Reading: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
Throughout his Confession Patrick gives a number of insights into the nature of salvation. He told the starving sailors that conversion is an exercise of “faith with all your heart to my Lord God.” He referred to his own experience of conversion as an “opening of my mind to an awareness of my unbelief.” And he speaks of his life before conversion as that time “before I was humbled” (Confession, sec. 12).
It is this being humbled that seems to have stuck with Patrick throughout his life and work. Salvation humbled him and kept him humble. He says that before he knew the Lord he was “like a stone lying in deep mud” (Confession, sec. 12). When the Lord humbles us He does not bring us down into the mire. He makes us aware that without Him we are already there and without Him we would slip back into the mire.
It was this God-given self-awareness that caused Patrick to see his own sinfulness and unbelief and to call out to God. He continually refers to his own worthlessness, inadequacy, and failures, and it was this awareness that kept him looking to God for his strength and for the confidence that he could not find in himself. A self-awareness of sin, a sense of inadequacy ought not to defeat us; it ought to make us strong as it did Patrick, by causing us looking to Christ.
Let me look to Christ and find salvation, and in that salvation let me find humility to be strong and bold in Christ, so that out of my weakness I will be made strong. This was the faith of Patrick. The Lord lifted him up, and, as he testified, “placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure” (Confession, sec. 12).
When the corn is nearly ripe it bows the head and stoops lower than when it was green. When the people of God are near ripe for heaven, they grow more humble and self-denying…. Paul had one foot in heaven when he called himself the chiefest of sinners and least of saints.”—John Flavel