sometimes mistakes in your work, and you don’t achieve good results quickly, if you do things in front of God, and not for others to see, you are walking the right path, and God will guide and bless you. Later, I opened up about myself to my brothers and sisters, I exposed how I did my duty for reputation and status, my desire for quick success, my violations of principle in using people, as well as acting arbitrarily and using my position to deal with and scold others, which caused them harm. I solemnly apologized to them and asked them to monitor me more. When I practiced like this, my brothers and sisters didn’t look down on me, they encouraged me, and said we could supervise each other and work together to perform our duties well.
Before long, something else happened. The gospel deacon was temporarily unable to do her duty due to obstruction by her family. After I heard the news, I was a little anxious. I thought, “Now, every church is doing all it can to preach the gospel, so at this point, if the gospel deacon can’t perform her duty, this will greatly affect our work! If I don’t replace her in time, our results will never improve. My superiors will definitely think I’m incompetent and unsuitable for this job.” So, I discussed with my partner whether to transfer the gospel deacon and find someone to take her place. My partner said, “The gospel deacon has always been responsible and a capable worker, and the results of gospel work have been good. If you transfer her just for a momentary inability to handle family obstruction, that would go against principles.” Just when I was about to argue my case, I immediately thought about how I had forcibly replaced Sister Wu. Wasn’t I acting to protect my reputation and status again? My partner reminded me that I should perform my duty according to principles. I nearly made another major mistake. As I thanked God in my heart, I said to my partner, “My intentions are wrong. I’m transferring her without principles to protect my reputation. She is indeed responsible, and is a correct person. If she can’t do her work right now, then we’ll pick up the slack and do the gospel work. Let’s also learn more about her situation and try to support and help her.” After hearing me, my partner nodded in agreement, and I felt at ease practicing this way.
Now, when I did my duty, I often asked myself, “Have I performed my duty today according to the principles of truth? Did I do things with a corrupt disposition in my interactions with people?” If I did something not in line with principles and God’s will, I prayed to God for help to change it. When I practiced like this, I saw God’s blessings, church work improved a little, and my brothers and sisters could actively perform their duties. Thank God!