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.
- Sechnall, on Patrick, Audite Omnes Amantes, Irish, 5th century
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- Matthew 5.16
We think of Patrick primarily as an evangelist, wandering up and down 5th-century Ireland, preaching the Gospel to peasants and princes alike, and gathering a harvest of “many thousands”, as he tells us in his Confession.
Certainly, Patrick did a great deal of preaching and evangelizing. But Patrick brought the Good News to the pagan Irish as much by his life as by his words. In fact, without the witness of his life, it’s doubtful Patrick would have had much success as a preacher.
Just as we may expect that, without credible lives to back it up, our witness for Christ will not be very convincing (Acts 1.8).
When we examine Patrick’s ministry, as he reports it in his Confession, we discover that it was as much a witness of works as of words. What Sechnall referred to as Patrick’s “bright deeds” included teaching literacy, purchasing freedom for slaves, caring for widows and orphans, teaching and discipling untold numbers of Ireland’s sons and daughters, ordaining men to the ministry, and sheltering women who devoted themselves to the service of God. These were bright deeds because they brought the light of truth, healing, and salvation into areas of great darkness, transforming people and their circumstances, culture, and times (1 Jn. 2.8).
While Patrick could be stern – witness his Letter Against the Soldiers of Coroticus– he was typically gentle, selfless, humble, diligent, and always mindful of his own “rusticity”, as he referred to his lack of formal education.
Patrick’s witness for Christ was so powerful because it combined the clarity of Gospel preaching with the charity of everyday Kingdom living: luminous words with bright deeds. If we try for one without the other, we will compromise our witness, misrepresent our King, and fail in our Kingdom calling. Working our Personal Mission Field requires a balance of each – bright works and luminous words.
We are to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8), not just “go witnessing”. And we are to proclaim the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, not just ensconce ourselves safely within it against the threats of a dark and foreboding age.
And we are being witnesses for Christ when, in all the daily activities the Lord sends us to perform, and with all the people He puts in our lives, we do our work and speak our words as unto Him – without complaining, with diligence and excellence, and with a view to serving others (Col. 3.23, 24; 4.6).
As witnesses to Christ, we must be ready, whenever the opportunity arises, to explain the hope we have in Him (1 Pet. 3.15).
But, like Patrick, and following the counsel of our Lord Himself, we must lead with bright deeds, everyday works of duty and service, selflessly and faithfully performed before that great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12.1) and our contemporaries, who may begin to see in our attitude and demeanor something to provoke them to wonder about the hope they see in us.
And then perhaps some of them will turn to the Lord and glorify Him with us, as the Irish and generations of Europeans for three-and-a-half centuries after Patrick did, because of the bright deeds he and those who followed him embodied in their lives and ministries.
What opportunities for bright deeds and luminous words await you today? Go to the Lord in prayer, and wait on His Spirit with that question in mind. Stay there until He makes it clear how you should shine His light into the lives of others. Prepare for your bright deeds opportunities now, in meditation and prayer, and you’ll be more likely to make wise use of the time when you’re in it (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17; Eph. 5.15-17).
Questions for Reflection
1. If we plan for bright deeds and luminous words, and commit those plans to the Lord, we’ll be more likely to follow through when the opportunity arises in our Personal Mission Field. Why is this so?
2. Christians are to consider how to stimulate one another to bright deeds (Heb. 10.24). Which believers will you encourage today?
Psalm 90.12-15 (Landas: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
Lord, teach us all our days to note that wisdom may be ours.
Return, O Lord, have pity on those servants who are Yours.
Each morning let Your love appear that we for joy may sing,
And make us glad for every day You us affliction bring.
Lord, I commit my day to You, for bright deeds and illuminating words, as I…
The light is in the small stuff
The light of Christ’s glory and love can shine through in even the most ordinary, everyday activities of our lives (1 Cor. 10.31). Our ReVision study, “Small Stuff,” can help you to take every thought and action of your life captive for Christ and His Kingdom. You can download the three installments in this series by clicking here.
And may I encourage you to seek the Lord about becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe? It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Dr., Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore, Principal
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
Carey, p. 152.