We call someone who is optimistic and positive a Pollyanna. Our name for a woman who stirs the pot and creates a lot of mayhem might be a drama queen. And we might say someone who lets everyone walk all over them is a doormat. We tend to give labels based on demeanor, attitude, words and actions. I’ll admit it – I know a couple of men from former churches that I called “the turtle” and “the weasel.” I won’t tell you who they were and why I called them that (only to myself, by the way), but suffice it to say they earned these titles by their consistent
But in the book of Acts we are introduced to a man whom Jesus’ apostles affectionately called “Son of Encouragement” or Barnabas. Did you realize that Barnabas wasn’t this missionary’s birth name? His name was actually Joseph, but he was called Barnabas because, like the turtle and the weasel, his character, consistent behavior, and attitude earned him the name. And so, throughout the rest of the New Testament, wherever Joseph the Levite of Cyprian birth was mentioned he was called Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement.
Why did the apostles call this man Son of Encouragement? Here’s a little list of some of the things I found out about Barnabas from the Scriptures. See if you don’t agree with the apostles’ assessment:
- He sold a tract of land he owned and brought the money to the apostles and laid it at their feet (Acts 4:37).
- He cleared the air between Paul and the apostles, standing as Paul’s advocate before them and defending his personal testimony (Acts 9:27).
- He witnessed God at work among the church at Antioch and “rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.” (Acts 11:23)
- “He was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” (Acts 11:24)
- He was sought out for his teaching about Jesus. He had earned a reputation as a good and accurate teacher. (Acts 13:7)
- The people loved hearing the gospel from him and couldn’t get enough! (Acts 13:42)
- He was bold! (Acts 13:46)
- When faced with persecution and personal attack, he and Paul “shook off the dust of their feet” and went on to the next place undaunted. (Acts 13:51)
- Even after leaving a city with a taste of defeat, he was “continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
- Over and over, he and Paul continued to preach the gospel boldly in the face of bitter persecution and mocking. (Acts 14:1-7)
- When the people in Lystra began praising him and Paul and calling them Zeus and Hermes respectively, they adamantly refused such praise and worship and deflected it all to the true God instead. (Acts 14:14-15)
- He went from city to city “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.'”
- The apostles and elders called him their beloved Barnabas. (Acts 15:25)
- He insisted on giving John Mark a second chance and taking him on missionary tour with him, even when Paul disagreed. (Acts 15:37-39)
- He erred on the side of believing in people rather than on the side of skepticism. (Galatians 2:13)
I’d say they got Barnabas’ name right. He was indeed a son of encouragement, the kind of guy you’d want to know and be associated with, the kind of man you’d want on your side when the going got tough, and the type of friend you’d want to lift you up when you were sinking.
There are folks all around us today who could use a little encouragement. As we see from Barnabas’ example, encouragement isn’t just all about words or platitudes either. It’s about standing next to someone who’s facing the firing squad, so to speak. It’s about defending the helpless and holding up the weak. Encouragement includes financially supporting those you believe in, those who are doing something important and sacred. It also includes a steady diet of prayer and worship so that strength and joy and fortitude flow easily from you to others. Encouragement means you keep going in the face of discouragement until slowly but surely your own courage returns and even spreads to those around you. And it means always, always giving God the glory and honor He alone deserves and never gobbling up the praises of men for yourself.
Realizing that Barnabas wasn’t really Barnabas at all, but that he had simply earned that name by his consistently encouraging conduct, made me think about my own name. Not the name I was given at birth, but the “names” I’ve earned. I hesitate to spend too much time thinking about it, to tell you the truth. The prospects are a little scary. But I can determine the “names” by which I’d like to be called from this day forward. “Daughter of Encouragement” would be a good one, as would “Godly Girl” or “Woman of Wisdom” or “Kay of Kindness” or “Faithful Follower.” Unfortunately I can’t just fill out a few forms and send them into some government office to receive the rights to these names. I must earn them the old fashioned way – through a change in character, a renewal of my mind, consistent behavior, and an attitude that rises to the occasions I find myself in on a daily basis.
So, just to get us started, let’s think about our name for today. At the end of this day let’s reflect back on our attitudes, words and behaviors and determine what name we have earned – just for this day. A little scary, huh? But a worthwhile exercise no doubt. Tell you what, tomorrow I will even take the time to leave a comment in the comment section letting you know what name I gave myself for the day. Granted, the names we give ourselves may differ from the ones others think we have truly earned, but it’s a place to start.
What would they call me? Good question. What would they call you?