Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Have you ever heard someone say, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”? Kathy and I returned on Monday night, Tuesday morning, from visiting my dad and family in Florida. Actually, after boarding our flight in Florida around 11:30 a.m. Alaska time, the plane landed just after midnight in Anchorage. We had our luggage around 12:30 a.m., and our heads hit our bed around 2:00 a.m. Alaska time, 6:00 a.m. Florida time. I calculate that from the time we arrived at the airport in Florida, till when we arrived home, we spent 16 hours traveling. Monday was a LONG day!
So, I confess I was somewhat in a fog on Tuesday as, in the morning, I tried to pay bills, unpack, and pick up at home. (Our dog had left some visible evidence that he missed us.) At noon I attended a Kiwanis meeting, my first as President for the 2017-2018 year, and then also led a Kiwanis board of directors’ meeting. I spent the afternoon handing out dictionaries at Finger Lake Elementary School, and was also in the office to catch up on phone calls and other tasks. Finally, on Tuesday evening we held our first Promise Keepers men’s Bible Study for the year. I went through the motions and tried my best on Tuesday. But I know that, had I been adjusted to Alaska time and not a little sleep deprived, I might have been a little more functional.
However, just because we may not be at our peak for functioning and performing, that doesn’t mean we just ignore what lays before us. There is still work to be done and life to be lived. We still have people to love and faith to share. So, even if “we need a vacation from our vacation” we keep going, we persevere.
I find that the quality of perseverance is one that we all need in our fast-paced lives, but one that gets little attention in today’s world of instant gratification. A few Sundays ago I told our “Basic Teachings of the Bible” class that I hear a lot about “passion.” We do all need to be convinced, convicted, and committed in our lives. But passion can be a passing emotion. Perseverance, founded on godly convictions, keeps going. For most of us, life is not a short sprint, but a long marathon. We need to keep going. We need perseverance.
The virtue of perseverance may not seem attractive or popular in today’s self-absorbed world, but the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, speak a lot of perseverance and endurance.
The Epistle Lesson assigned for this Sunday, The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from Philippians 3. Paul talks of his pursuit to obtain the eternal blessings of God found in Jesus. In verse 12, Paul tells the people of the city of Philippi of his efforts, and his perseverance. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he gives encouragement to the young pastor who is shepherding the people of Ephesus, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4:16)
In Romans 5 we are told that God’s children can even rejoice in suffering, because suffering produces perseverance, among other virtues. “3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
And one of my favorite sections of Scripture is found in Hebrews where, after the writer has taught the Hebrew exiles in chapter 11 about the examples of faith found in the lives of God’s people, He then encourages these exiles in chapter 12 to live in faith which shows in perseverance. 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We all understand why perseverance may be unpopular. Why would anyone want to continue in struggle and continue in suffering? But, following the example used in Hebrews 12, we also know that athletes persevere through the rigors of training for the goals of their competition. We know that God has eternal joy and life waiting for us who finish the race, as the writer of the Hebrews says. And we know that because of Jesus’ perseverance of living and dying for us, even when we stumble, we have the love of God to forgive and strengthen and encourage. We may fail, but God perseveres in His love. Our Lord’s love never fails. So, we can keep going. We can persevere because of the love of God shown in the perseverance of Jesus.
I woke up on Wednesday morning, early because my body is still partially on Florida time, yet more alert and ready to go than on Tuesday. But, no matter the day, my Lord Jesus persevered for me. He is with me to love, to forgive, and to save me. I want to live for Him, even when I may not be all there.
A Child of God, Pressing on and Persevering Because of Jesus’ Unfailing Love,
P.S. Here are some pictures of our vacation with my dad and family in FL. https://photos.app.goo.gl/uKQLddqM0SBgGx1q1
P. P.S. I know I included these pictures last week, but in case you didn’t see them, here are some pictures from the celebration of my dad’s 90th birthday party in FL. https://photos.app.goo.gl/QOj2riPTdCZK14mc2
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.