Why St. Patrick’s Day fires me up.
They used to serve green “shamrock shakes” at McDonalds on Broadway. That was about the best thing about St. Patrick’s…
They used to serve green “shamrock shakes” at McDonalds on Broadway.
That was about the best thing about St. Patrick’s Day as far as I was concerned. I don’t love parades, and Lucky Charms were never my thing. I don’t really like wearing green. It looks fine on Kermit and I do love it on my front lawn (which is why the brown mud hole I’m looking at is kind of depressing).
But I love St. Patrick’s Day now. And I’m not even Irish. Neither was St. Patrick, by the way. (And the Catholic Church never made him a “Saint” either).
Here’s why St. Patrick’s Day fires me up.
Because there was a real guy named Patrick who lived in the mid-400s AD. And I love his story because he was just a humble person God used in a huge way.
When Patrick was sixteen years old his little village in Britain was horribly attacked by nasty marauding invaders from Ireland. These barbaric terrorists destroyed everything, racing through the town with swords and torches, people dying, women screaming. Patrick was violently captured and shipped back to Ireland where he was forced into slavery.
For years he worked in the barren wilderness of Ireland herding pigs.
Ireland was overrun with radical paganism, filled with druids and dark worship. It was lonely and frightening for Patrick, difficult and demanding – and in that crucible of captivity and intense loneliness in such a hostile place, it drove Patrick to the Lord. He grew in his prayer life with Christ and became strong in his faith.
Isn’t it amazing how often God uses the difficult times of our lives to draw us closer to him? God shows up in the hard stuff and uses it for his glory. So often it is when we’re in the crucible of fire that we ourselves catch fire for God.
As a 22-year-old young man, God told Patrick in a dream to return to Britain. So he left! He escaped Ireland, walking some 200 miles to catch a boat back home.
He wasn’t there long when God spoke to him again, and broke his heart for the Irish people. At that moment he knew his life’s calling was to return to Ireland – to leave his homeland, this time willingly – to go back to the very people who had treated him so cruelly.
When God gets hold of us, he can replace our bitterness with a burden. The people we can’t stand sometimes become the very ones we are called to love. As Bob Goff says, “Love everybody all the time. And start with the people who creep you out.”
So off he goes, and spends the next 40 years in Ireland, leading one tribe after another out of the darkness of their hopeless paganism to the light and love of Jesus Christ.
There is so much more to the story I’ll save for another time.
But here’s something important you need to know:
Patrick saying YES to God’s call to go to Ireland wasn’t just a nice thing for him to do. It changed the world.
As a result of his persistent, consistent and strategic ministry, nearly the whole of Ireland was converted to Christianity. What he didn’t realize was that while he was busy in isolated Ireland, Christianity on the rest of the planet was being stamped out. After many years, it was the Christians in Ireland who turned around and sent missionaries to Europe and so many other parts of the world, which then led to the spread of Christian faith all over the world, until today God’s church numbers in the billions.
Many historians believe it is not an exaggeration to say that if it were not for the Celtic Christians in Ireland preserving the faith and sending those missionaries, the flame of Christian faith on planet earth would have been snuffed out.
And it all traces back to one man who heard from God and did what God asked.
Instead of just looking for green milkshakes, let God use Patrick’s story to shape your story:
- Never underestimate the difference one person plus God can make. You are that one person.
- If you’re in a bad place, suffering a lot, look for God. He wants to use that mess, speak to you in it, and give you a calling out of it.
- When you’re in the wilderness and lonely, listen for God’s voice.
- Don’t be surprised when God turns your bitterness into a burden to love the very person or people you can’t stand. Go with it.
- Say YES to God’s call. It can change the world.
- It will certainly change you.
I wonder what God is asking you to do?