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Respirators are machines that do the breathing for you. If you are in the hospital and there is a problem with your breathing, they put you on a respirator.
If that happens, but you insist on breathing on your own, the respirator does you no good. There’s only one thing you can do with the respirator – cooperate.
Now, you are involved because your lungs are going up and down. Your mouth and nose are taking in and expelling the oxygen. The two of you are working together, but the respirator is doing the work; you are just cooperating with it rather than resisting it.
Like that respirator, Christ wants to express His life through you. He does not want you to be your own respirator because then you will suffocate. Nor does He want to do it apart from you, so you must cooperate. You and I are called to yield ourselves to the person of Christ.
Unfortunately, we have too many Christians today hyperventilating in the spiritual life. Too many believers have been hooked up, and the respirator – Christ – would work just fine, but we fail to cooperate, to depend on Him to give us what we need. And we’re hyperventilating; we’re oxygen deficient; we’re gasping for air. You have to trust the supply because this spiritual respirator is sufficient.
And with Christ being our spiritual respirator, grace is our oxygen. Grace is God’s unmerited favor, giving us more and better than we deserve.
Grace is our oxygen, the Lord is our respirator, and we have to cooperate with Him and allow God’s grace to be expressed through our lives.
That could capture the message Paul shares in Second Corinthians 12 as he defends his ministry and speaks in the third person concerning his vision of being caught up by the Lord. He records this grand celestial experience, being caught up in paradise.
However, despite this glorious encounter, Paul also speaks of a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7). God carries Paul up to experience this grand, glorious glance of heaven, just to bring him back down and give him this thorn in the flesh.
Of course, Paul is not interested in the thorn, and we aren’t either. Thorns are those frustrations, things that remind us of our insufficient strength and limited capabilities.
We aren’t sure of the exact nature of the thorn, but we know that Paul was so disinterested in it that he asked, pleaded and begged the Lord three times for it to be removed. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”
Have you ever been there? When you’re asking God for that humbling experience to end or seeming hindrance to be removed. The reality is that sometimes thorns, although irritating and even enemy inspired, can keep us from ourselves, our self-ruin, that pride that comes before destruction.
That was the case for Paul. Also, for Paul, instead of removing the thorn, the Lord reassures Paul while allowing him to keep the thorn. The Lord doesn’t get us out of everything, but He gives us His sufficient grace to get us through anything.
The Lord tells Paul, and you and I today, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God’s power doesn’t show up in our lives to prop up our failing strength; God’s grace asks you and me to completely surrender to Him. Like that respirator, when we surrender our control to the Lord, God will do supernatural wonders in our life, breathing His grace into us and giving us the sufficient strength to keep going despite our thorns.
Christopher M. Todd is a Coosa County resident and the pastor of The New Home Missionary Baptist Church near Rockford.