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God loves us and wants us to be happy! That’s plain to tell from 1 Peter chapter one. In the opening verses Peter writes of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, grace and peace in abundance, great mercy, the new birth, resurrection of Jesus and being shielded by God’s power. Then he writes that in “all this you greatly rejoice.” In verse eight he says that “you believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy and the salvation of our souls. Sounds like a lot of good things to be happy about. Kind of like a little flower garden that is blooming profusely.

But there are always weeds to contend with. After Peter exclaims the blessings of God, he mentions that life is not all pretty colors and nice fragrances. He says, “though now, for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Someone may ask, rightly so, “If God loves us so much and wants us to be happy, why do some of us have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials?”

The answer is so that we will be happier in the long run than we would otherwise be. Peter says the grief and trials come to prove the genuineness of our faith. Our faith is proven valid and strengthened through the hard times, frustrations, disappointments, and problems that we encounter along life’s merry (or not so merry) way. Peter assures us that when we come out the other end of our dark tunnel, that we will receive praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

My family and I are in Colorado for a couple weeks visiting my dad and sister’s family. We went out to Sterling Reservoir yesterday for a picnic and ride on my dad’s old boat. My dad and I got the boat on the lake and were just starting to enjoy the ride, when a boat alarm came on. The water pump had failed and we had to head back to shore, disappointed. My daughters had been looking forward to a fun trip around the lake on Grandpa’s boat, but it was not to be. They too were disappointed.

When something happens that doesn’t go along with my plans, I try to replace my negative thoughts with God thoughts. I have to remind myself that God loves me and wants me to be happy, and his plans for me are always better than my plans for me. So I try to change grumbling for praising. It doesn’t always work however, so then…

I think about how things could be worse. For instance, I thought of my father-in-law who lost his wife about a month ago, his brother about a year ago. His son has down syndrome and he will be responsible for caring for him the rest of his life, without the help of his wife, who had been the major caretaker. On top of all that, he has had knee problems for the last few years and it has gotten progressively worse. Recently he began using canes to walk.

Not being able to go on a boat ride hardly compares.

I think that is the main message Peter is trying to get across to believers. You are all probably going to go through some tough times when things aren’t going the way you expected them to go. What to do? Well, you can choose to focus on the bad things and worry, fret or complain, Or, you can focus on God’s abundant grace and mercy; Jesus’ resurrection and our inheritance waiting for us in heaven; our sure hope in God’s promises and his peace that surpasses all understanding, while being shielded by his power and looking forward to our ultimate salvation.

Doesn’t hardly seem to compare, does it?

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“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

I think about that quote by John Maxwell almost everyday. I first heard him say it a few years back when the staff at the home for needy children here in Oaxaca, Mexico, would meet once a month to watch leadership videos. Usually I didn’t take notes at these video presentations, but John Maxwell was a quote machine, and I couldn’t stop my note taking. Now, I don’t remember most of his quotes, but this one has stayed with me-

Anything worthwhile is uphill.”

I think of it almost everyday, because I experience it almost everyday. I am the gardener here at the mission, and it’s not an easy job, especially with all the rain that we have received lately. We have about 8 acres of land, that for the last 16 years I have been trying to convert to a garden. Mostly by myself, although I am extremely grateful for the help that visiting groups from the U.S. and Canada have given me over the years, as well as the help I occasionally receive from the teen boys who live here.

I believe that God loves us and enables us to thrive and relish life most by investing our lives in Making Beauty, Doing Good and Living Truth. For me, Making Beauty consists of digging out thorn bushes with five foot roots; cutting down weeds that are taller than I am; fighting ants that can eat every leaf off a bush or tree overnight; mowing and weed-whacking grass that seems to grow twice as fast as I can cut it; and dealing with children who think it great fun to beat rose bushes and geraniums to smithereens. I have to constantly remind myself that “anything worthwhile is uphill!”

For me, Doing Good means helping the children here at the mission in a dozen different ways, from driving them to school, to assisting my wife in the nursery with the toddlers, to going into town and buying food and supplies.

For me, Living Truth means primarily reading, studying and meditating on the Bible, then sharing the Truth with my family, the Mission and the men at the rehabilitation center.

As I have been pondering the notion that “anything worthwhile is uphill“, I have also come to the realization that the reverse (or other side of the tortilla, as my Mexican wife would say) is also true. In other words, “anything not worthwhile is downhill.”

It is possible for us to waste a lot of time and forfeit the flourishing that God intends for us by doing things that are easy, entertaining, and fun, but that make no positive lasting impact on our lives or our world. Things that do not make the world a more beautiful place, or do good to anyone, or share gospel truth. I think of things like streaming Netflix series, watching sports, obsessing about politics and news, or twitter feeds, Instagram pics and Facebook, just to name a few.

When I look back on my life when I lived in the United States, I realize that I wasted a lot of time on worthless things; some of the things I mentioned above. I could have been Making Beauty and Doing Good and sharing Truth, but instead I delighted on the “downhill” things of life that brought me pleasure, but didn’t result in the betterment of my life or anyone elses life.

So, now I spend my days trudging uphill, Making Beauty, Doing Good, Living Truth-shunning most of the “downhill” distractions like social media, sports broadcasts, tv series, movies and the news, and I couldn’t be happier. Can you believe it? You could if you tried it.

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

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