Yesterday, we talked about how God’s names for us never waver or change, no matter how many seasons we go through or how many identifiers the world gives us. Today, I want to continue exploring this theme by looking at the power of labels. I know I’ve shared this story before, but when I was in high school, I used to play basketball with a group of guys, and when one of them turned sixteen, his dad randomly bought him some shares of stock in Nike. It’s not that he had a particular interest in the stock market or that he knew anything about finance, it’s simply that he liked to play basketball. That said, the gesture definitely got his attention (and ours), and from that time, we started calling him “Wall Street,” a nickname that stuck all throughout school. When I looked him up later to find out what became of him, it turns out he earned a degree in financial management and pursued a career as a stock broker. While some people might call that a coincidence, I firmly believe that the name we ascribed to him years before became part of his identity so much that it determined the course of his future. While that’s primarily a positive example, labels can also have a negative effect on a person’s life. I think of my Uncle Larry, who had a youth pastor in a very strict church call him “Charlie Manson” simply because he had long hair. Unfortunately, he ended up going through a very bad season, and being labeled in that manner caused him to struggle to believe that God could do anything good with his life. Thankfully, the Lord brought healing later on, but it took time for him to recover from the wounding of careless words. You see, no matter how harmless the names we give to others may seem, they have immense power to shape futures and form identities.
My friend, there is power in the names you give to others and in those you give to yourself. Far from being neutral, words carry weight and the things you say and hear repeatedly are those that shape your destiny and the destinies of those around you. Knowing that, choose your affirmations wisely, and be careful with the labels you ascribe to your neighbors. In addition, guard your heart and meditate on the good names given to you by God; claim them and esteem them over and above any identifier given by another person. Walk every day in the truth that you are the apple of the Lord’s eye — chosen, beloved, redeemed, blessed, set apart, sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit — and choose to exalt His Word above every title bestowed by man.