• Dominique M. Williams

1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the LordI know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knowsAnd I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utterOn behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from meSo to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceitedThree times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave meBut he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

II Corinthians 12:1-10 ESV



One of the human qualities that humanity has gradually begun to more publicly honor and exalt over the past decade is transparency! Countless people from A-list celebrities to social media influencers have shared very intimate details of their lives on various platforms to encourage and connect with individuals who struggle with similar issues! Transparency has revolutionized complex and often controversial subject matters such as mental health, sexuality, romantic, and even familial relationships, to name a few! Admittedly, it's easy for someone to boast in their strengths, especially when multiple people affirm those strengths! To openly express one's weaknesses, however, is not as easy! To this day, being open and vulnerable can be perceived as a form of weakness among certain people in certain social contexts. In the same breath, however, our current society and the world have seen the traumatic and even fatal effects of hoarding internal struggles, which has led many to depart from seeing vulnerability as a weakness, but rather as a beacon of strength and hope to a dying world.


In II Corinthians 12, we see that very familiar internal struggle between the pride that derives from our strengths and the despair that derives from the weight of our weaknesses through the life of the apostle Paul. Upon the first read-through, the first five verses of this passage can seem slightly confusing, as the apostle Paul shifts between addressing himself ("I must go on boasting...I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord") and seemingly another Christian whom he knew ("I know a man in Christ...And I know that this man was caught up..."). In reality, the man in Christ whom Paul is mentioning is himself; he is speaking in the third person to avoid boasting in himself, specifically in the visions and revelations that he has received from the Lord ("caught up to the third heaven...caught up into paradise...heard things that cannot be told..."). In verse 5, we see this contrast between Paul and Paul's reference to himself in the third person when he says, "On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses...".


This idea of boasting in one's weaknesses takes vulnerability and transparency to the next level! It's one thing for a person to openly talk about their weaknesses, especially if those shortcomings are perceived to be shameful and embarrassing among others, and to the individual themselves. But to boast in those shortcomings? One of the challenges people face in choosing to openly discuss their weaknesses is the shame and embarrassment that usually accompany them when doing so! That first step of open confession takes a great deal of courage! But to take pride in weakness as the apostle Paul chose to do? It seems like an oxymoron, but he certainly didn't believe so!


In verse 7, Paul opens up to discuss a struggle of his own, which he describes as "a thorn...in the flesh". Due to the ambiguity of this description, many scholars and theologians over the years have speculated over the exact nature of this thorn; some have proposed that this thorn was an internal psychological struggle unbeknownst to others, an ongoing demonic disturbance of some kind ("a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me") or most popularly, a physical ailment, hence "in the flesh", specifically one that affected Paul's eyes, in contrast to his incomparable spiritual visions from the Lord. Regardless of the exact nature of this thorn, we know that it was a great nuisance to Paul, so much so that he pleaded with the Lord to remove it three times ("Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me"). Rather than remove it, the Lord responds to Paul saying, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."


While this thorn was a great nuisance to Paul, he testifies that it was given to him to prevent him from exalting himself ("So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh..."). And while Paul described the thorn as a "messenger of Satan", God in His sovereignty still allowed it to remain in Paul's side, not to torture him, but to remind Paul that His grace was more than enough to sustain and keep him through the challenges of bearing the thorn! The weight of the thorn did not outweigh the grace of God! Moreover, God reminds the apostle Paul that His power working through him was made perfect, or complete in the weakness of a fallen, sinful human being such as himself. This does not denote that God's power in and of itself is incomplete or lacking in any way, but that His power demonstrates itself most effectively and sufficiently when it operates in the weaknesses of the believer through the Holy Spirit!


Therefore, Paul boldly professes that he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses, even more than his visions and revelations from the Lord, so that the power of Jesus Christ may rest upon and in him! Prior to receiving this revelation from the Lord, Paul wanted the thorn to be removed permanently! But after receiving this revelation concerning the Lord's grace and power, Paul now takes pride in the thorn in his flesh because it has created a platform for God to constantly demonstrate His power in and through his life. In Paul's eyes, there was no weakness in bearing this thorn; only strength to be gained ("For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”)!


The apostle Paul has provided us with a new way to view our daily struggles and wrestles as image-bearers of the Lord who dwell in sinful flesh. Rather than walk in shame and embarrassment over those things that seem to cripple us and hinder our sanctification, we can truly boast in those weaknesses with joy because they serve as a stage for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to display His matchless, transformative power in our lives! What could truly be better than being a vessel for the God of the universe to demonstrate His power in and through? While God is indeed glorified in our praise & worship, there is nothing truly more glorifying to a perfect God than His imperfect creation yielding to His Spirit and bearing fruit that testifies to what He alone has the ability to do: liberate and transform, among so many other things! Make today the first day that you die to walking in shame over those "thorns" that annoy and plague you from time to time! Invite the Lord to step into your wrestling ring and show off His immeasurable power in your life!


#livetransformed #devotional #transformationchristianfellowship #christianblog

  • Dominique M. Williams

1 Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David’s two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. Moreover, David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Please bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.”

I Samuel 30:1-8 NASB


As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, it goes without question that the person we should turn to first when we are in trouble is God! Psalm 46 even reminds us that God is a “very present help in trouble”. However, what we should do as believers is not always what we end up doing! While seeking the Lord should be our immediate response to trouble, it is often a delayed response. Every believer can attest to a situation where he or she consulted the Lord’s counsel or pleaded for His intervention as a last or second-to-last resort! Sometimes, a dire situation has even had to happen before we finally relinquished our pride and stubbornness to finally seek the Lord!

For the past two weeks, we’ve been observing the life of a young David in a season filled with triumph and tension, specifically between himself and King Saul, whose extreme jealousy towards David fueled an intense pursuit to take his life (if you haven’t read either “The Pressure to Compromise, Part I” or “The Pressure to Compromise, Part II”, read them now!) After sparing King Saul’s life for a second time, David convinced himself to seek refuge in the land of the Philistines, one of the sworn enemies of his native land of Israel. David believed that Saul would stop searching for him if he fled to the land of the Philistines, which is exactly what Saul did once he received word that David, his army, and two wives had fled to Gath, a city located in the region of Philistia (cf. I Samuel 27:1-4).

Once he arrived in Gath, David asked Achish, the king of Gath, to provide him with his own territory within the city. By using flattery yet deceptive language in his exchanges with Achish, such as, “for why should your servant live in the royal city with you?”, David gave Achish the impression that he had renounced his allegiance to Israel and was now fighting on behalf of the Philistines. Having believed David’s false impressions, Achish happily granted David’s request and gave him the land of Ziklag (cf. I Samuel 27:5-6). Once he settled in Ziklag, David continued to feign allegiance to the Philistines; when King Achish would ask him which regions he’d raided, David would tell him that he had raided territories belonging to Israel when he was actually raiding territories belonging to the enemies of Israel.

David killed every individual inhabiting those territories so that no one would be able to inform Achish of what he was truly doing! As a result, Achish believed David’s lies and became convinced that he would serve him permanently (cf. I Samuel 27:8-12)! However, David’s charade did not deceive everyone! In I Samuel 29, the commanders of the Philistine army recognized David and his soldiers as Israelites among the Philistine armies. They commanded Achish to send David and his men back to Ziklag, fearing that David and his army would turn against them in battle. Despite his multiple pleas and vouches of David’s integrity, Achish commanded David and his army to return to Ziklag to appease the Philistine army commanders.

In I Samuel 30, David and his men returned to Ziklag to discover that the entire territory had been raided and set on fire. Their wives and children had also been captured. What David did not know upon returning to Ziklag was that their land had been raided by the Amalekites, the army of the region he previously raided (cf. I Samuel 27:8). If there was any consolation or evidence of God’s mercy upon David and his army, it was that all their wives and children had been captured, not killed, and left for dead, unlike the Amalekite residents whom David slaughtered during his raid of their land.

David and his army were extremely distraught upon returning to Ziklag (“Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep.”) They even threatened to stone David, presumably because his decision to settle in the land of the Philistines under false impressions ultimately resulted in this tragedy (“Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters.”). However, the next two decisions that David made demonstrated not only a change in direction, but a change of heart, a repentant heart!

First, David turned to the Lord for comfort (“But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”). It’s no question that David was not only exhausted from being on the run, but also distraught having realized that his decision to settle in the enemy’s camp under a false allegiance led to this tragedy! Yet, while in despair, he strengthened, or encouraged himself in the Lord his God! While these verses do not explicitly state how David strengthened himself in the Lord, it wouldn’t be wrong or far off to assume based on the Psalms that David worshipped the Lord in song or prayer during this moment! Worship was not solely what David did, but it was the essence of who he was as a man after God’s own heart!

More importantly, David departed from leaning to his own understanding and turned to the Lord for counsel. After he had strengthened himself in the Lord, David asked Abiathar the priest to bring him the ephod, a traditional priestly garment worn by the Levitical high priests of the Old Testament. Israelite leaders would use the ephod to ask the Lord for direction and instruction regarding a particular situation. Once David received the ephod from Abiathar, he asked the Lord whether he should pursue the band of raiders (“David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?”). In response, the Lord instructed David to pursue the band of raiders and assured him that he would recover all that was stolen from him (“And He said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.”) In obedience to and fulfillment of God’s Word, David and his army pursued the Amalekite raiders, defeated them, and recovered all that was stolen from them, including their wives and children (cf. I Samuel 30:16-18).

We’ve seen David deviate from seeking refuge in the Lord by seeking refuge in the enemy’s camp! We’ve seen him consciously decide to compromise his character and livelihood to resolve an immediate threat from King Saul! We’ve seen how his poor decisions at the beginning of I Samuel 27 ultimately led to the raid of his territory and the capturing of his wives in I Samuel 30. Now, we've seen David return to the Lord, not solely in pursuit of divine instruction, but ultimately in pursuit of the Lord Himself! The grief and distress he poured out over the destruction of his land and the capturing of his wives pushed David to seek strength, direction, and refuge in the One who continued to protect him even while he was living in the enemy’s territory!


Moreover, God displayed His unconditional love, grace, and mercy towards David! In His mercy, God spared the lives of the families of David and his army. In His grace, God allowed David to recover all that the Amalekites stole from him. In His unconditional love, God responded to David’s inquiry, when none of David’s prior actions warranted a response! No matter how far we’ve strayed away from God, we can never stray past or outside the realm of His grace, mercy, and unconditional love! It also does not matter how long it's been since you've sought the Lord for direction or even spoken with Him! Return to Him today! While we should not make a habit out of seeking the Lord as a last or second-to-last resort, we can rest knowing that if we ever veer off track, we can always return to Him and the constant availability of His counsel!

  • Dominique M. Williams

Updated: Jun 28

"8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites [the enemies of Israel that Joshua had failed to annihilate]; for they had inhabited the land from ancient times, as one comes to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt. David attacked the land and did not leave a man or a woman alive, but he took the sheep, the cattle, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothing, and returned to Achish. 10 When Achish asked, “Where did you raid today?” David replied, “Against the Negev (the South country) of Judah, and against the Negev of the Jerahmeelites, and against the Negev of the Kenites.” 11 David did not leave a man or a woman alive to bring news to Gath, saying [to himself], “Otherwise they will tell about us, saying, ‘This is what David has done, and this has been his practice all the time that he has lived in the country of the Philistines.’” 12 Achish believed David, saying, “He has certainly become hated by his people in Israel; so he will always be my servant.

I Samuel 27:8-12 AMP



Have you ever told a lie, and then proceeded to tell another lie, and another one after that to maintain the “truth” of the previous two lies that you told? If that sounds exhausting, it’s because it is! The more you lie, the more you continue to sink into a hole of deception that can seem impossible to escape! Maintaining a successful succession of lies actually requires much more effort and analytical thinking than simply telling the truth. While telling the truth in a particular situation may be difficult or even life-threatening, it arguably does not compare to carrying the weight of deception.

In last week’s devotional, we discussed the correlation between pressure and compromise, specifically how being under pressure in certain situations can cause you to compromise your convictions, beliefs, and ultimately your character! Before he officially occupied the throne, a young David found himself under constant pressure from King Saul who was desperately trying to kill him. Even after being presented with two prime opportunities to kill King Saul, David refused to do so, recognizing that Saul was still God’s anointed one. After David spares Saul’s life for a second time, Saul offers him some flattering encouragement, but David remains convinced that Saul will continue to pursue him as long as he is alive. Therefore, David, an Israelite, decides to settle himself, his two wives, and an accompanying army of 600 men in a city called Gath, which is located in the region of Philistia, one of Israel’s sworn enemies.

In Samuel 17, David boldly stood against Goliath, the Philistines' fiercest warrior, and defeated him! Fast forward to Chapter 27, David is now living in the land of the Philistines, the enemy’s territory. According to David’s logic, Saul would stop searching for him to kill him if he knew that David was residing in the land of the Philistines. Fortunately for David, his logic proved to be correct; once Saul received word that David had fled to Gath, he stopped searching for him. Although the immediate threat of Saul has been eliminated, David now finds himself in a comprising situation living in the land of his country’s sworn enemy and feigning allegiance to Achish, the king of Gath (if you haven't already, read last week's devotional, "The Pressure To Compromise, Part I" to read the full background of this account!)


Although he is still truly fighting on behalf of Israel, David gives Achish the false impression that he has transferred allegiance from Israel to Philistia, not only to maintain his residence in Gath, but ultimately to preserve his life. On a normal day, David would venture out with his army and raid the territories of the enemies of Israel (“Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites [the enemies of Israel that Joshua had failed to annihilate] ...but he took the sheep, the cattle, the donkeys, the camels, and the clothing…”). When David would return to Gath, King Achish would ask him which regions he’d raided, to which David would lie, saying that he raided regions of Israel, more specifically the land of Judah (“When Achish asked, “Where did you raid today?” David replied, “Against the Negev (the South country) of Judah, and against the Negev of the Jerahmeelites, and against the Negev of the Kenites”).

Not only did David raid the territories of the enemies of Israel, but he also purposefully killed everyone residing in those territories so that no one would be able to travel to Gath and inform Achish of what he was really doing (“David did not leave a man or a woman alive to bring news to Gath, saying [to himself], “Otherwise they will tell about us, saying, ‘This is what David has done, and this has been his practice all the time that he has lived in the country of the Philistines.) Had Achish discovered that David was actually raiding and killing Israel’s enemies instead of Israel itself, David could have been killed. However, Achish believed David’s lies and was convinced that he would serve him permanently moving forward (“Achish believed David, saying, “He has certainly become hated by his people in Israel; so he will always be my servant.”)


Without question, David knew the Lord to be a Deliverer: lions and bears, Goliath the Philistine giant, King Saul; his testimonies of the Lord’s faithfulness in the Psalms are definitely experiential. Having been on the run for the majority of his young life, however, we can strongly surmise that David gradually grew tired of running. He wanted to be able to live in peace without his life constantly being threatened. While David’s desire for rest and relief from his enemies was pure and justified, he placed himself in an even more stressful situation by not only hiding out in the enemy’s territory, but also feigning allegiance to the enemy. What could be more mentally exhausting than living life on the run? Living a double-life! We cannot say for certain where the Lord would have sent David had he sought Him first after he spared King Saul’s life for a second time, but He surely wouldn’t have sent David to seek refuge in the enemy’s camp and live a life of deception to preserve his livelihood!

As believers, every decision that we make requires us to trust God and seek Him for direction! At times, it may be tempting to “take a break” from following His lead and follow the plan that we’ve developed in our minds based on our own understanding of the situation. However, that’s just it: our understanding apart from His inspiration and revelation is limited, which can lead us to make decisions that may possibly resolve an immediate issue, but could also potentially put us in more stressful and troubling positions than before. That’s why Solomon instructs his son to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6).


Exhaustion can also lead us to make unwise decisions, which is why Jesus instructs “all who are weary and burdened” to come to Him so that He can give us rest (cf. Matthew 11:28)! Rest is essential to making wise decisions; it renews our mind and re-centers our focus on the One we know is able to deliver, but also keep and sustain us in the midst of any situation! In our pursuit of resolution, we must remain diligent to refrain from yielding to the pressure to compromise our godly convictions and character. What we see as a quick solution to a problem from a carnal perspective could actually be the first step in a long line of decisions that can and will lead us on a journey from “I’d never do that” to “I did it”, if we don’t remain steadfast in the conviction of our faith.


It is never God’s will that we compromise our identity as His children and representatives for the sake of our livelihood. Both honesty and an unwavering commitment to defend and live according to the truth of His Word honor the Lord, not deception. The good news is that God’s mercy and grace extend to us no matter how far we’ve strayed away from His will. Not only does His grace and mercy extend to us, but they also lead us back to Him in repentance and renewal of the mind. Be sure to join us next Monday as we discuss David's return to the Lord!


#devotional #christianblog #compromise #christianliving #blog #transformationchristianfellowship #bibledevotional

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