Once again, it is my pleasure to have invited my Executive Assistant, Jo (Joanne) Phillips, to share some inspired thoughts with you. I am always amazed at the way the Lord brings gifted people together to share their gifts with each other. I know you'll be blessed by Jo's comments, as expressed through her heart and passion for the "persecuted."
~ Doug J. McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

The Bible is full of teachings on suffering and persecution. This fact has become more and more illuminated in my heart in recent times which have led to my work for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada. It is as if the Lord has been taking a highlighter pen to my Bible as I read, emphasizing these teachings on persecution that have always been there in the many passages familiar to me. But I have somehow failed to notice their full significance as a living reality in my life and the world around me. I am so grateful that the "words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times" (Psalm 12:6  ESV). I can rely on them to sustain and strengthen me, as well as my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

I remember hearing a story about a silver refiner! An onlooker watched him refining one day and was curious about why he would heat and reheat the silver many times. After every firing in the furnace, he would inspect the melted element before deciding whether to repeat the process again. When asked what he was looking for, he explained that he searched for the sight of his own face to be reflected clearly, without imperfection, in the melted silver. Anything less defined meant the silver was not yet refined to purity and, therefore, more firing was required to burn off the dross! The powerful imagery of this account has never left me, and is now a great comfort when seeking the Lord on behalf of my brothers and sisters around the world who suffer so.

This process of refining through suffering is mentioned in several of the books of the prophets. Zechariah depicts God proclaiming how He will deal with His people: "I will bring (them) into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon My name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are My people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God'" (Zechariah 13:9).

I am not saying that those whom we serve in our ministry suffer for their sin, as depicted in Zechariah, but rather as Jesus has taught us: "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). What I am saying is that their suffering is not in vain, but instead seen by our Sovereign Lord who has promised great reward to those who endure it (Matthew 5:12).

God desires to see Himself reflected in His people. He longs to dwell with them, and has gone to great lengths to make that dwelling eternal and intimate. He loves us and wants to be with us. All who choose to follow Christ have access to this intimate fellowship with Him, whether we follow Him in times and nations of peace, or whether that fellowship is in suffering with and for Him. He will transform us until we are like Him and face-to-face with Him.

May each of us know Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly, day by day.

Jo Phillips
Executive Assistant
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada