Progress this year—spiritual and certain

Ethel A. Baker
Published by The Christian Science Journal, 1.3.2021

Opening a new calendar, full of untouched pages, represents a fresh start, an open door to progress. At such a time, people often give themselves permission to release what’s come before and move expectantly into the unwritten next chapter of their lives—and the world.

But sometimes, almost as fast as the winds of new possibilities blow in, a counterforce of doubts and routine can dampen aspirations, telling us we’re not ready to go forward, we shouldn’t get our hopes up (remember last year), the path ahead will be hard.

Paul, an early Christian, faced a host of trials and tribulations over many years (for a partial list see Second Corinthians 11:25–33). Yet he wrote this about how to move forward: “Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think differently, God will show you how to think” (Philippians 3:13–15, God’s Word Translation).

Progress for Paul wasn’t about external objectives and striving for human measures of success and achievement. It was about following Christ, looking to God, Spirit, to know the way forward, and wholeheartedly walking in that way, as Jesus so perfectly did. Paul was thinking and living from the standpoint of the Divine—through unselfed love; trust in God, good; and grace.

Paul’s path of progress—in line with Christ, humanity’s Way-shower—was an inner experience with exterior consequences. It was a thought journey that took him from a me-centered existence to a God-founded one, from limited material or matter-based perspectives and goals to moral and spiritual progress. These shifts of thought brought changes of heart and deep realizations of God’s love and all-power, and not just to meet his own needs. They awakened him and others to their innate ability, as God’s children, to reflect His nature, and his ideas and example continue to awaken us in the same way today.

Such progress—progress that is good for all, that brings gains for humankind—is what also means and does the most for us individually, as Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, pointed out. She offered a timeless recipe for this kind of advancement: “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 4).

This growth emanates from what is divinely true, now and always, and takes shape as the unfoldment of spiritual understanding in individual consciousness. In fact, Mrs. Eddy once defined grace as “the effect of God understood” (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 10). We each have the capacity and, actually, the deepest desire to know our Father-Mother God, to assimilate the character of Christ, and to apply what we are learning of our own and everyone’s true relation to God.

How comforting to know that because this relationship to God is ceaselessly true, progress in demonstrating the divine qualities we are created to express is always possible. And we have only to turn to our divine Parent, omnipresent Love, to begin to put off such mortal-mind traits as dishonesty, selfishness, pride, indolence, and so on that would claim to stymie the grace-fulfilling growth our hearts and the world so yearn for, and require, to live productively. 

An ancient meaning of the word progress is “a journey of state” (Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828)—that is, a circuit that a queen or king would make to observe the condition of their realm. Our Sovereign, Almighty God, is continuously perceiving, nurturing, loving, and rejoicing in His own creation, what Jesus called “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17). We can mentally walk that course often with our God and see as Love does the heavenly harmony that often lies hidden, but is truly there, in us—in our families, colleagues, friends, neighbors, leaders, opponents, strangers, fellow church members.

A member of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, once collapsed while conducting a church service, and the immediate prayers of the congregation brought a complete, instantaneous healing. Later the member expressed gratitude to his church family, not only for their prayers and the physical healing, but for a release from troubling self-righteousness that was a deeper part of this healing. He went on to serve for many years in an international company, where he excelled in working with others to solve complex business problems.

Science and Health explains: “Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power. These proofs consist solely in the destruction of sin, sickness, and death by the power of Spirit, as Jesus destroyed them. This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil” (p. 233).

This year we have opportunities every day to write a new page in the books of our lives and in fulfillment of the law of spiritual growth. Our success is already assured, because we will only be required to do what we unquestionably can do. And we can enter into this effort of spiritual advancement with the same fervor and joy that Paul did in running “straight toward the goal” of being all that we are meant to be—the patient, meek, loving expressions of God, full of good deeds. “And if [we] think differently, God will show [us] how to think.” No other commitment we can make will do more to aid the human family in discovering and demonstrating peace, well-being, and progress in this new year.

Copyright © 2023, The Christian Science Board of Directors

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