Learning To Live By Faith
By Pr. Marcos Bomfim
“Don’t leave this sanctuary without writing down your decision,” said Pastor Josino Campos at the end of that Sabbath morning service that influenced my life forever. “If you do not write it down now, the devil will certainly nullify what the Holy Spirit is impressing upon you now. So decide now,” he suggested. I was 11 years old, living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I was proud to receive the blank piece of paper the deacons were distributing to everyone and to act as if I were an adult.
Campos was an experienced pastor and knew that if you preach a good sermon but do not lead church members to a decision or to take an action, you have failed in your goal. So, using commitment cards, his goal was to invite all the church members to make a lasting commitment to give regularly a percentage-based offering beyond tithe, meaning that they would become “Promisors.”*
“But please,” he added, “don’t write your name on the card, as I will collect your cards to pray for your decision. I don’t want to know who is making each particular decision, because you are not going to do any deal with me nor even with the church. It should be something between you and God alone!” While I felt good about having my privacy respected, I also realized that the Lord knows everything, even my inner thoughts.
"I couldn’t have known how it would be especially true in my case, and that it would mold my marriage, affect how I would raise my daughters, improve my health and my ministry, and, most important, teach me to live by faith, to trust in the Lord, and to depend on Him!"
God’s presence was very real to me in that solemn moment, which, according to Campos, would affect the rest of our lives. I couldn’t have known how it would be especially true in my case, and that it would mold my marriage, affect how I would raise my daughters, improve my health and my ministry, and, most important, teach me to live by faith, to trust in the Lord, and to depend on Him!
Pastor Campos asked all of us to write down the word “tithe” in the upper left side of the paper, and the respective percentage (10 percent) on the right side. Then, under the word “tithe,” he asked us to write the word “promise,” adding in the right margin of the paper that specific percentage of income that each person would decide for themselves to give regularly as an offering.
Struggling against the selfish desire to choose the smallest percentage possible, I finally surrendered to it: 1 percent! At least I am in God’s program, I thought. But just before writing it I heard the pastor again: “Remember that when it comes to tithe, you don’t need to choose the percentage; your only choice is to return it or not. But when it comes to your promise,” he said, “God gives you the liberty to make an additional choice—also the percentage—which will be made according to the extent of your gratitude. Different from tithe, you may increase your percentage of your promise over time.” Then he added the wise suggestion to “begin low, so that you may grow.”
At the same time, my mind was dealing also with the idea that I was indebted to God because of a miraculous healing in answer to my parents’ prayers when I was only 3 years old. I should be more thankful, I thought! So even before writing for the first time a percentage, I decided to increase it. In my own eyes at the time, it was a huge growth: from 1 percent to 1.5 percent!
That first experience helped me to understand how difficult it can be to make the first vow, or commitment, for those who don’t know God very well yet. I can also understand now how imprudent it may be for us to pressure anyone to begin with higher percentages in their “promise,” therefore increasing the temptation to break the promise or to make it only seasonal. That is why I encourage people to first test the Lord, “beginning low so that they may grow,” renewing that vow annually—to maintain or to increase it. Imagine what would happen around the world if every single church member would begin giving, let’s suppose, only 5 percent or 3 percent (just to pick a random value) of his or her income to the Lord as a promise? Beyond learning by experience to trust in the Lord even more, what a stream of evangelistic blessings would each participant generate!
Many years have passed since that time. During those years the Lord gave me my wife, Mari, and many impressive experiences that showed us that we can trust in Him totally. And those experiences have led Mari and me to renew our vows to Him and increase our promise percentage many times, helping us to literally live by faith on many occasions. God is so merciful, so patient. He gently takes us from where we are to where He would like us to be. And I am still on the way. * “Pactuantes” in Spanish and Portugese.