HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!
St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays of the year! Not only is it the day after my wife’s birthday each year (which is pretty awesome), and not only are Irish accents and leprechaun’s cool (which they are -even though leprechauns are not actually real, of course), but St. Patrick’s Day provides a great opportunity for us to reflect on our lives and consider what we would be willing to surrender for the sake of advancing the Gospel!
When I think about St. Patrick’s Day, I can’t help but think about the words of Jesus from Mark 16:15.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”Mark 16:15, ESV
While many people will don their green apparel (so as not to be pinched), and many who are of legal age will be sure to drink at least one green beer (which is really just regular beer with green food coloring), followers of Christ have a very different reason to celebrate the life and ministry of St. Patrick.
Did you know that St. Patrick was not actually Irish? The historical Patrick (which was not his given name) was born to a privileged, wealthy Roman family in Britain. He was neither a follower of Christ, nor a compassionate child. He was really quite selfish, spoiled, and rebellious. As a teenager he was kidnapped and sold into slavery across the sea in Ireland.
He was treated harshly as a slave, but what men intended for evil God used for good! While tending his master’s sheep, Patrick heard what he could only explain as the voice of God. Alone and enslaved in a pagan land, Patrick miraculously became a follower of Christ!
After six years of brutal slavery, at the risk of his life, Patrick managed to escape his slavery in Ireland on a pirate ship heading for Britain. Once back in Britain, his parents expected him to return to his previous life of luxury and privilege, but he could not! He was a changed man!
The gospel changes everything!
Patrick knew that the call of Christ was to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
And where do you think he went? Back to Ireland, of course! What an amazing testimony of God’s goodness and grace. Patrick followed the call of Christ to the land where he was beaten and enslaved and nearly died -just so that he could share with them the incredible, matchless love of Christ!
And what of those who believed in this message? Those who heard Patrick preach and publicly put their faith in Christ were often abused, enslaved themselves, or even murdered for their faith.
Through all of this difficulty, Patrick persevered and advanced the gospel.
Certainly Patrick was admired by the religious leaders of his day, right? No! He was hated by many of the leaders of the church, most of whom were jealous of his accomplishments or did not particularly care for him as a person. Patrick was not exactly a “Team Player”, but he was a passionate, unstoppable force for good in the mighty hands of God. His all-consuming goal was to reach the Irish with the gospel. They were like sheep without a shepherd, and he had too much compassion on them to let anything stop him from going back.
Recent data shows that 84.6% of Ireland currently professes to be “Christian”.
Wow! Think about that! As a direct result of Patrick’s unshakable faith, and unwavering determination to advance the gospel and make disciples—even if it cost him his life—the nation of Ireland today is nearly 85% Christian.
Can you see why I love St. Patrick’s Day?! For me, it provides an opportunity to reflect and hope, as well as an opportunity to ask what I would be willing to endure or surrender so that others may know Christ.
Patrick died on March 17 in the year 461. He was not recognized by the church as a “Saint” for more than 100 years after his death, and he was really only recognized as the Patron Saint of Ireland because of his popularity among the people who traced their conversion back to the impact of Patrick’s life and ministry.
Perhaps the significance of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day each year on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, is that God wants to continue his work through us. Patrick died. His life on earth is over. But the Spirit of the living God, the Spirit that empowered Patrick, and the Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave, is alive and well!
For those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, not only do we have the same Spirit living in us, but we have also received the same call as Patrick. “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
May St. Patrick’s Day provide the reminder that Jesus is worth giving our lives for, and that true, abundant life can only be found in Him.