Acts 4: What is your nickname?

This article was first published on our church website here


“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”)…” (Acts 4:36)


This really is quite a remarkable verse! In these 15 words from Acts 4, we read about a man called Joseph who made such an impression upon the Apostles that they started to give him a nickname – ‘son of encouragement’! His life was so marked by encouraging other people, that it was more fitting to call him Barnabas than Joseph. His birth name and day-to-day life didn’t tally, so the Apostles gave him a more fitting name! And what a name! He was the encourager. He was the one who you rolled in as often as possible to chat with discouraged and downcast people. He was the one who never had a cynical lilt to his words, but rather they teemed with hope and strengthening. He was the one who you wanted in your team because he would always be looking to build up and fortify and keep people encouraged. He was the guy, who when you asked if anyone had anything to encourage the group with, didn’t have to dig down through a concrete brain, but was able to access an unending supply of God-focused encouragement — because he was attentive to what God was doing in the world, and in other people and the church community as a whole because that is what it means to be an encourager!

If the Apostles rolled into Kingsgate, would they pick you out for a name change? Would they be looking to give you the nickname “Barnabas”? If not, why not? God is at work in a thousand-and-one-ways amongst us. Many acts seem small and almost insignificant, but when we stop for more than a fleeting and distracted moment and really observe what God is doing, our hearts will soar with encouragement!

So here’s a challenge… could you make it your goal in life to encourage, strengthen and fortify others to such a degree that they start to give you the nickname “Barnabas”? Why not start today…


Dear Father,

Thank you for this almost incidental reference to Joseph who gets nicknamed Barnabas. Would you help me to live as an encourager of others, especially those in the church family. I know that to live that way I must resist the gravitational pull of ‘me-myself-and-Itis and the cynical drag of our culture but instead, take sweet joy in the small and everyday moments of grace that can be seen all around us if only we would slow down enough to look. Help me to grow as an encourager of others I pray. Amen.

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