For those of you who have heard my story about Ms. Clara from my church when I younger, you know that I've spent a LOT of time in Acts chapter 9 (81 weeks in a row!), but lately I've been coming back to Acts 4 over and over again. There are so many good habits for the church to "re-adopt" in that chapter, things that we really should focus on. That's one reason I'm writing this blog entry.
My favorite verse in the entire chapter is Acts 4:36:
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),...
There aren't too many times that I stop mid-sentence to point out verses, and while I realize that verse 37 is still the Inspired Word, I can't help but be amazed by verse 36. Barnabas, yes, of "Paul and Barnabas" fame, was born with the name Joseph.
"Uh... so what?" you might be saying. Well, did you know that? Did you know that we've been calling Barnabas by a changed name? It seems that Barnabas had earned himself a bit of a reputation. It's basically a purposeful aptronym (a name that matches an occupation... e.g. George and Pete Hammer who own a hardware shop in Kentucky, or Dr. David Toothaker, a dentist from Arkansas). Barnabas apparently was SO overwhelmingly encouraging, that the Apostles just decided to call him "Son of Encouragement."
I feel like I've made this point on this blog before... but I'd LOVE to be called something as awesome as "Son of Encouragement." To gain a reputation for doing God's Work that is so much a part of oneself that it just becomes an identifier would be a great honor. I think, if I had to choose one, I would love to be known as "The Conduit" since I like to find out what people are passionate about and connect them to other people who either share that passion, or have a need that can be filled by that passion. What do you think you would be called if you honed the gifts that God gave you?
But the first step in that is getting used to the idea of openly praising people. We don't do that enough. Thinking of people's strengths, and helping them grow into them and reach their full potential, with the help of the Holy Spirit is a task that the church SHOULD do for each other. Check out 1 Thessalonians 5. As a church, we need to become more encouraging as a whole. Looking at the example of Barnabas, the fact that he was such an encouragement to other people led the Apostles to call him by another name, so that EVERY time someone said his name, he too, could draw encouragement from the fact that he knew he was serving God. It's like... an encouragement cycle!
Think about it... is there anyone in your life who could use a little attention for the good he or she has done for the Kingdom? Step out, disregard the social awkwardness, and tell that person how appreciative you are of their service. Who knows? the encouragement might come back around to you!