I’ve spent a few days blogging about a phrase that gets some bad press. As I thought about what it means to ‘go through the motions’ I had to admit it isn’t always a negative thing. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments that have been generated both here and on Facebook on the topic. Thanks so much for the input!

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So, being a fair-minded person I must present a few thoughts from the other side:

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1) Going through the motions can be negative when the motion is an end in itself. The Message version of  Psalm 51:16 is spot on in its explanation: Going through the motions doesn’t please you; a flawless performance is nothing to you.

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In other words, when we just do spiritual things to check a box, or just because it’s what we’re supposed to do, it’s meaningless. This is one of the main criticisms about formalized religion, especially among young people. When there is no true meaning in the acts of ‘worship’ we are simply going through the motions.

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2)Going through the motions can be bad when you are going in circles. Think about the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. There was no growth, but there was lots of grumbling and complaining. There was lots of going through the motions, over and over again for 40 years! No thank you! (My husband noted that the only time he could think of going in circles to be a good thing in Scripture was in Jericho. Good point!)

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3) Going through the motions can be bad if you don’t know where you are going. Commentary: As stated earlier, sometimes the understanding follows the movement, but the danger is when we get stuck in purposeless motion. Abraham was moving a lot, but  his movement was purposeful. He was looking for a city who’s builder and maker was God (Hebrews 11:10).

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So, here’s the bottom line: At the beginning of this New Year I have been challenged to not be content to simply go through the motions in my Christian walk. I recognize that sometimes it is important to move even when my feelings don’t cooperate.  I recognize the danger of being stuck in purposeless motion. In 2011 I do not want to focus on past things at the expense of the new things to which God is calling me! Join me?

via www.beautifullwell.com

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©Brenda Pace, 2011
One more way going through the motions can be a good thing:

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Going through the motions can be good if you are headed in the right direction.

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The phrase “going through the motions” implies there is no enthusiasm in what you are doing. I remember some classes I had to take while going to school. I didn’t have much enthusiasm for some required course work, but it was part of the process of getting a degree. I was headed in the right direction.
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What about times when you didn’t feel like going to church for one reason or another, but your kids were being taught the Word of God in their classes? You were going through the motions, but you were heading your family in the right direction.
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Think about it: are you going through the motions, but at least you’re headed in the right direction? Exhortation for today: keep going!
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©Brenda Pace, 2011

So, here’s another positive thing about going through the motions:

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Going through the motions can be good because at least you are moving!

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Think about Elijah after his great victory at Mt. Carmal. He goes and he sits down under a tree and he wants to die.  (You can read this most interesting account in 1 Kings 19.) An angel came and told him to get up and eat. Elijah was sent to a mountain where he received further instructions that included going to anoint a king. (Please forgive this very abbreviated and paraphrased version of a most amazing encounter!)  The point is: God got him up and moving.
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Sometimes people don’t want to move when they become depressed or feel hopeless. The Lord’s remedy for Elijah was to start moving: get up and eat…walk to the mountain…go anoint a king. We don’t get any indication that Elijah was any more excited about doing any of these things than he was when he was under the tree, but God’s instructions got him moving.
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Elijah functioned anyway! There are times in my life when I have had to ‘function anyway.’ You know those times when you have to function whether you feel like it or not? The alternative is to stay under the tree and die. Folks, that is NOT a good alternative! Sometimes going through the motions means for a season I function anyway. The good news? Elijah had much more ministry ahead–and so do you and I!

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©Brenda Pace, 2011