Growing Upwards

By Jo Phillips, Executive Assistant for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada

It is my pleasure to thank you for participating with The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, as we strive together to stand alongside our persecuted brothers and sisters and play our parts in the united body of Christ.

Perhaps, like me, you have come to think of the work we do together as more than just an ordinary Canadian charitable ministry. I am convinced (for many reasons) that it is very close to our Lord’s heart. I like to think of us as church helping church to do "church" in some of the most difficult places on earth.

In terms of "doing" church, the Apostle Paul writes repeatedly on the issue of straining for spiritual maturity. In which direction should we strain? How should we aim to grow? "...we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15 ESV).

When we all play our parts, and the body is working properly, the church is fully prepared and has all it needs "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13 ESV).

However, I believe that the Lord generally offers us seeds rather than full grown plants. (Though there are wonderful and amazing exceptions to this rule of thumb at times.) Cultivating these spiritual seeds usually involves daily hard grind, more patience than expected, a fair amount of dirt, and regular exposure to the elements!

These things apply just as much to you and me as they do to our Christian brothers and sisters in areas of the world where faith must be lived out under persecution. Furthermore, when we are living spiritually mature lives, we will be faithful in prayer, intercession, giving, loving, and so on, as the Lord leads. We will also be able to face persecution and suffering when it comes. Even at those times, we strive to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10 ESV).

Ronald Boyd-MacMillan of Open Doors writes the following in his book, Faith That Endures (pg. 250): "Clearly, the best and deepest way to combat persecution is to make mature disciples of Christ. This is the work of the church, and it is struggling in its most basic task! Our job then is to help with this perennial priority."

Many of the projects that The Voice of the Martyrs Canada manages and contributes toward tackle this very issue -- whether it be through the ministry’s provision of Bibles, discipleship tools, radio broadcasts, Christian literature for balloon launches, MP3 devices or training courses. We also believe that telling the stories of the persecuted to the church here in Canada blesses and equips us for spiritual growth.

Spiritual maturity is of vital importance to the general health and performance of the whole body of Christ, and even more so to those who must undergo testing and refinement that few of us encounter in the church here in Canada. I am recently motivated to address this perennial issue myself, and wonder whether those who read this might feel the Lord’s leading into a reassessment or review of the issue of spiritual maturity in their own lives. It would not be just for their own sakes, but for the benefit of the church as a whole in which we would all like to play a better part.

May you know the Lord’s grace and peace as you seek to minister such to the persecuted,

Tree with the sun breaking through the clouds