Perseverance is an important character trait that pays off in the end. For the Christian, perseverance through the trials of this life, of the race marked out for us by God, results in the ultimate reward of eternity in heaven with our Savior.
But perseverance through each individual trial can also lead to blessings and reward. I experienced that yesterday. I am in New York, in a residence inn in Manhattan, and decided I wanted to attend the 11:00 service at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn. It is an old German Lutheran church that recently joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which is the same organization my church is affiliated with. I checked Google maps to find out how to get there by public transit because we decided not to rent a car while in New York. It looked easy enough – walk to the local subway station, get on the 4 train, get off at Borough Hall in Brooklyn, and walk to the church.
It was not that easy. We got to the extremely hot and humid subway station to find that the 4 train was not running on the weekend. Someone told us to take the 5 train and it would stop at Borough Hall, so we got on the next 5. But its last stop was well before where we wanted to get off, so we transferred to the 6 train. It stopped – last stop – one stop before where we wanted to go and we had to transfer to the 4 train. Wait, I thought the 4 wasn’t running? With each transfer we had to wait on a hot, humid platform. Finally we caught the 4 and it took us to Borough Hall.
Difficulties over, right? Wrong! We started walking but apparently in the wrong direction. We ended up backtracking about 8 blocks until we finally found the church, 1/2 hour late for the 11:00 service! At several points along the way someone suggested we just give up and go back to the apartment. Sometimes that voice was in my own head. I felt quite frustrated and defeated. I just wanted to go to church on Sunday morning. But the journey made me feel weary and I almost lost heart. But we persevered and I am glad we did. I am reminded of what Paul wrote in Hebrews:
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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3.
All through the trip to church I kept thinking I just wanted to go attend a worship service while in New York. I wanted to meet some fellow Christians, some fellow LCMC Lutherans. I didn’t always keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, though, and so was a bit wearied by the journey. In the end, we did meet some great people. It was a beautiful old church with friendly people. During the sharing of the peace we actually shook hands with every other person there. I talked to the person in charge of their newsletter and she gave me some great information about their church. I really felt the presence of the Holy Spirit among these fellow believers.
After church we went to a local pizza place that was touted as the best pizza in the United States. We waited in line for almost an hour to get a table. The pizza was okay, but I wouldn’t wait in line for it again. We decided the pizza around the corner from our apartment was better. So it seems that what you are persevering towards makes a difference. What I learned was that life is short. Make sure you are standing in the right line.