Spiritual warfare is not waged on an expansive battlefield. Because all possible forms of temptation fall into one or more of the eight patterns, there are a surprisingly limited number of spiritual battlegrounds.
Each pattern can assume many forms, which can make them difficult to successfully identify. Fortunately, the Scriptural remedies for the diverse forms within each pattern are remarkably similar. For example, lust can appear in many different guises, but is defeated in essentially the same way every time. This means that every form of lust is vulnerable to a relatively small number of spiritual countermeasures. Implement these basic suggestions and, regardless of the type of lust, victory is more attainable.
While some remedies are particularly effective against specific patterns, certain activities are useful against every pattern. These universal remedies can be easily remembered by using the acronym ASPIRE: Abstain, Study, Pray, Intercede, Reflect, Examine.
There is some overlap among the ASPIRE remedies, which can help you implement multiple remedies at the same time. To determine which one to use first, identify your strengths and weaknesses in these six areas. Supplement your weaknesses with your strengths. For example, if you struggle to pray, but have little difficulty studying, then study about prayer. Any one of these remedies can stimulate and enhance the others.*
|: Abstain ...||to be preserved|
- ... from those things every Christian should avoid. We have no business visiting places, using products, or participating in activities that are ungodly. Some things are "off limits" to every Christian.
- ... from those things you as an individual should avoid. Consider the weaknesses of yourself and those around you. Do not offend your Christian brothers. Do not put yourself in a situation greater than your ability to endure. Avoid places and things that increase the pressure to sin.
- ... voluntarily from something you need and/or enjoy. Fasting both requires and improves self-discipline and endurance. It works particularly well when joined to prayer, but is not an exercise for the weak of heart. For more information on fasting, read thesidebar in the article on gluttony.
"Better a fast with a pure heart than a feast celebrated in impurity of soul." – Evagrius Ponticus, Exhortations to Monks 44.
|: Study ...||to be equipped|
- ... through memorization. Planting God's Word in your heart is a defensive measure. When you are under fire, those seeds of wisdom will come to mind and offer strength, encouragement and comfort.
- ... by topic. See what God has to say about the issue that is tormenting you. It is not easy to "go digging" for truth through in-depth study, but it is immeasurably valuable. Keep a journal to help you remember what you learn.
- ... by survey. Few portions of Scripture are intended for reading in small pieces. Read large passages of Scripture in one sitting, such as an entire book or several consecutive chapters. This will help you gain perspective and grasp "the big picture" – skills that are effective in defeating the patterns.
"Wherever evil enters, there is also ignorance; the hearts of the holy will be filled with knowledge." – Evagrius Ponticus, Exhortations to Monks 24.
|: Pray ...||to be humbled|
- .. for your needs. Schedule your prayer time (when to start and when to stop). Be discreet and do not tolerate any distractions. Ask God for help, strength, wisdom, determination, comfort, purity, freedom, etc.
- ... in adoration of God. He is worthy of praise, worship and reverence. Avoid excessive eloquence and unfocused ramblings to increase your enjoyment and benefit of prayer time. Do not limit yourself solely to prayers of warfare ("Help me!"), but includeprayers of welfare ("Hello, God. How are you? Let me tell you about my day.").
- ... with a heart of thankfulness. God's faithfulness is worthy of our gratitude. Giving thanks reduces distractions to prayer and increases our awareness of His goodness. It also helps you to remember that He will continue to take care of you.
"Prayer is an activity befitting the dignity of the mind, or, indeed, the superior and pure activity and use of the mind." – Evagrius Ponticus, Prayer 84.
|: Intercede ...||to be blessed|
- ... for others through prayer. By taking your mind of your own trials and praying for someone else, you might discover that your situation is not as bad as it once looked. If you are focused on praying for others, then it will be harder for Satan to get your attention.
- ... for others through service. Prayer without service is hollow. Do not just pray for someone to be comforted, strengthened, etc. Permit God to use you to answer your own prayers of intercession, and do not neglect the single most importance act of intercession: evangelism.
- ... on your own behalf. Think of this as "inverse intercession." Allow others to intercede for you. Submit to spiritual authority. Seek godly counsel. Do not push away those who want to help you. Establish accountability relationships.
"Intercession is an entreaty brought to God by a superior being concerning the salvation of others." – Evagrius Ponticus, Reflections 30.
|: Reflect ...||to be grounded|
- ... on God's majesty. Stand in awe of who He is. Meditate on His goodness, love, holiness, justice, transcendence, etc. If you find yourself thinking about Him and being overwhelmed at the same time, then you are on the right track.
- ... on Christ's ministry. Humbly appreciate what He has accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. Without His sacrifice mankind is utterly without hope.
- ... on Scripture's message. After reading and studying it, meditate upon it. Do not selectively ignore portions you find difficult to understand or accept. If it is the Bible, then God said it, and He intends you to embrace it.
"One who hates the knowledge of God and rejects the contemplation of Him is like one who pierces his own heart with a lance." – Evagrius Ponticus, Exhortations to Monks 109.
|: Examine ...||to be changed|
- ... your past. Learn from your mistakes. Evaluate your behavior to determine where you erred and take steps to prevent the same type of failure from happening again. Do not wistfully reflect upon the pleasurableness of sin, but remind yourself of it's innate repugnance. Draw encouragement from prior spiritual victories. Look back at how He has used you in the past, and do not despair of being used again.
- ... your present. Do not forget you are a sinner who has offended a holy God (even redeemed sinners are still sinners). Do not ignore the wonderful opportunity you have to approach Him for forgiveness. Search your heart, confess your sinfulness, and repent of your ungodly actions and thoughts.
- ... your future. Are you being called to do something (or to stop doing something)? If so, then swiftly acknowledge Him and act accordingly. You must respond whenever the Holy Spirit moves and convicts you.
"For it is not possible to receive knowledge of more numerous things if one is neglectful of those already known, lest having committed many transgressions one be answerable for more sins. And a blessed thing it is to serve the knowledge of God, for it is truly perilous not to do what it prescribes, and it is blessed to do all that it teaches." – Evagrius Ponticus, Thoughts 26.
The effectiveness of ASPIRE can be limited to varying degrees by the following factors:
ASPIRE works because there is a family relationship with God. His promises are to His children. Through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, He empowers and enriches these experiences. Without Him, ASPIRE is simply a series of hollow gestures.
If you are not a born-again child of God, then you are in a very precarious position. To learn more about becoming a child of God, please visit http://www.twowaystolive.com.
Your success depends more upon God than yourself. He started something wonderful when He purchased your salvation, and He will continue to invest in your life as you permit Him to do so.
Look forward to something good. Anticipate success. If you believe that you are a lost cause, and that victory over temptation is unattainable, then you will fulfill your own prophecy of doom.
ASPIRE activities are not “one and done” acts. Reading three verses of Scripture or spending two minutes in prayer rarely accomplishes anything. When God tells us to pray, we are supposed to “pray without ceasing.” The same rings true when it comes to the other remedies: persistence is expected and rewarded.
Whenever you feel that you are not making significant progress, stick with it anyway. Spiritual growth is rarely a smooth, gradual ever-upward process. More often than not, great leaps of progress are preceded by long periods of apparent fruitlessness.
Nobody consistently does the right thing by accident. Victory is intentional. As you learn more about your spiritual condition, prayerfully and carefully determine a suitable course of action.
Address your greatest weakness first. Pound away at it until it is no longer your greatest weakness. The old cliché about a chain being as strong as its weakest link is also true of your spiritual defenses.
God did not design us to function apart from other believers. Within the body of Christ, we can find comfort, encouragement, strength, and so much more.
One important benefit of community is personal accountability, a helpful tool that complements all ASPIRE activities. For example, your accountability partners can help you keep your "withdrawal commitments” when fasting, or they can help you see things more accurately when you practice self-examination. And don't neglect the ultimate accountability partner: God Himself.
These things should never take the place of ASPIRE, but they can be helpful:
Enjoy good music.
Read good books.
Listen to good sermons.
Attend good concerts, seminars, workshops, and retreats.
Read good books.
Listen to good sermons.
Attend good concerts, seminars, workshops, and retreats.