IN my work I see reports of economic conditions that are almost unimaginably difficult. Conditions in my own country seem mild by comparison, yet here, too, there is great need. It is impossible not to be moved by such reports.
I have learned over the years that to follow Christ Jesus' solution to such challenges is the best response to such great human need. Jesus prayed, and he expected his prayers to have results. On more than one occasion Jesus drew on spiritual resources in order to feed large numbers of people with what seemed to be meager resources. In fact, there are a number of accounts when needs were met for Jesus and his followers in unique and humanly unexpected ways.
As I thought about this one day, I realized that so much of Jesus' work was accomplished by virtue of his certainty that God would help him. He wasn't hoping for help; he was so sure of his divine Father that he never expected anything else, even when things seemed hopeless to the average person. This certainty in God met others' needs too.
For instance, once Jesus used Peter's ship as a kind of pulpit where he could address the people along the shore. After he had finished preaching, he told Peter to take the ship out and let down the nets. Peter replied, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
To me the crucial word in that sentence is nevertheless. Peter must have sensed that despite his experience, the Master's spiritual authority would make a difference. So he obeyed. The result was staggering. Luke reports, "And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. They signaled to their partners, who came to help them. The result was that both ships were filled beyond capacity! The human conditions had seemed hopeless; but Jesus' knowledge of spiritual c onditions had led to abundance.
What were these spiritual conditions? One is the recognition that God is a totally loving Father who gives only good to His children. Another is an acceptance of God as infinite--which means totally limitless--and of our spiritual nature as His offspring. When we understand God to be infinite, we begin to see that it isn't a matter of taking finite resources from one person in order to give to another. Instead, the limitless nature of divine Love allows all needs to be met. The big challenge may be to op en our own thought enough to perceive the love of God and its action in our lives.
Perhaps at first glance it seems impossible. But we don't need to do it all at once. Like Peter, we can begin by looking beyond conditions that seem hopeless, to Christ--the true idea of God and of man--and say, simply, "nevertheless.
Another important element is our willingness to obey spiritual intuition. Peter expressed this by recognizing something of the Christ that Jesus was revealing to his listeners. If anyone else had told Peter to let the net down, he might not have gone ahead. But he told Jesus that he would let down the net "at thy word.
In our lives, we can turn to the Christ, Truth, to guide us to employment or to other steps that will meet our needs. Sometimes this means simply doing good deeds for others and receiving help in kind. Other times, we are literally led to a job. So when we encounter conditions that would limit us, we can recognize that we are spiritual, the offspring of an abundantly loving God. We are not cast-off, unloved beings who are trying to stretch already finite resources. We are inseparable from our all-good Go d.
This acknowledgment of our spiritual relationship to God and our willingness to live in accord with God's law--to be honest, for example--is like letting down our nets. We're trusting God to help us, and we're taking the human actions that show we are serious about it. When we do this, we can expect results.
For example, I know of someone who needed to send an employee to another country in order to get materials that could not easily be obtained any other way. The budget did not include money for this, and there were other complications. But my friend believed in prayer, and prayed earnestly with the expectation that God would help them.
As time went along, they found interim solutions that helped, but the trip still seemed necessary. In her prayers, my friend made a point of giving thanks to God for each step of progress because she felt it was important to acknowledge God's presence specifically in her life and work.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks much of the importance of gratitude in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In one place she writes: "Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.
During her years of studying Christian Science, my friend had learned the value of gratitude to God. In many of Jesus' healing works he paused to give thanks first, and so, as his follower, it was natural for my friend to give thanks to God each step of the way.
Then one day, very unexpectedly, someone from another part of the organization--knowing nothing of the need--asked if my friend had an employee who could be sent abroad to do a special assignment for that division. This employee's expenses would be paid and he (or she) would be going to the very place where there was a need to send someone! The result was great success.
Each of us may face economic challenges --and it is evident that the world's economies are also under stress. But if, like Peter, we can truly say "nevertheless to Christ's guiding, we will find solutions to our problems and to those confronting our world.