A couple of Sundays back, my pastor’s sermon was incredibly helpful for the Christian’s fight against temptation. What he does when temptation comes his way is that he calls to mind this acronym: APTAT (which, unfortunately, my pastor lamented, doesn’t mean anything, but it’s useful nonetheless and easy to remember).
First, I’ll give you the acronym and what each letter stands for, and then I’ll narrate how the acronym works using an example.
A — I admit I can’t overcome this temptation on my own.
P — I pray for God’s help.
T — I trust a specific, tailor-made promise of God.
A — I act, not waiting around for feelings to catch up.
T — I thank him for his help when the coast has cleared.
Without a doubt, fear is one of those temptations that’s seemingly always at the door for me. Here’s how APTAT works in the face of fear. Let’s say the fear of a job interview, for example. First, I admit to God that I can neither calm my fears nor ensure this interview goes well without God’s direct intervention. I come to him in utter humility, desperately needing his grace. If the well of God’s grace is dry at this moment, I’m cooked, and I admit it to God openly.
Then, I pray specifically for God’s help. Many times we don’t have something, like help, because we simply don’t ask for it. Cry out to God. Tell him, “I can’t, great God. This fear is going to consume me. I’ll melt before I even reach the office. I’m going to freeze and make a fool of myself. My mind is going to go blank when they ask me what my greatest weakness is! Was it that I work too hard or that I’m too kind? And what if they don’t like me? What if they don’t choose me? Take this fear away! Please, God, I beg you.”
After that, I trust a specific promise from God’s word. At the beginning of 2009, God gave me a verse that has proven to be for me personally one of the most powerful verses I’ve ever known. Countless times since then God has spoken to my trembling heart directly through this verse. This verse is as close as I’ve ever come to hearing the audible voice of God. The verse is Isaiah 41:10. In my most fearful, panicky moments, time after time God has bent down and whispered these words in my ear: “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And he speaks it to me personally: “Fear not, little sheep. I, the Creator of every atom in your body, am with you and not against you. You don’t have to be dismayed. For the LORD, not your job or that interview committee, is your God. They don’t have any sway over you whatsoever. I do. I will strengthen you for this task. I will help you right now in this job interview and at every other moment of your life. I will hold you up so well that you will neither stumble nor fall, and I’ll do it with my righteous right hand.”
And when his voice becomes quiet, whether my emotions have gotten the message or not, I act. Even if I the fear hasn’t completely dispersed and been replaced by warm fuzzies, I stand up and take a step toward the office door. And I open my mouth. And I answer their questions. All the while trusting that God is with me in that room, hemming me in behind and before and laying his hand upon me.
Finally, when I get done and head back out to the car, I praise him for his faithfulness in being with me. Whatever happens as a result of the interview, God was with me in it. He sustained me through it. He helped me as I was jabbering on about all my “qualifications.” What was it I was afraid of, exactly? Thank you, Father!
May this simple tool, five little letters that don’t spell anything in particular, help you fight the fight of faith.
For more examples of how to use A.P.T.A.T. against other, specific temptations, or to read or view the rest of this sermon, click here.