St Patrick holds the dubious honour of being one of the most well recognised but least well known saints. Having a day named after him lends his name to being well recognised by many but few know his real story even among Christians.
Only recently have I got to know who St Patrick was and the truth is much more amazing than any of the fables or myths that abound about him.
Different troubles, same sovereign God
It is unlikely that any of us will be kidnapped and forced into slavery like Patrick was (although that sort of thing sadly does still happen today!). While we will face suffering and hardship, we can take heart that not only is God in control but that he cares for us and is fully able to bring good from a bad situation.
Patrick grew up in a strong Christian family but it was only after he was kidnapped and forced into slavery that he remembered all he’d been taught and cried out to God for salvation.
God answered him and comforted him during his years of captivity, then told him in a dream to escape and that a boat was waiting for him. Patrick’s captivity actually brought him freedom as he trusted in the saving work of God and was freed from his life of sin and death. Likewise, God can turn our situations around and bring good from a bad situation.
Loving those who hate you
I find it difficult to love those who are unkind towards me and I can’t even imagine wanting to die for people who hated me but that’s exactly what Jesus did when he died on the cross so that we – his enemies – could be forgiven and reconciled to God who made us and loves us!
Patrick, having been called by God in a dream, decides to go back to the very people who had enslaved him and abused him for years so that he could bring the wonderful news of the gospel to them. As a wonderful video by Lutheran Satire says, “He went to preach the God that had saved him to those that had enslaved him.”
Though it is unlikely that we will have to face as much persecution as Patrick did, it can still be very difficult to want to share God’s love with those who are our enemies or whom we do not like but since Jesus died as much for them as for us then we need to try and follow his example and share the wonderful news of God’s freeing salvation.
Listening to God above all others
Patrick’s road back to Ireland was not an easy one, not only did he have to brave the fearsome practices that went on in Ireland, such as human sacrifice but he was also opposed by the Roman Catholic Church – the ultimate authority back then.
Yet he did not allow this to deter him from spreading the gospel among the fierce Irish people. God had called him to Ireland and to Ireland he would go!
While it is important to listen to wise counsel and consider carefully how we can best serve God, we must have God as our ultimate authority and not let other’s opinions of us deter us from sharing God’s wonderful gospel news with those in need.
Our family or friends may think we are silly for putting such an importance and priority on living for God and telling others about him but in the end it is the most important thing!
Serving sacrificially and giving God the glory
Wonderfully, when Patrick preached the gospel in Ireland, it took root and flourished with many people becoming believers and the landscape of Ireland changing from being covered in idols to having churches popping up all over the land.
Yet even with his gospel mission bearing all this wonderful fruit within his lifetime, he was very humble about his role and entreated everyone to give credit not to him but to God. He did not seek fame nor money but just faithfully preached the gospel and through God’s grace built the church in Ireland.
It is a hard thing to be humble when God uses you to do great things. It is easy to forget that we are clay and he is the potter but we should take encouragement and inspiration from the way Patrick worked tirelessly and gave all the glory to God because he had his eyes set on what matters above all else – seeking God’s Kingdom.
It is a great privilege that God uses us to help bring about his purposes for this world and spread his wonderful news to people, just like us, who need to come to the wonderful saving knowledge of the gospel!
Different centuries, same God
What can we have in common with a 5th century Christian missionary to Ireland? As it turns out, quite a lot! We have both been created by the same God, received the same gospel, and been charged with the same mission to spread the wonderful news of it to those who need it!
How great it is that God is the same throughout every generation and uses us to continue spreading his amazing message of salvation and reconciliation around the world to this day!
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.