At our daughter’s recent wedding reception, I sat with a sweet couple who’d been married 51 years. When asked their secret and their advice for the newlyweds, they said, “Stay the course.” Since then, I’ve been thinking what simple yet profound marriage counsel that is for all couples as well as encouragement to not give up when life becomes difficult.
“Stay the course” is a colloquialism my parents (or was it my grandparents?) used when I was a child, but it’s not used often today. Today, we say “hang in there,” “hold on,” “keep on keeping on.” But those expressions, which merely encourage the hearer to survive life’s trials, don’t embody the discipline, mastery and triumph of “stay the course.” Here are a couple definitions.
– Thefreedictionary.com and dictionary.reference.com indicate “stay the course” means “to hold out or persevere to the end of a race or challenge.”
– Wikipedia (source of all knowledge!) suggests the phrase may have “originated as a nautical metaphor on maintaining a constant, unaltering course while navigating” and that it is “used in the context of a war or battle, meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism.”
I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1, where we’re told to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” According to notes penned in the margin of my Bible, a speaker once said the words “race marked out for you” mean “run in your own lane.” Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” Believers can’t just hang in there and hope for the best. We run in the lane of God’s plan for our lives, always moving forward and pressing toward a goal (Philippians 3:13-14), and we act according to God’s good purposes (Philippians 2:13), devoting ourselves to lives of service and productivity (Titus 3).
We must focus on Jesus, the One who will greet us at the end of the race. “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 12:2-3) Fix your eyes on Jesus. Run with perseverance. Don’t grow weary. Don’t lose heart. Stay the course.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)