New Years Resolutions...Where Will You Pitch Your Tent?

"And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east." Genesis 12:8

As we begin the new year we often take some time to reflect on the previous year. We look back at what we accomplished, succeeded in, and we look back on what we would've done differently. We also look ahead and make resolutions about the long list of things that we would like to accomplish this year. We learn from the previous year and seek to grow in wisdom, discernment and self-control. Some of us resolve to eat less...some to spend less...while others resolve to exercise more and read their Bible more. Whatever the case is...we often fall short of these goals because we are missing the main element in success...discipline! Discipline is training to act in accordance with rules. An activity, exercise or regimen that develops or improves a skill. If we look at our spiritual life in this context we see that it does indeed take diligence and training to grow in our walk with the Lord. Much like an athlete looks at  physical training to improve at their sport, we are to look at our spiritual life in the same way. We are to get up and focus on that very task that we are desiring to accomplish. As a gymnast, I never went into a competition unprepared. I trained diligently for one win! As believers, we don't want to take 4th place... we want to take 1st Jesus our best as we live to serve Him and please Him with our lives. But, this requires commitment and discipline. I have noticed in my own life that the more disciplined I am in my spiritual life...the more balanced I become in all other areas of my life, and yes...that does include dieting and exercise. I agree wholeheartedly with Paul when he said in 1 Timothy 4:8;" Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and to come."(NLT) Discipline is training and training takes time, effort and energy. "Discipline, said Elizabeth Elliott, is the believers answer to God's call." Discipline and obedience go hand in hand. Discipline shapes our lives as believers, while obedience refers to a specific action.  Obedience is the first step in becoming disciplined. The Lord knows how we tend to lack discipline and obedience and was so kind to put the story of Abraham in the Bible for us.

When Abraham received the word from God to go out from his country, from his family and from his fathers a land that He would show Abraham...he obeyed. But, he only partially obeyed. Genesis 12:4 says: "So Abram departed as the LORD has spoken to him...Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh....then the LORD appeared to Abram and said:"To your descendants I will give you this land" And there he built an alter to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east."

God had given Abraham a promise and was fully intending upon fulfilling it, but Abraham stopped short. You see...we're told that he pitched his tent between Bethel, meaning "communion with God" and Ai, a symbol for the world.  He was still serving God and sacrificing to Him, but he only partially obeyed. Why not pitch your tent at far away from Ai as possible? Why even go half way there? Why even give the enemy an inch? Lest we be too hard on Abraham...let's take a look at ourselves. As believers we have the tendency to do this same thing. We love the Lord and serve Him...but often times we pitch our tent too close to the world, therefore allowing ourselves to be influenced and taken back to the very place we were delivered from. And that's exactly what happened to Abraham, he was living between communion with God and the world and when a crisis struck he went back to the world..."Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, : Indeed I know that you are a women of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen that when the Egyptians see you, that they will say 'This is his wife' and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you."  Here we see the results of pitching our tent too close to the world. When push comes to shove and there is a disaster, an illness, or a crisis in our lives and we are not in communion with God, we will lean on our own understanding...we will get in the flesh...and we will try to fix things on our own. I wonder if Abraham was living in Bethel, if God wouldn't have sent manna or ravens or water just for Abraham and his family. When we are in complete obedience to God we receive the blessing of God. Partial obedience leads to a we see with Abraham, who convinced his wife to lie and say that she was his sister and not his wife.

When we chose to live in partial obedience to God we will always suffer consequences, and often times we will hurt others in the process. To apply this very practically to our own lives at this time of year when we are all making new goals or resolutions about we resolve to pitch our tent in Bethel and ditch all the other resolutions? I have discovered that when I am resolved to get up and commune with God first thing each day that all the other things get accomplished AND with a good attitude. As we chose to obey God and commune with Him, He guides us, He provides for us, and He gives us His power to overcome the enemy each day. As we chose to live in Bethel we experience the blessings of communion with God and grow in the fruit of the Spirit. We become more loving, more patient, more joyful, more kind, we experience more peace, more goodness, we become more faithful, more gentle and yes...more self controlled! The only way we can fulfill any resolution is to first pitch our tent in Bethel...then we will have our priorities straight and will be able to eat less, exercise more, accomplish more and grow in our walk with Jesus more! Choose Bethel and experience the blessings!