As the Wordview series comes to a close, we took time to sit down with Pastor Ariel Marquez of Victory Alabang to hear about the Word in action in his life. In this article, he shares his experiences from more than three decades of walking with God and reading the Word.
How did you learn to devote yourself to the Word?
I’m thankful that when I was a young Christian, there were disciples in church who taught me about the Word. It wasn’t just one pastor. Pastor Steve Murrell was the first one who sat down with me to disciple me, but there were also other people who taught me devotion to the Word. These include my friends from church who helped me and my brother Bernard how to read, journal, and devote ourselves to the Bible. That was my first experience of being devoted to the Word.
Can you share verses from Scripture that made a huge impact in your worldview?
“There is an assurance that you can go through life and have stability because of the Word.”
Psalm 1 is so meaningful for me. It starts with: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” When it comes to looking at the world, the question is, “Where do I get my idea, my counsel, or my perspective?”
You’ll see two ways in this chapter—the way of the world and the way of the Word. The first way is a progression of destruction. It shows the pattern of people agreeing with the ways of the world. The Bible says in Romans 12 that we should not be conformed to the world’s ways.
The other way in Psalm 1 talks about one who meditates on the Word day and night, who is likened to a tree. When I heard this passage, I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be always fresh, flourishing, and bearing fruit. The picture in the psalm is a tree planted by streams of water. There is an assurance that you can go through life and have stability because of the Word. The promise in Psalm 1 helped me when we lost our son in 2003. It was one of the darkest moments in our family.
Our son, Jerome, got sick in October 2003. Two months after, he passed away. It was very quick because tuberculous meningitis is aggressive. We were in and out of the hospital for two months while our son had five surgeries. With all these things, you’ll definitely be shaken. It will shake you to the core. I had what I called a “faith quake.” At that time, I asked myself, “Who do I hang on to?” I’m so glad that the Word was there to sustain us. I have a strong wife, but situations like these test a marriage.
I know a couple who ended up going their separate ways because they couldn’t handle the pain of loss in a similar situation. In our case, it was really the Word that brought stability to our marriage. The book of Job helped me during that time. When Job lost everything, he said this statement, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Instead of Job blaming God, he blessed God. This became pivotal for us. We were a young couple in our early thirties then. Jerome was only eight years old, and Bea was almost twelve, but we were able to go through all that and still hang onto God’s promises. It helped us have a different perspective on suffering.
When people come into a relationship with God, blessings and eternal life are usually what they have in mind. Many expect a good life. Yes, that’s part of our relationship with God. Jesus said that He came to give us life and have it to the full (John 10:10). But, sometimes, people misinterpret this and think it means no more problems, no more sicknesses, and no more sufferings in life. Remember that Jesus Himself said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” It came from His mouth. The book of Job gives us a new perspective on suffering and encourages us that we can serve God in the midst of that. In suffering or pain, you can find your purpose. Jesus, the founder of Christianity Himself, went to the cross for us and suffered so much. Knowing these truths from the Bible helped me go through that difficult time.
If ever a person or a family goes through a situation of suffering, don’t be surprised. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Suffering is part of the completion of our character in Christ. You can’t forge gold without fire. You can’t make a pot without going through heat. I think this is what I learned most from Job.
God is faithful. He won’t let you go through life without blessing. At the end of Job’s life, you can see the blessing of God. The story of Job gives you a holistic view of life. When we receive blessing, we praise God. When there’s none, we usually question God’s faithfulness. If you’re going through a good experience, you think God is good. What if you’re going through suffering or pain? Is God not good? The right answer is God is still good.
How do you devote yourself to the Word of God every day?
You have to find ways to make the Word fresh and like a novelty. I’ve been a Christian for 31 years. If you’re someone like me who has been reading the Word regularly, you have to find ways to be creative in reading it. When I start the year, I sometimes take on new Bible reading guides. I also buy a new version of the Bible. I just change the versions for my devotion. But for study, of course, I use the English Standard Version. I separate my study time for preaching from devotion time for myself. I study because I’m a pastor, and I read the Bible because I’m a Christian. That’s different. If I weren’t a pastor, I would still read and study the Word. Since I’m a pastor, I do both.
What inspires me? My children. Deuteronomy 6 tells us about impressing the Word on our kids. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” You’re not the only one who benefits from the Word you read. I know my kids will think, “Is my dad living it out?” This is my inspiration. My family is the one who is following my leadership. My children and the people I’m discipling continually inspire me to devote myself to the Word.
Whatever you have in your heart, impress them on others. The Word you’re reading right now will not only have an impact in your life. It will create a ripple effect in generations after yours. This is probably my main inspiration. If I fail in the home, no amount of success in the ministry can compensate for my failure. When it comes to the Word and love and passion for God, I would rather see my kids passionate for God first before the Victory group leaders in church. I always ask, “How’s my family? Are they walking with God? Are they loving the Word?” My home will validate my ministry.
Pastor Ariel Marquez is the senior pastor of Victory Alabang. He is happily married to Shirley, and they have three daughters—Bea, Anna, and Andrea.
Beyond the Series is a set of interviews with Victory pastors dealing with topics related to our sermon series. For our Wordview series, we also sat down with Bishop Manny Carlos to talk about devotion to the Word.