The first time I heard the term “stay the course” it was my first semester of college. I had a friend in my history class who was considering dropping out. After she spoke with the professor, she told me she decided to stay in school. When I asked her what changed her mind, she said he told her to “stay the course.” I thought that meant stay IN the course. However, as time went on, I learned differently.
The term “stay the course” means to continue with a process or effort, even though it is difficult. I have “stayed the course” many times in life. In relationships, in work, big projects, personal development (never athletics, though), and, most recently, building a house. I even have a relative on a 500-mile pilgrimage (once again, not me). But every time I work toward a goal, I experience ups and downs like riding on a roller coaster.
To me staying the course boils down to discipline. Get up, suit up, and show up every day. Make a plan and work the plan every day. My parents drilled this in me. I guess I can’t help myself.
The root word of discipline is “disciple,” which comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning “student.” Most people believe a disciple is a follower in a religious context, but in reality it means student—as in, “one who studies.” Therefore, discipline is to study, learn, train, and apply a system of standards.
Discipline is not something others do to us. It is something we do for ourselves. We can receive instruction or guidance from any number of ways, but the source of discipline is not external. It is internal.
Discipline is a choice, just like being a disciple of Jesus is a choice. It is a decision … a life-changing one. Shepherd boy David is a perfect example of staying the course. He tended his flock day in and day out, protecting the sheep from elements and predators, seeing they were led to food and water. It’s little wonder he knew what he was writing about:
- You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
- You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.
- That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.
- You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.
- Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;
- Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.
- I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
- I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.
Yes, a Christian’s life is similar to a race with the finish line in eternity. The goal is to stay the course and run with endurance, but the path is known only when we focus on the goal – Jesus, who ran the race perfectly, so He shows us the way.
So we are to fix our eyes on Jesus — our guide and destination, and He will welcome us home when we cross the finish line into eternity.
Thank you, Lord, for being our guide.
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