‘When you die you will stand before God and he will ask you two questions. It’s the same two questions for us all’ said Roger Simpson last Sunday evening as he spoke at The Belfrey’s evening congregations. Roger went on: ‘He’s graciously given us these questions in advance, so we are ready.’

‘First, he will ask you what you did with his son, Jesus Christ.’

‘Second, he will ask you what you did with what he gave you. How you lived your life. How you used the gifts, talents, resources and opportunities he gave you. How will you reply?’

There was a particular hush as he spoke these words and I sensed people taking stock of their lives, considering their response right now to these two questions.

Earlier in the evening Roger had reminded us that we only have one life. This is not the dress-rehearsal with the real thing coming along later. This is it. This is your opportunity to make a difference. To have an impact. It was a timely challenge to respond to God’s call and to get stuck in.

A few years ago I heard about a man who had a huge impact by living a very simple philosophy-of-life. He came to the conclusion that God had placed his light in him and so his role was to go to dark places and shine. That was it. Go and shine somewhere dark. And so that’s how he lived his life. He went to dark places. And he made an incredible difference in Jesus’ name.

For all the good things that we see in the North of England, there is much darkness. We need people who will share God’s love in word and action with those who are struggling, hurting and lost. St Barnabas Theological Centre (SBTC) has been launched as a fresh way of training men and women to serve in God’s church in the North. We hope it will play a significant part in seeing the spiritual and social transformation of our region that so many of us are working and praying for. The aim is not just to train people who want to work in ‘nice’ places – but also those who want to get their hands dirty and get stuck into some of the tough places in the North. In some of our inner cities and council estates. In some of our rural communities where church and community life is being profoundly re-shaped in these days. In places of deprivation. Where there is spiritual, moral, ethical, relational and sexual mess. Where it will be particularly hard work. We need great people in those places. For some, being trained and sent out from SBTC will be their response to God’s call. Is that you?

For those serving on the front-line there must of course be good training, ongoing support, accountability, provision and prayer. The infrastructure must be right. But in the end, the most important resource God is looking for, is people. That’s what Jesus said in Matthew 9:37-38 and what my recent blog It’s Harvest Time was all about. The North needs people. Good people. Great people. People God has called and envisioned. People who’ll give their lives to serve Christ and the people of the North. Serving in all sorts of ways in all sorts of situations. Shining in dark places.

I believe God will honour those who serve in this way. Some of that will be seen in this life as the Lord brings fruit from our labour and brings the deep satisfaction of knowing we’re doing the right thing in the right place at the right time. But some will only come in the next life – in heaven.

We don’t serve God to get into heaven. Our place in eternity is assured as we put our faith in what Christ has done for us in his cross and resurrection. Neither do we serve him in tough places just to win a good place in heaven. Nevertheless, the bible is clear that there are ‘rewards’ in heaven (see Matthew 6) and that he will honour those who serve sacrificially and give up their lives for his service (eg. Revelation 7:13ff, 11:16ff, 14:2ff).

I was reminded of this in a dream I had last night.

I was giving a talk to a study-group of peers on something I’d been reading. It was a very ordinary kind of seminar-type gathering. But as I went on I began to change tack and talk about the challenge of going to the hard, tough places and that God wanted people to be brave and bold and lay down their pre-conceived ideas of where they wanted to serve and allow Him to lead them to places of need. And the more I talked the more passionate I became and the more the message took hold of me. I began to weep as I spoke of the high place in heaven that God will give those who serve faithfully and give up their lives for his service. Will people go? Will we encourage them? The cost will be great – sometimes feeling like it’s almost too much for some – but seen in the light of eternity it will have been immensely worth it. 

That was the dream.  A dream with a message that I really believe. Not just because it came to me in a dream. But because the message is consistent with God’s word. And it’s a message that speaks to a massive need in the North right now.

I think this is a season where God is especially calling workers into his harvest field. Workers who will obediently go where he sends them. Even to the tough places.

Is that you?