Who was St. Patrick?

by By Daniel Ausbun, First Baptist Church, Moreland

Monday is St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s is a day many pinch those not wearing green — a day to drink green beer, look for shamrocks and search for leprechauns.

March 17, 461 is the day one of Christianity’s greatest missionaries passed away.

Patrick’s life is filled with legends. One is he chased all the snakes in Ireland into the sea — this is why Ireland doesn’t have snakes today. Another legend is Patrick used a shamrock to teach the Irish about the Trinity.

What’s the truth about Patrick? He evangelized Ireland – and experienced great success.

Patrick was born in 389 in what is now England to a wealthy family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather a pastor. He grew up in a Christian home and was captured by raiders and taken to Ireland when he was 16.

Patrick claimed as a youth he did not know the Lord.

In Ireland, he was sold as a slave. For six years he was a slave tending to sheep. Alone in the fields, he deepened his faith through prayer and solitude.

While enslaved in Ireland, he began to understand the Irish Celtic people. His understanding of Irish culture and language would lead him back as a missionary.

After six years of captivity, a voice spoke to Patrick in a dream saying, “You are going home. Look! Your ship is ready!” The voice directed him to flee for his freedom the next morning. He awakened before daybreak, walked to a seacoast, saw the ship and negotiated his way on board.

The ship took him to England and he trained to be a priest. He served many years as a priest in England.

At the age of 48 Patrick experienced another dream that would change his life again. An angel read him a letter. The letter was from his former captors in Ireland appealing him to come back.

When Patrick awakened the next morning, he interpreted the dream as his “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:9) to take the Gospel to the Celtic peoples of Ireland. Patrick shared his dream with church leaders, and they commissioned him as missionary to Ireland.

Ireland was considered a place of barbarians and raiders. There were about 200,000-500,000 people in Ireland who spoke the same language. Patrick was one of the few, if only, persons in England who knew the Irish language and culture.

Patrick served 28 years as a missionary to Ireland. He baptized tens of thousands of people and planted over 700 churches and ordained over 1,000 pastors.

He also helped halt the Irish slave trade. He was the first man to publically speak against it. He knew the horrors of slavery because he was a slave for six years.

As a missionary to Ireland, Patrick was once beaten and robbed of all he had. At his death, Ireland had became a Christian country and missionaries were being sent from Ireland to Scotland.

What do we learn from Patrick today?

First, Patrick truly loved the Irish people. He was willing to go back to a people who held him captive for six years. During his years of slavery, he was saved. Patrick practiced forgiveness.

Second, Patrick had a burden for the lostness of Ireland. He knew the Celtics weren’t Christians. It would take a missionary going over to this barbarian island to share the Gospel.

Third, Patrick followed the Lord’s leadership in his life. Both the Old and New Testaments record God speaking to people through dreams. If God is sending you to a “barbarian” land or “barbarian” people to share the Gospel with, you must go.

Today there are unchurched “New Barbarians” whom are vastly different than church folks. If Christians pay the price to understand them, we’ll know what to say and do — and hopefully like Patrick, see a great number of people follow Christ.

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