More than once I’ve had a conversation with people who were concerned about what constitutes success and failure in life. One woman I talked wtih had a yearning to spend more time in the practice of healing others through Christian Science, but was concerned that time spent in the practice would deprive her of opportunity to be successful in a secular career.
I knew the feeling well. I struggled with the same conflict after graduating from college many years ago.
I had been taught that success involved making lots of money, or gaining a name, or finding fame of some sort. I loved my spiritual studies and time spent with God, but I found the pursuit of spiritual education was at direct odds with seeking fame and fortune in the world. To seek material gain required me to forsake the pursuit of spiritual gain. I could not pursue the riches of Spirit with my whole heart at the same time that I pursued the riches of matter. They required opposite states of thought to seek. It was one or the other.
Finally, I settled on seeking the riches of Spirit, and happily let the matter-seeking go. It was one of the wisest decisions I ever made.
So, when my inquirer voiced concerned about being seen as a failure by peers if she put the study and practice of Christian Science first in her life, I blurted out, “Success in the world is failure with God.” And likewise, “Success with God is failure in the world.”
The two simply don’t mix.
To seek spiritual gain is to not seek material gain. Spirit and matter are exact opposites, like black and white. They do not mix or mingle.
We all have priorities, and they are either Spirit focused or matter focused. Success with God requires Spirit focus. And getting to know God is the greatest success one could ever have for it leads to eternal life. What else is there? Nothing! And that’s what matter is…nothing.
I was just reading the Sermon on the Mount in The Message, and the second beatitude which the King James version translates,
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted,
reads in The Message,
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
This is so true.
When we cling to things, worldly goals, persons or stuff, we set ourselves up for loss. These things all disappear someday and leave a void behind that has to be filled spiritually. Why not seek the real substance today and prevent the struggle with loss later?
When we cling to things and people, we don’t cling to God. When we cling to God, we find freedom from things and their surround.
This may be a lesson that is working out in the world economy today. Millions of people are losing financial wealth in the trillions of dollars. It is a hard lesson and a hard way to learn what constitutes true substance, but there is a spiritual treasure to be gained that far outweighs the temporal loss. It is the treasure of Truth.
When we have Truth, we have it all, and our human needs are met too.
Loss is gain, Jesus taught in many different ways.
Loss of material hopes and affections leads to gain of spiritual love and understanding.
Trials are proofs of God’s care,
Mary Baker Eddy wrote.
How can this be? Because trials send us to God, and there we find Her care.
True wealth is spiritual, and it is freely given to each of us. It comes through the gateway of understanding and by the grace of divine Love. As we put selfish interests aside and faithfully follow Christ down the pathway to Truth, we find spiritual riches, and they take care of us along the way, just as they did our Master.
It’s not what we lose on earth that matters much, but what we gain in heaven. To actively practice Christian Science, the laws of God, and continue to gain in spiritual understanding day by day, is the most rewarding occupation I can imagine ever engaging. To get to know God amounts to grand success, and there is no temporal gain that comes even close in value.
Success with God amounts to failure in the world for what the materially minded person considers to be success is the opposite of what the spiritually minded person seeks. And success in the world leads to failure with God, because the pursuit of material goals, ambition and desire requires one to put material aims first and God second.
Which shall be our choice? And when will we make it?