Sacred Scriptures declare that the choice between God and human beings is mutual. Both sides must reach out for each other. To attain the knowledge and love of God, and that of His Messengers and Redeemers, two cycles must be set in motion: the human, and the heavenly. The first cycle begins with a desire for truth like a thirsty child asking for water. The sincere desire of a truth seeker sets in motion a second cycle that attracts God’s blessings in mysterious ways. God throws secret lights on the path of the searching souls. The following passages point mostly to the heavenly cycle:
A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. _Christ (John 3:27)
…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” _Christ (John 6:65)
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. _Christ (John 6:44)
You did not choose me, but I chose you. _Christ (John 15:16)
If you search with all your heart, I will let you find Me… _Jeremiah 2:14
…it is He Who leadeth those who have received illumination and seek the way of righteousness.238 _The Báb
We cause whomsoever We desire to be admitted into the gardens of our most holy, most sublime Paradise.239 _The Báb
He delivered me because He delighted in me. _Psalms 18:19 He guideth whom He will to a straight path. _Qur’án 2:142
…the footsteps of everyone have slipped except such as God hath protected through His tender mercy and numbered with those who have recognized Him…240 _Bahá’u’lláh
Whom God doth guide—he is on the right path. _Qur’án 7:178
…ye have deprived yourselves of the good-pleasure of your Lord, except those
whom their Lord hath endowed with knowledge… _241The Báb
Even if We did send unto them angels, and the dead did speak unto them, and We gathered together all things before their very eyes, they will not believe, unless God willeth. _Qur’án 6:111
To whomsoever God bestoweth no light, will have no light. _Qur’án 24:40
For many are invited, but few are chosen. _Christ (Matt. 22:14)
Why are only a few chosen? Because God’s choice depends on human choice. Would He choose a soul that would not seek Him, that would not care for His “many mansions” in His “celestial city”?
The gates that open on the Placeless stand wide …yet all but a few remain bereft of this celestial city, and even of these few, none but the smallest handful hath been found with a pure heart and sanctified spirit.242 _Bahá’u’lláh
The heart is like a stone. As soon as it is polished, it reflects the light:
The One true God may be compared unto the sun and the believer unto a mirror. No sooner is the mirror placed before the sun than it reflects its light.243 _The Báb
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. _Christ (Matt. 5:8)
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father… _Christ (Matt. 7:21)
What is God’s will? That we should search for Him, that we set in motion the first cycle:
Be always on the watch [search], and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. _Christ (Luke 21:36)
…unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time… _Hebrews 9:28 Can a treasure be found without searching?
…the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hidden in a field… _Christ (Matt. 13:44)
Although we must search for God, ultimately it is God who chooses His guests for His heavenly Kingdom. Suppose you plan to hold the banquet of the century, the most magnificent festival imaginable. Who would you invite? Would you put on your list the names of guests who didn’t care you even existed? Would you invite anyone who gossiped behind your back? Would you invite any careless guests who would come in unsuitable, filthy, or smelly clothes? Would you invite any drunkard, any guest who would rather go to a bar than to your banquet? If you would not, then why should God? Please ponder this point in your heart until its truth illuminates your conscience.
Why is this point so significant? Because it is a well-kept secret, known only to a few. Because most people live with the illusion that without doing anything, other than sitting and waiting, they will find all the doors of the Kingdom wide open to them. Nothing has hampered human approach to God more than this illusion.
Entering God’s Kingdom is the most supreme honor, the most glorious gift that heaven may bestow on human beings. To see if we are worthy of this honor and gift, God tests us in countless ways, all the day of our lives. He tests our love, humility, and devotion.
…that each soul may be tested by the touchstone of God, that the true may be known and distinguished from the false.244 _Bahá’u’lláh
Even gold passes through the assayer’s fire, and more precious than perishable gold is faith which has stood the test. _I Peter 1:7
What is the first step on the spiritual journey? How can a seeking soul set the first cycle of mutual choice in motion? Praying with absolute devotion and passionate desire is always the first and most attainable step. Would God ignore any sincere prayers?
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! _Christ (Matt. 7:9-11)
Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. _Jeremiah 33:3
Test your faith by this standard: Do you really believe that if you pray to God with all your heart and soul, He will hear and respond to your heart’s desire, that He will give you signs and clues to lead you to His glorious Kingdom, that He will lift the veil of separation from your soul? If you do, then start a special cycle of praying and pleading. Isn’t entering God’s everlasting banquet worthy of every endeavor?
Christ predicted that at His coming, the gift of faith will be quite scarce. If you lack faith that your request to recognize the Glory of God and to enter His everlasting Kingdom will be honored, does not your failure to pray and plead indicate that you may be one of the many about whom the following prophecy was uttered?
At that time many will turn away from the faith… _Christ (Matt. 24:10)
Being accepted into God’s Kingdom has a price that must be paid. The lover must follow the example of the Beloved:
Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. _Christ (Mark 8:34)
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. _Christ (Matt. 10:38)
What is the price of nearness to God? Placing God first. Love for truth must be so intense that the lover offers even his very life to acquire it, even as the Beloved offered His life:
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives… _I John 3:16
The worthiest offer to make to God is to sacrifice the ego at the altar of truth.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. _Christ (John 12:24-25)
A willingness to investigate, to devote time and talent is the first test of the humility and health of an ego. It is the first sign of the sincerity of a true seeker. A person who fails this simple test, will fail every other test. A lack of desire for truth inevitably leads to a terminal disease called ignorance. That disease always ends in spiritual death.
My people perish for want of knowledge. _Hosea 4:6
Through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. _Proverbs 11:9
God knocks at our hearts, but never knocks them down. He calls, but never shouts. Hearing His Voice requires careful listening; it needs a quiet, uncluttered conscience, a watchful mind.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. _Christ (Rev. 3:20)
An abundance of rain from the heaven of knowledge, a fresh breeze of enthusiasm, a continual resistance to the winds of tests, a firm footing in the ground of persistence, and a blazing radiance from a pure and loving heart—all these ripen the fruits of our soul, make them mellow, sweet, fragrant, and tender. But it is God, the Lord of the vineyard, who goes to the garden, picks the fruits, and fills the basket for His banquet.
“Saving souls” by force, trying to convert people by pressure, violates God’s exclusive right: choosing the guests for His banquet. All that is required of us is to inform, enlighten, assist, and inspire. The rest is up to the receiver of knowledge and the grace of God. Like a gardener, our task is to plant a seed, water it, nourish it, protect it from the wind, and then wait, pray, and wish for a miracle.
We should make every effort to share our knowledge and to answer questions according to the rules of reason. We should manifest unconditional respect, love, patience, and courtesy, and constantly pray for the grace of God. Growth always comes from the seed. The harvest is collected by the heavenly Gardener.
It is at this point that many violate God’s right. Not only they do the planting, they also want to do the harvesting before the plant is ripe. Such a violation leads to failure, disappointment, and the loss of the dignity of believing.
Just as we cannot force an apple to ripen, we cannot drag a soul into the heavenly Kingdom. Just as we cannot force a body to be physically fit, we cannot make a soul spiritually fit for everlasting life.
Failing to understand this most fundamental principle has damaged the dignity of religion, the honor of faith, the supreme glory of being invited to God’s Kingdom. It has altered the true image of religion. It has turned the banquet of beauty and joy into a prison of pressure and fear. It has turned the glorious palace of the Kingdom into a ruined jailhouse through which unwilling and apathetic people must be dragged and detained.
Pressure comes from lack of faith and a failure to understand God’s design of creation. It implies a desire for power and control over the spiritual destiny of others. Winning souls at any price is just as bad, if not worse than making money at any price. It is an act of dishonesty. It is taking away both the right of the individual (to grow from within), and the right of God (to pick and choose).