The Faith of the Anonymous

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 25, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Every human being likes to be recognized for the good things they have done and would prefer to remain anonymous regarding any mistakes that have been made. It’s part of our sinfulness and selfishness that exists deep within us. When we begin to follow Jesus, the hope is that the opposite begins to occur. When we see that Jesus was followed by a crowd with a very false perception of him and that he was hated anytime he even hinted at his true identity, we must accept that being his disciple doesn’t guarantee us fame, fortune, or recognition. It doesn’t guarantee us that life will be trouble-free. In fact, in the story of Christianity, the worst possible thing happened to the best possible man!

As followers of Jesus, we ought to be willing to ignore any chance at getting credit and always direct it toward our Lord and Savior. When we make mistakes, that’s when we ought to be willing to identify ourselves. The Apostle John tells us that confessing our sins allows us to be forgiven and purified (1 John 1:9). In the next verse, he tells us that claiming to be without sin makes Christ out to be a liar (verse 10). So, when we try to prevent exposure of our sins just to keep a good name for ourselves, yet still seek recognition for any good deeds, we’re actually harming the reputation and name of Jesus.

My very first real job when I was 16 years old was what’s called a “costume character." At Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA, I was paid to dress up in a variety of candy bar costumes and walk around and greet people. We did whatever we could to put a smile on people’s faces, including dancing, posing for pictures, dribbling a basketball in costume, or messing with people’s hair. Regardless, it was all done anonymously. I am in thousands of pictures all over the world, but no one knows it’s me. I was even in a commercial as the Hershey Bar, and no one knows it’s me. I could dance like a fool or accidentally wreck one of the displays that were set up, and no one would know it was me. I didn’t get credit for anything good, but I didn’t get blamed for anything terrible. It was all that dumb Kit Kat Bar! Looking back and knowing the entirety of my work there, it’s probably a good thing I was anonymous!

The same is true regarding my faith journey. Sure, my selfish ego would love to be recognized for any good things that God allowed me to accomplish. But if that would also mean that all my sins and failures are publicly known, I’ll pass. Since our sins and missteps far outweigh our good deeds, I’ll go ahead and assume that most believers out there would feel the same way I do. As we read Hebrews 11 and then look back at some of the stories of the heroes of our faith who are mentioned by name, we are reminded of both their successes and their failures. Those individuals were not looking to be made famous. They were merely walking their own personal journeys of faith. I wonder how they’d feel today about their stories being told in full. Would David want everyone to know that he defeated Goliath with a sling and a stone even if it meant they’d also know that long after that, he committed sins with Bathsheba and against her husband that had horrific consequences for all involved? Samson is on a whole different level. If I were him, I wouldn’t want my story told at all! Those are just two examples, but I try to put myself in the shoes of each person and I wonder how they’d respond to the notoriety.

We’ve reached an interesting point in this series, as we have now gone through all of the individuals who have been mentioned by name. But the stories of faith don’t end there. After Samuel is the last one mentioned by name, we are told of the accomplishments of many others through faith. The stories were most likely known by many in the writer’s intended audience. Whether or not the writer of Hebrews mentions their names, those people and their stories were known to the Jewish people. So, why keep them anonymous?

We are not 100% sure of who wrote the book of Hebrews, but the fact that so many faith stories are mentioned without a person’s name attached to them is one reason why I believe the writer was the Apostle Paul. When you think about other things Paul either wrote or said, he’s pretty intentional about telling anyone who will listen that it’s always about Jesus and never about us. It’s recorded in Acts 20:24 that Paul said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my ONLY aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (caps mine). In his letter to the Philippians, he writes that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21), and later talks about all his reasons to boast, yet says he considers them “garbage” or “dung” compared to knowing Christ and even participating in his sufferings (3:7-11). Those are just a few examples, but Paul was always exemplifying that our achievements, our sins, our lives, and even our very names are irrelevant and only the goodness of God’s grace through Jesus needs to be made known.

In the coming weeks, I will be addressing these “anonymous” accomplishments by faith. I will put some names to them because that’s really the only way we can go back and learn more about the context and story behind the faith. But I wanted us to have this chance to pause and consider what is most important. If you have a chance to walk by faith and accomplish something great, do you find yourself looking for the credit? Do you trust God with your reputation, or do you try to control what others think of you? Like many of the heroes of faith found in the Old Testament, you may go through something difficult only to bring glory to God. It might not have anything to do with YOU and your reputation. Truly trusting in God means being faithful even in the aftermath. It means focusing on Christ’s story over our own. God may call you to a life of faithful anonymity. Could you accept that? If not, take a look at your own sins and ask yourself whether you’d really want everything exposed. I know I wouldn’t, and that makes it undeniable that Christ’s story is a much better one to tell than my own.

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