21. I Finally Understand What It Means to Fulfill My Duty
Almighty God says, “Man’s performance of his duty is, in actuality, the accomplishment of all that is inherent within man, which is to say, that which is possible for man. It is then that his duty is fulfilled. The defects of man during his service are gradually reduced through progressive experience and the process of his undergoing judgment; they do not hinder or affect man’s duty. Those who cease to serve or yield and fall back for fear that there may be drawbacks to their service are the most cowardly of all. If people cannot express what they ought to express during service or achieve what is inherently possible for them, and instead fool about and go through the motions, they have lost the function that a created being should have. Such people are what are known as ‘mediocrities’; they are useless refuse. How can such people properly be called created beings? Are they not corrupt beings that shine on the outside but are rotten within?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). God’s words have helped me understand what doing our duty really means. It means that no matter how talented or gifted we are, we have to fully put into play everything we understand. We can’t cut corners or just go through the motions. We have to keep striving based on what God requires. That way, we can make up for any weaknesses or deficiencies in the performance of our duties and we’ll get better and better results.
Recently, the church wanted to film some videos of solo hymns of God’s words. Our team leader wanted me to sing lead vocals and play the guitar for one of the songs. When he told me about this, I was a little nervous. Singing and playing the guitar is harder than just singing. Plus, I’d tried doing a solo like that before, but while singing I focused on my performance and missed my chords, but when I focused on the chords, my expressions were off. In the end, they couldn’t use the footage. Faced with the same task, I wanted to say no, but I didn’t think that would be in line with God’s will. My brothers and sisters all thought I was well-suited for the song, so I figured I should go along with it and do my duty. So, I accepted the role. After two days of practice, I’d grasped the singing and performance parts pretty well. But the guitar chords were quite complicated and hard to remember. With just one day to go before filming, I was becoming really anxious. I was afraid that even if I kept practicing, it would be too late to change anything, and if I did keep practicing, wouldn’t my hands swell up? Regardless of discomfort, I might not even remember it. At that thought, I didn’t want to pay the price for it, so I kept trying to think of the perfect solution to this difficult problem. That’s when I had an idea: I could ask the cameraman not to film my hands too much, then I wouldn’t need to work so hard on these annoying chords. And we could still film the video. It seemed like a good idea. I was actually a little uneasy when I had this idea. It felt like I was being irresponsible. What if there was a problem with the chords, and we had to reshoot the video? But then I thought to myself: “Time is so tight and it’s such a hard song. It’ll be so taxing and stressful to play the song well. I can’t perform above my level. Besides, this is so we can get the video out as soon as possible. Everyone should understand.” After that, I focused on my singing and performance, without worrying too much about the chords. I figured it should be good enough.
When it was time to film, I asked the brother filming not to do many close-ups of my hands. I didn’t think there would be any problem. But the next day, the director said I was playing some of the chords wrong and asked me what was going on. I felt so guilty and my face turned bright red. I thought, “Oh no, will we have to reshoot?” I rushed to ask the editor if there was another solution. He just shook his head and said, “I tried, it’s no good.” At this, I knew we’d have to refilm. I felt bad knowing that I had caused the problem. Later, when we got together to discuss what had happened, I told everyone my reasons for doing what I’d done. A sister reproached me, saying, “Why didn’t you tell us you hadn’t learned the chords? Now we have to film all over again and the whole project’s delayed. This was careless and irresponsible of you!” I just couldn’t accept what she said. I thought, “Didn’t I do my best? The fact is that I can’t play the chords, and I did it to make sure the video was finished quickly. They just shouldn’t have filmed my hands, right?” I just made excuses, without any self-reflection. But then another sister told me, “If you were having trouble, you could have practiced more, even if the filming was postponed for a few days. But you can’t just muddle through like that. You’re the lead singer—how will it look if we don’t show you playing the guitar? This was so irresponsible and careless of you!” Hearing her say “so” like that really got to me. I couldn’t help but think, “If my brothers and sisters all think I’m careless in my duties, maybe I really am in the wrong? I wanted the filming to go well, too. But the project is delayed and we have to refilm because my chords were wrong. I am definitely to blame.” I felt bad at that thought. I stopped protesting and started reflecting.
I later found a passage of God’s word that really moved me. This is what it said: “What is the result of performing your duty carelessly and perfunctorily, and treating it lightly? It is the poor performance of your duty, though you are capable of performing it well—your performance will not be up to standard, and God will not be satisfied with your attitude toward your duty. If, originally, you had sought and cooperated normally; if you had devoted all your thoughts to it; if you had put your heart and soul into doing it, and put all your effort into it, and had devoted a period of your labor, your striving, and your thoughts to it, or had devoted some time to referencing materials, and committed the whole of your mind and body to it; had you been capable of such cooperation, then God would be up ahead, guiding you. You do not need to exert much strength; when you spare no effort in cooperating, God will have already arranged everything for you. If you are wily and treacherous, and, halfway through the job, you have a change of heart and go astray, then God will show no interest in you; you will have lost this opportunity, and God will say, ‘You are not good enough; you are useless. Go stand off to the side. You like being lazy, no? You like being deceitful and cunning, do you not? You like resting? Well then, take a rest.’ God will give this grace and opportunity to the next person. What do you say: Is this a loss or a win? It is an enormous loss!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Solve the Problem of Being Careless and Perfunctory When Performing Your Duty). God’s words revealed my own state. I’d agreed to practice to take on the lead role, but I didn’t actually do what I’d promised. I didn’t address my weaknesses or look for information to improve my chords. I slacked off in practice because I thought it would be too hard. I made the excuse that I didn’t have the time and asked the cameraman to avoid doing close-ups on my hands. I thought I could get away with it, but it ended up delaying the project. It really was irresponsible and careless of me! When my duty presented itself, I didn’t want to make the effort to play the song well and bear witness for God. Instead, I took the path of least resistance, and now we had to redo everything. How could I have been so irresponsible? Just a little more practice, a little more effort, and I wouldn’t have harmed the work of God’s house. I hated myself a bit at that point. I thought, “If I get another chance, I won’t be so perfunctory again. Even if I have to exhaust myself practicing those chords, I’ll do what needs to be done.”
The others decided to give me another two days to practice. This was really moving for me and I thanked God for giving me a chance to make up for my transgression. In my practice after that I worked hard to memorize all the chords, but I felt really stressed. I was afraid my technique still wasn’t up to scratch and that two days wouldn’t be enough time for me to improve. I started getting anxious again. But the more anxious I got, the more I forgot, and the more I forgot, the more anxious I got. That morning went by in a flash. I still couldn’t play the song very well, and my hands were sore. I usually took a break from practicing after lunch, but this time, I knew I had to keep going. I knew that I couldn’t afford to take a break, but had to use every moment I had to get the chords right. Once I set my heart right, God guided me. That afternoon, without realizing it, I figured out how to memorize the chords in sections! It got better and better. But I’d been practicing for so long that my hands started to swell up and I was tempted to slack off again. When I caught myself thinking this way again, I thought of something God had said, and I rushed to read it: “When faced with a duty that needs your effort and expenditure, and that requires you to dedicate your body, mind, and time, you must not hold anything back, harbor any petty cleverness, or leave any leeway. If you leave any leeway, are calculating, or are wily and treacherous, then you are bound to do a poor job. You might say, ‘No one saw me acting in a slick way. How cool!’ What kind of thinking is this? 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.) Generally, people who interact with you over a long period of time will find out, too, and will say that you are a person who is always slippery, is never diligent, and only puts in fifty or sixty percent of his effort, or eighty at the most. They will say you do everything in a very confused manner, turning a blind eye to whatever you are doing; you are not at all conscientious in your work. If you are made to do something, only then do you put in a bit of effort; if someone is around to check to see if your work is up to par, then you do a slightly better job—but if no one is around to check, you slack off a bit. If you are dealt with, then you put your heart into it; otherwise, you are constantly dozing through work and trying to get away with whatever you can, assuming that no one will notice. Time goes by, and people notice. They say, ‘This person is unreliable and untrustworthy; if you give him an important duty to perform, he’ll need supervision. He can do ordinary tasks and jobs that do not involve principles, but if you give him any vital duty to fulfill, he’ll most likely just mess it up, and then you will have been hoodwinked.’ People will see right through him, and he will have completely discarded all dignity and integrity. If no one can trust him, then how can God? Would God entrust him with any major tasks? Such a person is untrustworthy” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Life Entry Must Begin With the Experience of Performing One’s Duty).
God’s words made me realize just how perfunctory I was being in my duty. I was complacent in practicing the chords, and I wasn’t reaching for the highest standard. I wasn’t exerting myself fully. I was skating by and muddling through my duty. I had no integrity. I wasn’t trustworthy. I’d always thought of myself as passionate and hard-working in my duties, that I had undying loyalty. But now, I saw that I hadn’t been focused on the results, but had just muddled through. How was that doing my duty? If I carried on that way, who would dare to trust me again? Wouldn’t I lose my integrity and my honor? I’d committed a transgression last time. I didn’t want to repeat it. It didn’t matter if my hands swelled up or if I was tired, my integrity and dignity mattered more. So, I resolved to keep practicing the chords, no matter how tiring or difficult. Once I’d resolved to truly repent, I saw God’s blessings and guidance. That very day, I practiced until past midnight, and managed to memorize almost all of the chords. I practiced the entire next day until I was familiar with the whole song. During filming, I intently focused on each step and I prayed silently, relying on God. To my surprise, we filmed the whole thing in one take! Seeing it turn out this way gave me a sense of peace. I tasted the sweetness of practicing the truth.
I was later given the duty of composing music. I hadn’t composed a song for a long time, so I was a bit out of practice. In particular, we’d been doing rock songs recently, which I’d never done before, so I was a bit worried. But I knew this was a duty I needed to fulfill and I had to do my best. So, I made a plan to complete two songs by the end of the month. I worked overtime composing the songs, and when I was tired, I asked God to help me forsake the flesh. I came up with a melody and quickly turned it into a full song. When it was done, I had my brothers and sisters listen to it. They said it was okay and that it had the right style for rock music. But inside, I thought: “If I worked more and polished the chorus melody, the song would be even better.” But I had second thoughts. I didn’t have a clear direction at the time and I didn’t want to ask too much of myself. Besides, my brothers and sisters didn’t have a problem with it. It was good enough. Plus, I’d only just learned how to compose this kind of song, so it was normal for it to be flawed. I submitted it to the team leader.
A few days later, he told me that I was on the right track, but the melody was a little rough. He suggested I think about the lyrics a bit more. I felt a bit resistant to this and I thought, “I’ve only just learned how to compose this kind of song. You’re asking too much of me!” I’d already spent a lot of time on it and a few more days waiting for his feedback. Half a month had already gone by. Seeing there was no progress, I was a little anxious. Revising the composition would really take a lot of effort and I didn’t know how it would turn out. So, I rewrote the tune. The team leader said it wasn’t good and sounded like a kids’ song. I felt really dejected. I thought, “I’m giving it my all but I haven’t gotten even one song approved. What should I do?” Later, I wrote a few more melodies, but none of them were accepted. I was so distraught. I thought about how I’d resolved to compose two songs by the end of the month, but I hadn’t even finished one. I’d failed in my duties. Was I good for nothing?
In a later gathering, the team leader reminded me, “Your compositions are quite original and the styles are good, so why hasn’t anything been approved yet? You’re not paying attention to the lyrics, so the words and the melody don’t fit. Every time you change it, it gets worse. This is holding up the work of God’s house.” Then, another brother chimed in: “You’re not singing well on the recordings. Some of them don’t even match the sheet music. You’re being careless!” Being dealt with and reprimanded by the brothers was humiliating. I wanted to crawl into a hole. When I got home, I prayed to God: “God, I’ve been perfunctory in my duty. I haven’t been devoted, but I don’t know how to resolve this problem. Please help me and guide me.”
Later, I read this in God’s words: “Is it not something within a corrupt disposition to handle things so flippantly and irresponsibly? What thing? It is scumminess; in all matters, they say ‘that’s about right’ and ‘close enough’; it is an attitude of ‘maybe,’ ‘possibly,’ and ‘four-out-of-five’; they do things perfunctorily, are satisfied to do the minimum, and are satisfied to muddle along as they can; they see no point in taking things seriously or striving for precision, and they see less point in seeking principles. Is this not something within a corrupt disposition? Is it a manifestation of normal humanity? To call it arrogance is right, and to call it dissolute is also entirely apt—but to capture it perfectly, the only word that will do is ‘scummy.’ Such scumminess is present in the humanity of a majority of people; in all matters, they wish to do the least possible, to see what they can get away with, and there is a whiff of deceit in everything they do. They cheat others when they can, cut corners when they are able, and are loath to spend much time or thought considering a matter. So long as they can avoid being revealed, and they cause no problems, and they are not called to account, they think all is well, and thus they muddle forward. To them, doing a job well is more trouble than it is worth. Such people learn nothing to mastery, and they do not apply themselves in their studies. They want only to get the broad outline of a subject and then call themselves proficient at it, and then rely on this to muddle their way through. Is this not an attitude people have toward things? Is it a good attitude? This sort of attitude that such people adopt toward people, events, and things is, in a few words, ‘to muddle through,’ and such scumminess exists in all of corrupt mankind” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (9)). “How can one tell the difference between noble and base people? Simply look at their attitude and manner in their treatment of people, events, and things—look at how they act, how they handle things, and how they behave when issues arise. People with character and dignity are meticulous, serious and diligent in their actions, and they are willing to make sacrifices. People without character and dignity are desultory and slipshod in their actions, always up to some trick, always wanting to just muddle through. They learn no skill to mastery, and, no matter how long they study, they remain confounded by ignorance in matters of skill or profession. If you do not press them for answers, all seems fine, but, as soon as you do, they panic—sweat drenches their brows, and they have no response. Those are people of low character” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (9)). Only when I read this did I realize that I’d been careless in my duty, because there was something scummy within me. I wanted to do the least possible in everything, with no concern for the quality of my work. I didn’t want to seek the principles of the truth and do my duty as God demands. When I think about this time, whether it was filming a video or composing a song, whenever I faced a problem that required effort, whenever I needed to pay a price, I would only put in minimal efforts. I didn’t try to improve or work harder. In fact, I knew that if I worked harder and more attentively, I’d do better in my duties. But I only ever did the bare minimum, always indulging myself. So I couldn’t advance in my work or bear witness for God through my duty, and I kept holding up the church’s work as a result. How could I say I’d done my duty? I was clearly impeding the work of God’s house. That’s when I saw just how serious my scumminess was. I muddled through, I drifted along, I tried to fool God. I was lacking character and dignity. God likes those who do their duty honestly and diligently, who seek the principles of the truth in the face of difficulties and fulfill their duty as God requires. They have honor and integrity, and are valued in God’s eyes. Compared to them, I was unfit to be called human. I felt ashamed. At that moment, I understood: God was saving me through my brothers pruning and dealing with me. Otherwise, I’d always be muddling through this way. I would never do my duty well. I’d disrupt the work of God’s house and be cast out by God.
I read more of God’s words: “The work of God is done for the sake of mankind, and the cooperation of man is given for the sake of God’s management. After God has done all that He is supposed to do, man is required to be unstinting in his practice, and to cooperate with God. In the work of God, man should spare no effort, should offer up his loyalty, and should not indulge in numerous notions, or sit passively and await death. God can sacrifice Himself for man, so why can man not offer his loyalty to God? God is of one heart and mind toward man, so why can man not offer a little cooperation? God works for mankind, so why can man not perform some of his duty for the sake of God’s management? God’s work has come this far, yet still you see but do not act, you hear but do not move. Are not such people the objects of perdition? God has already devoted His all to man, so why, today, is man incapable of earnestly performing his duty? For God, His work is His first priority, and the work of His management is of the utmost importance. For man, putting God’s words into practice and fulfilling God’s requirements are his first priority. This you should all understand” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Practice). I was so moved as I thought over God’s words. God is of one heart and mind toward man. He has become flesh twice to save humanity, who’s corrupted by Satan. He has been humiliated, rejected by generations, and has suffered so much. Faced with our deep corruption and our senseless apathy, God has never abandoned us. He still expresses the truth to save us. Our caliber is lacking and we’re slow to accept the truth, but God fellowships with us so sincerely, and thoroughly. Sometimes He uses metaphors and examples, and tells stories to guide us from every angle, and in every way. This is so we can understand the truth and enter into it. God takes responsibility for our lives and He won’t rest until He has completed us. Seeing God’s disposition and His earnest intentions was really inspiring. But when I thought of how I’d treated God and how I’d approached my duties, I was filled with regret. I didn’t want to muddle through in my duty anymore. I went before God and prayed, asking Him how I could really stop being careless and do my duty well.
I then read God’s words, which said: “What is duty? It is a commission entrusted by God to people. So how should you fulfill your duty? By acting in accordance with God’s requirements and standards, and by basing your behavior on the truth principles rather than on human subjective desires. In this way, your fulfilling of your duties will be up to standard” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Seeking the Truth Principles Can One Perform Their Duty Well). “What does it mean to take it seriously? Taking it seriously does not mean putting in a little effort or suffering some physical torment. What is key is that there is God in your heart, and a burden. In your heart, you must weigh the importance of your duty, and then carry this burden and responsibility in all you do and put your heart into it. You must make yourself worthy of the mission God has given you, as well as everything God has done for you, and His hopes for you. Only doing so is being serious. There is no use in you going through the motions; you may trick people, but you cannot fool God. If there is no real price and no loyalty when you perform your duty, then it is not up to standard” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Performing Duty Well Requires a Conscience, at the Very Least). This brought me clarity within my heart. Our duty is entrusted to us by God. We must do as He demands and act according to the truth. We can’t pick and choose or blindly follow our own desires. We have to meet a certain standard in our duty—just appearing to work hard doesn’t cut it. The main thing is to have a sense of responsibility, to be diligent and earnest, to seek, ponder, and find ways to improve. Then we can do our duty and please God. Later, when I was composing a song, I carefully analyzed the lyrics, and found a few songs that expressed similar feelings. I thought hard about how other people used melody to express this kind of feeling. After getting a grasp on the meaning of the lyrics, the mood, and the direction of the melody, I started composing. I asked for my brothers’ and sisters’ advice later on, revised the composition twice, and then it was ready. It only took a week to finish. Another composition I’d revised was also accepted. When I saw how little time it took to finish those compositions, I felt even more remorse and regret for trying to muddle through my duty before. I saw how badly I’d been corrupted by Satan, how serious my scumminess was, and how careless I was in my work. Thanks to God’s arrangements, having my brothers and sisters deal with me, I can finally seek the truth to resolve my corrupt dispositions and perform my duty with devotion. Thanks be to God!