Barriers: What’s Keeping You From God?

I’m a story lover. I love sitting around, talking to people, and sharing stories with other people. I’m a story swapper. Before I had my kids, I’d share stories about sports or school or memories. Nowadays, I’d say 90% of my stories are about my kids. Kids tend to consume their parent’s lives and thoughts. I don’t have very many stories to share that don’t involve my kids.

That being said, I’ve got a story about Carter that happened a few weeks ago. Fair warning, this is what you would call a #ParentingFail. I dropped the ball pretty hard the other week. So here it goes!

It was Saturday morning. I had just woken up around 7:15 and hobbled downstairs to start the day. I was up late doing homework for school and I hadn’t slept that well the night before, so I was struggling My kids had already been up since 6 or 6:30 that morning. (They haven’t learned the value of sleep yet.)

So, I’m coming down the stairs, making a bee-line to the coffee pot. And before I could reach the bottom of the stairs, my son is asking me to play the X-box with him. We have this basketball game that he likes to play and make his character run around the neighborhood to all the different shops. He doesn’t like the basketball part of the game yet. I told him that I needed coffee first and we all needed to eat breakfast. He agreed, told me how he was starving and asked if we could play after breakfast.

I said, “We’ll see.”

So, I get the coffee brewing, get the kids some breakfast, and start to discuss with my wife about what the plan was for that day. At this point, I’m still nursing my second cup of coffee, and my son, who shoveled the cereal in his mouth so fast because he can’t wait to play with me, asks to play again. I denied him, again, and continued drinking my coffee.

When I was done, we realized we had to do some laundry to put away and needed to clean up the house. For some reason, that took the rest of the morning and it was now time for lunch. My son, for the third time that day, asked if we could play the game after lunch. I told him after lunch, he and his siblings needed to do their “quiet playtime”

in their rooms for an hour.

The hour flies by. My wife and I get ready because we need to go run some errands. We get ready, get the kids ready, and out the door. While we’re at the store, my son cannot stop talking about playing the game with me. He’s still so excited.

When we decided to stop at a restaurant for dinner, my son asked one more time if we could still play when we get home. Knowing I’ve pushed it off all day, I tell him of course we can. Unfortunately, as we’re getting ready to leave, I get a text from my pastor. He reminded me that we planned on meeting that night to go over stuff for church… in 20 minutes. We had been so busy at the store and at dinner that I forgot about it.

My wife ran me over to the church quickly and dropped me off. I didn’t get home until 7:30 – 8 o’clock that night… just in time to help Caryn get the kids down to bed. My son asked if he could stay up late with me. But, I told him I couldn’t because I had to finish my homework.

As I’m getting ready to kiss him goodnight, he reminds me that we never got to play the game. I told him that we just got too busy to do that today, but we would absolutely play tomorrow.

My heart immediately sank.

As I sat at the table to start working on my homework, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I continually let my boy down… all day long. All he wanted to do was play a video game with me. It would have only been for 10-15 minutes. That’s it. He’s got a short attention span. But, I wasn’t able to find the time to do that with him.

It got me thinking, do I also do that with God? Am I so busy that I put off spending time with God because I don’t have the time?

Just like my son, is God constantly asking me to spend time together but I get too busy? How often do I blow him off by saying “I’ll pray later” or “I’ll read my Bible later” and before I know it, I’ve missed another opportunity to spend time with God?

I know I’m disappointing God. He told the Israelites in Exodus 20:5 that He is a jealous God. He didn’t want them worshiping other gods.

God wants our attention. He wants our time. The original plan for God’s creation was for him to be physically present with us on earth. Before Adam and Eve at the fruit they weren’t supposed to, they walked side by side with God. That’s what God wanted. That’s what God still wants! But when Adam and Eve took their focus and put it on something other than God, they created a barrier between them and God.

So, what’s your barrier? Maybe you have more than one thing keeping you from spending time with God.

Let’s read Matthew 19:16-22. This is the story of The Rich Man.

In Chapter 17, Jesus was coming from the transfiguration event and doing some healings. Jesus then spends time teaching to the disciples, large crowds, and even some Pharisees that were following Him. That’s where we get this guy asking the question:

16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

This man is asking eternal life and what he has to do to achieve it. What’s good is that he’s seeking answers to questions! He wants to spend the rest of eternity with God! The issue is, however, he assumed that there was something he could do to achieve this idea of eternal life.

We don’t know where this man’s wealth came from. Typically, money was passed along as an inheritance from his family. I would argue, based on the way he asked his question, that he probably earned his wealth by working hard. People who are given everything in life, typically aren’t going out and looking for “must do deeds” to get more. Hard work is not an easy way of getting something you want.

Jesus’ response to the man involves throwing it back to the scriptures and the commandments.

17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”

Keep the commandments. Keep the commandments. Did you know there were 613 commandments and laws in the Old Testament? So, when Jesus responds with “keep the commandments”, that probably would have sounded like a tall task.

YIKES!

18 “Which ones?” the man asked.

His response was, “Uh, Jesus… you know there are over 600 commandments. That’s a lot. Um, are there any specific ones that I can do?”

Jesus’ response is great. Jesus starts listing them off:

And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Then the man quickly interjects. I bet Jesus, had he not been interrupted, could have and would have gone through the entire list of commandments. The rich man says…

20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

Remember my idea about this guy from verse 16? He’s got this, “I’ve done all these things. There must be something else I can do. There’s has to be something else I’m missing!” mentality.

We all know that it is impossible for any man to fully and completely keep all of the commands and laws that are found in the Old Testament. The Israelites tried for many, many years, and always came up short. This is why God ultimately sent Jesus to Earth so that, we didn’t have to rely on our inability to obey the commands and law to be saved. Thankfully now, we have grace and salvation by faith in Jesus!

However, it’s this thinking that makes me love the first part of Jesus’ response to the question, “what else must I do?”

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect,

This man thought he was perfect. At least “good enough” to achieve eternal life. After all, he had “kept all of the laws and commandments” from the old testament. Yet, he still knew something was missing.

“If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Now Jesus gets real. Jesus points out a secondary barrier here with the rich man. The first one he was pointed out was the man’s pride and “keeping the commandments” as he claims. But the second barrier that Jesus points out is his possession. His stuff is what’s keeping him from spending time with God.

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

I want to give this man the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was a really good guy and he did stick to the commandments as good as humanly possible. Maybe he did the right things, helped out those around him, and treated everyone with love and respect. He probably never killed anyone or stole anything, not even a pack of gum as a kid from the gas station. He definitely ate all of his vegetables as a kid, never lied, and always did what his dad and mom asked him to do.

But, even if all that was true, he still had this stuff that kept him from the one thing he wanted. His pride and his material possessions are what was keeping him for spending eternity from God.

When I was younger, I used to criticize the people who Jesus encountered like this rich man. I thought, “What a dummy! Why wouldn’t you just listen to Jesus and your life would be so much better? Just do what Jesus told you to do, it’s not that hard.”

Am I the only one who has thought this about the characters in the Bible? Now, I realize how thinking that way couldn’t have been more wrong. We all have barriers. Stuff that keeps us from fully committing to God. My barriers are busy-ness and exhaustion. I bet these are probably pretty common barriers for all of us.

I like to be busy. I get bored easily and I have a hard time say no to people. What I’ve learned the last few weeks and months is that when I get so busy, I don’t have time for God because all my time is going to something else. Then when I do have a free moment, I’m so exhausted that I am too tired to read my Bible or I’ll be falling asleep while praying.

God is constantly asking us, over and over again, to spend time with us. He wants a relationship with each one of us. But, we are constantly setting other things that have a higher priority.

I can tell you right now, God has shown me that my priorities are busted. 

So, my question for you, what is your barrier? What is keeping you away from spending time with God?

Is it busy-ness? Are you too tired? Maybe it’s school or your job that keeps pulling your attention away from spending time with God. Perhaps it’s a friendship or relationship that is a barrier between you and God.

What is it? Pray right now and ask God to show you what your barriers are. Then ask Him to help you reorganize your priorities to spend more time with Him.

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