Recently, while on the phone talking to my mother-in-law, I made the comment that a well-known person did not “stay the course.” Even as the words came out of my mouth, the phrase somewhat surprised me. It was most likely the first time I had ever used it.
For some reason, the words stayed with me the next day when I did a search and found a reference to this very concept in Chapter 20 of Acts. In verse 24, Paul tells us, “But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have obtained from the Lord Jesus, faithfully to attest to the good news of God’s grace” (AMPC).
“Stay the course” is a phrase used in the context of a war or battle, meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism. The phrase allegedly originated as a nautical metaphor on maintaining a constant, unaltering course while navigating. It was also used to describe horses having the stamina to remain on the course of a racetrack.
Our lives consist of our lifelong spiritual journey as well as “seasonal journeys,” all of which set us on a particular course or path. Sometimes we are on a path because of a major life decision, such as taking a new job out of state. Similarly are the decisions to get married or to have a baby. We may find ourselves on a path dealt by the circumstances of life, as when we find ourselves facing a health crisis or a job loss. Our current path may be the result of choices made by those around us, like when we find ourselves dealing with a rebellious child or an unfaithful spouse. Our paths can often be self-initiated and positive, such as a plan to lose weight or pursue an education. Each day, we are progressing, moving forward on these multiple paths. We need God’s help in order to stay the course.
In my childhood home, after the Christmas decorations were boxed up and put away, it would unofficially become puzzle season. My mom would set up a card table in our living room, and each night after dinner, she would sit down and “work on her puzzle,” as she described it. I remember being very interested and inspired when she brought out a new puzzle. I would join her at the card table, and together we would find all the edge pieces until the outline was complete, a relatively quick part of the overall process. Once the outline was done, however, my time spent at the table each night was very short until the puzzle was almost complete. I’m not sure if this was because the process was easier closer to completion or because I just wanted to be there to cross the finish line. Perhaps a bit of both.
Often our life journeys can elicit the same response from us.
The beginning is inspiring. The end is exciting. But the middle. The middle can be long, hard, discouraging, lonely, exhausting, depleting, scary, etc. The middle is where the enemy tries his best to get us off track.
We need to be alert to this and steadfast in Father so that we are able to “stay the course” in both our faith-walk and the seasonal journeys set before us.
I believe staying on course for us as Christians means we should purpose to move forward and not allow ourselves to remain idle for too long. Sometimes we do need to take a break, but for the most part, staying the course means pushing through even when we face adversity and are weary. If God has called us to a journey, then we know it is important to persevere. Galatians 6:9 promises that as we press through our feelings of defeat and weariness, we will reap a harvest.
Secondly, we are to pursue walking worthy. As we face hard, long, and difficult paths, we are to remain positioned in God so that our thoughts, words, and actions reflect His character. We allow the Holy Spirit to live through us and work through us even when our flesh is crying out in the opposite direction. By doing this, we will be able to walk even the dark paths with love and grace. As we stay positioned in Him, we will stay on course.
When we start to feel worn out, discouraged, and hopeless, it may mean we have strayed off course. We need to remind ourselves who and whose we are. We are daughters and sons of the most high King. We should remind ourselves where we are seated. We are seated with Jesus at the right hand of the Father. As we remind ourselves who and whose we are, we will once again find ourselves safely on the path set before us.
If you are currently in a difficult season where staying the course is challenging, maybe it is time to lighten your load. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to take this personal inventory. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (NKJV).
Ask yourself what is entangling you? It could be a sin, or it could be a fleshly indulgence. For instance, if you are on a course to a healthier you, then a pantry stocked with your favorite treats could be entangling you. If you are in a battle for your marriage, maybe spending afternoons with your newly single neighbor could be entangling you. If you are purposing to spend more time with Father, maybe your Instagram account or Twitter feed is entangling you.
Often our entanglement is a leftover from our past. Leftovers normally have a very short shelf life. Once that has passed, they are unhealthy. Choices we have made or choices of those around us can leave us with regret, anger, fear, insecurity, and anxiety. Perhaps in these situations, Father wants us to spend time with Him and pursue further healing. We know only He can work all things together for our good. As we give our past and all its emotional entanglements to the Father, it will allow us to stay on our current paths more easily.
“Stay the course” will mean different things to each of us as we pass through the different seasons of our lives. Although it may look different for each of us, one thing remains true for all of us. We are not to give up or surrender to the negative that is surrounding us but instead surrender to our loving Father who has provided everything we need to “stay the course” set before us.
And more importantly, we can know with all certainty that we will stay the course for our most important journey, our faith-walk. Philippians 1:6 assures us that God, who began a good work in us, will continue developing us until we leave this earth.
Featured Image by Jake Melara
InText Image by Pixabay.com