What fills us with joy and peace? Joy is not the frivolity which many seek to fill their spare time, according to Romans. This kind of joy will not create peace. The full context of Paul’s words are, “May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (chapter 15:13). At the moment society does not “abound in hope”. Their kind of joy has little hope attached to it. Much of their joy is blotting out the sense of hopelessness of their lives.

Earlier in the chapter Paul makes clear the kind of believing associated with “the joy and hope”. He wrote, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (verse 4). He is referring to the Old Testament scriptures, the encouragement they gave, the Psalms being an outstanding example. In verses 9 to 12 Paul quotes from four different parts of the Old Testament; we must not neglect that part of the Bible, which was an inspiration to Paul and our Lord.

We must not misunderstand Paul’s reference to the “power of the Holy Spirit”. Paul says it causes us to “abound in hope”. In the previous chapter we read, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (verse 17). In its leisure time our world focuses on “eating and drinking” but, for true believers, their “righteousness, peace and joy” comes from a constant sense that “in [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Paul was conscious of the all-seeing God. It had changed his life. David sensed God’s awareness of his life. In Psalm 139 we read, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! … you discern my thoughts from afar …” (verses 1,2), and then exclaims, “Where shall I go from your Spirit?” (verse 7).

The word “power” (Greek dunamis), takes its meaning from its context. In Romans 1:16 Paul exclaimed, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes …” Let us really believe; may the true original gospel be a POWER in our minds as we absorb it through our daily reading of God’s word.