Tom Hanks is a pretty good actor. His five academy award nominations and two wins are a testament to that. One of those nominations was for his portrayal of Chuck Nolan – an expert on removing obstacles that get in the way of Fed-Ex delivering packages on time across the world.
Chuck is in a long-term relationship with Kelly but they never seem to be able to find the time to get married since Chuck is working all the time.
Even Christmas time is interrupted for Chuck and Kelly by an emergency call from work and Chuck must fly off to Malaysia. He never makes it. His plane crashes in the Pacific and he’s stranded on a deserted island for over four years.
All the obstacles in Chuck’s life to Chuck really living – work, getting to places on time, making sure everything else gets to where it needs to get to on time – are taken away from him when he is cast away on that island in the South Pacific.
Sometimes that is exactly what needs to happen. There are many obstacles in our lives. Ones I want to focus on today are the obstacles to our prayer life.
Take a look at Ezekiel 18. Listed are some obstacles that get in our way of talking to God.
Whatever those obstacles happen to be, many times we resort to blaming God. Chuck Nolan would almost certainly have cried out, “The ways of the Lord are not just!” It just isn’t fair when bad things happen to us! And those bad things can be huge obstacles to praying to God. For example: A husband dies. A wife is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. A son runs away. A daughter is critically injured in a car accident. You lose your longtime job. Your retirement fund is suddenly lost and you are left with nothing.
But the truth is that God is, in fact, just. It is our ways that are not just. This is true becauseinjustice is a result of sin. God is holy, without sin. Our sin is an obstacle to our praying to God. That this world is infected with sin is an obstacle to our praying to God.
We have to cast away our obstacles.
Start with Hebrew 12:1 which says, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” Give up sinning. A good thing to do. It will open up our prayer life and the ability to really live.
Also easy to say, not so easy to do. In fact, by ourselves impossible to do. “With man this is not possible. But with God all things are possible.”
Just like Chuck stuck on that deserted island. He couldn’t get off. He couldn’t get back to really living – signified as “ice in his glass and talking with his friend besides a warm fire” – until the wind was blowing in the correct direction and the gift of a sail was delivered to him.
We can only cast away our burdens, our sin, when God’s Spirit brings to us the faith and forgiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Look at how this is done in 1 Corinthians 15.
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
Jesus died to forgive your sins – those obstacles in your life that keep you from talking to God and receive from God His blessings that He so freely gives.
Here’s my summary of this – look at verse 31 in Ezekiel 18.
Cast away all your sins, all your transgressions. By the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament, receive the forgiveness of yours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, you are given a new heart and a new spirit. His Holy Spirit is the ultimate power to remove all those obstacles in your life.
And finally, share this with others. Pass it on to your own children.