Pastor’s Note: Supplementary Oxygen

We need supplementary oxygen

Mountaineers are well-known for their determination, amazing courage and fiercely independent spirits.  Reinhold Messner, arguably the GOAT fits the bill perfectly (check his personal Instagram account).  He was the first, along with Peter Habeler, to summit Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen on May 8, 1978.

Most climbers, however, need supplementary oxygen to make it to the top.  Romans 8 feels just like that.  To make it through the epic and sometime steep climb of walking with the Lord, we all need the supplementary oxygen of the Holy Spirit (spirit is also “wind” in Hebrew. In Greek, we get the “pneumo” word-group).  After coming out of the seemingly hopeless situation of the struggle of the human will against sin in chapter 7, there is now no condemnation anymore.  Christ has vanquished the struggle against sin in the flesh (the human body) in His perfect and sinless life on earth (Romans 8:1-2).  So by faith in Him, the Holy Spirit “dwells” in us (Romans 8:11), alongside the flesh of this “body of death” (Romans 7:20; Romans 7:24). The reality is there is a deep tug of war between the “flesh” and the “Spirit” within us.  Until the “redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23), we are stuck in this “suffering” (Romans 8:18, same word translated as “passions” in Romans 7:5).  This is the bad news part.

You’ll never walk alone

Of course by now we know the good news is just around the corner in Romans.  The Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness”  (Romans 8:26).  We “groan,” (Romans 8:23),  the creation “groans” (Romans 8:22, same word in Exodus 2:23-25 in the Greek Old Testament) until the End, when the glory of God will be revealed.  But as we groan, and painfully so (Psalm 6:6), God the Holy Spirit also groans interceding before God the Father (twice in Romans 8:27-28 and once by God the Son in Romans 8:34).  The message is clear:  God always hears the cries of His children.  He has compassion for us in our weakness and our struggles against the flesh and sin.  Just as FC Liverpool fans hold their signs at the end of every home game at Anfield, “You’ll never walk alone” God comes alongside us in our times of desperation.  He upholds us, appealing our case before our Judge and Redeemer!  What a powerful image that sets up the wonderful declaration later on Romans 8: “if God is for us, who can be against us????”

Time for honesty

So this week we take an honest look at our own weakness. We take an inventory of our own life. And if we can’t seem to find any weakness, we take time to ask around. Folks with the gift of discernment will be more than happy to point out some area (s) of weakness.  This sort of brutal honesty is the first step toward receiving that supplementary oxygen. The second step is to actually accept the weakness, just as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, his “thorn in the flesh.”  So now we see these areas of weaknesses in our lives in a different light. We don’t need to fear them but we see them as instruments that God uses to magnify the sufficiency of His grace in our lives.  These weaknesses remind us that “my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Such outlook toward these long-term struggles allows us to stay dependent on the Holy Spirit and His power to take us all the way to the top.