FOR some people the world offers wonderful possibilities. For others, to whom circumstances seem less kind, the prospects for betterment may look dim or nonexistent. In either case, though, one of the most helpful things we can do is begin to see that good doesn't really originate in a realm outside of us called ``the world.'' It may seem that the good we have is very much dependent on how other people behave, how the economy is doing, how many openings there are in a company, or any one of a number of factors. But if this were the case, we would pretty much have to conclude that God had little meaning in our lives; that no matter how close our relationship to Him was, it was of no practical value when it came to the ``realities'' of living in the world. We would always feel we were dependent on circumstances outside of ourse lves, or victims of such circumstances.
There's no question that the world presents some dreadful conditions and that innocent people are often victims of cruel injustice. Sometimes answers to troubles are hard to come by, and simply theorizing about God's help isn't good enough.
Yet St. Paul counsels in his letter to the Philippians, ``Work out your own salvation.'' And he says further, ``It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.'' If we're to be obedient to this divine demand -- if we're to progress individually in humble obedience to God -- then there has to be something for us beyond the world's promise or its injustice. There has to be divine justice, the constant provision of the one God, to whom we can turn.
Certainly the world may offer many possibilities for us that we haven't yet begun to see or explore. But if we're placing our trust in something outward, in the surface view of things, we may be disappointed because these aren't enough. Most of us have had the experience of seeing something that glittered one day fizzling out the next. But what doesn't fizzle out is a deep inward sense of God's government, of His care for every need.
Christ Jesus said, as Luke's Gospel tells us, ``The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.'' The physical senses insist that everything we want -- everything we need to make us complete, to be happy, and so forth -- is outside of us. These senses argue (falsely) that our creator is at best distant and that we're really on our own to get any good we can from a material world -- and to suffer from its injust ices with no recourse. But the wonderful message of Christianity is that we do have recourse to the supreme power of God. We are in fact His children, inseparable from the riches of infinite divine Spirit.
Ultimately, the satisfaction we're looking for is found within us, within a growing perception of our unity with God, within a deeper sense that He is our Life, the source of all that we can be and have. It's found in a perception of ourselves not as a mortal, either receiving what the world has to offer or being victimized by the world, but as God's spiritual image, inseparable from the good that He alone can provide.
This doesn't mean we have to try somehow to be satisfied with an abstract theory of God and man. On the contrary, when we look to God's goodness in humble prayer, it appears to us in tangible forms, in ways that mean the most to us individually. We begin to see that we include, in our very nature as God's likeness, everything we need.
Of course, this is proved step by step. We have to cultivate a sense of God's kingdom within through prayer and through growing obedience to divine law as expressed in the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus; in Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew; and in other Biblical precepts. This takes persistence, but it's part of the inevitable, inescapable, exalting process of working out our salvation.
Our growing perception of the kingdom within may appear as a cherished relationship, an enriching job, a more appropriate place to live -- as something the world has provided. But it's really God who is the source of all genuine good. In fact, God is good itself, as the Bible tells us. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, ``Our great Teacher hath said: `Behold, the kingdom of God is within you' -- w ithin man's spiritual understanding of all the divine modes, means, forms, expression, and manifestation of goodness and happiness.''
When we look to God and His promises, we're building our lives on an unshakable foundation.
Weekly Bible verse:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you
through the knowledge of God,
and of Jesus our Lord,
according as his divine power
hath given unto us all things
that pertain unto life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him
that hath called us to glory and virtue:
whereby are given unto us
exceeding great and precious promises:
that by these ye might be partakers
of the divine nature....
II Peter 1:2-4