March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s really an odd holiday because very few people understand that man whose name the day is supposed to commemorate. In fact, the day is, for many, a celebration more than a commemoration.
Ask the average person on the street what St. Patrick did, and they will likely tell you that he chased the snakes out of Ireland. While it is true that there were no snakes in Ireland after Patrick was there, there weren’t any when he got there either. So that’s a myth.
Patrick lived in the late fourth century A.D. The passage of 1,700 years has made information about Patrick scarce. But there is enough available to provide us with valuable insights that we can apply to our own lives.
He Focused on Christ Alone
“St. Patrick’s Breastplate” is a poetic prayer of a type that soldiers of his day would have written on their shields. While their inscriptions were pagan, Patrick wrote,
“Christ beside me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me King of my heart;
Christ within me, Christ below me,
Christ above me never to part.
Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me shield in strife;
Christ in my sleeping, Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising light of my life.
Christ beside me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me King of my heart;
Christ within me, Christ below me,
Christ above me never to part.”
In this regard, our Founder, KP Yohannan, continually counsels’ believers everywhere to draw into an intimate relationship with Christ in which we not only experience His love but also are moved to share it with others.
He Was Just a Man
Believe it or not, the Patrick of St. Patrick’s Day has never been canonized. He was a saint in the strictest Biblical context by which all believers are called saints. James said that Elijah was just a man, but he was able to do great things through effectual, fervent prayer.
D.L. Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” Patrick may have come close to showing us. Not to mention that Moody himself must have also.
God used this man, Patrick, to establish 300 local churches in Ireland and lead 135,000 people into a personal relationship with Christ.
His Faith Grew Through Suffering
Scripture tells us that God has a plan for us to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Doesn’t that sound marvelous? It is. But we may not like the process because we become like Him when we share in His sufferings.
Although the records indicate that his parents were followers of Christ, it was not until Patrick became a victim of what is today called human trafficking that he committed himself to Christ. When he was 16 years old, Patrick was abducted by pirates and put on a slave ship headed for Ireland. He was sold to a pagan chieftain for whom he tended flocks. It was during his six years suffering in bondage that he began to embrace Christ and grow in faith. In his own words from his “The Confession,”
“I was then about sixteen years of age. I knew not the true God; and I went into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of persons, according to our deserts, because we departed away from God, and kept not His commandments, and were not obedient to our priests, who used to admonish us for our salvation.
Now, after I came to Ireland, tending flocks was my daily occupation; and constantly I use to pray in the daytime. Love of God and the fear of Him increased more and more, and faith grew, and the spirit was moved, so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night nearly as many, so that I use to stay even in the woods and on the mountain to this end. And before daybreak, I used to be roused to prayer, in snow, in frost, in rain. And I felt no hurt, nor was there any sluggishness in me- as I now see because the spirit was then fervent within me.”
He Embraced the Way of the Cross
Jesus told his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
After escaping from six years of slavery, Patrick was glad to be home with family and friends. Life was good again. He was ordained into the ministry. He would never have to go back to pagan Ireland again. Until God called him to do exactly that.
Was it not for his unwavering commitment to follow Christ, we might be telling a story of a later-day Jonah? Jonah eventually preached to pagan Nineveh, albeit, shall we say, reluctantly.
Patrick had been transformed by his relationship with Christ. He believed through the eyes of faith and saw himself, as Isaiah did – a sinful man saved by a thrice-holy God. (See Isaiah 6) Only when we see the Lord “high and lifted up” in all his holiness, will we gladly set aside our personal desires and willingly take up our cross daily and follow Christ wherever He leads.
When the Lord told him to go back to the place where he had suffered the most, Patrick did not hesitate. He returned to a land where people worshipped gods of the earth, the sky, and the water. He returned with the message of the one true God and the Gospel of saving grace.
He was not always welcome, but he would not be stopped. The message was far more important than the messenger.
He Pointed People to Christ
Our calling is to “go and tell.” We are to go and tell (Matthew 28:18-20) and we are to demonstrate the love of Christ so clearly that others can see it in how we live. (I Thessalonians 1:3)
Our task is simple. It is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and to love others. When we do that, they will see Christ in us.
Patrick is reputed to have used the common shamrock to explain God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – three Persons, but in One being. His message was not complicated. His concern was not a theological debate. It was explaining the love of Christ to those who had never heard the Gospel message.
That is our message as well.
If we can learn anything from Patrick, it is not that God uses great men. It is that He most effectively uses men and women who have an intimate relationship with Him. He uses those who are humbled by their recognition that we serve a Holy God who is righteous and just who has extended His love to we who are not. (Romans 5:8)
Father, help us to see St. Patrick’s Day to understand how you were able to use Patrick once he yielded his life completely to you. Help us to see every day as one in which, recognizing your great love for us, we demonstrate our love for you by denying ourselves and taking up our cross to follow wherever you lead. Thank you for your great love and thank you for using it to transform our sinful lives into ones of service to you.
- Christianity Today, The Real St. Patrick
- Ligonier Ministries, Who Was St. Patrick and Should Christians Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
- Got Questions, Who was Saint Patrick and why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
- CBN, Who Was the Real St. Patrick?
- CBN, Patricius – The True Story of St. Patrick
- By bobosh_t AKA “Father Ted” on Flickr, Christ the Savior Church [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons