The Quest for the Best
Many people spend their whole life gathering rubbish! They live to get money, or to find pleasure, or to indulge in sin. The things they live for are, at the best, not worth while. There is nothing in them for a man, with an immortal soul, to live for.
One who has amassed millions — but nothing else, made a sad confession. Speaking of his "success," as men call it, he said: "When I think it over, I can only be ashamed of it all. All my success is rank failure!"
There are a great many men and women who — with immortal joys within their reach — choose nothing better than the rubbish of the street. The man in Christ's parable was wiser — he sought for pearls, the best things.
There are people who do not grovel in the mire, who live for that which is good, and yet do not strive for the highest. Dawson speaks of "contented insignificance" — people who are in lowly places and are contented to stay there. But God wants us to make such use of our opportunities and of our abilities, that we shall rise continually to something larger and better. He wants us so to employ our two talents that they shall increase to four, and our five talents so that they shall become ten. We are not to be satisfied with a little blessing — but are to seek to have it grow and increase.
There are too many people who are satisfied with the good, when they might get the best. Not many of us make really the most possible of our lives.
There are young people in school who think only of "passing" — they have no higher ambition — instead of striving to reach the best that they could reach.
There are men in business who have no further aspiration than to keep along in the ranks of business, to succeed as other men do, to do their work in the usual way — instead of putting their business on a higher plane than others do.
There are women whose care in housekeeping is only not to be outdone by their neighbors, instead of seeking to make their homes ideal in their beauty and sweetness.
There are Christians whose only wish is to measure up in their Christian living to the ordinary standard, to be the kind of Christian that will escape criticism and reproach.
We must remember, however, that Jesus gave his disciples as the keynote this, that they must do more than others. (Matthew 5:47)
The Christian's home should be in every way happier, sweeter, kindlier, more beautiful — than the home where Christ is not a guest. The Christian should have the lesson of love better learned than other people have. The Christian business man should do business better and more honestly than other men. The Christian carpenter should do better carpentering than the carpenter who does not pray before he begins in the morning.
In all our life we should strive to reach the best. It is a sin against our own souls to be content with any common sort of good.
There are thousands who are seeking the best, and yet never find it. They go no farther than to the beautiful and precious things of this world. They get money and honor and learning and human love and human happiness and earthly success. They seek not God, they make no place in their life-scheme for the kingdom of Heaven.
Jacob's vision of life was a ladder, standing on the earth, starting close by his feet and then springing upward, rung after rung, and not ending until it reached God's feet. There is no other true vision of life.
This world is very beautiful — it is our Father's world. It is strewn with pearls. We do well to seek these pearls and gather them into our hands. But if we fail at the same time to find the peerless pearl, the pearl of great price, we have failed to find the best, and we have nothing that will endure, that will meet all our needs, and that we can keep forever. Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price.
Someone tells of calling one day on a very poor woman, hoping to help her. When he came to the door of her little cabin, he saw her bending in prayer over her table. On the table was a crust of bread and a cup of water — nothing more. The good woman was about to partake of her scanty meal and was "saying grace" over it. And the visitor, reverently listening, heard her thank God for his great goodness in supplying her needs.
In her prayer she spoke of what was before her as if it had been a most luxurious meal. "All this," she said, "and Christ too!" She had found the pearl of great price.
One day a minister gave a young Japanese student a copy of the New Testament. Two years passed, and one morning there was a knock at the minister's door, and this student came in. He was in haste. "I am called back to my country," he said, "My train leaves at two o'clock — but I must see you before I go. I have read your Bible. I have been to your churches. I have known your Christians. I have seen plain, poor, uneducated men and women, who go about doing good, helping others, never thinking of themselves. I have seen Jesus Christ. I have found the beautiful life. I have found Christ." It was this peerless pearl which he had found.
There are many good things in this world — home and friends and books, the beauties of nature, the joys of life — but there is one supreme Good. We may have all the other good things, and if we have not Christ, we are poor. We may have almost no worldly goods, and yet, if we have Christ — we are rich. In Christ all blessing is to be found. We need nothing that we do not find in him.
We must be ready continually to give up the good, to get the better; and then give up the better to get the best. I have read of an English surgeon who was very fond of cricket. But he found that the playing was affecting the delicacy of his touch, so that he could not do his work well. So, in order that he might be a better surgeon, and bring relief more surely and more skillfully to the sufferers who came to him — he gave up the sport he enjoyed so much.
Everyone who is living under a high spiritual motive is doing this continually — denying himself, sacrificing himself, that he may serve others better.
We must give up the lower for the higher. An artist's pupil was sketching a landscape bathed in the glow of the setting sun. A large barn stood in the foreground. The artist watched his pupil in silence for a time, and then said to him impressively, "If you spend so much time painting the shingles on that barn, you will never have time to paint the sunset!"
In all our work, we must choose between shingles and sunsets, between pearls and goodly pearls and the noblest pearl. If we will win the higher things — we must give up the lower.
The easy way is not to trouble ourselves about the better things, the better spiritual attainments, the better service, the winning of other souls.
"Nobody will ever thank you for it," one said, in speaking of certain exhausting work and costly self-sacrifice. "Nobody will ever thank you for it." But the Christlike man or woman toils not for human thanks, never thinks of human gratitude or ingratitude. His one thought is, "What is my Master bidding me to do? How can I do most for him?"
The love of Christ impels us to our holiest, our bravest and our best. The Master's face looks into ours, and in the gentle stillness there is a voice that calls us upward, upward, though with bleeding feet and weary step, to the higher things, to the highest. Let us follow unafraid, undismayed. We shall lose nothing by giving up ease, or pleasure, or gain, or life. What we shall receive in exchange, will be a thousand times better possession and treasure than what we have sacrificed!