I got a surprise call from BBC TV recently asking if I had a sense of adventure. Could I think on my feet and cope without home comforts? Did I like a challenge? Was I willing to appear on their programme 'Bare Necessities'? Two teams compete against each other to see who can survive in a remote location somewhere in the world for a week with only the bare essentials provided. Was I willing to join a team of three vicars competing against three bookmakers? Naturally. With God on our side it would be no contest. Could I participate at short notice? With a fantastic curate in charge back home, of course. Go anywhere in the world? For an audience of 2 million, when do we start? Did I have any phobias? Real men don't have phobias - at least we don't admit them to strangers. Would I be prepared to eat anything? Yes with my eyes closed. Could I work in a team made up of strangers? Try me - I had just attended a leadership summit in America - now it was payback time. The last question - Did I have one wish? 'To see heaven on earth' I heard myself say. The interview lasted half an hour. The delightful young programme co-ordinator assured me she would come back to me in a few days. My wife thought I was utterly mad. My daughters couldn't wait to see me off. I was thinking of the incredible opportunities. Christian Aid had nominated me because they wanted viewers to realise most people in the world have to survive on bare necessities every day and thought I could help get that message across. I put the phone down and began to prepare myself.
Physically I had three weeks to get fit. The first thing I did was block into my diary a two hour gym session every day for the next three weeks. I had three weeks to learn how to survive in the wild. I got out my un-read SAS Survival Guide and began to learn about which plants and animal parts you can and cannot eat. How to trap game. How to collect water. How to make a shelter from branches and leaves. How to start a fire. I remembered we had an army officer in the church family. I would call him about their endurance training. I also began to prepare myself psychologically. What it would be like to join a small team of strangers thrown together with a common task? I needed to quickly discover their strengths and weaknesses and compliment them. I began to listen to tapes on team building, determined that we were going to work well as a team. It didn't matter if we won or not as long as by the end of the week we still cared for each other and worked as a team.
Finally I began to prepare myself spiritually. What did God want me to achieve through the programme? How could I show that being a Christian makes a difference in a godless cynical world? Mentally, physically and spiritually I began to imagine myself already there. Getting ready to go - to go anywhere. Then the BBC phoned back. They were really sorry but they couldn't use me after all because apparently I regularly visit the mystery location chosen for the programme and they felt I would have had an unfair advantage... So I won't be putting my SAS survival training to the test after all or get to appear before 2 million viewers. But I did learn one thing. Had they asked me to go that night I would not have been ready. Mentally, physically, or spiritually. Three weeks training might just have been just enough to get back to basics and learn how to survive in the wild. With hindsight the deeper question I began to ask myself was this - was I ready to appear, not just before 2 million viewers on TV, but before the Lord Jesus when he returns?
Mathematicians tell us we are just a few weeks away from the true end of the Millennium. Wouldn't it be ironic if we had not only missed Jesus' birthday party by twelve months, but that he came back when we were not expecting. The future looks as uncertain now as it did a year ago. There are plenty of things in the news to keep us awake at night. But the Bible assures us the world is not out of control. Life is not meaningless. Jesus is coming back. He will return to judge the world, destroy all that is evil and create a new heaven and a new earth for those who believe in him.
The good news is we don't have to wait to find out. Read some of the other articles on this page or click here: How can I know God personally?