Patrick's Confession (9)
And after three days we reached land. We travelled for twenty-eight days through a wilderness. They ran out of food, and hunger weakened them, and the next day the captain addressed me: "What's this, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful. Then why can't you pray for us? For we are in great danger of hunger. In fact, it's doubtful if we will see another human being." I said to them confidently: "Trust in the Lord my God and turn to Him with all your hearts - since nothing is impossible for Him - that He may send you today more than sufficient food for your journey - for He has an abundance everywhere."
And with God's help, so it came about. There - right before our eyes - a herd of pigs appeared. They killed many of them, and they spent two nights in that place eating their fill of pork and recovering their strength: for many of them had dropped out and had been left half-dead along the way. After this, they gave their greatest thanks to God, and I gained prestige in their eyes. From that point onward they had abundant food. They even found some wild honey and offered me part of it, one of them saying: "It is a sacrifice." Thank God, I tasted none of it.
Translation: Liam DePaor, St. Patrick's World
We begin to get a glimpse of Patrick and his witness. Apparently, the runaway was something of a chatterbox about his faith. He was hoping, as we've seen, that "some of them would come to faith in Jesus Christ", and he knew that, if this was to happen, it would have to be through his witness. It does little good for us to pray for lost friends or family members if we're not also willing to speak a word of witness to them.
Patrick's witness could not have been very sophisticated, nor even very well grounded in Scripture. It seems he was able to recall some of what he had been taught as a child ("nothing is impossible for Him") and that, together with his experience of the Lord, must have comprised the substance of his witness.
Patrick understood that God is "great and all-powerful." He had experienced the down-side of divine sovereignty, and now he was riding a wave of its up-side. He had also learned through six years of slavery that God is able to meet the needs of His children, sometimes in surprising ways. Thus, challenged to produce on his witness, Patrick turned the challenge back to his traveling companions. They must trust in the Lord and "turn to Him" with all their hearts. We can imagine Patrick leading this desperate band in a prayer of deliverance, many of the men weeping for hunger as they hoped beyond hope that Patrick's God would provide. Patrick's first endeavor as a pastor/evangelist was about to bear surprising fruit.
It's not clear where this action took place. Apparently the ship "reached land" in a somewhat desolate place. Was it driven there by a storm? Did the navigator miscalculate? We don't know. But twenty-eight days of wandering ensued (indicating they did not know where they were?), and the food they had on board was consumed. Doubtless their prayers were those of desperate men who were quickly losing all hope; the reference to not seeing another human suggests they expected to die.
Then God sent a herd of pigs right into their midst. Patrick had promised that God "has an abundance everywhere", and the sudden appearance of these pigs must have persuaded at least some of the men, for after eating, and, it seems, retrieving some of the stragglers from their group, "they gave the greatest thanks to God". Further, Patrick reports that he "gained prestige in their eyes." While he was not seeking prestige, it's only natural that pagan sailors, experiencing such a miracle, should attribute it to Patrick as much as to his God. But Patrick was careful to keep the focus on the Lord, as when he turned down honey they had offered in sacrifice to their gods. Patrick's life and words provided a consistent and convincing witness to this band of lost mariners.
We can only imagine how this situation must have impacted Patrick. Was he surprised to see God's deliverance? Did this situation deepen his trust in the Lord, or heighten his fear of Him? Did it sow the seeds of some future calling from the Lord? Undoubtedly, all the above. The details of this situation remained in Patrick's mind, so that he could recall them clearly, even as an old man. God used this situation to firm up Patrick's faith, shape his witness, and further prepare him for the great work that lay ahead.
T. M. Moore