Choose Your Battles – Lessons from war history!

There’s a wise saying:  “Choose your battles.”  In other words, don’t get stressed over traffic conditions and have a stroke.  There are more important things to get stressed about if you must.  Don’t fight with your mate over a lost postage stamp; fight with the devil over lost souls!  And, if you are going to fight at all, make sure you aren’t wasting your time: just “beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26). Make your punches count and worth the effort and risk!  

The first of 5 axioms of choosing your battles is . . .

1) Don’t get in a battle over trivial things:  Donald Trump, who has built or rebuilt some of the biggest or most beautiful buildings in the world in New York City, Atlantic City, Chicago and Washington and claims he’s a billionaire, sued the author of a book in which three unnamed sources said Trump’s net worth is between $150 million and $250 million. That “error” Donald claims was malicious, and it hurt his business so Donald sued.  However, a judge threw the case out of court.  Imagine getting mad and stressed and taking time and money to sue someone for saying you’re just a millionaire and not a billionaire!   This is a perfect example of choosing trivial battles.

When David decided to fight Goliath, he defended his action in 1 Samuel 17:29: “And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” This was no trivial fight! This was a “cause” worth fighting for. Make sure that there is a worthy cause for your decision for any battle.  (ie: Is losing 5 minutes at a train stop worth getting angry and stressed over it?).  If it won’t matter 100 years from now, does it really matter now?

We often hear the testimony of people who had a near death experience or lost a loved one who suddenly realized that the things they thought really mattered weren’t so important after all. Carnal and immature Christians can really get upset at some of the most trivial things.  Matthew Barnett tells the story of how he took over the pastorate of an Assembly of God Church in Pasadena. His first act as pastor was to move the piano from one side of the platform to the other side. Half the people left the church over it!  But, Matthew just kept on trucking in the areas of ministry that really count. Today, he is the pastor of the famous “Angeles Temple” in Los Angeles (Aimee Semple McPherson built it in the 20’s).  The church has a bus ministry and powerful outreach to the community; especially among the troubled and downtrodden. The church is experiencing revival like it hasn’t since the days of yore.  Matthew knew what battles he wanted to focus on! Those old persnickety saints let a trivial thing like a piano’s location keep them from learning from one who  proved to be a mighty man of God.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!  Don’t major on minors.  Don’t get an ulcer over traffic: listen to the radio and sing.  Don’t get a divorce over which TV programs you and your mate watch: buy two TVs!  Don’t worry about something relatively insignificant.  Don’t use your adrenaline unless there is a true emergency:  save your strength for when you really need it!

A recent graduate answered an ad for an accountant. It was a small business on a quiet street in a non-descript area. He was interviewed by the owner who seemed to be very nervous.  The owner came right to the point:  “I’ve got a lot of things to worry about. So, I basically am hiring you to do my worrying for me. I want you to do all the worrying about the finances for me.” “Ok, what does the job pay?” the interested college grad asked.  The owner replied, “A hundred-thousand a year.”  His face aglow, the applicant said, “Wow! Fantastic!  But how can a small business like this possibly afford that kind of salary?”  “That” said the owner “is your first worry!” (Ha, ha!)    Unfortunately, we can’t “hire” someone to do our worrying for us.  In fact, we are not supposed to worry at all: Phil. 4:6-9 says,  “Be anxious for nothing, (Don’t worry about anything) but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”  Avoid trivial battles. Don’t worry about things that aren’t worthy of the fight. Only get involved in “praiseworthy” battles.  The battle may be difficult, but the “peace of God” will be with you.

2)  Only choose battles you know you can win:  Hitler chose to invade Russia in June, 1941.  Germany’s invasion of Russia, known as “Operation Barbarossa” became the greatest battle in history: in terms of the number of soldiers involved (well in excess of 10 million), the number of weapons involved (nearly 20,000 tanks and 15,000 aircraft on both sides), the territory involved (vast square miles of the largest nation in the world), and the deaths which resulted (Over 30 million citizens and soldiers).  Within 6 months, the German armies were stopped just at the outskirts of Moscow and were brought to a virtual standstill during the terrible Russian winter.  Though the war dragged on a few years, Hitler’s goal to rapidly defeat and control the European area of Russia was lost.   “The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history!”  is surely an adage that was true of Hitler’s decision to attack Russia opening up a whole new front for his armies during World War II.  Had he read his history books, he would have known that Napoleon’s armies also invaded Russia in 1812.  They made it all the way to Moscow.  But, when they tried to retreat, they left canons behind and many were literally walking back to France. The harsh winter devastated their troops!  They ended up eating their horses to try to survive the winter.  It’s especially interesting that 3 years later, Napoleon was defeated at “Waterloo” by an allied army including the British, led by the British “Duke of Wellington.”  Ironically, it was an allied army which also included the British that defeated Hitler.  Had Hitler been able to see into the future, he would not have invaded Russia. Had he studied his Bible for guidance, instead of the psychic He used, Hitler might have made a lot of different choices.

When it comes to our personal battles, as Christians, it isn’t guess work.  God has clearly shown us in the Bible the battles that we should engage in and the battles that we are promised to win!  Following are just a few:  1 Cor. 15:57:  “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We are promised victory in every battle, if we go “through” our Lord.   1 John 5:4:  “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.”  We’re promised to overcome the world, its temptations & trials, if we’ll but hold in in “faith.”  2 Corinthians 2:14:  “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.”   We’re promised  that  in  any  battle where Christ is leading us, He’ll always bring us ultimately into victory!

Before you get involved in any dispute with another person; before you blindly prepare to battle some disease with some doctor prescribed course of therapy, or attempt to find a solution to any attack from hell:  look to the Word of God and see if there is any counsel you can follow or promises you can claim.  Then, and then only, declare war with full confidence that you will be the conqueror, not the conquered!   Romans 8:37: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  The Word says we are “more than conquerors.”  Hallelujah!   Colossians 2:15:  “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”   Christ laid down His life for us on the cross: the instrument by which he “disarmed” the powers of darkness.  Afterward, He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven-taking with him the keys to death and hell.  Jesus is a Conqueror!   Then He gave us (the church) His name, His authority, His blood, His power and the keys to the kingdom.  Make the determination to only fight battles you’re promised to win. Find your personal battle plan promised in the Bible.  Then declare war with great faith and assurance!  The headlines of your victory have already been printed in heaven.

3) The battles you choose today determine what battles you’ll be forced to fight tomorrow:  The Jazz Musician Eubie Blake, who lived to be 96 years of age, and died in 1983, is quoted as saying, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!”  (George Burns, Mickey Mantle and others popularized the same saying).  How well you take care of yourself now likely determines not only how long you will live, but how healthy you are in old age.  None of us want to be hobbling around in pain, taking all kinds of prescription drugs, because of failing health in our sunset years.  Yet, we are prophesying that very thing when we refuse to listen to the counsel of modern science which shows such clear evidence now of how preventable diseases of old age are.   The battles we choose in our diet today, determine what physical battles we may be forced fight in the future.  Dieting is hard, so most Americans are willing to take their chances: chances that 1/Jesus will come before they get old (or heal them);  2/ science will come up with some magic bullet pill to heal diseases or;  3/ they figure they’ll start really disciplining themselves when they turn 50; then reschedule that to 60; then reschedule that to 70, etc.   I heard an old man on my favorite 1950’s TV Western, “Cheyenne” say, “When you get old, you become obsessed with just one thing:  getting older!” (Ha, ha!).  Now that I’m old, it’s important to get older and to be a healthy older man.

Most of the diseases of old age are preventable with exercise and a proper diet.  For instance, they have proven with mice that life-expectancy is increased by eating 10-30% less food than what is customarily considered a “healthy portion to maintain a healthy weight.” Also, scientists were curious as to whether a low-calorie restricted diet would influence longevity and health among primates.  According to the US News and World Report, at, posted July 9, 2009, a study began in 1989 with 30 adult male monkeys. In 1994, 30 female and 16 more male monkeys were added to boost statistical power. The monkeys were 7 to 14 years old when they entered the study. Since Rhesus monkeys live, on average, 27 years in captivity, it has taken this long to determine whether cutting calories by 30 % would fend off aging and death. Over the course of the study, monkeys on the full-calorie diet were three times more likely to die from an aging-related disease than monkeys that ate 30 % fewer calories, the researchers found. Since the study began, 21 of 38 control monkeys and 14 of 38 calorie-restricted monkeys have died. Of the control monkeys, 14 died of age-related causes, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. In the calorie-restricted group, only five died from aging-associated diseases, and none have developed symptoms of diabetes.

Sugar Diabetes is the most easily preventable disease of old age.  There is an epidemic of sugar diabetes in America now.  But, there is no mystery about the disease.  9 out of 10 adult onset sugar diabetes cases are in overweight adults.  So, overweight is the number one factor in developing diabetes!

To prevent type 2 diabetes (adult onset) there are 4 simple things you can do (simple to understand; not simple to do!):  

1) Lose weight

2) Regularly do intense exercise (i.e.:  aerobic walking, swimming or jogging and weight lifting which helps you to lose weight and also increases your body’s ability to use sugar properly)

3) Minimize all sugars in your diet (especially desserts, candy, fruit drinks, pops, etc.)

4) Minimize white flour (breads, cakes, crackers, cookies, many cereals, etc.).

Website explains an interesting study reported by Gabe Mirkin, M.D. which may show that rigorous exercise is the most important of all to prevent sugar-diabetes:   “An exciting study from Yale shows that intense exercise is far more effective in preventing and controlling diabetes than exercising at a leisurely pace (Journal of Applied Physiology, January 2006). Inactive, healthy, non-obese women over 72 years of age were started in training programs of hard (80 percent of aerobic capacity), moderate (65 percent) and easy (50 percent).  All three groups did the same amount of work, burning 300 calories per session. The intense group had a great improvement in their ability to use sugar and suppress fat formation, while the low intensity group had little benefit.

This means that intense exercise can help both to prevent and to treat diabetes. The most tissue damage occurs immediately after eating, when blood sugar levels rise the highest. After you eat, sugar goes from the intestines into the bloodstream. The only places that sugar can be stored are in your muscles and liver. When your muscles are not exercised, they are full of sugar and sugar has no place to go after it enters your bloodstream. On the other hand, when your muscles are exercised, they empty their stored sugar. Then when you eat, sugar can go from the intestines into the bloodstream and then immediately into the muscles, preventing a high rise in blood sugar.   The exciting news from this study is that the more intensely you exercise, the greater the protection from developing diabetes and the better the control of your diabetes if you already have it. A word of caution: 75 percent of diabetics die from heart disease and some people can suffer heart attacks during intense exercise, so check with your doctor first.”  

Think of it, brothers and sisters!  Our choice to not diet restrictedly or not exercise intensely today because it is an “unpleasant” battle could result in being forced to battle diseases like sugar diabetes in our old age!

If killing one’s self with a knife is a sin, then isn’t killing oneself with sugar a sin?  James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  If science proves something is bad for us, and we continually put it in our body, couldn’t that be a sin?  Paul wrote, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” and “Glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).  We don’t glorify God when we’re sick in bed!  And, we can’t be much of a “temple” through which the Spirit can work when we’re too tired from sickness to go to church or do good works!   I submit to you that we need to take serious care of our body; not only that we might have a healthy, long old age; but so that we might provide an effective residence for the Holy Spirit.  Declare war on fat, on disease and “fight the good fight” to eat right and exercise.  Don’t wait till later to battle an old, tired body wracked with preventable diseases of old age.    And, before you declare any war and begin any battle, “count the cost” and make sure that your battle isn’t going to force you later into a war you don’t want to fight!

4)  We pay the price for choosing the wrong battle:  In 1941, the Japanese were resolved to conquering and controlling virtually all of Asia.  Though America had tried to hold a course of isolationism and non-interventionism since the end of the 1st World War, our nation were increasingly drawn into helping our ally, the British, in the war in Europe.  It seemed inevitable to the Japanese that America would eventually become involved in the war in the east as well.  So, their rationale for the attack on Pearl Harbor was that by a pre-emptive destruction of our Pacific fleet, they would delay for at least a year or more our ability to fight them, which would give them enough time to defeat China and some of the other Asian territories.  With full-control of the east, they could then easily defeat any rebuilt American naval forces sent their way.    Of course, they were wrong.  For one thing, a number of our most important ships were out to sea in exercises and were untouched by the surprise Hawaiian attack.  And, they also had failed to accurately account for our resolve, our great natural resources (which Japan didn’t have) and our technological advantage.  It was exactly 6 months later, to the day, that America defeated the Japanese navy in the Battle of Midway:  so crippling their naval capabilities that they never recovered from the blow.  And, once America “owned” the sea, it was just a matter of time before we defeated the Japanese.  Pearl Harbor had proven to be one of the greatest military miscalculations in history.

It is ironic that Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese navy, had been the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  But, Yamamoto himself admitted that the United States would win the war because of their, “technological advantage.”  It was in April of 1943, that Yamamoto saw his own prophecy fulfilled.  He had made plans for an inspection tour throughout the south pacific.  Thanks to our technology, our intelligence service received and decrypted a coded message announcing the exact times of Yamamoto’s itinerary.  Then, one of our most sophisticated and technologically advanced fighters, the P-38 Lightning, intercepted the bomber ferrying the Japanese commander and shot it down.   The ghost of Admiral Yamamoto would warn each of us today: “Choose your battles, because you’ll pay the price for choosing the wrong battle.”

Muhammad Ali was in the waning years of his fighting years in the late seventies. But, he was a star, had a devoted following, and then there was the money.  So, he decided to fight an up and coming boxer, Leon Spinx, who had won a gold medal in the Olympics, but had had only had seven fights as a professional.  Ali figured with his skills and experience, Leon wouldn’t be that much of a challenge.  But, Ali was 36 years old (which is quite old for a boxer) and overweight at 224 pounds.  I remember seeing the fight in Feb. 1978, when Ali was defeated and Spinx, the new heavyweight champ after only eight fights, had broken the record for the speed at which anyone had achieved that milestone.  The fight proved to be the height of Spinx’ short-lived glory, as he lost to Ali in a rematch later the same year and faded away into a forgettable mediocre heavyweight fighter, ending with a career record of 26 wins, 17 losses and 3 draws. At the end of Spinx’s defeat of Ali that night in 1978, the TV station broadcasting it finished the program by playing the song, “Nobody does it better” (sung by Carly Simon as the theme song for “The Spy Who Loved Me”, the James Bond movie of 1977).  It was quite obvious that the programmers had taken for granted that the great Ali would win the fight.  What would have been a poignant and proud moment for Ali and his fans became instead a sarcastic ego booster for Spinx: background still pictures of the fight supported by the repeated lyrics, “Nobody does it better.”   Ali chose his battle.  But, the heavyweight champion had chosen the wrong one and paid for it.

Goliath was nine foot high, and was the heavyweight champion of the Philistine armies.  He chose off the entire armies of Israel challenging them in 1 Samuel 17:8-9: “He stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, ‘Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.’”   Goliath assumed that because he was so big and had never been defeated, that he could whip anybody in Israel’s army.  But, he didn’t know that there was a young shepherd named David.  Every member of Israel’s army was too scared to take Goliath’s challenge.  But, when David heard Goliath’s challenge, his response was:  “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26).  You see, David had been circumcised.  That meant that he had a “covenant” relationship with the “Living God.”  He had promises available.  He had power available.  And, Goliath hadn’t counted on the power of David’s covenant with God.  Goliath nevertheless chose his battle and he paid the price for it!

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:7, 8).  Many believe that “the rulers of this age” are the same satanic forces of Eph. 6:12: “the rulers of the darkness of this age.”  It appears that hidden from Satan’s understanding was the full measure of how the cross was going to defeat him.  Had he known, he “would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”  Further evidence that this is the correct interpretation of these verses is found in Ephesians 3:9, 10:  “to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”   Hidden power, hidden truth, and hidden glory: all this is available to us through Christ.  And, through this “manifold wisdom of God,” we now have the privilege of revealing that wisdom to the Kingdom of darkness (to their chagrin) as we declare war on Satan’s kingdom and overcome through the glorious truths “hidden in God” through Christ.  Satan will forever pay the price for choosing the wrong battle.

Japan, Ali, Goliath, Satan and all of us have paid a price because at some time in our life, we had chosen the wrong battle.  But, we can now find solace in the assurance that at least all the “Goliaths” in our lives (those satanic forces sent against us to defeat us) are guaranteed defeat by all who, like David, have a covenant relationship with God through Christ.  Satan chose the wrong battle having Christ crucified.  And, if you can but believe it, he has also chosen the wrong battle in declaring war on your soul!  This is one battle that is bad for Satan; good for us: “Fight the GOOD fight of faith.” 1 Tim. 6:12.  You can be sure that you are always choosing the “right battle” when you declare war on Satan!

5)  Some very costly battles are worth choosing: (like the fight for liberty over enemies & over sin):  Patrick Henry’s famous speech given during the Virginia convention, at St. John’s Church, Richmond, VA in March 1775 demonstrates the spirit necessary in choosing battles.  Following is an edited excerpt of that speech: “If we wish to be free – We must fight.  An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts, is all that is left us!   They tell us that we are weak – unable to cope with so formidable an adversary (Britain).  But when shall we be stronger?  Will it be the next week or the next year?  Will it be when we are totally disarmed and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house?  Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction?  Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which God has placed in our power.  Besides, sir, we shall not fight out battles alone.  There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.  The battle, sire is not to the strong alone.  It is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.  There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! – Our chains are forged.  Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston!  The war is inevitable – and let it come!  Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace, but there is no peace.  The war is actually begun.  The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!  Our brethren are already in the field.  Why stand we here idle?  Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take, but as for me – give me liberty or give me death!”  Such was the determination of our founding fathers which gained independence for us and our children and established the compass course for our republic: willing to fight to the death for liberty for all.  Are we, in the spirit of Patrick Henry, also ready to die for liberty?

And, there is one battle for liberty that we should be willing to fight until death: the fight against sin!  Romans 6:14:  “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”   Sin shall not have dominion over you!  It’s both a command and a promise.  This should be as serious a fight as you have ever committed yourself to.  Jesus made this clear in Matthew 5:30:  “And if your right hand causes you to sin (“offends you” KJV), cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

Aron Ralston was a mechanical engineer with Intel.  In 2002 he left his job with the goal in mind of  climbing all 14 of Colorado’s “fourteeners” (peaks over 14,000 feet high).  While rock-climbing near Moab, Utah, a huge boulder fell on him, pinning his right forearm and crushing it.  For five days he waited and hoped for rescue, but none came.  With his hand dead and decaying in front of his very eyes, he took a small knife and a pair of pliers and “cut off his right hand” (though the pain he felt was like “thrusting my arm into a pot of molten lava”).  He then walked 20 miles till help came.  He recovered, but now has a prosthetic right forearm and hand.  What an example of courage!  And what a perfect illustration of “cutting off your right hand” when it makes you sin.   Aron’s right hand was truly “offending” him and was soon to cause his death.  Probably unaware of the Scripture, Aron fulfilled Jesus command that “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matt. 5:30).   Thanks to Aron, there is this graphic “parable,” example and warning for all who are refusing to repent of sin. One man had to choose between life and death.  He chose life: but the only way to have life was to “declare war” on his right hand.

The hand can be symbolic spiritually of something that is an important part of your life, held on tightly, close to your very heart.  The fact that Jesus mentioned the “right” hand relates to ancient Jewish culture.  The right hand symbolized “authority” and “favor.”  Are you held in bondage under the “authority” of some sin making you live under its tyranny, as the 13 colonies lived in tyranny under the British?  Have you lost a measure of “favor” with God because of your stubborn sin?  Be wise:  begin the battle today.  Cut sin off, painful though it may be.  Go through life a few more years without that right hand, but live eternally to tell about it.  Aron experienced great pain surrendering his right hand.  Imagine how he felt, staring down at the bloody stub that was left!  How he must have grieved over his loss.  But, he was free: free to live in liberty!

Perhaps you’ve struggled long and hard with a decision to give up something:  cigarettes, alcohol, pornography, bitterness, hatred, etc.  You might think to “cut it off” would be too painful.  Aron Ralston stands out in all of history as the perfect example of one who (not metaphorically, but literally and maybe without even knowing it) followed Jesus’ advice.  Aron’s right hand was “offending him”;  it was dying of gangrene.   But, he declared “war” against that hand and fought it (cutting it off) until he won his freedom.   Freedom from tyranny, Freedom to live and Freedom from sin:  these are three battles worth fighting.    Do you need to cut off a hand (or maybe just a little finger?).   Jesus will help you do it!  Just declare war against that sin today!  Let your war cry against all tyranny of the devil be as Patrick Henry’s, “I know not what course others may take.  But, as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  Choose your battle wisely; fight your battle wisely; and you will surely win!

There are some battles you can’t choose:   (like Genes)

Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer before a dramatic rescue from the South Pole, has died. She was 57.  The disease made her stronger, she said in November 2001.  “I would rather not have it. But the cancer is part of me. It’s given my life color and texture. Everyone has to get something. Some people are ugly, some people are stupid. I get cancer,” she said at lecture in Denver.

Lot chose the plain of Sodom

Don’t let other people’s battle become your battle (problems become your problems)

No good deed shall go unpunished

Silver:  chose to just cruise the porno shops are

Murphy’s Law:  If anything can go wrong!

Lot was given the choice by his uncle Abraham:  You take the land on the left hand and I’ll take the land on the right hand, or you take the land to the right, and I’ll take the land to the left.  

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