What’s in a Name?

Part four of an eleven-part series on “Habits of Highly Successful People”

Habit #3 – A Highly Successful Person Knows God Personally and Makes Him Known Publicly

By Kevin Riggs

I go by my middle name—Kevin.  I like that name. I think it adequately I describes who I am. I think I look I like a Kevin. Not going by your first name does, however, cause difficulties from time to time. Elementary school was one of those times.

Growing up I tried to keep my first name a secret. At least once every school year a substitute teacher would let my secret out. Not knowing I went by my middle name, the substitute would call the roll asking for “George Riggs.” Everyone would laugh, and I would have to endure the taunting, “Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry. . . .”

If I, as a child, had feelings of humiliation and anger when people misused my name, can you imagine how God must feel every time a person violates the third commandment?

God has a Name

Through the burning bush, God called Moses to go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites from bondage. Moses was not happy about this mission. He was scared and unsure. He needed some confidence that God would be with Him, so he asked, “When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, ‘The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you;’ and they shall say to me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say unto them?”

God answered, “l AM That I Am . . . Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, ‘l AM hath sent me unto you.’” I AM; what a strange name. What a perfect name!  God’s name signifies eternal existence. By using this verb God was proclaiming He has always existed, He exists in the present, and He will always exist. He was saying, “I will be what I will be.”

The fact that Moses asked God for His name is important. The fact that God gave Moses His name is extremely important.  Moses wanted to know God’s name because Moses wanted a personal relationship with God. God told Moses His name because God wanted a personal relationship with Moses.

What’s in a Name?

In our culture, as soon as we meet someone we introduce ourselves. In Moses’ culture, doing so was unthinkable. In that culture a person did not throw his name around, and he did not give his name to chance acquaintances. To give your name was to open yourself up to the scrutiny of another person. What’s in a name?

1. A name signifies personhood

My name represents who I am. It means I exist. It means I am somebody. My name says something about my character. My name enables people to deal with me as an individual. It is for these reasons that I do not like it when people make fun of my name. God’s name signifies He is a Person who wants to be known personally.

2. A name signifies reputation

Nicknames do this better than real names. If I introduced you to my friends named “Red” and “Slim,” you would automatically know something about their reputation. If I refer to someone as a “Benedict Arnold” or an “Honest Abe,” you would automatically know what I mean. Because a name signifies reputation, the writer of Proverbs said, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” God’s name underscores His reputation as a sovereign, holy God.

3. A name signifies uniqueness


There are many people with the name, “Kevin.” Chances are there is even someone else named “Kevin Riggs.” But I doubt if there is anyone else in the whole world named, “George Kevin Riggs.” I know l am the only Mr. Misty Riggs. (Just so there is no confusion, Misty is my wife’s name). No matter what a person’s name, and no matter how many people may share that name, each name signifies uniqueness. There is only one you. There is only one God, and He is the great I Am.

4. A name signifies authority


A  volunteer in my church’s children’s worship once told me that when my son, Zachary, acts up, all they have to do is say, “I’m going to tell your daddy,” and he straightens up. “Daddy” carries authority, even when daddy is not around. Likewise, God’s name carries with it authority and respect.

5. A name signifies relationship


The most important aspect of God’s name is that it signifies His desire to be known by us. God wants to have a relationship with you and me. God desires to be known, and He has made Himself known by His name. God has introduced Himself to me and wants me to know Him and make Him known to others.

The Third Commandment

The Third Commandment reads, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

When I was growing up, I was convinced that taking the Lord’s name in vain was so serious a violation that God would strike me dead the very moment I did so. However, misusing the name of God goes far beyond using it in profanity. The word “vain” means to abuse or misuse.

When I call out to God without committing myself to Him, and when I want His power without being personally changed, I am taking the name of God and treating it as if it were nothing. As a Christian, when I claim to be one thing but by my actions prove to be another, I am breaking this Commandment. When I am hypocritical, I give God a bad name.

When I try to manipulate God through my selfish prayers, I am abusing God’s name. My selfish prayers do nothing more than teat God like a genie in a lamp. I once heard a person put it this way, “The reason our prayers are so ineffective is because we have put all our begs in one ask-it.” When I try to bargain with God, I am misusing His name and violating the Third Commandment.

My irreverence toward the sacred is another way I violate this Commandment. When I come to worship each week unprepared to enter into God’s presence and when I approach worship in an insincere matter, I violate the Third Commandment.

As a pastor, when I stand before the people to proclaim “a word from God,” but I have not spent my time with God in His Word, I am taking His name in vain. When I stand in front of God, take vows, make promises and then break them, I have misused and abused the name of the Lord.

Habit #3

The most basic, and most overlooked, lesson behind the Third Commandment is the fact that God has a name. He has revealed Himself to me. He is knowable, and He wants me to know Him. God created me to have a relationship with Him, and He provided the way for that relationship through Jesus. Furthermore, God has given me the responsibility to make Him known to others.

Now that I understand what the Third Commandment is, what is the third habit? The third habit is: A highly successful person knows God personally and makes Him known publicly.

The whole Bible can be summarized in one sentence: Through faith in Jesus, anyone can be brought back into a right relationship with God.God already knows me. Now He wants me to know Him, and He wants me to make Him known to others.” lf I desire to be a success, I will strive to know God intimately, and I will work hard to make Him known to others. It is impossible to know God and make Him known, and at the same time be a failure.

What about you? Is your life truly a success? The message behind the Third Commandment is that God loves you. He knows you and wants to be known by you. God has given you His name. Don’t abuse it or misuse it. Instead, get to know God better and make Him known to others.

Article adapted from Contactmagazine, April 2002.