Comment by Harborough churches: What's in a name?

Every week, the Harborough churches write for the Harborough Mail. This week, it is the turn of the Revd Andy Giles, Resource Church Curate at St Dionysius Church

Revd Andy Giles
Revd Andy Giles

Viewpoint by the Revd Andy Giles, Resource Church Curate at St Dionysius Church

Parents can spend months trying to choose a child’s name. They buy all the baby name books or trawl the internet looking for a name to stand out. Names are very important.

When my wife and I had our first child we didn’t know what to call her until after she was born. You can have an idea, and then you meet them and everything changes, including their name.

In the Bible several people have encounters with God and their name is changed. The meaning of their name tells us something about them: Abram (“exalted father”) became Abraham (“father of many”). His wife Sarai became Sarah when she became a mother. In the New Testament the persecutor Saul became the apostle Paul, and the impulsive Simon’s name was changed to Peter the Rock.

Another person with a meaningful name was Jabez in the Old Testament. The account tells us that he “was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).

The name his mother gave Jabez meant “born in pain”. Does that mean that like me was he a pain as a child, or mischievous I like to call it? Was his birth just very painful to his mother?

Or was his life dogged by physical or mental pain? We don’t know, but Jabez was labelled as a pain, maybe through no fault of his own, and he needed to change his situation.

Jabez didn’t blame his mum, but he cried out to God. Things happen to us which might not be our fault; they may be the result of our background or someone’s actions, or words spoken over us. But we don’t have to allow these things to control our lives for ever.

Maybe people have labelled you as a failure or useless, but the truth is you are who God says you are: you are loved, special and accepted by God. Jabez was in fact more honourable than his brothers but, because of the label his mum gave him, that was not the reality he experienced.

We need to rise above the names and labels people give us; they don’t define who we are. Only God’s opinion is valid. Jabez is a great example of the power of prayer – sometimes we need to pray passionate prayers to change stubborn situations. What labels or lies have you accepted to be truth? Find the loving, caring things God says about you in the scriptures and speak these truths over yourself today.

By the Revd Andy Giles, Resource Church Curate at St Dionysius Church