A dog is an interesting creature. I was recently at a friend's home for a cook out. While there, I spent some well needed relaxing time playing with their incredibly intelligent, inquisitive, and active golden retriever who is named Jake. Without a doubt, he is the most intelligent dog I have ever known. Jake exudes a kind of thoughtfulness in his every action, his look, and especially in that when a person talks to him he gives his head a little cock to the side as though he really is trying to understand what you are saying! Jake loves to play catch and he is really good at it. Jake will chase down a ball of any size which is thrown for him. From soccer balls to tennis balls, Jake makes mid-air acrobatic catches, in-the-bushes pounces, and death defying half flips in pursuit of his prize. On this particular day, I had thrown a tennis ball several times for Jake and decided to see how this very intelligent dog could handle a little "curve ball" thrown his way. So I went through an exaggerated wind up and then I very flamboyantly slung my arm as though to give Jake the ball chase of his life!
Only one catch; I did not release the ball. Jake scrambled under yard things, hopped over rocks, and searched with a rare sort of intensity for his prize. I took pity on him quickly as I realized that he was sure to continue this way fruitlessly perhaps for as long as his lungs supplied him with the breath necessary for his hunt. You know, as smart as Jake is, I don't think he ever realized that I had not thrown that ball. While he really believed that we were playing a game of fetch, we were not playing at all. We were merely going through the motions.
We go through the motions of faith as we count our church attendance as sufficient spiritual activity to "check the religion box" on our list of do's and don'ts. We go through the motions of evangelism by donating a few bucks for the latest cause, though our calling involves loving others to Christ personally. The Christian life which is lived devoid of personal challenge, real inner change, and the transformation of the soul that they bring, is a Christian life lived going through the motions. Rather than swimming in the crashing waves of the life altering and overwhelming grace of God, we wade in backyard kiddy pools, barely able to make ourselves completely damp.
The Bible tells us that it is appointed into a man (or woman) once to die. No one reading this article will live in this world forever. We are sojourners on this life; pilgrims who are passing through on our way to eternity. Why then are we so easily consumed and distracted with the temporary matters of this life? Why do we spend so much energy on the things of this life when those very things are perishing and passing away right before our eyes? We should make a difference in this world but while we are citizens of a kingdom of this world for a few years, we are and will be citizens of the kingdom of God eternally! Jake the dog would likely have searched for that ball until he did not have breath left in his lungs to search. He had his head down, focused on finding the ball that did not exist. Though he was convinced that he was playing a real game, he was just going through the motions.
Today, may you be encouraged to get in the eternal game of reflecting the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ to whomever you come across on your pilgrimage through this life. Be concerned with this world but be consumed with the eternal matters of the life to come! "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2 KJV) Amen.
Chris Surber is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Peru, Illinois. A graduate of Liberty Theological Seminary, he is known for his compassion for people and his passion in the pulpit.
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