Abraham Lincoln told one of his generals that if you’ve got an elephant by the tail and he’s determined to run, it’s best to let him go.

Losing is sometimes inevitable. The Israelites refused to believe that God would enable them to conquer the Canaanites. God told them they would wander in the wilderness forty years for their rebellion. The next morning they decided to fight the Canaanites, but God was not with them. Moses warned that they would not win this battle. The stubborn Israelites tried anyway. They lost (Num. 14:40-45).

There are some fights you cannot win:

  • The Spite Game. The “I’ll show them” way never shows anyone much. It may make a spiteful person feel good for a little while, but it will not satisfy a craving for petty vengeance. Daniel’s peers resented his success and set a trap for him, but they were the ones who lost in the end (Dan. 6). Haman was outraged that Mordecai refused to bow to him and plotted to have all the Jews killed. He lost (Esther 3-7). Watch your attitude and stay away from these childish spats. Don’t ever do something to spite someone. Don’t say anything out of spite. In the long run, you will lose.
  • Arguing with a fool. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and even he would not argue with certain people. “If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest” (Prov. 29:9). You cannot reason with a man who refuses to reason. An honest man fights with facts and truth, but a foolish man cares nothing about these things. He will not fight fair. You may prove your point logically, but that will not silence him. You may show him that he is wrong, but that will not make him ashamed. You cannot win with a person like this, so refuse to argue with such a person even if he is trying to provoke you. If you use reason and good sense to prove him wrong, he will respond with insults and you accomplish nothing. If you stoop to his level and lose your temper, he wins again. “He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot” (Prov. 9:7).
  • Keeping Up With Others. What drives people to buy certain clothes, cars, or houses? Too often the motivation is to match or outdo what someone else has. The illusion is that having nicer things than others have will bring a sense of security. But why would people feel insecure because others have more than they do? Sometimes we use the word insecurity when what we really mean is jealousy. Besides, this is a contest they can’t win. The more they try to keep up with the Joneses, the more Joneses there are to keep up with financially. As soon as they rise above one family, they will find themselves beneath another. This game is so childish that it should not even be a problem among grown men and women, but it is very common. It certainly has no place in the church. Be content with what you have and be happy for others (Heb. 13:5; Rom. 12:15).

Solomon’s warning about strife is fitting. He said the best time to avoid it is before it starts (Prov. 17:14). That is the best time to avoid these other battles as well.

-Kerry Duke