There are two great enemies, the voice of duty and the natural inclination. They are at war, fighting against each other. And where is their battlefield? Right inside us, in me and in you. This is a daily war. Our eternal life depends on which of them gains the victory, the voice of duty or our natural inclination.
Long after we have become Christians the natural inclinations try to control us. If you are cutting wood with an axe, and are cutting along the grain, it will split easily. That is the natural way. But if you try to cut it across the grain, it is much harder. So also, if we do things that we are used to doing, seeking a life of ease and comfort, even luxury, it is easy. We naturally like to eat certain foods and drinks. It is natural to stay home after our work day is over. It is natural to do our own things on the weekends, to seek entertainment and continue our hobbies. It is natural to love money; we do not need to learn it.
It was very natural for Peter to deny Christ, rather than be condemned to death with Him. It was natural for Jonah to go to Tarshish, rather than to the city of Nineveh. If someone does not please you, and is doing wrong to you, it is natural to dislike him, and even to hate him.
The voice of duty tells us to do everything in a different way, which may not be pleasing to us. The voice of duty tells us to go out and do missionary work, rather than wasting our time in anything unimportant. The voice of duty tells us to read the Bible instead of watching television. The voice of duty tells us to love our enemies, and to do good to them, and to seek their company. “But the law of duty is supreme. It should hold sway over human reason.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 163
“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me.” Proverbs 1:24–28
The neglected duty will leave us without help in the time of trouble. We must realize the importance of the faithful performance of all that God has spoken to us. We need to live the life of Jesus, and follow Him daily.
“But while living in neglect of a known duty, he would not be secure, for he could not be shielded by the angels of God. In the time of trouble, just before the coming of Christ, the righteous will be preserved through the ministration of heavenly angels; but there will be no security for the transgressor of God’s law. Angels cannot then protect those who are disregarding one of the divine precepts.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 256
In 1 Kings 13 we read of a man of God who came to King Jeroboam at Bethel to proclaim to him the word of God and King Jeroboam cried, “Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it again to him” (verse 4). God protected his prophet and saved his life. But a little later the prophet disobeyed God, and in verse 24 we read, “A lion met him by the way, and slew him.” These kinds of experiences will be taking place in our day also.
“There will be some terrible falls by those who think they stand firm because they have the truth, but they have it not as it is in Jesus. A moment’s carelessness may plunge a soul into irretrievable ruin. One sin leads to the second, and the second prepares the way for the third, and so on. We must, as faithful messengers of God, plead with Him constantly to be kept by His power. If we swerve a single inch from duty, we are in danger of following on in a course of sin that will end in perdition. There is hope for every one of us, but only in one way, and that is by binding ourselves to Christ, and exerting every energy to attain to the perfection of His character.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 540. One single inch from duty may be enough to set us in a course of sin that will end in perdition.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13
“Christ has a church in every age. There are in the church those who are not made any better by their connection with it. They themselves break the terms of their election. Obedience to the commandments of God gives us a right to the privileges of His church.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1079
These people have been in the school of Christ without learning the lessons. They have neglected the high privilege of learning and being sanctified. Therefore, there will be terrible falls among us.
“To perform every duty as unto the Lord throws a charm around the humblest employment and links the workers on earth with the holy beings who do God’s will in heaven.” –The Adventist Home, p. 287. The beautiful character is built up by individual acts of duty. Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40. If we want to have the company of heavenly beings, it is possible only by faithful service to the Master, following in His footsteps.
“Real happiness is found only in being good and doing good. The purest, highest enjoyment comes to those who faithfully fulfill their appointed duties.” –My Life Today, p. 168
“They should early learn that happiness is not found in selfish gratification; it follows only in the wake of duty.” –Child Guidance, p. 206. Why are there so many depressed, unhappy Christians? It is because they have neglected something that they should have done.
“Every duty performed, every sacrifice made in the name of Jesus, brings an exceeding great reward. In the very act of duty, God speaks and gives His blessing.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 936
When we fulfill our duties faithfully, great joy will fill us; we will have peace that passes understanding, something that the world has never known, that we will receive it as a reward from the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, we read in Selected Messages (bk. 1, p. 396), “No one can believe with the heart unto righteousness, and obtain justification by faith, while continuing the practice of those things which the Word of God forbids, or while neglecting any known duty.”
Now that we are convinced of the importance of the faithful performance of our duties, are we really clear on what those duties are? What does God expect from us? Is it not enough that we come to church, and believe in God, and pay our tithes and offerings? What may be still lacking? Could there be something that we have neglected? Let us begin with our thoughts.
“You should control your thoughts. This will not be an easy task; you cannot accomplish it without close and even severe effort. Yet God requires this of you; it is a duty resting upon every accountable being. You are responsible to God for your thoughts. If you indulge in vain imaginations, permitting your mind to dwell upon impure subjects, you are, in a degree, as guilty before God as if your thoughts were carried into action. All that prevents the action is the lack of opportunity. Day and night dreaming and castle-building are bad and exceedingly dangerous habits. When once established, it is next to impossible to break up such habits, and direct the thoughts to pure, holy, elevated themes. You will have to become a faithful sentinel over your eyes, ears, and all your senses if you would control your mind and prevent vain and corrupt thoughts from staining your soul. The power of grace alone can accomplish this most desirable work.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 561
Solomon writes, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. If all our thoughts are pure and holy, then that is our character, and we are ready for Jesus to come.
Next comes our words, what we speak. “There are many ways wherein we may acknowledge our Lord and many ways wherein we may deny Him. We may deny Him in our words, by speaking evil of others, by foolish talking, jesting, and joking, by idle or unkind words, or by prevaricating, speaking contrary to truth. In our words we may confess that Christ is not in us.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 332
Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that
men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:36–37
God has given us the gift of speech, not for foolish talking, but to fulfill our duty in using this talent to His honour. Not one word of anger, or evil-speaking, nor vain joking must pass from our lips.
Also, our duty is to attend church meetings. “Not forsaking the assembling or ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Sister White was 15 years old when God revealed her duty to her. Her duty was to go to a prayer meeting and to pray publicly. “I was hungering and thirsting for full salvation, an entire conformity to the will of God. Day and night I was struggling to obtain this priceless treasure, that all the riches of earth could not purchase. As I was bowed before God praying for this blessing, the duty to go and pray in a public prayer meeting was presented before me.” –Early Writings, p. 11. When a visitor comes to a meeting and sees many church members staying home and not coming to the meeting, what do they think?
Another duty we have that some members do not enjoy fulfilling is to rebuke and correct the sins that some of the members in the church are doing. “He would teach His people that disobedience and sin are exceedingly offensive to Him and are not to be lightly regarded. He shows us that when His people are found in sin they should at once take decided measures to put that sin from them, that His frown may not rest upon them all. But if the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held responsible for those sins. In His dealings with His people in the past the Lord shows the necessity of purifying the church from wrongs. One sinner may diffuse darkness that will exclude the light of God from the entire congregation. When the people realize that darkness is settling upon them, and they do not know the cause, they should seek God earnestly, in great humility and self-abasement, until the wrongs which grieve His Spirit are searched out and put away.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 265
We are out brothers’ keepers, and it is our duty to try to save our brother from his sin, and keep the church clean. “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Ezekiel 33:8–9
Many other duties we have, but one more is important that we must not neglect, and that is missionary work. “Not only have we each a work to do for our own souls, but we have also a duty to arouse others to gain eternal life.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 71
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:19–20
The knowledge that God has given us makes us debtors to pass it on to others. If we love our neighbours, then to prove our love to them, we try to save them into eternal life. “Here is our great sin. We are years behind. The ministers have been seeking the hidden treasure and have been opening up the casket and letting the jewels of truth shine forth, but the members of the church have not done a hundredth part of that which God requires of them. What can we expect but deterioration in religious life when the people listen to sermon after sermon and do not put the instruction into practice? The ability God has given, if not exercised, degenerates. More than this, when the churches are left to inactivity Satan sees to it that they are employed. He occupies the field and engages the members in lines of work that absorb their energies, destroy spirituality, and cause them to fall as dead weight upon the church.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 425
Such indifference and neglect of duty is an amazement to the angels. “There are conditions to the fulfillment of God’s promises, and prayer can never take the place of duty.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 143
We may pray for the salvation of our brothers and sisters, and also for the people of the world, but it is not enough; we must talk to them, invite them, and teach them. How can we really understand our responsibility? There is only one way. “Our duty will only be discerned and appreciated when viewed in the light which shines from the life of Christ.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 403
Jesus asks you, “Lovest thou Me?” and if you answer like Peter, “Yes, I love Thee, Lord”, then He will answer, “Feed My sheep.”
Every night, ask the Lord, “have I done my duty today, did I neglect some opportunity? “Then on the following day, try a little better again. Finally the natural inclination will be defeated, and the voice of duty will gain victory. And one day we will hear the voice of Jesus, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.” Amen.