The Problem of Life
1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are also called…

Human life is not a consummated and perfected thing; it is a struggle, a conflict universally; and that not by accident, not by the intrusion of any unexpected obstacle, not by the re-establishment of the original and fundamental policy of creation, but by the very genius of creation. This conflict inheres in the very problem which the physical existence was set to work out. All acts of development from childhood to manhood are in the nature of aggression, of vigilance, of impulsion, of pressure onward, with more or less pain and penalty. The unfolding of every faculty is like a birth, and has its pain, its throe; and the organization of character comes by the drill of each separate organ. The making of a perfect man, according to the large ideal of Christ Jesus, obliges men to compel themselves in such a way that the whole process of education takes on the form of a conflict. Men recognize this outwardly. No man gains the aptitudes which are required for the maintenance of his physical existence without earnest study, without great patience, without much self-denial, without long drill, without hard work. You cannot acquire skill in your fingers without making them war against the tool, against matter, and against the laws by which matter is governed. Let us look at some points of the conflict which belongs to personal experience, which takes on different forms, and which all feel, more or less, in some form. There is, in the first place, the control of a man's own disposition, the control of his appetites and passions, which are indispensable servants, and strong-handed servants, but which are very dangerous masters, that slip easily into the seat of authority. Without appetites and passions, a man would languish as a plant without sap; there would be neither vigour nor success in his life; and yet, indispensable as they are as pioneers and engineers, they are dangerous. And multitudes of men, not knowing how to make suitable war upon domineering passions and appetites, are perpetually broken down. Then come the whole range of irritable and malign feelings. Irritableness is merely sensibility exercised in a certain direction. In general sensibility is a great blessing. Quickness to respond to fact, to truth, to that which is right, is a Divine blessing to any soul. At the same time, quickness is the peculiar difficulty of temper, which acts without thinking, without direction, and without discretion. A man who was without susceptibility to the impulse of anger would have no power of resistance or self-defence. Multitudes of evil which, if permitted to get control of us, would be most pernicious, and often fatal, are repelled by the sudden impulse of indignation. Thousands and thousands of temptations you must destroy at once, or they will destroy you. How many men, under such circumstances, know how to carry themselves evenly and justly, making anger turn to indignation, and making indignation turn to profit in moral results? How many are there who have no need to fight? Is your anger a patient steed so subdued to the saddle and bridle that you can ride it without watch and care? Is it an easy thing for you to maintain sweetness and equanimity? What man ever attempted to live a Christian life who has not had a painful consciousness of the need of conflict in regard to his temper and malign feelings? Then there is the more subtle danger of self-indulgence in every one of its forms. In this realm there is a perpetual seeking after immediate pleasure. There is, then, need that a man should rouse himself continually, and in every direction, that he should be up and around, that he should be vigilant and laborious as against this fatal spirit of quietude — this anchoring of the soul in still waters. But what shall I say of the conflict that every man has in life with pride, and with the love of praise, which leads one to violate others' rights, and to seek, in an undue measure, his own welfare? Let no one suppose that this conflict is necessarily one of dreariness, and that the Christian life, because it is a life of conflict, is therefore a life of morbid suffering or pain. It is a conflict that every man goes through who masters the mathematical science; but is it a painful conflict? When the awkward boy first goes to the school of manners, and is obliged to throw back his shoulders, and turn out the palms of his hand, and step with an appropriate instead of a clownish tread, it is a painful thing for him to do, and to do continually, and to form the habit of doing; but nobody says of children when they are sent to the dancing school, "Poor children! What a conflict they are going through!" And yet, it is a conflict that they are going through. And at every step of the education of his body or of his disposition, of his physical organs, or of his thought and feeling, a man is going through a conflict, and a conflict that sometimes is accompanied by bitter pain. There are sometimes exigences, though they are very rare, which bring men into an elevated condition without much struggle; but the ordinary experience of men in Christian life is one in which they press forward and overcome just as a man does who produces results by thought, by work, by patience in strife. The whole of Christian life is a conflict in that way. See how men are surrounded. See how the shopmate is obliged to repel the sagacious influences of him who stands near him. See how the moral tone of a man may be lowered by the vulgarity and impurity of the man who sits next to him, and thrusts vile paragraphs under his eye, and narrates in his ear stories that are not fit for him to hear or repeat. No thermometer in the open air was ever more subject to the thermal influences of nature than men are to the influences that are exerted upon them on every side; and we are constantly to wage a conflict of resistance with every man we meet, and with all the circumstances in which we are placed, that we may turn them to account, and that we may frustrate and thwart the mischief that is in them. But these are comparatively small things. How is it when you are father and mother, and a nest full of birds come down to you with your faults exaggerated in them, and the faults of two or three of your ancestors thrown in, and you are to bring up those children, strong-willed, and constantly breaking out into this and that mischief? How many persons there are who have been discouraged and almost heart-broken by the burden that God has laid upon them to develop, to train, and to graduate successfully into life, a houseful of children! It is a burden that you have to carry. It is a warfare that you have to meet. Then there are social surroundings, infelicities, hardships, difficulties, tasks of support, catastrophes, which overtake men in life. If you will be kind enough to go down stream the water will not bubble around you a particle; it will make your passage very easy; but now turn about and go up stream, and see how the force of the current heaps the water about you. So long as a man is content to go down stream in life, and does not attempt to go up stream, he goes easy; but let him undertake to go up stream for the sake of a higher life, and see if on every side he does not find difficulties to be overcome and trials to be borne. But, if he perseveres, by and by so many of them will be mastered and he will have gained such momentum that his career will be, comparatively speaking, joyous, though it may not be easy. The rising from one plane or sphere to another plane or sphere is always with difficulty. How, then, shall we maintain this conflict? Largely by volition in respect to new things, and by reducing to habits, as far as possible, things with which we are familiar. It is in the power of a man to make automatic thousands of acts that at first he was obliged to force himself to perform. We have not really learned a thing till we have learned it so that the learning ceases to be conscious. We are also to fight this conflict as much as possible by adopting the principle, or by recognising the fact and making it a principle of practical life, that there is in every man an equipollent force over against each faculty that is in him; that if there is selfishness there is generosity; that if there is hatred there is love; that if there is avarice there is benevolence; that if there is fear there is hope; and that in the discipline of a man's nature it is not so wise to directly attack the evil as to excite the corresponding good, and let that take the control of the evil. Is a man prone to think of things that he ought not to think of? Let him think of things that he ought to think of. Let him give the mind another direction and indulge in another class of thoughts. Does a child hurt itself? See how the nurse or the mother catches up some mirror, some brilliant object, and flashes it in the child's eye to divert its attention from its pain. It is not wise to mourn over a child that is hurt or to look at its bruise; it is wise, rather, to direct its thoughts to something else Then, aside from these things, fill your soul from day to day with the great truths which are given to us in the gospel of Christ.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

WEB: Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.

The Good Fight and its Results
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