The term “stay the course” was an old nautical term of navigation meaning “to continue in the proper direction.” It was later used by Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes as an exhortation to not give up or turn back. Pastor Chuck used the term often in his later years to exhort pastors to continue in the direction in which we started. Today there are many fads and distractions that threaten to sidetrack us from our calling, so it is a good idea to consider what “staying the course” looks like as we venture into an unpredictable future.
Adjustments and change are inherent to navigation. Staying the course is absolutely dependent on adjusting your course. An aversion to course correction is a recipe for navigational failure. But how are these adjustments made? Your navigational course is the line between your present location and your intended destination. Navigational adjustments are made when you realign yourself with your desired destination. Looking back at where you’ve come from is of very little help in navigation. Setting a course for your desired destination is everything. If our destination is wrong, our course is hopeless, and staying the course will be fruitless.
For some people, staying the course just means to keep doing the things you’ve already been doing.
As one humorist put it, “Staying the course does not mean banging your head against the wall until you die.” Life would be easy if you could discover an easy formula for success and just keep repeating the past and be assured of future success. But life is unpredictable and in a constant state of change. What worked last year may not work next year. What works for someone else may not work for you. Staying the course does not mean repeating the past and just doing what you’ve always done, in the way you’ve always done it.
So, as we set our courses for the future, what is our desired destination? What is our compass point to which we should adjust our course?
The Apostle Paul possessed an amazing sense of focus for his life and ministry, and his example is especially instructive for us as we set our course for the future.
Paul says, “One thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Paul wasn’t interested in repeating the past. He forgot the past so that he could focus on Jesus.In pursuit of Jesus, Paul did a lot of great things. He planted churches, but that wasn’t his goal. He was an effective evangelist, but that wasn’t his focus. He had strong ideas about government and politics (see Romans 13), but that didn’t drive him. He gave us some of the greatest eschatology, but predicting the future wasn’t what he majored on. He wrote 14 books of the Bible, but even the Bible wasn’t his compass. His singular goal was simply Jesus. And we will do well to follow Paul’s lead and make sure that our goal, our prize, our desired destination is simply Jesus.
Our world is full of distractions.
It is so easy to be drawn away by the enticement of the latest fads and by whatever new gimmick promises us a shortcut to success. We can sometimes react against that temptation by retreating and withdrawing to a past that feels more secure, but that may not carry us forward to God’s future plans for us. Let’s stay the course. Let’s set our compass on Jesus and be willing to adjust our course to align with Him. May we be known, once again, as simply Jesus People.