Text: Exodus 4:10-12
We find ourselves again at our annual series: The Cloud. We started this series 4 years ago as an experiment. If you hate it and threatened to replace me, we would have shelved it and moved on. But you guys responded exactly how I hope you would (you loved it) and so we've continued doing it for one month out of the year, each year. At the end of October, we'll return back to the Gospel of John for the rest of the year.
For those who are newer to TJC, The Cloud series is an exploration of individuals from church history that are important for us to know about and learn from. They are a part of what Hebrews 12 talks about "the great cloud of witnesses." These are saints of old whose lives of faith, courage, and obedience inform us in our own walks. We have studied about people from all times in history, from different places around the world, from pastors to politicians, from common folks to missionaries. We've learned from the lives of people like Augustine, John Newton, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Perpetua, Elisabeth Elliot, Ambrose, Athanasius, to Abraham Kuyper.
Today we renew our series for the month of October and today we begin with the life of man named Maewyn Succat, who you may be more familiar with as Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland.
Every year on March 17th, people around the world make sure to wear something green to avoid being pinched. Cities like Chicago dye their river that runs through the city bright green to celebrate the day. People go out of their way to have a beer or 8 to celebrate the occasion. What is the occasion? Saint Patrick's Day! Even though most of the people partying, wearing green, or marveling at the green river don't know anything about the man the day is named after. Hopefully after today, you can inform them of the man and the life they are celebrating.
Patrick was born in Britain around AD 390 or early 400's, which had recently slipped out of the rule of the Roman Empire (as it was collapsing), but was still Romanized. So he is a Roman citizen. He was born in a noble family that had distinction and honor. His father Calpurnius was a deacon and local official. They were devout Christians. But we learn from Patrick's writing later in his book called Confession, that he didn't know God, not truly. He knew about Christian teachings, but was not interested in his family's faith.
But everything in the young man's life changed when he was 16 years old. He worked as shepherd in the fields, but was captured by pirates from a foreign land who sent him to work as a servant of a chieftain tending to pigs in the hills of Ireland. He would be there in that role, in captivity, for the next 6 years.
I want to take a moment for us to let that reality set in. Think about your life when you were 16 years old. He had aspirations and dreams about his life. He had a family. He had pleasures and hobbies he enjoyed. And then in an instant, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. Friends, life is like that sometimes. One moment it seems all is normal and well, and the next minute are lives are thrown into turmoil. We need to recognize that about our lives. Do you have a walk with God that has prepared you for that day? Are you relying on the Lord?
As Patrick is in captivity, he begins to call out to the God of his parents. He calls on the Triune God to save him and comfort him. He says, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours. The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more. And faith grew. And the spirit roused so that
in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and a night only slightly less."
One of the outcomes of our bitter providences and earthly sorrows is they draw us in dependence upon God. In our pain, we pray. After that period of 6 years, Patrick fled 200 miles to a ship sailing for Europe, returning to his family in England. Imagine that reunion. But as crazy as this may sound, after only 2 years back from slavery, Patrick was commissioned as missionary and evangelist and answered the call to the barbarian peoples who had no knowledge of Jesus Christ and went back to Ireland, the place he had been captured and enslaved. (History of Ireland: Rome fought the Gauls, also known as Galatians. They shared a common language, customs and culture but didn't share a land or name. They inhabited what we known now as England, Scotland and Ireland. These lands were considered the ends of the earth and places where barbarians lived - those outside the Romanization and Christianization of the world).
This presented a major challenge, not just as an outsider, but Patrick was uneducated. He was self-conscious about this. He wrote, "I still blush and fear more than anything to have my lack of learning brought out into the open. For I am unable to explain my mind to learned people."
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
God tells Moses that He is sending him to Egypt, before Pharoah, to set His people free. This is an overwhelming task. Moses is Jewish, he is a part of the captive people, but God is sending him to tell the captors to release them in the name of the LORD. Moses is terrified. He feels unworthy and unprepared.
In vs 10 he pleads that he's not eloquent enough. And the problem with lack of eloquence in his mind is that he wont be considered intelligent enough or persuasive. In other words, he'll be ineffective. He'll fail.
But God asks Moses a set of rhetorical questions in response (vs 11). Who made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, deaf, able to see, or blind? The answer is: the LORD. And the implication is spelled out in vs 12 for Moses: so go. God promises to direct his mouth and the words he says.
This is massively important. God is still the God who made our mouth. He is still the one over our words and the power of our words. When God sends us out (as Jesus does to us in the Great Commission to go make disciples and be his witnesses), He supplies the words and power. But we must overcome our resistance, fear, and insecurities and go. We must obey and act.
This text reminds us of an important truth: God doesn't choose powerful people to do His work; He works through ordinary people to do powerful things.
This is what makes the life of Saint Patrick such an inspiration to us. He lived in the face of danger and uncertainty of earthly comfort. He said, "Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere." Man, I love that. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere. In other words, the barbarians here may not claim the rule of Christ, but he rules, and I'm in his hands here. He can do with me as he pleases. I trust Him.
Patrick labored to preach the gospel to all the different tribes and clans of Ireland. He was arrested often and landed in jail, but continued to be freed, and he kept preaching the gospel. He established churches, schools, and monasteries for prayer and copying of the Scriptures. Even though Patrick was not formally trained, he thanked God who he says, "stirred up me, a fool, from the midst of those who are considered wise and learned in the practice of the law as well as persuasive in their speech and in every other way and ahead of these others, inspired me who is so despised by the world."
By the time of Patrick's death in AD 461 or AD 493 (depending on which scholarship you look at - roughly in his seventies) he had touched most of Ireland by his work and is considered the reason today that since his time Ireland has remained Christian. He is considered one of the first missionaries to take the gospel outside the boundaries of Roman civilization.
1. We must know the difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
Patrick went through the motions. But he didn't know God. He grew up with the right answers, but did not love the Savior. It is easy for people, especially here in Tennessee, to do the same. In our culture, people profess to be Christian without having much love or devotion to Christ.
There is a massive difference in having a belief in God, and knowing God. There is a vast difference in believing the facts of the Bible, and loving the God of the Bible. Friends, listen, Jesus is not simply to be believed in, he is to be cherished, adored, and sought. Patrick learned the difference when he found his life shaken to the core. It often takes events that rock us to wake us up from our sleep walk through life. Jesus wants you to know Him and seek Him, friends. For some of you, it is time to move from following Him from the fringes and to come up close and personal. (1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.)
Does your life reflect that you know Him? Are you spending time in prayer and in the Word? Are you seeking to draw nearer to God in your life, is that a priority?
Patrick spent focused time seeking fellowship with God. He was fervent in prayer. He prayed constantly. And he also loved Scripture making it a regular habit to read and apply it.
2. We should not miss how God uses trials to turn us to Him.
Patrick was not living for the Lord before his capture and enslavement. He knew the truth, but did not care about the truth. But everything changed when his life was turned upside down. God often does this in our lives. He will disrupt all comfort and complacency in order to turn our eyes to Him. We are stripped of ease and given pain. We are kept from comfort and given afflictions. And we waste those things if we do not let them lead us closer to God.
Henry Blackaby once wrote that God speaks to us in 4 primary ways: Through His Word, through prayer, through others, and through circumstances. When we do not read the Bible, pray, or get involved in fellowship with Christians through the church, we only leave one way of hearing from God in our lives: circumstances.
Biblical example: Amos 4:6-11. Six times in this passage the LORD says "I did this.." then says "yet you did not return to me." What was happening? The circumstances were sent of God to turn their eyes and hearts back to Him. They didn't listen. Patrick did. Will you?
3. We need to recognize our greatest pain might become a greatest ministry.
Patrick suffered as a slave away from his family for 6 years. But it was in the fields of Ireland that Patrick came to know Christ. Jesus found Patrick in those fields and in his captivity, and it was to those field to a nation in captivity that Jesus would send him back to minister.
I think about Pastor Brandon's incredible work with Recovery and Redemption, and even our jail ministry. His life before Christ and the brokenness he experienced are the very things Jesus has used in his life as a vessel for carrying the gospel to people in those same situations.
In my own family, our suffering and sorrows with Kaleb's life have become a grounds for ministering to others through this church and Knowing Jesus Ministries.
What about you? What things in your life has God saved you from or sustained you through that are a part of YOUR story in order that you might share HIS story?
4. We need to remember that God delights in using ordinary people in great ways.
We know his name and venerate his legacy, but Patrick was a normal guy. He was just like us. He wasn't highly educated or a recipient of special training. But he loved Jesus and had a passion for others to know Him. Like in our passage, God can use the mouth of Moses and Patrick, and he can use yours too if you will open it in obedience to Him.
Patrick went to the unreached. They were considered barbarians by the civilized world. We've talked about the call for us as believers to share our faith with neighbors and nations. How can you, as an ordinary person be used in great ways? We have families in our church right now, who are in the pipeline to go long-term somewhere. There is a process of working through that and launching out the right way. Our prayer is that by next summer, we have 30 total people in the pipeline. So here is my question, is it possible the Lord would have you go with them? To be a part of a team?
We're going to challenge you throughout this series to do 5 things (show slide): PRAY, PREPARE, PURSUE, PLAN, PURPOSE