St. Patrick's Day Encouragement for Ministers

If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though they may despise me
St. Patrick

Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." 
Luke 5:5

St. Patrick's day is an interesting phenomena.  It began as a sincere way to honor a medieval Christian Priest who helped to introduce Christianity to Ireland.  It was slowly reframed to be a opportunity to celebrate Irish nationalism and the influence of Irish heirs all over the world.  It is now devoid of its Christian roots and nearly desolate of its nationalistic impulses (unless you count making everything green and wearing shamrocks as expressions of Irish nationalism).

This is not an isolated process where something meant to increase our devotion to God is transformed into a self-centered celebration. This is the process of secularization that saw our primary life-motivation move from the promotion of God (natural law for many deists), to nation/regions, to promotion of self. Even our faith expressions are often self-centered instead of God-centered.

I wonder, how St. Patrick would feel about his name being associated with such drunkenness and irresponsibility.  After all, his ministry emphasis was exclusive devotion to God.

St. Patrick lived in the 4th century and was initially a slave in Ireland (He was from Britain, not Ireland).  It was upon his escape back home that he answered a call of God to preach the good news in Ireland.  Once he was there, he faced many hardships but persevered to have an amazingly fruitful.  Its that aspect of his life and ministry that I want to honor in this blog entry.

There are so many people in ministry who are tired, aggravated, and frustrated with the persistent adversity that they have faced or the lack of apparent fruitfulness.  If you are one of them, I hope that the idea that St. Patrick labored in obscurity for years in a time without media, rapid communication, marketing techniques, but was used of God in a powerful way empowers you.

Jesus had the following interaction with a tired and frustrated Siimon Peter, who would later be the leader of the Church:

He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." 

Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." 

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 
Luke 5:4-7

A couple of observations for the tired and frustrated:

1. Ministry is orchestrated through a connection with Jesus: Jesus would end up saying that "apart from me, you can do nothing"(John 15:5).  We often think its our own strategies, skills, innovation, and natural gifts that ensure our success.  That's why so many "successful" ministers have no problem in taking credit for their fruitfulness.  The ability to catch fish in the text above had nothing to do with Simon's fishing ability, acumen, or fishing techniques, but simply his obedience to Jesus.

2. Authentic communication with Jesus is the key to ministry in real time: So many times I have heard ministers say "Jesus told me" or "The Holy Spirit spoke" when in actuality it was their own desires (often sincere) for ministry.  Ministers of the gospel need to be deeply immersed in Scripture, prayer, and submitted in accountable Godly relationships in order to accurately "hear from God".  God delights in communicating with his ministers (Amos 3:7).  He told the prophet Jeremiah: "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."(Jeremiah 33:3)

2. Sometimes, you do not feel like persisting, but the blessing is in the obedience:  Simon said "but because you said so".  Sometimes, ministry does not feel intuitive or even encouraging, but we need to respond with our own "because you said so" and depend on the Holy Spirit for the results.  Almost everyone who God has used greatly has felt like quitting.

I pray on this St. Patrick day that you will be encouraged and that you will refocus on ministry by doing what St. Patrick did, focusing on Christ.

I pray, with St. Patrick.

May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
- Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

God bless you all!

Pastor M Traylor