Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Patrick's Day. Don't Miss It!

Today is St. Patrick's Day. I've always liked it. It officially marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. As a kid, I loved that it was two days before my birthday (so I was already excited). It's also one of those fun little holidays with it's own little quirks (like, wear green or get pinched) and legends! But if we're not careful, we'll miss the great message about the real St. Patrick.

In short, the guy was a sincere and passionate Christian who allowed God to turn the tragic events of his teen years into an outpouring of the Gospel in a virtually unreached part of the world.

I've blogged about him before. There are other great articles about him. To state it briefly, here are just five quick lessons from his life:

1. God uses evils and hardship in our lives for his glory and our good. It happened with Joseph in the Bible. It happened with me. It happens with you. Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved in a hostile foreign country during what should have been the happiest years of his life. He was mistreated and he suffered. He finally escaped and found his way home. That much alone is a testimony of God's grace! But the story wasn't over. He refused to be a victim.

2. Courage is a great gift. There are so many ways Patrick was courageous. Besides enduring slavery and escaping home, he took the initiative to train for ministry. He sensed God calling him BACK to that wretched, pagan island of Ireland—and he WENT. He faced impossible odds, dangers, and death frequently, yet was never ashamed of the gospel.

3. Creativity is a powerful tool. Patrick may not have been a scholar, but he was creative in accomplishing the Great Commission. From using the simple, ubiquitous shamrock to make the Trinity understandable, to shifting tactics and going after the Irish chiefs in order to reach the masses, he was a strategic mastermind.

4. Persistence pays off. Patrick was no quitter. He just kept sharing, baptizing, and planting churches. Truth is, he proclaimed Christ in Ireland for about 30 years, saw over 100,000 conversions, and planted over 200 churches. Thousands of leaders were trained and sent into ministry. Many institutions he founded still exist today, almost 16 centuries later!

5. Social justice and the gospel are great partners. For understandable reasons, Patrick hated the institution of slavery. He fought against it and found success. But by no means did this fight deter him from communicating the good news—it propelled him in it. The two were symbiotic in making him such an influence whose legendary status is renown. It saddens me today that many champions of social justice have compromised the gospel, and many gospel-centered churches have ignored the poor and abused. Did not Jesus come to set captives free (both spiritually and temporally)? Of course the spiritual must take precedent. The truth is the gospel IS THE ANSWER to the problems that most plague mankind.

So don't buy the made up lore of ridding Ireland of snakes, green beer, and leprechauns. Know the real Patrick and ask God to make you more like him. Then you will be remembered for the right reasons and find great joy.

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