SIMPLE TRUTH: What is your nickname?

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

By Charles Christmas

Most everyone will be acquainted with at least one person who has a nickname. Such a name may be a normal generic, like “Dick” for Richard or “Katie” for Kathryn. Otherwise, a nickname may or may not be complimentary. A nickname is a name given to a person in addition to or instead of his or her original name.

Such is the case of a man named Joseph. He is first introduced to the world in the book of The Acts of the Apostles 4:25, but is never referred to by that name again. Why? Because of his attitude and actions, the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, which means “encourager.” He was committed to being an encourager to others, and the examples of such were powerful, fruitful and far-reaching in the early church and churches as recorded in the Book of Acts.

Let’s summarize some of his actions of encouragement. First, he sold his real estate for the money to be used to meet real daily necessities of individuals or families in the believing community. After Saul of Tarsus became a born-again Christian on the road to and within the city of Damascus and began to preach Christ, he returned to Jerusalem. Seeking to join the believers, he was met with doubt and rejection. But “encourager” Barnabas was the one who assured the apostles and believers of Saul’s true conversion and the proven evidence in Damascus, thereby opening the doors of acceptance. When laypersons fled from Jerusalem because of persecution, some came to Antioch proclaiming the Risen Christ which resulted in many new believers. Who did the Jerusalem apostles decide God could best use to meet the needs of these fleeing believers and many new converts in Antioch? It was “encourager” Barnabas, “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”

When Barnabas found his task to be overwhelming, what did he do? Saul had fled from Jerusalem to Tarsus to escape being murdered for his preaching. So the “encourager” went to Tarsus to find Saul and brought him back to Antioch to be his associate pastor and teacher for a year-long teaching ministry. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul on the first overseas mission journey with Barnabas as the leader. At the conclusion of their successful encounters on the island of Cyprus, Barnabas encouraged Paul to take the leadership role for their many future endeavors. As this missionary team planned their second overseas mission journey, Barnabas chose to take “a rejected prospect” named John Mark and invest some of his life in this young man, who had failed once as a missionary. The “encourager’s” decision paid off, both for the Apostle Paul to have a “ministry helper” for his final days on earth and for the Church to have the Gospel of Mark for the last 20 centuries. What a true nickname: “Encourager.”

What is the point? Simply this: what nickname would be given you today by knowledgeable and insightful members of the Lord’s church? Would it be: Servant, Peacemaker, Helper, Faithful, Uncomplaining, Compassionate, Longsuffering, Faith, Dependable, Available, Unselfish, Committed, Cooperating, Willing, Sacrificial, Sharing, Visionary, Humility, Submissive, Diligent, Caring, Forbearing, Meek, or Encourager? According to your actions and attitude, would it be one listed or another true and complimentary nickname? Or, not so complimentary, would your nickname be one that would have the very opposite meaning of one or more of the descriptive words listed above?

What is your nickname? The simple truth is: You do have one. Our actions and attitude have provided each of us with one or more.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.