If you're a Christian, you've probably heard these words and try to avoid being labeled as them. You may only associate these words with stubbornness, apathy, or falseness. In fact, no one really sees these words positively. Its always connected to a negative connotation. The phrase "Going through the motions." But what if I told you that it's biblical to do?
You see what I just typed. Going through the motions has biblical backings. Before you label me a heretic and get out the torches and ropes, let me clarify my point. Going through the motions (which I will now refer to GTM, because for some reason it annoys me to type) is not good when you're doing it to get that feeling or experience, then live your life as it always, unaffected by anything that happened. Using religion as a drug is not what I am recommending. However, how many times have you felt called to something by God, but can't really feel his presence, or it seems like he isn't even there? It's frustrating, and sometimes we will go in search of a religious high to get through it or to confirm our calling is true. That's GTM wrong. Rather, GTM should be used to get you to the place you have to be.
Take the Wise Men. Everyone loves the wise men. A group of guys from the Far East journeying to worship the new born saviour with riches beyond his parents imagination. I especially like them because my dad would make up funny lyrics to "We Three Kings" when I was little. Hey, at least I have a reason. But as I was reading in my Bible one day, I discovered something many people seem to read over:
"...And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went
ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they
saw the star, they were filled with joy!" Matt 2:9-10, NLT
Did you catch it? Matthew says that when the kings saw the star in Bethlehem, they rejoiced. This seemed odd to me. If they had seen it the entire time they were traveling, why would seeing it in Bethlehem be that much more special? Would it not be that they would be filled with joy when they saw the house? Yet it says star.
The conclusion I reached was that there was a time in their journey when they didn't see the star. Obviously during the day, but I would guess at night as well (I would imagine they would travel by night and sleep during the day to follow the star, because that's kinda when stars are visible). What would the wise men thought? "Well, stars gone. I guess we'll go back home." Many of us would say that, but these men had committed to following this star because (I'm sure) they knew it was from God. During this time, though, it would appear like God had left them.
So what did they do? From history, we can say that they continued to Bethlehem, but how hard would it have been to continue their path? How long did they not see the star? They seemed perty darn happy that they star in Bethlehem (which I have never heard described as a magnificent city). So what kept them going?
GTM. They knew that God had given them a star to follow. Many historians (or just random people I hear) believe they were some sort of astronomers rather than kings, so that would help with tracking the star when it could not be seen. But until they saw that star again, they simply had to go through the motions. They weren't looking for spiritual highs. They didn't need a quick fix. They did what God had told them to do, even though he appeared vacant.
Many of us can feel abandoned and switch to look for the spiritual fix. I'll read my Bible every day. I'll raise my hands in worship. I'll lead a Bible study. All of these things are great if you do them regularly. Picking them up when times are tough and dropping them when they get better is meaningless and, frankly, what has caused the negative connotations of GTM. But if we press through the hard times with the skills God has given us to a goal God has called us to, we will get there. All we have to do is have patience and go through the motions.