Spending and Spent

Patrick understood what matters in ministry.

The Celtic Revival: Patrick (12)

Perhaps you’re thinking that it just may be
I baptized all those thousands so that I
might fill my bulging purse and prosper by
this ministry? Well, not so much as half
a penny crossed my palms, just ask my staff.        
Or when the Lord through ordinary me
ordained those many thousand men to be
His priests and deacons, which I did for free –
if any one of them accuses me
of taking even what it costs to buy
a single shoe, then let him speak, and I
will give it back to him.              

                                     In fact, I spent
on your behalf, no matter where I went
throughout my ministry, that I might be
received. I crossed this land from sea to sea,
to every tribe and all the outermost
domains, where nothing is, that I might boast
about the Lord, to places none had gone
before to baptize or ordain, where none
among the people was confirmed. So by
the grace of God alone I say that I
achieved all these results, both gladly and
with full integrity, that you might stand
today within His saving grace.

- Patrick, Confession (5th century)[1]

He keeps Christ’s blessed commandments in all things,
his bright deeds shine forth among men;
and they follow his holy miraculous example,
so that they too magnify God the Father in heaven.

- Sechnaill, on Patrick, Audite Omnes Amantes, (5th century)[2] 

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. 2 Corinthians 12.15

From today’s excerpt it’s clear that Patrick wrote his Confession for his Irish co-laborers and constituents. This makes his writing all the more important as an insight to his work because, while he might have been able to exaggerate the truth to far-off clergy in Britain, writing to those who knew him, and who had observed his ministry all those years, he would have to be honest and accurate.

Patrick frequently had to pay local magistrates or kings for the privilege of being able to come among their people and preach the Gospel. He never asked anyone for money, and he refused all gifts above and beyond what he required for the work to which God had called him. Patrick reckoned that God had called him to Ireland, and God would meet his needs. And God did, by moving the people Patrick served to share with him gladly and often.

Patrick did not concern himself with money, but with ministry. See how he breezes past the mention of having ordained “thousands” of men to the ministry of the Word. How many people have to hear the Gospel, for enough to come to Christ in sufficient numbers so that thousands of them can be prepared for ministry? The numbers of people who benefited from Patrick’s investment are staggering, but he hardly mentions this. His concern is that the people be reminded of the integrity and diligence with which he carried out his calling, and Sechnaill reinforced this point in his hymn celebrating Patrick and his work.

Patrick seemed to understand that the generation that would follow him in ministry would not be able to expect anything like the number of converts, disciples, and ordinands Patrick had known. After all, there were only so many people in Ireland!

He focused instead on the work, and on the selflessness, generosity, diligence, and faithfulness that must go into working a mission field. Whether our Personal Mission Field is large, and abounding with unbelievers, or small, and populated mainly with Christians, we must be willing to spend and be spent by the Lord to further His Kingdom and glory through our daily work.

When it comes to your work in your Personal Mission Field, don’t think in terms of integers and finances, but of integrity and faithfulness. Spend and be spent, like Patrick and Paul, and God will take care of everything else.

Psalm 126.4-6 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
Restore our fortunes, Lord our King! Let grace like flowing streams prevail.
All they with tears of joy shall sing who sow while yet they weep and wail.

They who in tears of sorrow sow and cast their seed on every hand,
With joy shall reach their heav’nly home, and bring the harvest of their land.

Grant me grace today, Lord, to work my Personal Mission Field like Patrick, being careful to…

The Legacy of Patrick

Patrick made a lasting impact on Ireland and Europe, igniting a revival that lasted for nearly four centuries. He has left for us a legacy of priorities which we can appropriate for our own walk with and work for the Lord. Order your copy of The Legacy of Patrick from our online store (click here).

Like Patrick, we depend on the Lord to support our ministry, which He does through friends who pray for us and share their gifts with us, as the Lord leads. As you pray today, ask the Lord whether He might use you to support this work. You can do so by clicking the Contribute buttonat our website, or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Thank you.

T. M. Moore

All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1]Verse translation excerpts of Patrick’s Confession from T. M. Moore, Celtic Flame (forthcoming).

[2]Carey, p. 152.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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