What fills us with joy and peace? The frivolity with which many fill their spare time is not the joy that Paul is writing about in Romans. Frivolity does not create peace. The context of his 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” (Romans 15:13).
Society does not “abound in hope”! Their kind of joy has no lasting hope attached to it. Much of their joy seems to be a means of blotting out a sense of hopelessness in the meaning of their lives, there is nothing of substance they believe in.
Earlier in the chapter Paul had made 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, the encouragement those scriptures gave, the Psalms we being an outstanding example. In verses 9 to 12 Paul quotes from four different parts of the Old Testament; we must not neglect the Old Testament section of the Bible; it was an inspiration to Paul as it had been to our Lord.
We must not misunderstand Paul’s reference to the “power of the Holy Spirit” in the passage quoted. 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 their constant sense, that “In him (God) we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Paul was conscious of the all-seeing God, who had changed his life. David appreciated 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). David then exclaims, “Where shall I go from your Spirit?” (verse 7).
The word power (in the 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 everyone who believes …” Let us really believe; may the true gospel be a POWER in our minds as we absorb it through our daily reading of God’s word.