MOST people want, and actively seek, a good, comfortable standard of living. Often, however, we're less successful at achieving our goals than we'd like to be-- especially if we've fallen into the trap of measuring good by the number of things we've accumulated.
If our standard of living needs improvement, it might be helpful to look for a more permanent answer to increasing the good in our lives. What is it that really gives us the ability to live well? If our quality of life came solely from such things as an inheritance or the professional position we occupy, we would certainly have reason to despair. A poor economy, inadequate education, or something as basic as a lack of direction could keep us from having a suitable standard of living.
Positions and events with their accompanying trappings are not all there is to life's provision, however. Such a limited conception of substance is only a shadow of our true provision, which is spiritual. In the Bible, the letter to the Hebrews indicates that our real supply has a spiritual source. It refers to faith as ``the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This faith is the inward understanding of God, and man's relationship to Him.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, refers to this passage from Hebrews when answering the question ``What is substance?" in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, ``Substance is that which is eternal and incapable of discord and decay. Truth, Life, and Love are substance, as the Scriptures use this word in Hebrews: `The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.'"
It would follow, then, that if we feel we need more good in our lives, our goal should be to find ``the substance of things hoped for"--our real source of good. Our job is to develop our supply of good on a spiritual basis. This turns us to God, Spirit, the source of all true substance. And God supplies our daily provision as only God, our Father, can.
Does it take a great deal of prayer and right thinking to find our true substance? In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy writes: ``Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it. Goodness attains the demonstration of Truth." The supply promised by Christ Jesus to all followers of his word is available to his followers today because it is spiritual, self-existent, always available, always at hand. The source of good that Jesus relied on is not created or changed by pray er, but it is found through prayer.
How much praying, then, will it take to attain ``the demonstration of Truth"? Only what it takes to turn us from depending on human methods as the source of good to recognizing our special status as the very loved child of our only true Parent, our Father-Mother God. Isn't this implied in Jesus' words ``Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you?"
The ``substance" of abundant supply, or a higher standard of living, rests on where we place our faith and where we look for what we need. A young person I know was much like the prodigal son in Luke, who had ``wasted his substance with riotous living." When famine struck the land, the Bible tells us, ``he began to be in want." The young woman I am referring to followed the same route, seeking to find peace and happiness by trying to satisfy false appetites. Eventually this left her career and her life s hattered.
With the loving help of a friend, this young woman came to herself as had the weary and contrite son in Christ Jesus' parable. At her friend's suggestion, she began reading Science and Health. She was struck by the chapter entitled ``Prayer." Here she gained a higher understanding of God and her relationship to Him. This new way of thinking about herself and about her life's possibilities was an important step on the road back to her true source of good, God.
And did this young woman's standard of living change? I should say so! A completely new life followed this first joyous awakening. Armed with a new understanding of prayer as her ever- present connection to the source of her substance, she quickly found new employment. Freedom from alcohol abuse followed, as did healing of her physical ills and her spiritual hunger. A life of peace, promising work, newfound talents, and joy followed as she continued her search for spiritual excellence. She found her true
substance to be unlimited, always at hand, and ready to take shape in her life. Sometimes learning came with struggle. But always it came. What a wonderful new standard of living this was!
Not everyone has to overcome all that this young woman faced. For many, it is enough to discover that they are the loved child of God. But just as this young woman did, we can all come to ourselves like the prodigal son in Luke's Gospel. We only have to change the direction in which we look to find the source of all good. The Bible doesn't say how far the son in Christ Jesus' parable needed to travel before he found help. But the parable does assure us that ``when he was yet a great way off, his father s aw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. When we take even the first steps Godward, our Father runs to draw us to Himself. We can turn to Him today!