Our Unlimited Opportunities
James M. McGrew, C.S.B., of Chicago, Illinois
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"Just think what it would mean if you knew there were no circumstances beyond healing. This is what Christ Jesus knew and he used every situation presented to him as an opportunity to prove the absolute control of God." This is the theme developed in a lecture given on Saturday morning, Feb. 25, 1978, by James M. McGrew, C.S.B., of Chicago, Illinois. As a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship he spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mr. McGrew left a business career in order to devote his full time to the healing ministry of Christian Science. In the lecture, titled "Our Unlimited Opportunities,", he explained how an understanding of God and man brings healing and reformation. He also cited specific healings brought about through reliance on God's loving care for man.
He was introduced by Bunny McBride, a local member of The Mother Church.
An abridged text of his lecture follows:
Did you ever realize the unlimited opportunities that you have when faced with a problem? Sounds strange, doesn't it? But it's true!
I know - because one of the jobs I had in a large manufacturing corporation was office-personnel manager. And that meant problems. Other people's problems. Employees would come to my office to tell me they couldn't get on with their supervisor, or the person at the next desk, or maybe they had difficulty with one of our accounts.
It became my habit to point out that, instead of looking at the problem, they should look beyond it to the opportunity.
Now, turning every problem into an opportunity sounds good. But if it's nothing more than a mental gimmick or a Pollyanna version of "let's look at the bright side of things," then it becomes a cliche and isn't worth much. Something more is needed than wishful thinking or woeful resignation if you're going to live constantly at the point of opportunity.
For me that "something more" has meant pushing through to the really great problem -the problem of being. It means asking the ultimate questions about God and man and the universe and the divine laws that govern the universe.
These questions and answers are what Christ Jesus' teachings were about.
They are what Christian Science is about.
And this is what we're going to consider this morning.
In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. writes, "Good demands of man every hour, in which to work out the problem of being" (p. 261).
As we respond to this demand, our problems do indeed become opportunities - unlimited opportunities!
And this is no cliche!
How does God relate to your problems - to my problems? What does God know about things that trouble you - or me? How can divine laws relate to human difficulties?
Let me begin our discussion with a situation I once had to face. Then we can examine it together in depth and see how it turned out to be an opportunity to look deeper into the great spiritual facts of being.
It wasn't one of those quiet peacetime problems that people used to come to me about in my personnel office. It occurred while I was serving in the Army in an overseas jungle area in New Guinea.
A group of us often got together to share some of our experiences in applying Christian Science in our daily assignments. One night an Army jeep drove up to our group and the driver shouted out,"You Christian Scientists?" "Sure we are," we answered.
The driver told us a dying soldier had been brought into the field hospital. His identification papers indicated he was a Christian Scientist and the medical officer thought one of us might want to come and pray for him - or give whatever last rites we might administer.
Even though I was new in Christian Science, I volunteered to go and climbed into the jeep, and took my Bible and a copy of Science and Health.
At the hospital I learned the soldier had fallen over a very steep cliff and that among other injuries his skull was broken. There was no hope for his recovery. In fact the doctors doubted whether he'd last out the night or even regain consciousness. One doctor stated the soldier was "swinging between life and death."
I entered the tent and saw the soldier wrapped in bandages. At first I didn't know what to do. I'd never before volunteered to help anyone work out their problems in Christian Science. I sat beside him and began to pray. Many hours passed. I kept on quietly praying. Sometimes I read my Bible and recalled the mightly healing works of Jesus. Sometimes I read from Science and Health, thinking gratefully of the many occasions when the truths in that book had healed me.
At last the young man moved; his eyes opened slightly. I leaned over and told him I was a Christian Scientist and was praying for him.
A smile came over his face and he nodded.
Within a few days he was able to sit up and eat. In three weeks he was released from the hospital and resumed his army duties. As no medical treatment had been given him, the doctors called the healing a miracle.
What happened during that night of prayer - through what I would call scientific prayer?
Many people equate prayer with a type of pleading with God. We sometimes hear of a person praying for a present, or someone praying for a perfect date, or for a better position and salary. This kind of prayer assumes that our human needs become known to God only by pleading with Him or asking Him to change things for us.
Scientific prayer often includes an element of asking but always another element of much greater importance - the acknowledgment that spiritual good is already present. This means realizing that we, as the creations of God, always reflect His infinite intelligence and understand His loving control of the universe. I knew I had no power of my own to heal the soldier. Even Jesus declared that of himself he could do nothing; he said that it was the Father that dwelleth in him that did the healing works. I can assure you the thoughts that came to me that night were in response to my prayers to God for guidance and it was the divine power accompanying His guidance that did the healing work.
I declared, sometimes silently in thought, sometimes aloud, that even in a war-conditioned jungle area man could never be separated from God's all-protecting care; that God's laws were the only true laws: and that nothing could change the soldier's true identity as a child of God.
As I thought of the doctor's statement that the soldier was "swinging between life and death," I found this statement in Science and Health: "Man is not a pendulum, swinging between evil and good, joy and sorrow, sickness and health, life and death" (p. 246). Then I began to think about what man really is. I recalled the Bible statement that man is made in the image and likeness of God - of divine Spirit. I also recalled parts of Mrs. Eddy's answer to the question, "What is man?" She writes, "Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements." Also, that "Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science" (p. 475).
Since man is spiritual he can be subject only to spiritual laws, not material laws. For example, if you subject an iron rod to heat, it expands. Being material, it responds to changing temperature and material conditions. But if you could toss the mathematical fact that six plus six equals twelve into the fire, six and six don't expand to make thirteen. Being a concept in thought, they go right on making twelve in spite of changing temperature. In much the same way, when man is correctly identified as a spiritual idea, subject only to divine Spirit and His laws, we see him unaffected by physical conditions or material laws.
And so it was with my soldier friend, I lost all sense of fear about the scene before me. Where that picture of an injured soldier appeared, my spiritual perception saw him quite differently - as the wholly spiritual son of God.
As I realized man couldn't be separated from God, his source of life, the verdict of impending death lost its sting. By going straight to the basic problem, the problem of being, I was establishing a scientific basis. That soldier had to be seen in his spiritual identity. The divine laws that govern the universe had to be recognized in consciousness. And man's relationship to God acknowledged.
I'm sure you can see that the problem became an opportunity for me to proclaim and prove that "Man is not matter. Man is spiritual." And, as this was done, the human picture changed.
The human picture will always change for the better if, when we hear of other people's problems, or what looks like a crisis, that it really becomes our opportunity - and theirs -to reject all that is unlike God, good. We do this most easily and quickly as we acknowledge all causation as Spirit.
In using the term Spirit - as any Bible reader will know - I'm referring to God. This synonym is used throughout the Bible in describing God and the qualities He imparts. Mrs. Eddy, too, uses this synonym - in addition to six others - in defining God throughout her writings. So - in following through with the realization that man is spiritual we trace man's origin back to that perfect spiritual creation defined in the very beginning of the Bible - man created by God, made in His image and after His likeness (Gen. 1:27).
It's the realization that all causation is Spirit that enables you to recognize man as wholly spiritual. He emanates from God, divine Spirit, where health is normal, activity is unobstructed, life is continuous. Recognizing God, Spirit, as the divine source of good, strength, vitality, intelligence, and versatility brings the full and appropriate expression of these attributes into our individual daily experiences.
When faced with any problem for yourself or others, question as to whether you're allowing yourself to believe in a cause apart from God. If you accept God, Spirit, as cause and man as effect, then you will find the solution to your problem.
Mrs. Eddy stresses the vital nature of this approach in Science and Health, "Spiritual causation is the one question to be considered, for more than all others spiritual causation relates to human progress" (p. 170).
It certainly related to the healing of that soldier.
Now we might not all experience a situation such as I had with my soldier friend, but just think what it would mean if you knew there were no circumstances beyond healing. This is what Jesus knew. Every situation presented to him whether it was the death of Lazarus or a storm at sea, he used as an opportunity to prove the absolute control of God. He recognized spiritual causation only and therefore was able to prove the supremacy of God, good, always - in all ways.
With reference to the storm at sea experience, Jesus had gone to the mountains to pray; his disciples were in a ship going to Gennesaret. A storm blew up and they began to be afraid their boat was sinking.
In the middle of the night Jesus came to them across the water! At first the disciples doubted their eyes; they thought he was a phantom. He quieted their fears and assured them who it was.
Then one of the disciples - the impetuous one named Peter, asked Jesus to let him come on the water. The Bible story then relates that Peter did actually start walking on the water, "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid" (Matt. 14:30).
Doesn't that sound familiar? Have you ever doubted the ability of God to hold you up in some situations? Have you allowed the "boisterous winds" of fear and doubt to get you down when faced with sickness or other difficulties?
It was at this point that Peter began to sink. But note the manner in which Jesus rescued him. Jesus didn't get down into the water with Peter. Nor did he allow Peter to pull him down. He stretched out his hand and lifted him up out of the water. After the rescue, both men went into the ship - and a great calm prevailed.
Jesus was illustrating through his actions the presence of the Christ - or the very nature of Spirit, the divine causative power, relating to human needs. He felt compassion for his fellowmen and illustrated his knowledge and confidence of God's presence by conquering their fears. He proved the availability of God's love and of Spirit's support.
We hear much today of varied types of power - oil power, money power, political power. But if we follow Jesus' example and recognize divine power, God-power, as supremely practical to meet every human need, we can bring about right results.
Jesus didn't project a God who was manlike. Instead he elevated men to the understanding of their spiritual status as God's children - reminding them of their divine heritage and sonship. He spoke of our heavenly Father's love for all, and on this basis he ruled out illness, deformity - even death - proving the permanency of man's life as a child of God.
His works were not deviations from law, any more than was the healing of the soldier. Spiritual healing is accomplished on the scientific basis of divine causation. Therefore utilizing the power of God, divine Spirit, in behalf of men and women is divinely natural and humanly corrective.
It was the teachings of Jesus that Mrs. Eddy pondered and researched; it's his method of healing that is scientifically explained in the teachings of Christian Science.
No problem can ever separate us from God and His provision for our well-being. No matter what the physical senses report, we need to remind ourselves that any pain or disorder is but a false report.
The claim would be that man is an organic entity and separate from God. We can remove this false claim by realizing and accepting the true spiritual facts, the Christ, Truth - man's spiritual identity and relationship to God.
A student of Christian Science, a friend of mine, was able to prove this inseparable relationship when she was faced with the possibility of losing her sight.
This woman went to an oculist to obtain a pair of glasses. The oculist advised her she had a serious eye disease in both eyes and warned her of impending blindness. He urged an immediate operation.
But my friend had studied and applied Christian Science for many years so she didn't accept this analysis as an accurate description of herself. Instead she determined this was an opportunity for her to see her spiritual perfection and its human expression. She asked a Christian Science practitioner to help her do this.
They both prayed to understand that true vision is a spiritual quality that couldn't be impaired or diseased, nor affected by age. They acknowledged there couldn't be any inability to think spiritually and therefore to "see through" this material report about deterioration.
The oculist had advised there was considerable pressure built up within her eyes. Now to remove this symptom, she set about recognizing that within her entire being there was no action but the divine. God, being the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, and omnipotent, how could there be action anywhere in His creation that was inharmonious, pressured, painful?
The material senses had diagnosed pain and disorder in the eyes, but my friend realized that she had to rely on spiritual perception to see the truth of being. The oculist had urged an immediate operation. In turning to Science and Health, she read this statement, "Spiritual perception brings out the possibilities of being, destroys reliance on aught but God, and so makes man the image of his Maker in deed and in truth" (p. 203). That was her answer - she realized that to see and exhibit spiritual good she'd have to rely on spiritual sense alone.
Two weeks later she returned for a checkup. The oculist was amazed to find no trace of the disease. Later examinations confirmed the complete healing.
Now - let's look at what had taken place.
She had realized that vision is man's right and part, of his eternal being. She recognized the all-seeing and omnipotent nature of God-Spirit, the only creator. As an idea of God, she could reflect nothing less than a God-preserved completeness and perfection.
Christly facts maintained
In thinking about the works of Jesus, she realized that he maintained the Christly fact that God and His creation - you, me - everyone - are inseparable from God and that there's no power opposed to God. No difficulty is impossible to resolve; there's no distinction between nervous, functional, or organic diseases. The report that at certain stages disease becomes incurable is never to be accepted.
As my friend recognized her spiritual perfection, the material conditions were overruled by the superior laws of Spirit. She had reaffirmed her understanding of the Christ, Truth. As a practical result, she gained complete and perfect vision.
She also realized that she had to know the unreality of the report as having ever touched her true spiritual self.
Have you ever been in a movie theater at the conclusion of a showing? Or maybe you have sat through a slide show or movies in your home. In either case, you have noticed that the projection screen was the same color (white or gray) after the showing as it was before.
Now, even though you'd seen people and colorful scenery on the screen, it was obvious when the projector was shut off that the screen hadn't absorbed the picture.
So it is with man as he really is.
No matter what concepts of disease or problem-oriented pictures may be projected on him, he cannot absorb them!
Material patterns do not originate in God's man. As we remove them from thought, as we shut off the projector of mortal viewing, we prove that man is perfect through the resulting evidence of normal, harmonious conditions.
This is what took place in this woman's experience. She solved her problem by turning it into the opportunity to establish the authenticity of spiritual sense and the reality of spiritual perfection.
What is perfection?
Perfection is always the message of the Christ from God to men. Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). And Science and Health puts it like this, "Perfection is gained only by perfection" (p. 290). Perfect spiritual causation is always expressed in perfect spiritual effect. And the recognition of this governs the human situation.
Many of us are here today because we've been healed of physical troubles, some acute, some chronic. But the real healing that takes place isn't limited to the outward condition of things - that's but a byproduct of what has been seen spiritually.
Christian Science enables us to understand all things from a spiritual viewpoint. It teaches us how to discern the spiritual qualities and ideas that are always present regardless of the outward appearance. In this way you become conscious of the wonderful relationship you have with God as a child of His creating and you perceive perfection as your normal, natural condition.
I hope you're beginning to see why I drew a distinct line between any Pollyanna approach to problems and the Christian Science approach. We don't ignore trouble; nor do we say it's a figment of the imagination; or that bad times must have some kind of mystical purpose to them.
Sickness and other troubles have no scientific basis because God is the only cause and He did not - could not - cause imperfection. Since God is all-power - that power, rightly understood and acknowledged, must take precedence over any claims of material sense. Healing results when the credibility of material beliefs is laid aside, overruled, by the superior jurisdiction of the Christ, of the divine laws of Spirit. Perfection is then seen and understood.
At the beginning of this talk, I referred to Mary Baker Eddy and identified her as the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. I also quoted her statement from Science and Health that "Good demands of man every hour, in which to work out the problem of being."
In tracing Mrs. Eddy's steps, we find she spent many hours in working out the problem of being and providing humanity with the full explanation of her discovery. As a result, she has given us an entirely new view of what our attitude to problems should be.
From early childhood Mrs. Eddy studied the Bible. After a near-fatal accident in 1866, she asked for her Bible. In reviewing one of the healings of Jesus, "she was," in the words of one of her biographers, "filled with the conviction that her life was in God - that God was the only Life, the only I AM" ("Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery," Robert Peel, p. 197). At that moment she was healed.
Now, she wasn't content to leave it at that. Instead she pursued her study of the Scriptures to find the scientific method behind her healing and the healings that Jesus accomplished.
In this process she discovered the divine laws of God and named her discovery Christian Science. Science and Health contains the complete explanation of these spiritually scientific rules and how to apply them.
Much has been written about Mrs. Eddy - her life history and achievements. But a most telling statement in the light of our discussion is this from another of her biographers, "Mrs. Eddy always could see a widening horizon at the end of a lane of seeming defeat" ("Mary Baker Eddy: Her Mission and Triumph," Julia Michael Johnston, p. 75).
A widening horizon! This is of the utmost significance. Mrs. Eddy's discovery teaches us to see behind every problem the great problem of being. It teaches us to approach the great problem of being from the standpoint of causation being wholly spiritual, from the basis of the Christly message of perfect God expressed in perfect man. Her discovery also shows us that, when we adopt this method of problem-solving, something additional is achieved. With the solution we're not back where we started; we've gained a new view of ourselves, of others, of the whole universe; we've moved forward to new and wider horizons.
Let me illustrate.
One Wednesday, a friend of mine attended the mid-week testimony meeting at a Church of Christ, Scientist. He was not a Christian Scientist. He was faced with a serious personal problem and was very discouraged. His position in a managerial post had been eliminated and employment agencies weren't turning up any prospects.
In the period set aside for testimonies at this meeting, he heard people speak of solving problems through Christian Science. He decided to give it a try and asked a Christian Science practitioner to help him through prayer.
My friend soon realized a complete transformation was taking place in his approach to his problem. He went to a Christian Science Reading Room and obtained a copy of Science and Health. He started to read it and noted the opening statement, "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings" (p. vii).
There was an awareness of God's presence, guiding and governing - a conscious feeling of unity with God and an eagerness to understand himself as a child of God. He began to realize he was spiritual, created and maintained by Spirit. He accepted the fact that God's law is ever in operation - blessing and sustaining all.
His fear of lack and inactivity as well as a sense of exhaustion left him. He became inspired with an enlarged sense of employment. - to express himself as God's representative,
Awakened to this new approach, he now saw "the problem beyond the problem." It was to see man as never “unemployed” - but instead as constantly employed in expressing God. He had a new goal - to learn more of God as the divine and unlimited source of man's occupation and supply - and of man as God's spiritual image and likeness.
As he pondered these new goals, he recognized his spiritual strength to overturn discouragement and he let go of human outlining. Then a precise plan for establishing his own business occurred to him - one he'd never have thought of for himself. He was able to patent a most useful product he'd considered for a long time, and establish his own business to produce the product. Within two years his sales immensely increased - so helpful was the product. He and many others prospered from this new opportunity.
Of course, what happened here is that persistent trust in God's provision of ideas, released natural initiative and spiritual energy. He had relied on his understanding that Spirit reigns supreme in every aspect of experience. The problem of unemployment yielded to the opportunity to let God's law operate. But most important of all to him was his new and widening horizon - the new vision he gained of what his life was all about, his spiritual origin, purpose, and destiny.
When faced with anything that would disturb you, be alert; replace it quickly with your understanding of God and the truth of being.
When we start our prayerful reasoning with an understanding of God, and not with trouble - when we realize that God is the sole creator and governor and that He made only good - we see we're not trying to get rid of something through our treatment; we're awakening to what's always been real and true.
Christian Science heals sickness and corrects evil by showing us how to obey and fulfill the law of God. It teaches complete trust in the power of God and the present actuality of good. This point of view is scientific. It goes right to the mental root of evils and destroys them there by revealing present spiritual perfection.
New horizons open
This divine law is operating universally for all who avail themselves of it. And as we acknowledge its governing of our whole being, new horizons open for us.
This divine promise, this invigorated and uplifted view of ourself and all mankind, isn't something that has to wait until "hereafter" to be experienced and enjoyed! It's a very present possibility for each of us right now as we accept the message of the Christ, of our divine sonship and God-given perfection.
In his letter to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul writes of God's ever-presence and tells them that in the face of affliction they are ". . . more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37) - referring of course to God's sustaining love. We too, can be ". . . more than conquerors." Why? Because in the infinitude of God's love, there's no evil to be conquered, only the divine presence to be enjoyed.
This, then, is your opportunity to heal and correct whatever is discordant by recognizing the present spiritual facts - by accepting God's law, and recognizing Spirit's universal supremacy.
In the example of the soldier in overcoming the effects of a fall - of the woman who had her sight preserved - of the man finding the meaning of success and right activity, what had appeared as serious problems were solved and victories realized. But, in all these instances, the solution came because the basic problem, the problem of being, was recognized and man's spiritual nature realized.
God, Spirit, is as powerful now as in the time of the patriarchs and prophets, and of Jesus and his disciples and apostles. God is as ready to answer prayer today as He was in Bible times. The age of spiritual healings is not past. This true healing is experienced as we turn problems into spiritual opportunities by declaring and understanding our unchanged state of perfection. This can happen in your experience, and you can help others to experience it.
In Science and Health, we have this promise: "When we learn the way in Christian Science and recognize man's spiritual being, we shall behold and understand God's creation, - all the glories of earth and heaven and man" (p. 264).
This is your opportunity - your unlimited opportunity - now!