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About Marvin Williams

Marvin Williams began writing 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.

Trying to Save Ourselves

By |2024-05-10T02:33:13-04:00May 10th, 2024|

Many years ago, New York City launched a Stay Safe Stay Put ad campaign to educate people on how to stay calm and be safe when trapped in an elevator. Experts reported that some trapped passengers had died when they tried to pry open the elevator doors or attempted exiting by some other means. The best plan of action is to simply use the alarm button to call for help and wait for emergency responders to arrive.

The apostle Paul spelled out a very different type of rescue plan—one to help those trapped in the downward pull of sin. He reminded the Ephesians of their utter spiritual helplessness, truly “dead in [their] sins” (Ephesians 2:1). They were trapped, obeying the devil (v. 2), and refusing to submit to God. This resulted in them being the subject of God’s wrath. But He didn’t leave them trapped in spiritual darkness. And those who believe in Jesus, the apostle wrote, “by grace . . . have been saved” (vv. 5, 8). A response to God’s rescue initiative results in faith. And faith means we will give up on being able to save ourselves and call on God to rescue us—receiving the rescue Jesus offers.  

By God’s grace, being rescued from sin’s trap doesn’t originate with us. It’s “the gift of God” through Jesus alone (v. 8).

Pray and Watch

By |2024-04-29T02:33:15-04:00April 29th, 2024|

When fighting spiritual battles, believers in Jesus should take prayer seriously. A Florida woman found out how dangerous it can be, however, to practice it unwisely. When she prayed, she closed her eyes. But while driving one day and praying (with eyes shut!), she failed to stop at a stop sign, flew through an intersection and went offroad into a homeowner’s yard. She then tried unsuccessfully to back off the lawn. Though not injured, she was given a police citation for reckless driving and property damage. This prayer warrior missed a key part of Ephesians 6:18: be alert.

As part of the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul includes two final pieces. First, we should fight spiritual battles with prayer. This means praying in the Spirit—relying on His power. Also, resting in His guidance and responding to His promptings—praying all kinds of prayers on all occasions (v. 18). Second, Paul encouraged us to “be alert.” Spiritual alertness can aid us in being prepared for Jesus and His return (Mark 13:33), gaining victory over temptation (Mark 14:38), and interceding for other believers (Ephesians 6:18).

As we fight spiritual battles daily, let’s permeate our lives with a “pray and watch” approach—combating evil powers and piercing the darkness with the light of Christ.

Bitterness of Stolen Sweets

By |2024-04-21T02:33:13-04:00April 21st, 2024|

Thieves in Germany stole a truck’s refrigerated trailer filled with more than twenty tons of chocolate. The estimated worth of the stolen sweetness was eighty thousand dollars. Local police asked anyone who was offered large quantities of chocolate via unconventional channels to report it immediately. Surely those who stole the massive amount of sweets will be facing bitter and unsatisfying consequences if they’re caught and prosecuted!

Proverbs confirms this principle: “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel” (20:17). Things we acquire deceptively or wrongfully may seem to be sweet at first—seasoned with excitement and temporary enjoyment. But the flavor will eventually wear off and our deception will lead to our being left wanting and in trouble. The bitter consequences of guilt, fear, and sin can end up ruining our lives and reputations. “Even small children are known by their actions, [if] their conduct [is]really pure and upright” (v. 11). May our words and actions reveal a pure heart for God—not the bitterness of selfish desires.

When we’re tempted, let’s ask God to strengthen us and help us remain faithful to Him. He can help us look behind the short-term “sweetness” of giving in to temptation and guide us to carefully consider the long-term consequences of our choices.

Jesus, Our Substitute

By |2024-03-29T02:33:05-04:00March 29th, 2024|

A wealthy twenty-year-old was drag-racing with his friends when he struck and killed a pedestrian. Although the young man received a three-year prison sentence, some believe that the man who appeared in court (and who subsequently served a prison sentence) was a hired surrogate for the driver who committed the crime. This type of thing has been known to occur in some countries where people hire body doubles to avoid paying for their crimes.

This may sound scandalous and outrageous, but more than two thousand years ago, Jesus became our substitute and “suffered for [our] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3:18). As God’s sinless sacrifice, Christ suffered and died once and for all (Hebrews 10:10), for all who believe in Him. He took the penalty for all our sins in His own body on the cross. Unlike a person today who chooses to wrongly be a substitute for a criminal to get some cash, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross provided “hope” for us as He freely, willingly gave His life for us (1 Peter 3:18; John 10:15). He did so to bridge the chasm between us and God.

May we rejoice and find comfort and confidence in this profound truth: Only by the substitutionary death of Jesus can we—sinners in need—have a relationship with and complete spiritual access to our loving God.

God Alone Can Satisfy

By |2024-03-14T02:33:21-04:00March 14th, 2024|

A thousand dollars of food—jumbo shrimp, shawarma, salads, and more—was delivered to a homeowner. But the man wasn’t having a party. In fact, he didn’t order the smorgasbord; his six-year son did. How did this happen? The father let his son play with his phone before bedtime and the boy used it to purchase the expensive bounty from a restaurant. “Why did you do this?” the father asked his son, who was hiding under his comforter. The six-year-old replied, “I was hungry.” The boy’s appetite and immaturity led to a costly outcome. 

Esau’s appetite cost him a lot more than a thousand dollars. The story in Genesis 25 finds him exhausted and desperate for food. He said to his brother, “Let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (v. 29). Jacob responded by asking for Esau’s birthright (v. 31). The birthright included Esau’s special place as the firstborn son, the blessing of God’s promises, a double portion of the inheritance, and the privilege of being the spiritual leader of the family. Giving in to his appetite, Esau “ate and drank” and “despised his birthright” (v. 34).

When we’re tempted and desiring something, instead of letting our appetites lead us to costly mistakes and sin, let’s reach out to our heavenly Father—the One who alone satisfies the hungry soul “with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

Not Luck, but Christ

By |2024-02-25T01:33:03-05:00February 25th, 2024|

Discover magazine suggests that there are around 700 quintillion (7 followed by 20 zeros) planets in the universe, but only one like Earth. Astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson said that one of the requirements for a planet to sustain life is to orbit in the “Goldilocks” zone, where the temperature is just right and water can exist. Out of 700 quintillion planets, Earth seems to be one planet where conditions are just right. Zackrisson concluded that Earth somehow had been dealt a “fairly lucky hand.”

Paul assured the Colossian believers that the universe existed, not because of Lady Luck, but because of the work of Jesus. The apostle presents Christ as the Creator of the world (Colossians 1:16). “For in him all things were created.” Not only was Jesus the powerful creator of the world, but Paul says that “in him all things hold together” (v. 17)—a world that’s not too hot and not too cold, but one that’s just right for human existence. What Jesus created, He’s sustaining with His perfect wisdom and unceasing power.

As we participate and enjoy the beauty of creation, let’s choose not to point to the random activity of Lady Luck, but to the purposeful, sovereign, powerful and loving One who possesses “all [God’s] fullness” (v. 19).

Brought Low

By |2024-02-08T01:33:18-05:00February 8th, 2024|

Pride precedes and often leads to humiliation—something a man in Norway found out. Not even dressed in running clothes, the individual arrogantly challenged Karsten Warholm—the world record holder in the 400-meter hurdles—to a race. Warholm, training in an indoor public facility, obliged the challenger and left him in his dust. At the finish line, the two-time world champion smiled when the man insisted that he’d had a bad start and wanted to race again!

In Proverbs 29:23 we read, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.” God’s dealings with the proud is one of Solomon’s favorite themes in the book (11:2; 16:18; 18:12). The word pride in these verses means “swelling” or “puffed up”—taking credit for what rightfully belongs to God. When we’re filled with pride, we think more highly of ourselves than we should. Jesus once said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Both He and Solomon point us to pursue humility and lowliness. This isn’t false modesty, but right-sizing oneself and acknowledging that all that we have comes from God. It’s being wise and not saying things arrogantly “in haste” (Proverbs 29:18, 20).   

Let’s ask God to give us the heart and wisdom to humble ourselves to honor Him and avoid humiliation.

No More Prejudice

By |2024-01-26T01:33:23-05:00January 26th, 2024|

Many years ago, Julie Landsman auditioned for principal French hornist for New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The MET held their auditions behind a screen to avoid prejudice by the judges. Landsman did well in her audition and ended up winning the competition. But when she stepped out from behind the screen, some of the all-male judges walked to the rear of the room and turned their backs on her. Apparently, they were looking for someone else.

When the Israelites asked for a king, God accommodated the people and gave them a man who was physically imposing like the other nations had (1 Samuel 8:5; 9:2). But because Saul’s first years as king were marked by faithlessness and disobedience, God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king (16:1–13). When Samuel saw Eliab, the oldest son, he assumed that God had chosen him to be king because he was physically impressive. But God challenged Samuel’s thinking: “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v. 7). God had chosen David to lead His people (v. 12).

 When evaluating people’s ability and suitability for His purposes, God looks at character, will, and motives. He invites us to be attuned to see the world and people as He does—focusing on peoples’ hearts and not their outward appearance or credentials.

Learning from Mistakes

By |2024-01-16T01:33:06-05:00January 16th, 2024|

To help avoid future financial mistakes, such as those in 1929 and 2008 that brought down the world’s economy, The Library of Mistakes was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland. It features a collection of more than two thousand books that can help educate the next generation of economists. And it serves as a perfect example of how, according to the library’s curators, “smart people keep doing stupid things.” The curators believe that the only way to build a strong economy is to learn from prior mistakes.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that one way to avoid yielding to temptation and to have a strong spiritual life is to learn from the mistakes of God’s people in the past. So to make sure they wouldn’t become overconfident with their spiritual privilege, the apostle used ancient Israel’s failures as an example from which to gain wisdom. The Israelites chose to “commit sexual immorality,” engaged in “idolatry,” grumbled about the plans and purposes of God, and rebelled against His leaders (1 Corinthians 10:7–10). Due to their sin, they experienced His discipline (vv. 8–10). Paul presented these historical “examples” from Scripture to help believers in Jesus avoid repeating Israel’s mistakes (v. 11).

As God helps us, let’s learn from our mistakes and those made by others so that we might gain a heart of obedience for Him.

The Crown of Life

By |2023-12-29T01:33:05-05:00December 29th, 2023|

A twelve-year-old named LeeAdianez Rodriguez-Espada was worried that she’d be late for a 5K run (just over 3 miles). Her anxiousness led her to take off with a group of runners fifteen minutes earlier than her start time with participants of the half marathon (more than 13 miles!). LeeAdianez fell in pace with other runners and put one foot in front of the other. At mile four, with the finish line nowhere in sight, she realized that she was in a longer and more difficult race. Instead of dropping out, she simply kept running. The accidental half-marathoner completed her 13.1-mile race and placed 1,885th out of 2,111 finishers. Now that’s perseverance!

While undergoing persecution, many first-century believers in Jesus wanted to drop out of the race for Christ, but James encouraged them to keep running. If they patiently endured testing, God promised a double reward (James 1:1, 12). First, “perseverance [would] finish its work” so they could be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4). Second, God would give them the “crown of life”—life in Jesus on earth and the promise of being in His presence in the life to come (v. 12). 

Some days the Christian race feels like it’s not the one we signed up for—it’s something longer and more difficult than we expected. But as God provides what we need, we can persevere and keep on running.

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