Paul mentions endurance as critical for men as they get older. That is understandable. It is not uncommon for older men in our society who have had successful careers and have enough financial resources to retire. A fact of life is that as one gets older one doesn’t have the energy he or she once had. The long battle of this world grinds us down, and many of us get tired as we age. It is easy to think we have earned the chance to stop working, stop striving and just take it easy. We think we can focus on our hobbies and interests, we can relax and just do what we want to do. Paul says it is at such a time we need to endure. Greear observed that sometimes as men get older they get more grumpy. But not all older men get more grumpy, which means that grumpiness isn’t merely a function of aging. This is where Greear made the comment that caught my attention. He said, “The reason some old men become grumpy is that’s what always happens when people focus on themselves.”
What a shock it is to discover that it is that very absorption with our needs, desires and wants, that in fact, causes unhappiness. I know this is true. I have seen it play out time and time again in counseling people over the past 35 years. I have seen husbands and wives who are miserable in their marriage and refuse to see that the biggest contributor to their unhappiness is their own desperate selfishness. They don’t what to hear that their demand that instead of serving and giving they should receive what they want and think they need from their spouse is actually the largest source of their dissatisfaction. Somehow it seems so very hard for them to believe that what Jesus has called us to do is love others, not receive something from them.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Is it really? Do we really believe that it is better to give to others, to serve our spouse, than for them to serve and give to us? I believe Jesus meant exactly what he said. He said it another way in Matthew 16:25. After tell us to deny ourselves (to not be focused on self) in verse 24 he said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” As long as we seek self and pursue what we want rather than giving up ourselves to love in the name of Jesus we are doomed to lose life, not find it. The way to find life, to experience real joy, is to believe Jesus. It is to believe that joy is found in saying no to me and yes to love. The choice is simple: focus on self and become grumpy or focus on loving as Jesus calls us and find life.