What I Was Avoiding by Shirking My Duty
By Tony, USA
Last year, I was a group leader in the church, in charge of just a few group gatherings. I felt I was cut out for that duty, and when brothers and sisters had issues, they would always come and seek my help. Some even said I had very accurate readings on issues and fellowshiped quite clearly, so they were very willing to listen to my fellowship. It felt great to earn the respect and praise of the others in this duty and I really enjoyed that feeling. One day in March, Sister Lydia, who was in charge of textual work, contacted me and asked if I’d like to practice doing textual work. I was shocked when I heard that. I thought that doing textual work required good caliber, an understanding of the truth, and good writing skills. I only had average caliber and was not familiar with textual work, so I questioned how well I’d do. If I didn’t do well and were reassigned, what would others think of me? Wouldn’t that just show how untalented I was? I felt that I should just stick with my current job. Among those groups, I got relatively good results, was rarely dealt with or pruned, and the brothers and sisters all respected and approved of me. So I didn’t want to do textual work and kept trying to get out of it. I just wanted the comfort and stability of my current duty. Then, to my surprise, Lydia came back just ten days later to tell me that the textual work was understaffed and to fellowship with me on heeding God’s will and not becoming complacent. She asked me to pray and seek guidance, and not casually dismiss this opportunity. I knew Lydia was right, but I just couldn’t accept what she was saying. I felt that I had average caliber and didn’t have good writing skills, so I’d certainly be the weakest link. If I still didn’t do well after training for a bit, and was reassigned, that would be so embarrassing. I thought I would be much better off just continuing with my current duty.
After a while, I opened up to a brother about my state during that time. After listening, he didn’t mince words: “Aren’t you being a bit shifty in how you’re handling things?” It was a real punch to the gut to hear him call me shifty. I thought: “I’m not trying to slack off and just go through the motions. I really don’t have good caliber and I’m not good at writing. How could you say I’m being shifty?” I didn’t say anything, but in my head I kept defending myself and wouldn’t accept the criticism. Still, I knew that there was something I could learn from my brother’s reminder. So, I looked for related passages in the words of God. Almighty God says, “What sort of person dares to take on responsibility? What sort of person has the courage to bear a heavy burden? Someone who takes the lead and goes bravely forth at the crucial moment in the work of God’s house, who is not afraid to bear a heavy responsibility and endure great hardship when they see the work that is most important and crucial. That is someone loyal to God, a good soldier of Christ. Is it the case that everyone who fears taking on responsibility in their duty does so because they do not understand the truth? No; it is a problem in their humanity. They have no sense of justice or responsibility. They are selfish and vile people, not true-hearted believers in God. They do not accept the truth in the least, and for these reasons, they cannot be saved. Believers in God must pay a great price in order to gain the truth, and they will encounter many obstacles to practicing it. They must forsake things, abandon their fleshly interests, and endure some suffering. Only then will they be able to put the truth into practice. So, can one who fears taking on responsibility practice the truth? They certainly cannot, and less still is there to say about their gaining the truth. They are afraid of practicing the truth, of incurring a loss to their interests; they are afraid of being humiliated, of disparagement, and of judgment. They do not dare to practice the truth, so they cannot gain it, and no matter how many years they believe in God, they cannot attain His salvation. Those who can perform a duty in God’s house must be people whose burden is the work of the church, who take responsibility, who uphold the principles of the truth, who suffer and pay the price. If one is lacking in these areas, they are unfit to perform a duty, and they do not possess the conditions for the performance of duty. … If you protect yourself whenever something befalls you and leave yourself an escape route, a back door, are you putting the truth into practice? This is not practicing the truth—it is being sneaky. You are performing your duty in the house of God now. What is the first principle of performing a duty? It is that you must first perform that duty with your whole heart, sparing no effort, so that you can protect the interests of God’s house. This is a principle of the truth, one that you should put into practice. Protecting oneself by leaving oneself an escape route, a back door, is the principle of practice followed by unbelievers, and their most elevated philosophy. Considering oneself first in all things and placing one’s own interests before all else, not thinking of others, having no connection with the interests of God’s house and the interests of others, thinking of one’s own interests first and then thinking of an escape route—is that not what an unbeliever is? This is precisely what an unbeliever is. This sort of person is not fit to perform a duty” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Eight (Part One)). Pondering over God’s words, I realized that those who truly believe in God and have good humanity are responsible in their duty and protect the church’s work. The more critical a job is, the more they are up to the task. They can take on heavy burdens and heed God’s will. Such people are the pillars of the church and gain God’s favor. As for those who slack off in their duties—not wanting to suffer the slightest hardship or take on any responsibility, shrinking away at the first sight of difficulties, thinking only of their own interests and not protecting the church’s work at all—such people are nonbelievers in the eyes of God. They are not of God’s house and God will not save them. Reflecting on my own actions in the light of God’s words, I saw that despite seeming to do my job, busying myself every day in fulfilling my duty, all that I thought about was my own reputation and status. My heart wasn’t turned towards God and I didn’t heed His will. I was only satisfied doing easy work that I was good at, because I didn’t have to make too many efforts, yet I got decent results and my need for status and reputation was satisfied. I was less acquainted with textual work and less talented at it, so even if I did try it out, I might not get good results. If I didn’t do my duty well and was dealt with, pruned and looked down on by others, that would be so embarrassing. So, in order to maintain my reputation and status, I continually rejected the offers, using excuses like poor caliber, lack of skill and unfamiliarity as pretexts for refusing the duty. Outwardly, I seemed to make a convincing and reasonable argument, but I was incredibly selfish and despicable inside. The reason I would choose to do one duty over another wasn’t based on the needs of the church’s work or on my submitting to God’s arrangements. Rather, it was all about my own interests and whether my desire for status and reputation would be satisfied. Everything I did and thought was all calculated to benefit my reputation and status. I didn’t have a sincere attitude to my duty, and really was being “shifty” like my brother had said. In fact, I should offer my service in whatever area the church has a need, accepting and submitting without arguing or making demands. This is the rationality that everyone should have. But instead, not only did I not submit when asked to do a duty, I was petty about it, calculating how the duty could harm or benefit me. I didn’t have the slightest sense of responsibility. God says that such people aren’t worthy of fulfilling a duty, are not of God’s house, and won’t be saved.
After that, I came across another passage of God’s words: “Those who are capable of putting the truth into practice can accept God’s scrutiny when doing things. When you accept God’s scrutiny, your heart is set straight. If you only ever do things for others to see, always want to gain others’ praise and admiration, yet you do not accept God’s scrutiny, then is God still in your heart? Such people have no reverence for God. Do not always do things for your own sake and do not constantly consider your own interests; do not consider the interests of man, and give no thought to your own pride, reputation, or status. You must first give thought to the interests of God’s house, and make them your first priority. You should be considerate of God’s will and begin by contemplating whether or not you have been impure in the fulfillment of your duty, whether you have been loyal, fulfilled your responsibilities, and given your all, as well as whether or not you have wholeheartedly given thought to your duty and the work of the church. You must give consideration to these things. Think about them frequently and figure them out, and it will be easier for you to perform your duty well” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Freedom and Liberation Can Be Gained Only by Casting Off One’s Corrupt Disposition). Thinking over God’s words, I realized that in our faith, if we can have the right intention in our duty, accept God’s scrutiny, prioritize the church’s work above all else, put everything into our duty and do our utmost to cooperate, this will be in line with God’s will. I felt that in that situation, where I’d been asked to do textual work, God was scrutinizing me to see what kind of attitude I had—would I actively cooperate, or shrink away and evade? I shouldn’t have been thinking about whether I had the caliber for the job or how well I could do the duty. I should’ve rectified my improper state and set my attitude towards my duty straight, submitting and doing the best that I could in my duty. This was the rationality that I should’ve had as a created being. If, after training for a bit, I still wasn’t up to it and was reassigned, I should have the right attitude about it and submit to the church’s arrangements. So later on, I told Lydia I was willing to do textual work. After I told her, I felt much more at ease. But I still felt like my understanding of myself was too superficial, so I continued to pray to God, asking Him to enlighten and guide me to know myself.
Some time after, I came across this passage. “The antichrists’ cherishment of their status and prestige goes beyond that of normal people, and is something within their disposition and essence; it is not a temporary interest, or the transient effect of their surroundings—it is something within their life, their bones, and so it is their essence. This is to say that in everything an antichrist does, their first consideration is their own status and prestige, nothing else. For an antichrist, status and prestige are their life, and their lifelong goal. In all they do, their first consideration is: ‘What will happen to my status? And to my prestige? Will doing this give me prestige? Will it elevate my status in people’s minds?’ That is the first thing they think about, which is ample proof that they have the disposition and essence of antichrists; they would not consider these problems otherwise. It can be said that for an antichrist, status and prestige are not some additional requirement, much less something extraneous that they could do without. They are part of the nature of antichrists, they are in their bones, in their blood, they are innate to them. Antichrists are not indifferent toward whether they possess status and prestige; this is not their attitude. Then, what is their attitude? Status and prestige are intimately connected to their daily lives, to their daily state, to what they strive for on a daily basis. And so for antichrists, status and prestige are their life. No matter how they live, no matter what environment they live in, no matter what work they do, no matter what they strive for, what their goals are, what their life’s direction is, it all revolves around having a good reputation and a high station. And this aim does not change; they can never put aside such things. This is the true face of the antichrists, and their essence. You could put them in a primeval forest deep in the mountains, and still they would not put aside their pursuit of status and prestige. You can put them among any group of people, and all they can think about is still status and prestige. Although antichrists also believe in God, they see the pursuit of status and prestige as equivalent to faith in God and give it equal weight. Which is to say, as they walk the path of faith in God, they also pursue their own status and prestige. It can be said that in the antichrists’ hearts, they believe that faith in God and the pursuit of the truth is the pursuit of status and prestige; the pursuit of status and prestige is also the pursuit of the truth, and to gain status and prestige is to gain the truth and life. If they feel that they have no prestige or status, that no one admires them, or venerates them, or follows them, then they are very frustrated, they believe there is no point in believing in God, no value to it, and they say to themselves, ‘Is such faith in God a failure? Is it hopeless?’ They often deliberate such things in their hearts, they deliberate how they can carve a place out for themselves in the house of God, how they can have a lofty reputation in the church, so that people listen when they talk, and support them when they act, and follow them wherever they go; so that they have a voice in the church, a reputation, so that they enjoy benefits, and have status—they really focus on such things. These are what such people pursue. Why are they always thinking about such things? After reading the words of God, after hearing sermons, do they really not understand all this, are they really not able to discern all this? Are the words of God and the truth really not able to change their notions, ideas, and opinions? That is not the case at all. The problem starts with them, it is wholly because they do not love the truth, because, in their hearts, they are sick of the truth, and as a result, they are utterly unreceptive to the truth—which is determined by their nature and essence” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Three)). God exposes how antichrists particularly cherish reputation and status. All they’re looking for is to attain reputation and status. It’s their goal in life. As soon as they lose the respect and adoration of others, when they lose their place in people’s hearts, they stop being motivated to work and even find life to be meaningless. For them, reputation and status are as important as life itself. This is the nature of an antichrist. I realized that what I sought was just the same as an antichrist. No matter where I was, or who I was with, I always prioritized my reputation and status, and I cared most about gaining the respect and praise of others. If a duty allowed me to impress others and earn their respect, I’d be willing to fulfill it. But if it didn’t bolster my reputation and status, no matter how important the job was, I wouldn’t want to do it, and would find an excuse to get out of it, just like this time, when Lydia asked me to work in literature. I knew this job was important and people were urgently needed, but then I thought about how my caliber was average, and I wouldn’t be able to distinguish myself, and might even embarrass myself if I got poor results in my work. While supervising a few group gatherings, despite not having a high status, and not working on something as important as literature, I did get relatively good results in my duty. Not only did the leaders think highly of me, but the brothers and sisters respected me too, which massively stroked my ego. After weighing the pros and cons, I’d still wanted to stick to my duty in that little corner of the world, not start on textual work. I saw that I was tightly fettered and constrained by the ideas that Satan had brainwashed me with, like “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face,” “A man’s legacy is his life’s echo,” and “Better to be a big fish in a small pond.” These satanic toxins had already taken root in my heart. I was living by these toxins and prioritized reputation and status above all else. To gain the respect of others and stroke my own ego, I even rejected and excused myself from a duty. I was so disobedient! I felt incredibly guilty and upset at the time. This wasn’t really doing a duty at all. I was just using my duty as a front to work for my status and reputation. I was walking the path of an antichrist. Having realized this, I felt a bit horrified. If I lived by these fallacious views towards pursuit and never tried to rectify them, I would ultimately be despised by God.
Later on, I read another passage of God’s words that had a deep impact on me. God says, “From the beginning until today, only man has been capable of conversing with God. That is, among all living things and creatures of God, none but man has been able to converse with God. Man has ears that enable him to hear, and eyes that let him see; he has language, and his own ideas, and free will. He is possessed of all that is required to hear God speak, and understand God’s will, and accept God’s commission, and so God confers all His wishes upon man, wanting to make man a companion who is of the same mind with Him and who can walk with Him. Since He began to manage, God has been waiting for man to give his heart to Him, to let God purify and equip it, to make him satisfactory to God and loved by God, to make him revere God and shun evil. God has ever looked forward to and awaited this outcome” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II). God created so, so many living beings, but of all created beings, God only converses with mankind, and only places demands and hopes upon man. He hopes to create a group of people who are at one with His will, who heed His will and bear burdens for Him. This is God’s hope for mankind. I thought of how, after believing in God for several years, enjoying so much of the watering of God’s words, as well as the church’s cultivation and training opportunities, I had come to understand some truths, and had grown both professionally and in life entry. This was all due to God’s grace. But what kind of attitude did I have towards God and the church’s work? I didn’t show any special concern for the work or take on any responsibility, and even rejected the duty to preserve my reputation and status. Outwardly, I was practicing my faith and doing my duty, but in my heart I had no love for God and didn’t heed His will. I returned God’s grace with disobedience and deception. Faced with God’s hopes and demands, I felt so ashamed and regretful. I felt that I was just too disobedient and didn’t have the slightest conscience or reason, so I prayed to God, wanting to rectify my current state, no longer willing to live so selfishly and despicably. I was ready to heed God’s will and strive to improve.
Later on, after reflecting, I noticed another problem I had. Apart from having a corrupt disposition, another reason I rejected the duty was because of a certain idea I had. I thought that having good caliber and special skills were the most crucial factors for doing a duty well, so when the church gave me an assignment and I felt I wasn’t talented in that area or my caliber wasn’t up to snuff, I wouldn’t even bother trying and would directly reject the assignment citing my poor caliber and lack of skills. But was this idea correct? What was God’s intention? I ended up finding a passage of God’s words that helped me understand His intention regarding this question. Almighty God says, “What are the manifestations of an honest person? Firstly, having no doubts about God’s words, that is a manifestation of an honest person. As is seeking and practicing the truth in all matters—that is the most important manifestation of an honest person, and the most critical. You say that you are honest, but you always push God’s words to the back of your mind and just do whatever you want. Is that the manifestation of an honest person? You say, ‘Although my caliber is poor, I have an honest heart.’ And yet when a duty falls to you, you are afraid of suffering and bearing responsibility if you do not do it well, so you make excuses to shirk that duty or suggest that someone else does it. Is this the manifestation of an honest person? Clearly, it is not. How, then, should an honest person behave? They should submit to God’s arrangements, be devoted in the duty they are supposed to perform, and strive to satisfy God’s will. This manifests in several ways. One is accepting your duty with an honest heart, not considering your fleshly interests, not being half-hearted about it or plotting for your own benefit. That is a manifestation of honesty. Another is performing your duty well with all your heart and all your strength, doing things properly, and putting your heart and love into your duty to satisfy God. These are the manifestations an honest person should have while performing their duty” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three). Through God’s words I realized that God loves the honest. He hopes that we can all treat Him and our duty with an honest heart and a sincere attitude. He hopes we will only think of satisfying Him in our duty, not our own interests. An honest person’s approach to their duty is to try their best, pouring their heart into doing their duty well. Whether or not they have a special talent for the work is not important, and neither is how much they can actually achieve. Different duties in the church require different levels of caliber and professional skills. Those with good caliber and professional skills will catch on quicker and get better results, while those with weaker caliber and average skills will not get as good of results. That’s just how things are. But caliber and professional skills aren’t the only factors that determine if someone can do their duty well. A person’s attitude towards their duty, their sense of responsibility, and ability to seek the truth and do things according to principles are the most crucial factors in one’s duty. Some people appear to be smart and have good caliber, but they have poor humanity, slack off and just go through the motions in their duty. No matter their caliber, they will cause more harm than good. These people will be cast out. Then there are some brothers and sisters who have average caliber and work skills, but their hearts are in the right place. They are diligent and responsible, prioritize seeking the truth, and can suffer hardship and make sacrifices. People like that always improve in their duties. Sometimes when people don’t have good enough caliber, praying to God for the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance can help make up for their inadequacies. Such people can still get good results in their duties. In the past, when I didn’t understand the truth, I always used my poor caliber as an excuse to refuse duties and let myself off the hook. I even thought I was being quite reasonable in doing so. As a result, I would always sell myself short, thinking I couldn’t handle the duty, and didn’t even have the courage to try, passing on these offers instead. Then I saw that this idea was false and could hold me back in my duty. After reading God’s words, I had a much clearer understanding and found a path of practice. After that, I prayed to God and was willing to submit and do my duty well.
Now, when I encounter difficulties, I still feel inadequate and fear embarrassing myself, but at least I don’t use my poor caliber as an excuse to shy away like before. Recently, while discussing an issue with brothers and sisters, I couldn’t articulate my point and my old ways came creeping back. I thought, “My caliber is so poor. I should just keep quiet and listen to others.” But then I realized that this was an improper state, so I consciously prayed to God, asking Him to guide my focus away from reputation and status so I could do my duty without being constrained. Just then, I thought of God’s words, which say: “Do not always do things for your own sake and do not constantly consider your own interests; do not consider the interests of man, and give no thought to your own pride, reputation, or status. You must first give thought to the interests of God’s house, and make them your first priority” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Freedom and Liberation Can Be Gained Only by Casting Off One’s Corrupt Disposition). God’s words gave me strength. I had to set my intentions right and prioritize the church’s interests. I had to stop thinking about what others thought of me, protecting my reputation but avoiding my duties, and start thinking about how to get better results in my duty. That is what I had to do. So I quieted my heart and began pondering this question. Gradually, my thoughts became clearer. Later, with some helpful input from the others, the issue was finally resolved.
The textual work is more demanding than my last duty and can be more stressful, but I think if I apply myself, I have what it takes. Also, by training, pondering and seeking, I’ve gained more insight into certain details of the truth and principles of practice. I’ve really learned a lot through all of this. Thank God!
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