A message presented Sunday, August 30, 2020 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
The year 2005 was a special year for me because it was when I married my bride, Lynn, right here in our wonderful church. There may never be another February in 2005 where we walked out of the church and the temperature outside for the day was 60 degrees with sunshine! What a blessed day! Of course, the next day, it was 40 degrees with a bone chilling wind. Of course, I will always remember our wedding day. From my family, my mother-in-law, Anna, attended, as well as my twins, Allison and Bradley.
Speaking of Allison and Bradley, 2005 was a special year for them, as well. They both graduated from Firestone High School, and Lynn and I were able to watch the ceremony in the school gymnasium. From there, both of them went different directions for work and for their schooling. Allison started at Kent State and eventually moved on from there after a year, and Bradley went to a small community college down in Florida. Well, as it turns out, both of them had to find their way when it came to their career paths. They’re both doing great today, but it took moments of trial and error to get to where they are now. For Bradley, he started his college education in the fall of 2005, and he floundered a little while until the day when he called me about finishing school.
Bradley called me to talk about school in 2014—nine years after he first started college. Now, I had never heard my son sound as serious about ANYTHING as he did that day when he called. He called me at work, and I literally stopped everything I was doing to listen to him and hear his words. It was important to listen because I heard, for perhaps the first time, a young man who was very serious about taking his education to the next level. He explained to me that he needed some help to finish the last year of his education. He was enrolled at the University of Akron (“Go Zips!”), and he had paid his way the entire time, but he needed help to get his tuition paid and to get over the finish line. He made the appeal, and I helped him out. He thanked me, and he successfully completed his B.A. degree in Organizational Management in August of 2015. It took exactly ten years for him to get his Bachelor’s degree.
Now, I told all of my children that I personally did not care what degree they got from school. I told them that I didn’t care if it was in basket weaving, as long as they got one. Well, Bradley shocked the world and got his degree, and it was better than basket weaving! Not long after that, he and his beautiful girlfriend, Nicole, got engaged. This was a huge marker in his life, and he reached it by staying the course. His path was a long one with a few twists and turns, but he finished by staying the course.
Needless to say, I’m very proud of my son for finally getting it done. I know it wasn’t easy for him, but he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and he finished.
He stayed the course.
When you work very hard for something, the reward is very sweet at the finish. The completion of a goal long sought after is extremely satisfying. In order to achieve something, you must stay the course.
Stay the course.
It is a commonly used term, and perhaps you have heard it or used it yourself. Now, you may be asking, “Where does the term ‘stay the course’ come from?
According to a source, the Dictionary of Clichés, the phrase “stay the course” means to hold out until the end. This expression alludes to a horse that runs the entire course of a race. It dates from the mid-1800s and was soon transferred to other venues. The Times of London used it during World War I in May of 1916: “If we are to stay the course set before us, other sections must be prepared for greater sacrifices.” 1
Today’s use of the phrase means “to persevere with as much determination, energy, or fortitude as one is able, or to attempt or pursue something difficult to its end or conclusion.” 2
In both meanings, the concept “stay the course” means to press forward with a focus on achieving your goal in spite of difficult or trying circumstances.
As you may have guessed, this message is about staying the course as you navigate through your life. There are a number of events where you have had to use fortitude to get through a situation or circumstance. What we all have experienced during this season of life has been a very challenging exercise of staying the course.
What inspiration do we draw upon to stay the course as we move through life?
The answer is in the example of the life of Jesus Christ.
His ministry on earth is a great example of one who was determined to proclaim the good news to everyone. His life of character and determination was for all of us to see and emulate. He stayed the course.
Jesus stayed the course because He was determined to do the following:
1. Be obedient to God.
John 14:30-31 ESV
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
John 15:10 ESV
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
John 6:38 ESV
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
For us, as we stay the course in the name of Jesus, we must live a life of obedience.
2. He lived here according to His purpose.
His purpose was declared to the people as to who He was. He was the Messiah that John the Baptist gave preparation for, and He started His earthly ministry with confirmation to John as to who He was.
Matthew 3:13-17 ESV
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Not long after that, Jesus was put to the test, and it was not that He would fail, but He was showing all of us that Satan could not defeat Him—and that Satan can’t defeat us, either, if we merely focus on God’s Word to overcome temptation.
Matthew 4:1-11 ESV
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
We need to see His scuffle with Satan because Jesus knew that we would regularly scuffle with Satan. Because Jesus was able to resist, he enables us with the strength, through the power of the Spirit, to also resist temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
It is an important aspect of staying the course.
Jesus was in ministry to draw all men and women to Himself, and to declare that it was Him and Him alone that would assure a person of eternal life if one just believed in Him.
John 14:1-7 ESV
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Jesus stayed the course and remained true to Himself. He is faithful.
2 Timothy 2:13 ESV
…if we are faithless, he remains faithful—-for he cannot deny himself.
3. Jesus remained prayerful.
Luke 11:1-4 ESV
1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
Jesus prayed often. He sets the example for us, and gives us instruction as to how to form your prayers. As we move through like and stay the course, prayer is a very important element within our progress.
Jesus also gave us examples of prayer that He shares with us in His Word as He experienced uncertainty.
Luke 22:44 ESV
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Mark 14:32-42 ESV
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Why would Jesus show us this excerpt of His life to reflect upon His struggle with the moment of His betrayal and His death on the cross? I believe that He wants us to see that there will be times when we will literally be on our knees if not outright prostrate before God as we seek Him for answers to very difficult situations in life. He is praying to God for strength that will enable Him to stay the course and complete His purpose here on earth.
He also showed us how to pray in a selfless manner before God to give Him the glory and honor. You can see here that Jesus was indeed strengthened by God’s presence before He went to the cross.
John 17:1-10 ESV
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
Do you see His attitude here? We can learn from this as we pursue completion in prayer for God’s strength and ability.
He was strengthened by God’s presence to stay the course.
4. He declared “It is finished.”
When Jesus said these words, He truly meant that He had stayed the course and accomplished what He had set out to do. It was a fulfillment of prophecy that He would die and shed His blood on the cross for us. The Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, which means “paid in full.” Our sin debt to the Father was forever rendered as paid in full because He removed sin for those who love Him. 3
Luke 23:46 NIV
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
This all followed great suffering and abuse that He had to endure, and His death on the cross was very painful—yet He knew that victory over sin, for all of mankind, was a done deal!
When you recognize that you have successfully stayed the course, you experience a sense of relief—a total, emotional release. A tremendous sense of accomplishment. I’m sure that my son felt that way when he finished his last class on the last day of the school year. All of his hard work and effort got him across the finish line.
So what are the areas that we are to focus on that help us to stay the course?
- Evaluate your situation.
- Navigate the course. To navigate is a nautical term, so you need to be able to steer your way through waters that can be, at times, unpredictable.
- Do what you have to do.
- Understand your present position and react.
- Reassess as you move along.
- End with a bang!
To stay the course is to ENDURE through a series of life situations and circumstances for the purpose of receiving God’s strength and blessing and, just as Jesus had prayed, to glorify God.
Isaiah 43:1-2 ESV
1 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Stay the course. Endure. May the Lord be with you.
© 2020 Melvin Gaines
1 stay the course. (n.d.) The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. (2003, 1997). Retrieved August 24 2020 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/stay+the+course
2 stay the course. (n.d.) Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. (2015). Retrieved August 24 2020 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/stay+the+course
3 Jenkins, D. (2020). Article – Meaning and Significance of John 19:30 – “It Is Finished”. Christianity.com. Retrieved August 26, 2020 from https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/meaning-and-significance-of-john-1930-it-is-finished.html