Knock on the Cross
by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

Last week someone told me about their toilet woes. It was a plumbing problem that involved roots in the pipes, a backed up sewer, a broken toilet, a much bigger and longer fix than anticipated, etc. It occurred over the weekend, which meant the problem went on a couple days longer than it would have otherwise. It brought up a memory of my own plumbing problems years ago, which, until it was fixed, meant calling out the plumber every couple of months. “But since we fixed the underlying problem,” I told my friend, “we haven’t had the plumber out at all. (Knock on wood.)” And I proceeded to knock on wood, plastic, metal, and any other surface within reach, for good measure. Obviously, I REALLY don’t want to have to need the services of a plumber. So I “knocked on wood.”

Not that I believe knocking on wood does any good at all. In that context the expression indicates how much the speaker would like the current state of affairs to continue. And the flip side is that the speaker wouldn’t want to jinx it by mentioning the positive.

Curious about the expression, I looked it up. Apparently, many cultures have a similar saying, which gives voice to our natural reluctance to bring attention to a good streak, as if in so doing we would initiate, or hasten, a reversal of fortunes. Deep within we all know that a positive state of affairs cannot last forever. Surely some bump will come our way. Some obstacle will rear its ugly head. Some root will wind its way into our pipes. So we “knock on wood” to stave it off.

But I was delighted to find that Arab Christians use another expression “b-ism as-salib” which literally means “in the name of the cross.” A light bulb went on in my mind as I imagined the dramatic difference between knocking on any old piece of wood, which is a meaningless gesture, and knocking on the wood of the cross as our source of power. Not that in my knocking I exert any influence, but simply by coming to the cross I’m recognizing God’s sovereignty, power and love over any situation in my life.

Which brings me to Faith Promise. For many years ABC has supplemented its missions giving through Faith Promise. This is a financial gift, above and beyond the tithe, which is designated for missions. Through this kind of giving, we’ve been able to increase the amount we give outside the walls of our church, so that missions is now 14% of our budget. Without Faith Promise we would only be giving 9% of our budget to missions.

Tithing 10% of one’s income is a challenge for many believers. Giving even more than a tithe can be a real leap of faith. So this year, I wanted to share some of my own Faith Promise thinking with you. Part of Robert and my faith journey in this past year has been living in this tough economy with unemployment. It will be a year next month since Robert was laid off from his construction project management job. So it may have been a natural impulse when our personal finances plummeted to stop all our giving, or at least to pare down on our giving, to not participate in Faith Promise until our income increased. But I learned the blessing of tithing as a starving student for the first ten years of my adult life, and I determined not to “unlearn” that lesson. God’s faithfulness to me has never depended on a paycheck in the past—why should it be different now? And I can joyfully say that God has been tremendously faithful in this year. As a family we have so many blessings to count—too many.

In our “fat” years we gave out of a sense of plenty. In this “lean” year we tithe and give above out of thanksgiving and dependence. And we are re-discovering joy in our Heavenly Provider as we do. Which is why, in this austere economy, I feel no apology for asking you to reconsider, and recommit to the church in your giving. If you have not had the habit of tithing, please know that there is no “good” time to start. It will always feel like a stretch. It will look impractical on paper. It will require better stewardship, changes in what you are able to buy, perhaps some sacrifices—but these changes will be good for you. Please do not wait for the economy to turn around—when it does you will find another excuse. Now is the time.

And if you are already tithing, please consider giving to Faith Promise for the first time or increasing your gift if you are already giving. Our missions giving has remained stagnant for several years. We have been in maintenance mode for some time. In fact, our giving through Faith Promise has slipped slowly from an all-time high of $15,500 in ‘06 to $11,200 last year. While we have modestly increased the salaries of the church staff every year, adjusting to the cost of living, the same cannot be said of our support for our missionaries. This year in particular we have a specific need that tugs at our heart. We are designating any increase in Faith Promise for Lynette Young, who is grounded here in the US until she raises her full support to be back in Uruguay, where we believe God will use her mightily. We believe Lynette’s home church should be front and center in the movement to get her back to her field.

How does this relate to “knocking on wood?” I may “knock on wood” when it comes to plumbers, but I have learned to “knock on the cross” when it comes to giving back to God. I think (very realistically) about my source of income for Faith Promise, then ask for God’s guidance as to the amount I should promise, allowing for God’s voice in the decision, and then I rely on him to provide. So far, I have been able to give what I promised and some years even more. I have received so many substantial gifts from God. It is an honor to also, at the same time, give in obedience to God. Please join me in learning faith and joy through giving.