93. One’s Duty Can Only Be Performed Properly After Remedying Perfunctoriness
By Jingxian, Japan
Ordinarily, during assembly or when doing my spiritual devotions, though I would often read the words of God that related to exposing people’s perfunctoriness, I didn’t pay much attention to my own entry; in my heart, I didn’t believe that this was a serious issue in me, and so rarely sought the truth to remedy the problem of performing my duty perfunctorily. Until, that was, my own perfunctoriness led to major problems in my work. When this perfunctoriness brought harm to the gospel work of the church, it was only through the judgment and chastisement of God’s words that I gained some knowledge of the manifestations and origins of my own perfunctoriness whilst performing my duty. I saw that if left unsolved, my problem of perfunctoriness would incur the hate and disdain of God, and that sooner or later He would expose and eliminate me. After that, I began to focus on pursuing the truth to solve the problem of perfunctoriness, so that I could perform my duty adequately.
One day, whilst listening to some brothers and sisters of other churches talk about some good paths to practice for spreading the gospel, I realized that I had heard something similar last year. Back then, I had also felt that practicing thus was much better than our current approach—but later, when I tried to get several responsible persons of the gospel groups to implement these practices, they had said that due to myriad reasons, such practices weren’t feasible for us. Though I had felt a little disappointed hearing them say this, I didn’t push the issue; that was just how things were. Hearing a similar talk again, I felt reaffirmed; I thought this path of spreading the gospel was really good, and was keen to communicate to the responsible persons about how to draw on others’ strengths. And so, during assembly, I told the responsible persons of my own opinions and suggestions. Afterward, I observed that some of them didn’t seem overly interested, while others gave reasons why this method of spreading the gospel wouldn’t be practicable here. I could tell that they had many outdated ways of thinking and viewpoints that they didn’t want to let go of, and that my fellowship hadn’t had any effect. But then I thought about how experienced these responsible persons were at spreading the gospel: Though I was responsible for their work, I didn’t have much experience of spreading the gospel. If I was incapable of fellowshiping a practical path, it would be very difficult to change their way of thinking with a few simple words. In my heart, I thought: “It’s not going to be easy making them accept these new paths to practice! If I am to explain a feasible basis for these methods and fellowship them clearly, I must find other, more experienced brothers and sisters to help, and try to figure this out. I may well have to discuss it in detail with many people, and talk a lot, in order to be effective. Oh! There are no such brothers and sisters around me, and I don’t know any in other countries, either. For me, solving this problem is going to be very difficult. It would take time and effort, and I’d have to pay a high price. It is too much trouble. I also have other work to do. I can’t devote all my efforts to solving this one problem! I have said what I should; how much other people accept is up to them. Better to forget this, and I should not be that serious. I’ve done more or less enough when I get to this point.” And in this way, because this problem was not solved in time, there was no improvement in the work of the gospel.
Over the next several days, I felt ill at ease whenever I thought about this. Realizing that my state was wrong, I came before God to pray and search. Later, I read the words of God: “When doing things and performing your duties, do you often reflect upon your behavior and intentions? If you do so only rarely, then you are very liable to make mistakes, which then means that there is still a problem with your stature. If you never do so, then you are no different from the unbelievers; however, if there are times when you do reflect, then you have a bit of the look of a believer. You must spend more time reflecting. You should reflect upon everything: Reflect upon your own state to see whether you live before God, whether the intentions behind your actions are right, whether the motivations and source of your actions could pass inspection by God, and whether you have accepted God’s scrutiny. Sometimes the thought will occur to you, ‘Doing it this way is fine; it’s good enough, isn’t it?’ However, the assumption inherent in that thought reveals a certain kind of attitude people have when dealing with matters, as well as how they look at their duties. This mentality is a kind of state. Is such a state not an attitude that in which one lacks responsibility and merely goes through the motions when looking at one’s duty? You may have yet to reflect on this, and you may feel that it is a natural expression, that it is but a normal manifestation of humanity, and that it means nothing, but if you are often in such a state, in such a condition, then behind it is a disposition that dominates you. This is worthy of examination, and deserves to be taken seriously; if you do not, then no change will occur within you” (“How to Solve the Problem of Being Careless and Perfunctory When Performing Your Duty” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “If you do not put your heart into your duty and are careless, just doing things in the easiest way, then what sort of mentality is this? It is one of just going through the motions, with no loyalty toward your duty, no sense of responsibility, and no sense of mission. Every time you do your duty, you use only half your strength; you do it half-heartedly, do not put your heart into it, and just try to get it over and done without any conscientiousness. You do it in such a relaxed manner that it is like you are just playing around. Will this not lead to problems? Eventually, someone will say that when you perform your duty, you are merely going through a process. And what will God say to this? He will say that you are not trustworthy. That is, if you have been entrusted with a job and, whether it is a job of primary responsibility or one of ordinary responsibility, if you do not put your heart into it and do not live up to your responsibility, and if you do not see it as a mission God has given you or a matter with which God has entrusted you, and you do not do it as your own duty and obligation, then trouble will befall you. ‘Not trustworthy’—these two words will define how you go about your duty, and God will state that your character is not up to par. If a matter is entrusted to you and you take this attitude toward it and handle it in this way, then will you be entrusted to do any duties in the future? Can you be entrusted with anything important? Perhaps you could be entrusted, but it depends on how you behave. In God’s heart, however, there will always exist some distrust toward you. There will always be some distrust and some dissatisfaction in God’s mind, so is this not a problem?” (“Only Through Frequent Contemplation of the Truth Can You Have a Way Forward” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Faced with the revelation of God’s words, I felt great reproach and accusation in my heart. I saw that my attitude toward my duty was one of perfunctoriness and goldbricking. I thought back to when I had first heard about good paths for spreading the gospel. I had agreed with and approved of these paths, and felt we should accept and practice them. When, however, I actually tried to fellowship about introducing these methods with the brothers and sisters—and failed—I was aware that I should fellowship the truth with them to reverse their old ways of thinking and viewpoints. But when I thought of the price I’d have to pay to solve this problem, of how much time and effort it would involve—this was a “major project,” and not something that could be fixed straight away—I thought it was too much trouble, I was afraid of the hardship of the flesh, and so I was perfunctory, I just went through the formalities, the motions, believing that “I tried,” “I put some effort,” “That was more or less enough,” and “No one can buckle down on everything.” I used these to let myself off the hook, to get past this problem with one eye open and one eye closed; nor did I care whether I had been effective, believing that it was enough just to finish it. Such were the standards by which I acted throughout. My fellowship with the responsible persons was no more than surface deep. I had not really suffered and paid a price to solve their problems; instead, I believed that I had already done enough. In fact, I had used short-term, superficial methods to hoodwink people, so that afterward, when someone brought this problem up, I would have an answer for them; what’s more, responsibility for poor performance in spreading the gospel was not my own—it was the result of them not accepting the good paths to practice. I even tried to fool God: “O God, this is all I can do.” Only now did I realize that I didn’t truly try to grasp the will of God, didn’t strive to practice and satisfy God according to what He asks, every time I encountered difficulty. Instead, I was often perfunctory, and tried to deceive God. How slippery and crafty I was! I was clearly aware that the brothers’ and sisters’ difficulties in spreading the gospel hadn’t been solved, and that I hadn’t fulfilled my responsibility. But for the sake of avoiding hardship of the flesh, I paid no heed even when I saw that the work of the gospel was being obstructed. Was this not making a joke of God’s work? I saw that I had not a shred of conscience or rationality, that I couldn’t be counted on at all! Once again, I read the words of God: “… before I created you, I already knew of the unrighteousness that existed deep in the human heart, and I knew all the deception and crookedness in the human heart. Therefore, even though there are no traces at all when people do unrighteous things, I still know that the unrighteousness harbored within your hearts surpasses the richness of all things that I created” (“When Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots, You Will Regret All the Evil You Have Done” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). At that moment, it became clear to me that God’s judgment and chastisement had come upon me. God had seen into my inmost being, and though no human knew of my devious thoughts, to God, they were crystal clear. I hadn’t taken responsibility for the commission that God had entrusted to me. I had been disingenuous, which had obstructed the work of the gospel. To all appearances, it looked as if I was performing my duty—but in fact, I was being perfunctory and trying to deceive God. I had no fear of God. Before God’s words, I felt ashamed.
Later, I read the words of God: “If, when you do things, you put a little more heart into them, as well as a little more kindness, responsibility, and consideration, then you will be able to put forth more effort. When you can do this, the results of the duties that you perform will improve. Your results will be better, and this will satisfy both other people and God” (“Entry Into Life Must Start From Fulfilling Your Duty” in Records of Christ’s Talks). In a fellowship, it is said: “What does it mean to be perfunctory? Simply put, it means going through the motions for others to see, so they think ‘He’s or she’s done it.’ Can such an approach achieve results? (No.) Such is how those without burden do things; this is how they perform their duty. They do not truly shoulder the burden of this work, but they can’t get away with not doing it. If they don’t do it people will see there’s a problem with this leader, and so they have to go through the motions for appearance’s sake. God said, ‘This is doing service. They are not performing their duty.’ So, what’s the difference between doing service and performing one’s duty? People who truly do their duty have a sense of responsibility—which comes from truly wanting to remedy the problem, truly wanting to do this work properly, wanting to satisfy God, and wanting to repay God’s love. And so, what is their resolve when they do these things? That they must be done, and they must be done well. The problem must be solved. They won’t rest until it is done, they will not stop until it is fixed. Such is the burden with which they carry out their work, and thus it is easy for them to be effective. This is what’s meant by performing one’s duty. Only when your work and performance of your duty is effective are you performing your duty; if there is no effect, then you are being perfunctory, you are muddling along. This is what’s known as doing service; performance of duty that is ineffective is doing service—of this there is no doubt, there is nothing wrong about this!” (“How to Enter Into the Truths for Discerning False Leaders and Antichrists” in Sermons and Fellowship XI). From God’s words and this fellowship, I found a path to practice: Performing one’s duty requires earnestness and sincerity, it requires treating everything seriously and responsibly; only this will satisfy God’s will. Trying to avoid solving real problems, being perfunctory and going through the motions is deceiving God and toying with Him, and will definitely not have any effect. God did not wish to see me being perfunctory, and opposing Him, whilst performing my duty. He hoped that I could approach His commission with honesty, rectify my attitude toward performing my duty, face all difficulties practically, and spend more time thinking about how to solve problems, how to be effective; only practicing thus is after God’s heart. At that moment, I realized that the problems with the gospel groups could not be put aside any longer. Although fellowshiping and turning around the outdated perspectives of the gospel groups would not be easy, I did not want to avoid it any longer. Next, I looked for the opportunity to discuss the problems of spreading the gospel in detail with the responsible persons Brother Zhang and Brother Zhao—how to flexibly adopt the methods of spreading the gospel in other places and incorporate their advantages. After the fellowship, Brother Zhang and Brother Zhao said they were happy to accept this and explore how to practice it. Afterward, the brothers and sisters were more agile when spreading the gospel, and their effectiveness improved, too.
Having experienced this matter, I was capable of a little discernment when it came to my own perfunctory state whilst performing my duty. I began to deliberately forsake my flesh and focus on practicing the truth and faithfully performing my duty. But I still didn’t have much knowledge of the substance, root, and severity of the consequences of my perfunctoriness. Later, God set out an environment to allow me to continue learning my lesson, to solve the problem of perfunctoriness.
Some time afterward, I discovered certain issues with the gospel groups. As a person in charge of the work, Brother Zhang was quite arrogant. He was overbearing in his words and behavior, and reluctant to accept the suggestions of the other brothers and sisters. He also had a controlling influence over Brother Zhao, who worked with him. Together, the two of them were incapable of discussing and seeking to solve the real difficulties in the work of the gospel. Brother Zhao was also very conservative, and abided by much doctrine in his spreading of the gospel. These two reasons hindered progress in the work of the gospel. I had held special fellowships with them to address their issues, but there wasn’t any great change. Afterward, I stopped trying to get them to cooperate harmoniously; it was enough to keep things as they were. Toward the problem of Brother Zhang’s unwillingness to accept the suggestions of others, there were times when I chose to give in, and times when I simply kept an eye on things. But I did not seek the truth to solve this problem. Several months previously, Brother Zhao’s rigid adherence to doctrine had interrupted the work; I fellowshiped this to him, and he took it in, but afterward I discovered that in certain areas, he was still sticking to doctrine and being inflexible. Sometimes I would point these things out to him, but he was good at upholding himself. In my heart, I thought: “It’s going to take a lot of effort to turn his views around. I need to find some principles, speak to him in light of what is actually manifested in him. I might have to find other brothers and sisters with experience of spreading the gospel to communicate together with him in order to have an effect.” Thinking of the trouble that solving this problem would involve, I decided to let things run their course. Although I realized that the problems with Brother Zhang and Brother Zhao would affect the work of the gospel, I felt that, for the time being, there wasn’t anyone better in the gospel groups who could take on this commission. It wasn’t like their performance of their duty was totally ineffective—merely passable. It was fine as long as the upper-level leadership didn’t have anything to say to me about it. There were some things that would always bug you, and some problems that could never be solved. So when it came to the problems with these two brothers, I didn’t spend any more time searching just how I should approach this, nor did I measure whether the benefits of their performance of their duty outweighed the drawbacks.
Soon after, the church conducted a public opinion survey. The results left me very alarmed. Many brothers and sisters reported that Brother Zhang never accepted other people’s suggestions, that he often acted arbitrarily, that he always had to have the last word, and often lectured and dealt with other people condescendingly. Some brothers and sisters were afraid of meeting him. They had no choice but to reluctantly go along with his arrangements, feeling constrained and living amid negativity. The facts showed that Brother Zhang was walking the path of the antichrist. When it came to Brother Zhao, the brothers and sisters reported that he was intransigent, and rigidly adhered to doctrine. He rarely guided the brothers and sisters in entry into principle. During the process of spreading the gospel, he asked the other brothers and sisters to do a lot of work that served no purpose. All this showed that he did not understand the spirit and did not understand principle. Their actions caused considerable obstruction and interruption to the work of the gospel. They also brought many constraints and pain to the brothers and sisters. According to principle, Brother Zhang and Brother Zhao must be removed.
My being perfunctory and not doing real work had brought harm to the work of the gospel. It had also caused many difficulties for the brothers and sisters. Thinking this, I felt a great deal of condemnation in my heart. Sensing that I can’t shirk this responsibility, I prayed to God: “O God! For me to have brought such harm to the church’s work today is the result of my being negligent in my duties, being perfunctory, indulging in the blessings of my status, and not doing real work. I am indebted to You, and I feel sorry to my brothers and sisters. O God! I would accept Your judgment and chastisement in this matter, so that I may know myself more deeply, and truly repent to You.”
Later, I read in the fellowships that, “If you are someone who muddles through in their duty and contrives to be deceitful, this shows that you are a deceitful and crooked person who belongs to Satan” (The Fellowship From the Above). “Everyone has the same problem in the fulfillment of their duty, and that’s acting perfunctorily. It’s as though no one deserves their conscientiousness—if someone does something for a person and takes it very seriously, then that person must be someone they greatly respect, someone who can help them a lot, or someone they owe a big debt of gratitude toward, or else they would not take it seriously. The word ‘profit’ is written large on mankind’s nature; people only take something seriously if they receive some profit in return, and if it is of no profit to them they will adopt a perfunctory attitude. That’s the nature of human beings, and also a characteristic of corrupted mankind. All people are self-seeking, so all people act perfunctorily and are happy just getting by. It might be a bit better if mankind could genuinely see performing its duty as something that is for God and is to be taken seriously for God’s sake. If mankind really has a heart that fears God, then people would be unlikely to act perfunctorily when fulfilling their duty” (The Fellowship From the Above). Holding myself up for comparison with these fellowships, and reflecting upon my own actions, I felt great shame. I saw that my own nature was especially selfish and crafty, that everything I did was to protect my own interests. My mantra was that law of survival of “If there were no benefit to getting up early, who would get up early?” Things of benefit must be done, those without benefit, not. Performance of one’s duty was not to repay God’s love, but to strike a deal with God. I had always tried to get more blessings by paying less of a price, and thus was I liable to be perfunctory and try to deceive God. I thought back to how, in approaching the problems with Brother Zhang and Brother Zhao, I had been clearly aware that what was manifested in them would hinder the work of the gospel—but seeing that, to all appearances, they were performing their duty, and feeling that there was no one better to replace them, I did nothing more than fellowship with them a few times, unwilling to pay any greater price to resolve this. When performing my duty, I was satisfied merely with getting others to think that I did a good job, or when the upper-level leadership wouldn’t be able to find any major problems; I gave absolutely no thought to what God thought, or how He saw this. I knew full well that I hadn’t completely solved the problem, nor did I try to figure out what the source and substance of their issues were, such that it had taken all this time to replace them—which was a major obstruction to the work of the gospel. God had uplifted me by giving me such an important duty, hoping that I would be mindful of His will—but I gave no thought to repaying God’s love, and instead played the role of Satan’s lackey, trying to fool and deceive God and bringing destruction upon God’s work. I lacked the slightest humanity. I was truly despicable and hateful, I was genuinely unfit to live before God! God’s righteous disposition is unoffendable by man; how could my actions not be despised by God?
Afterward, I read God’s words: “As for what people’s intentions are and how much effort they put into performing their duties, God scrutinizes and can see. It is crucial that people put all their heart and strength into what they do. Their cooperation is crucial, too. To strive to have no regrets over the duties one has completed and over one’s past actions, and to get to where one does not owe God anything—this is what is meant by giving all one’s heart and strength. If, today, you do not give all your heart and strength, then later, when something goes wrong, and there are consequences, will it not be too late for regrets? You will be forever indebted, and it will be a stain on you! To be stained is a transgression when people perform their duties. Strive to devote all your heart and strength to what should and needs to be done when fulfilling your duties. If you do not simply do them perfunctorily, and if you do not have any regrets, then the duties you perform during this time shall be remembered. That which is remembered are good deeds before God. And what are the things that are not remembered? (Transgressions and evil doings.) They are transgressions. People might not accept that they are evil doings if they were described thus right now, but if a day comes when there are serious consequences to this matter, when it has a negative impact, then at that time you will sense that this is not just a behavioral transgression, but an evil doing. And when you realize that, you will think to yourself, ‘This wouldn’t have happened if I’d realized this earlier! If I’d given it a little more thought, if I’d put in a little more effort, then this would not have come to pass.’ Nothing will wipe this eternal stain from your heart. If it gives rise to an eternal debt, then you will be in trouble” (“How to Solve the Problem of Being Careless and Perfunctory When Performing Your Duty” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Pondering God’s words, I felt deeply touched. I thought of how I had been directed by my own crafty, selfish nature, about how I always disingenuously tried to avoid paying a price when performing my duty, about how I hadn’t immediately identified and redeployed those responsible persons who were not fit for use, such that the work of the gospel was hindered, and the brothers and sisters lived amid the darkness and constraints. I had transgressed before God. If God’s timely judgment and chastisement had not checked my evil steps, who knows what great evil I would have committed in the future? At that moment, the more I thought about this, the more afraid I became. Being perfunctory in the performance of one’s duty was so dangerous—it could interrupt the work of the church at any time! Only after seeing the grievous consequences of being perfunctory did I realize that if I didn’t focus on accepting the judgment and chastisement of God, and on practicing the words of God, if I was slipshod in the performance of my duty, then I would never be able to achieve faithfulness to God, much less the deliverance from my corrupt disposition and the salvation of God. At that moment, I had some resolve and desire to pursue the truth and attain faithfulness in performing my duty.
After that, we used principle to find people more appropriate to replace Brother Zhang and Brother Zhao. Yet the problems in the gospel groups remained, and so I prayed to God: “O God! There are still many problems in the gospel groups that haven’t been solved. Some good methods of practice haven’t been fully implemented. Because, previously, I was lax in searching for the truth, some problems have stuck around until now. This time I must search properly to see how to solve these problems. O God! May You guide me.” Afterward, I found some better-performing brothers and sisters in the gospel groups to discuss the gospel-preaching path in detail. I learned a lot. Next, I prepared to hold assembly with everyone and fellowship the problems with performing our duty. That evening, I mulled things over as I read through the materials, trying to figure out how to make preparations effectively. I summed up problems in several areas and looked at the relevant words of God for an answer. When I had gotten halfway through, I realized that there were still a lot of details to be sorted out—and, seeing that it was already late, those thoughts of giving in and being perfunctory arose unbidden once more: “These problems are going to take a lot of time and effort to find references for. Oh, it’s so late—perhaps I shouldn’t go into so much detail; in any case, I’ve already got the overall direction, and the brothers and sisters will be able to understand it. This’ll do.” But as I thought of stopping to rest, I felt uneasy within my heart. At that moment, I thought of the words of God: “Whenever you want to be slack and just go through the motions, whenever you want to be lazy, and whenever you allow yourself to be distracted and wish to just go have fun, 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 trust God has placed in me? This is how you should self-reflect. You should think, ‘I have not taken this matter seriously. Back then, I felt there was a problem, but I didn’t treat it as being serious; I just glossed it over carelessly. Now this problem still hasn’t been resolved. What sort of person am I?’ You will have identified the problem and come to know yourself a little. Should you stop when you have a little knowledge? Are you finished once you have confessed your sins? You must repent and make a turn-around!” (“Only Through Frequent Contemplation of the Truth Can You Have a Way Forward” in Records of Christ’s Talks). The judgment and chastisement of God’s words made me realize that I was once again being perfunctory; that, once again, I was following the flesh and trying to take shortcuts. At the same time, I was clear in my heart that if I did not identify the critical issues and carry out a targeted fellowship, this would surely have an impact on effectiveness. To achieve the optimal effect, I had to forsake the flesh. As a result, I gave it a lot of thought and listed each of the problems that were in most urgent need of resolution. Although this took me well into the night, I felt steadfast in my heart. The next day, we assembled to fellowship the existing problems. The brothers and sisters strongly approved of the new path and measures. Seeing that the problems that had confounded us for so long had been solved, and that everyone had been liberated, I felt great comfort in my heart. After that, we started practicing according to the new path and methods. The work of the gospel was gradually effective and I couldn’t help but give thanks to God in my heart.
After experiencing this, I had a genuine sense of just how deeply I had been corrupted by Satan. I had lost my conscience and rationality; although, on the outside, I was able to give things up and expend myself—and was even able to pay a price in certain matters—because I had not gained the truth and the life, my corrupt disposition still held power within me. My treacherous and crafty nature, a nature that was blind to anything but my own interests, directed me at every moment. Whatever I did, it was for my own benefit. When performing my duty, I was always disingenuous and tried to deceive God; I had not the slightest realization that a created being should repay God’s love and be mindful of His will. Thanks to God’s revelation, I saw how lowly and ignoble I was, that I had not the slightest semblance of humanity. Particularly when I thought of the harm I brought to the work of God’s house because of my perfunctoriness, I felt that I was so untrustworthy, and so hurtful to God. I felt greater hate for myself, too, and had an ever stronger desire to shed my corrupt disposition and be saved by God. May God set forth more environments to judge and chastise me, so that I could be after His heart when performing my duty as soon as possible.