THE best of times? Or, like a Dickens novel, is life in the world of 1989 also something of the worst of times? As we approach the close of such a highly charged century, reasonable arguments could probably be put forward on either side of those two questions. Yet there can be little debate that this is both a stirring and a profoundly challenging period for the human race. How will we face what lies ahead? Would we rather step back from the demands, or is there a way to go forward with a spirit of discovery and adventure? Can we somehow have an expectation of real progress for mankind -- progress that goes beyond anticipated advances in material comforts, or increased consumer buying power, or even greater technological development? What about progress that actually lifts the human spirit, that offers a truly substantial reason and purpose for living?
These are important issues. They are issues that The Christian Science Monitor has always been concerned with. And today as this newspaper launches a new format, its staff and the Church of Christ, Scientist, are continuing a strong commitment to helping people find solutions to the complex problems confronting their world, their communities, their own homes and individual lives.
Christian Scientists feel deeply that real progress for humanity is not only possible but that it is, in fact, already becoming evident in many tangible ways. They might point, for example, to encouraging signs of greater political freedom in the world. And they know firsthand what the vital spiritual dimension of prayer has meant in their own lives and in the lives of people close to them -- healings of serious illnesses, redemption from sin, a renewed hope, and the expectancy of accomplishing greater good through Christ. Certainly there are growing numbers of people everywhere who are convinced that the power of prayer can make a difference in one's personal life and in the world at large.
If we're to look ahead with an expec-tation of progress, and then move for-ward in the direction we're looking, we'll surely need something more than human optimism or even professional expertise in problem-solving. We'll need a fresh spiritual perspective on life -- on our own relationship to God. We'll need a willingness to pray, and to be listening as we pray, so that we can learn what God would have us do. We'll need to be ready to take new steps when necessary, to proceed with new and right means for helping our fellow men and women, even to be new people ourselves, so to speak.
Christ Jesus once taught his followers about the impossibility of putting ``new wine into old bottles.''1 He went on to say that the old bottles would burst; the new wine would be spilled, wasted. Whenever new ideas come to us through our prayer, a substantial spiritual re-assessment of previous priorities and goals may be required of us so that we can actually achieve something with what our prayer is bringing to light. It simply isn't possible to rely effectively on outworn perceptions. We need to be free of any thought that we're merely limited mortals with limited horizons. It's essential to see ourselves more clearly in the spiritual sense of who we are as God's own image.
In Christian Science, God is understood to be the one all-knowing Mind and always present divine Love. And as we trust in the absolute power of God's intelligent directing, we'll find our capacities expanding. We'll be better prepared to meet challenges as they come and to foresee difficulties before they arise. The needed solutions will come forward.
Sometimes approaching the future can be a thing of uncertainty or fear. Yet as Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science movement, witnessed in her own experience, there is a divine law that supports every humble effort in God's service. Writing of the ongoing healing work required of Christians, Mrs. Eddy states, ``This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil.''2
The new year is clearly a time to be looking ahead, to be moving forward. A more spiritual perspective on life and on God's purpose for us can make a significant difference in the course our world takes today -- and tomorrow.
1Matthew 9:17. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 233. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35