Daily Devotionals: (March 23rd) Patrick: A Missionary “Bound in the Spirit”

by Aaron Dunlop

Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History

Reading: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.” Acts 20:22

Although Patrick is known across the world as the great missionary to Ireland he accomplished this work under a cloud of personal feelings of inadequacy. He felt deeply the fact that he was “countrified” (sec. 12) and that he “had not studied like others” (Confession, sec. 9). He felt that he was “awkward,” “inarticulate,” and that he had a small vocabulary. He said, “I am unable to explain briefly what I mean” (Confession, sec. 10). While his “mind and spirit long and the inclination of [his] heart” was to preach the gospel (Confession, sec. 10), yet his flesh was unwilling and inadequate, lacking confidence.

Despite—or perhaps because of—feeling the limitations of the flesh much as Moses, Jeremiah, and many others did, Patrick was called by God, not by the “clerical intellectuals” (Confession, sec. 13). A number of times Patrick referred to this calling as the working of the Spirit in his heart. It was a calling he could not escape. He says he was “bound in the Spirit” (Confession, sec. 43), that “the Spirit kept prompting” him (sec. 46), and that he was “obliged by the Spirit” (sec. 10).

It was this compelling working of the Spirit of God within Patrick that thrust him into the work of God and kept him there, even during those times when he wanted to visit his family in Britain. He writes, “God knows that I longed to [visit my family], but I am bound by the Spirit who testifies to me that if I do so He will mark me out as guilty, and I am afraid of wasting the labour which I have begun” (Confession, sec. 43).

It was that same Spirit of God working powerfully in him that gave him strength to rise above the labour and abilities of “better qualified” men, to be bold in the face of significant opposition, and to continue his work. He says the Lord “strengthened me in all things, so as not to hinder me from setting out on the journey on which I had decided and also from my work which I had learned from Christ my Lord, but rather I felt within me considerable strength as a result, and my faith was proved before God and man” (Confession, sec. 30). It is the Spirit of God that is needed in the church today. Only He will give the church the spiritual decisiveness and definition it needs to press forward and stand for God in a pluralistic world.

“Take action when and where God leads the way, wait for no ones guidance.”—John G. Paton

All quotations from the Confession or Letter of Patrick are taken from the edition by A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

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