According to the website babycenter.com, the most popular names this year for baby boys are Liam, Noah and Ethan. One hundred years ago, the most popular names were John, William and James. Times have changed.
Do you know anybody who is about to have a baby boy? Are you looking at lists of baby names? If you are, allow me to make a suggestion.
I know. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue. It sounds a bit old fashioned, but let me tell you why I like the name Barnabas.
The name Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement.” We first meet Barnabas in the book of Acts. He was a Jewish Christian who sold a field and gave the proceeds to the work of the Church. Barnabas was an encourager. His love and thanks to his Savior showed itself in his support for the work of the Gospel.
When early Christians began to be persecuted in Jerusalem, a large number moved north to a city called Antioch. There they shared the good news about Jesus with everyone they could.
The church in Antioch grew exponentially. They needed help. So what did the apostles in Jerusalem do? They sent Barnabas, the encourager. When Barnabas saw all the work that needed to be done in Antioch, he left to find Paul.
Paul had been a persecutor of the Church. He had arrested and murdered Christians. Jesus, however, appeared to him on the road to Damascus and called him to be an apostle – to be his messenger.
Up to this point, nobody had really given Paul a chance yet, but Barnabas saw something in him. He convinced Paul to go to Antioch where together they worked for over a year, teaching and encouraging the Christians there.
Then the church in Antioch decided to send Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries. They took along with them Barnabas’ younger cousin, Mark. Mark didn’t last very long, though. Being a missionary was too hard. He returned home with his tail between his legs.
When the time came to go on their second missionary journey, Mark asked to go along. Paul didn’t want to take the chance. Barnabas, the encourager, didn’t want to give up him. The issue became so divisive that Paul and Barnabas parted ways.
Years later, though, as Paul sat in prison waiting for his imminent execution, he sent a letter to his young protégé, Timothy, begging him to bring Mark to visit him in prison because Mark was so helpful to him. Mark ended up even writing the book of the Bible which bears his name, all because his cousin, Barnabas, the encourager, wouldn’t give up on him.
So, what do you think? Would you be willing to name your next son, Barnabas? It’s okay if you don’t.
But you can still teach him to be a Barnabas.
Show your children what it means to be a Barnabas. Show them God’s great love for them. Show them the forgiveness Jesus freely won for them. Instill in them the joy and gratitude which filled Barnabas’ heart.
Then show them how to encourage. Show them what it means to support the work of the church with your words and with your wallet.
Being an encourager is not always easy, though. The fruitcake of God’s Church is made up of all kinds of nuts. Sometimes your pastor will not be your cup of tea. Sometimes his personality may rub you the wrong way or his style get on your nerves. Don’t let that stop you from encouraging him. God has placed him in your life for a purpose.
Encourage your pastor because, like young Mark, ministers often become discouraged. Encourage young people to consider the ministry – especially the ones others believe are lost causes. You never know. He or she may end up being a Mark.
In the end, be an encourager. Your children will see you. They will follow your example. They will become encouragers themselves. They will become “Sons of Encouragement.”
Even if you don’t name them Barnabas.