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Marvin Williams

Marvin Williams

Marvin Williams wrote his first article for Our Daily Bread in 2007. He also writes for another Our Daily Bread Ministries devotional, Our Daily Journey. Marvin is senior teaching pastor at Trinity Church in Lansing, Michigan. Educated at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, he has also served in several pastoral positions in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He and his wife, Tonia, have three children.

Articles by Marvin Williams

Like Our Great Teacher

In a viral video, a three-year-old white belt karate student imitated her instructor. With passion and conviction the little girl said the creed with her leader. Then, with poise and attentiveness, the little ball of cuteness and energy imitated everything her teacher said and did—at least she did a pretty good job!

Jesus once said, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). He told His disciples that to imitate Him included being generous, loving, non-judgmental (vv. 37–38), and discerning about whom they followed: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (v. 39). His disciples needed to discern that this standard disqualified the Pharisees who were blind guides—leading people to disaster (Matthew 15:14). And they needed to grasp the importance of following their Teacher. Thus, the aim of Christ’s disciples was to become like Jesus Himself. So it was important for them to pay careful attention to Christ’s instruction about generosity and love and apply it.

As believers striving to imitate Jesus today, let’s give our lives over to our Master Teacher so we can become like Him in knowledge, wisdom, and behavior. He alone can help us reflect His generous, loving ways.

In All Our Dealings

In 1524, Martin Luther observed: "Among themselves the merchants have a common rule which is their chief maxim . . . I care nothing about my neighbor; so long as I have my profit and satisfy my greed.” More than two hundred years later, John Woolman, from Mount Holly, New Jersey, let his commitment to Jesus influence his tailor shop dealings. Out of support for the freeing of slaves, he refused to purchase any cotton or dye supplies from companies who used their forced labor. With a clear conscience, he loved his neighbor and lived according to integrity and sincerity in all his dealings.  

The apostle Paul strived to live out “integrity and godly sincerity” (2 Corinthians 1:12). When some in Corinth tried to undermine his authority as an apostle for Jesus, he defended his conduct among them. He wrote that his words and actions could withstand the closest scrutiny (v. 13). He also showed that he was dependent on God’s power and grace for effectiveness, not his own (v. 12). In short, Paul’s faith in Christ permeated all his dealings.

As we live as ambassadors for Jesus, may we be careful to let the good news ring out in all our dealings—family, business, and more. When by God’s power and grace we reveal His love to others, we honor Him and love our neighbors well.

Just Enough

In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, the character Tevye talks honestly with God about His economics: “You made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor. But it’s no great honor either! So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune! . . . Would it have spoiled some vast, eternal plan—if I were a wealthy man?”

Many centuries before author Sholem Aleichem placed these honest words on Tevye’s tongue, Agur lifted an equally honest but somewhat different prayer to God in the book of Proverbs. Agur asked God to give him neither poverty nor wealth—just his “daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8). He knew that having “too much” could make him proud and transform him into a practical atheist—denying the character of God. In addition, he asked God to not let him “become poor” because it might cause him to dishonor His name by stealing from others (v. 9). Agur recognized God as his sole provider, and he asked Him for “just enough” to satisfy his daily needs. His prayer revealed a pursuit of God and the contentment that’s found in Him alone.  

May we have Agur’s attitude, recognizing God as the provider of all we have. And as we pursue financial stewardship that honors His name, let’s live in contentment before Him—the One who not only provides “just enough,” but more than enough.

Keep Your Guard Up

A man and several friends went through a ski resort gate posted with avalanche warning signs and started snowboarding. On the second trip down, someone shouted, “Avalanche!” But the man couldn’t escape and perished in the cascading snow. Some criticized him, calling him a novice. But he wasn’t; he was an “avalanche-certified backcountry guide.” One researcher said that skiers and snowboarders with the most avalanche training are more likely to give in to faulty reasoning. “[The snowboarder] died because he was lulled into letting his guard down.”

As Israel prepared to go into the Promised Land, God wanted His people to keep their guard up—to be careful and alert. So He commanded them to obey all His “decrees and laws” (Deuteronomy 4:1–2) and remember His past judgment on those who disobeyed (vv. 3–4). They needed to “be careful” to examine themselves and keep watch over their inner lives (v. 9). This would help them keep their guard up against spiritual dangers from without and spiritual apathy from within.

It's easy for us to let our guard down and fall into apathy and self-deception. But God can give us strength to avoid falling in life and forgiveness by His grace when we do. By following Him and resting in His wisdom and provision, we can keep our guard up and make good decisions!

God Spoke

In 1876, inventor Alexander Graham Bell spoke the very first words on a telephone. He called his assistant, Thomas Watson, saying, “Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Cackly and indistinct, but intelligible, Watson heard what Bell had said. The first words spoken by Bell over a phone line proved that a new day for human communication had dawned.

Establishing the dawn of the first day, Into the “formless and empty” earth (Genesis 1:2), God spoke His first words recorded in Scripture: “Let there be light” (v. 3). These words were filled with creative power. He spoke and what He declared came into existence (Psalm 33:6, 9). God said, “let there be light” and so it was. His words produced immediate victory as darkness and chaos gave way to the brilliance of light and order. Light was God’s answer to the dominance of darkness. And when He had created the light, He said it “was good” (Genesis 1:3).  

God’s first words continue to be powerful in the lives of believers in Jesus. With the dawning of each new day, it’s as if God is restating His spoken words in our lives. When darkness—literally and metaphorically—gives way to the brilliance of His light, may we praise Him and acknowledge that He’s called out to us and truly sees us.

Out of the Heart

A rescue mission nicknamed “Operation Noah’s Ark” might sound fun for animal lovers, but it was a nightmare for the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After receiving complaints about the noise and the horrid stench coming from a certain house, workers entered the Long Island home and found and removed more than four hundred animals from the neglected conditions.

We may not be holding hundreds of animals in filthy conditions, but Jesus said we might be harboring evil and sinful thoughts and actions in our hearts that need to be exposed and removed. 

In teaching His disciples about what makes a person clean and unclean, Jesus said it isn’t dirty hands or “whatever enters the mouth” that defiles a person, but an evil heart (Matthew 15:17–19). The stench from our hearts would eventually leak out from their lives. Then Jesus gave examples of evil thoughts and actions that come “out of the heart” (v. 19). No amount of external religious activities and rituals can make them clean. We need God to transform our hearts.

We can practice Jesus’ inside-out ethic by giving Him access to the squalor of our hearts and letting Him remove what’s causing the stench. As Christ uncovers what’s coming from our hearts, He’ll help our words and actions be aligned with His desires, and the aroma from our lives will please Him.

Two Houses

To test the stability of two houses, engineers simulated a category three hurricane by using powerful fans that produced winds gusts of 100 mph for ten minutes. The first house was built according to a non-hurricane building code and the other was put together with a reinforced roof and floors. The first house shook and eventually collapsed, but the second house survived with only a few cosmetic damages. One of the engineers summarized the study by asking, "Which house would you rather be living in?"

Concluding His teaching on values of kingdom living, Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). The fierce winds blew, but the house survived. In contrast, the person who hears, and doesn’t obey, “is like a foolish man who built his house on sand” (v. 26). The fierce winds blew, and the house collapsed under the intensity of the storm. Jesus presented his audience with two options: build your lives on the solid foundation of obedience to Him or on the unstable sand of your own ways.

We too have to make a choice. Will we build our lives on Jesus and obedience to His words or disobedience to His instruction? By the Holy Spirit’s help, we can choose to build our lives on Christ.

A Compassionate Father

After eight-year-old Gabriel underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain, it left a noticeable scar on the side of his head. When the boy said he felt like a monster, his dad, Josh, had an idea: demonstrate how much he loved his son by getting a tattoo on the side of his head with the same shape as Gabriel’s scar.

According to the psalmist, this is the kind of empathic and compassionate love God has for “his children” (Psalms 103:13). Using a metaphor drawn from human life, David illustrated God’s love. He said it’s as tender as a good father’s care for his children (v. 17). Just as a human father shows compassion to his children, so God, our heavenly Father, shows love and care toward those who fear Him. He's a compassionate father, who empathizes with His people.  

When we’re weak and feel like we’re unlovable because of the scars of life, may we receive, by faith, our heavenly Father’s love toward us. He demonstrated His compassion by sending his Son to lay “down his life for us” (1 John 3:16)—for our salvation. With this one act, not only can we experience God’s love for us, but we can look to the cross and see it. Aren’t you glad that we have a High Priest who can “empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15)? He has the scars to prove it.

Unwanted Guests

Kyle and Allison had a wonderful honeymoon in an exotic location. When they returned home, however, they discovered that Kyle’s feet had developed a strange, itchy rash. The couple was referred to an infectious disease specialist. He informed them that small parasites had burrowed their way into Kyle’s feet through blisters caused by his new flip flops. What started out as a dream vacation ended in a challenging battle with unwanted “guests.”

David knew that if he didn’t ask God for help to fight sin, his dream of living a pleasing life before Him would turn into a battle with the unwanted guests of sin and rebellion. After declaring how God is revealed in the natural world (Psalm 19:1–6) and His wisdom found in His instruction (vv. 7–10), David asked God to protect him from inadvertent, arrogant, and deliberate disobedience. “Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins,” he wrote (vv. 12–13). He recognized that he didn’t have the human resources to keep the infectious disease of sin from affecting him. So, he wisely asked God for help.

How can we make sure our dream of a living in a way that honors God doesn’t become hijacked by sin? Let’s keep our eyes on Him, confess and repent of our sin, and seek divine help in keeping unwanted spiritual parasites from burrowing into our lives.