Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Joy, peace, hope: a fair triad which all men seek, and few find and retain. They are, for the most of us, like bright-winged, sweet-voiced birds that dart and gleam about us, and we hear their voices, but nets and cages are hard to find. This prayer opens up the way to find joy, peace, and hope. Notice that the text begins with "the God of peace fill you with" these things, and it ends with "through the power of the Holy Ghost." So, then, there are here three stages. There is, first, the Divine gift, which underlies everything. Then there is the human condition of making that gift our own; and then there is the triumphant hope which crowns joy and peace, and is their result. I ask you, then, to look at these three things with me this morning.
1. THE ONLY SOURCE OF TRUE JOY AND PEACE IS GOD HIMSELF. The only way by which God can give any man joy and peace is by giving him Himself. No gifts of His hand, apart from Him; no mere judicial act of pardon, and removal from a state of condemnation, are of themselves enough to fill a human heart with calm gladness. And if there is ever to be tranquillity in this disturbed being of mine, if the conflict between duty and inclination, between passion and principle, between present and future, between flesh and spirit, is ever to be hushed, it must be because God dwells in us. Notice the bold emphasis of the apostle's prayer. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace." So then, where God comes and is welcomed by humble obedience and-trustful love, there is fulness of these precious gifts. So as that a man has as much gladness and peace as he can hold. There is the difference between Christian joy and all other. In all others there is always some part of the nature lacking its satisfaction. Only when we put the colouring matter in at the fountain-head will it tinge every little ripple as it runs. Only when we have God for the joy of our hearts and the peace of our else troubled spirits will the joy be full. Otherwise, however abundant the flood, there will always be some gaunt, barren peak lifting itself parched above the rejoicing waters. No man was ever glad up to the height of his possibility who found his joy anywhere else than in God. And, then, mark that other word, too, "all joy and peace." From this one gift comes an infinite variety of forms and phases of gladness and peace. And so it is wise, in the highest regions, to have all our investments in one security; to have all our joy contingent upon one possession. One pearl of great price is worth a million of little ones. One sun in the heavens outshines a million stars; and all their lustres gathered together only illuminate the night, while its rising makes the day. So if we want joy and peace, let us learn that we are too great and too miserable for any but God to give it us.
II. AND NOW THE HUMAN CONDITION OF THIS DIVINE GIFT OF FULL AND MANIFOLD JOY AND PEACE. "Fill you with all joy and peace in believing." Believing what? He does not think it necessary to say, partly because all his readers knew who was the object of faith, and partly because there was more prominent in his mind at the moment the act of faith itself than the object on which it rests. They who thus trust in Jesus Christ are they to whom, on condition of, and at the moment of their trust or faith, God gives this fulness of joy and peace. Altogether apart from any consideration of the thing which a man's faith grasps, the very act of trust has in itself a natural tendency to bring joy and peace. When I can shift the responsibility off my shoulders on to another's, my heart is lightened; and there comes a great calm. Christian faith does not wriggle out of the responsibilities that attach to a human life, but it does bring in the thought of a mighty hand that guides and protects; and that itself brings calm and gladness. You fathers have got far more anxious faces than your little children have, because they trust, and you are responsible for them. Trust God, and it cannot be misplaced, and the vessel can never be swept out of the centre of rest into the hurtling rage of the revolving storm around. Nor need I do more than just remind you of how, in the object that the faith grasps, there is ample provision for all manner of calm and of gladness, seeing that we lay hold upon Christ, infinite in wisdom, gentleness, brotherliness, strength. Oh, if only we keep hold of Him there can be but little in any future to alarm, and little in any present to disturb or to sadden. But note how the communication from God of joy and peace, in their fulness and variety, is strictly contemporaneous with the actual exercise of our faith. Our belief is the condition of God's bestowal, and that is no arbitrary condition. It is because my faith makes it possible for God to give me Himself that He only gives Himself on condition of my faith. You open the door, and the daylight will come in. You remove the hermetical sealing, and the air will rush into the vacuum. Only mark this, as tong as you and I keep up the continuity of our believing, so long, and not one moment longer, does God keep up the continuity of His giving. Because there are such spasmodic and interrupted acts of faith on our part, we possess such transient and imperfect gifts of joy and peace. Let me drop one more word. Their are other kinds of religion and religious exercise than that of trust. There is no promise of peace and joy to them. "Fill you with all joy and peace" in poking into your own hearts to see whether you are a Christian or not. That is not the promise. "Fill you with all joy and peace" in painfully trying, to acquire certain qualities, and to do certain duties. That is not the promise.
III. And so, lastly, THE ISSUE OF THIS GOD-GIVEN JOY AND PEACE IS HOPE. The apostle did not tell us what was the object of the faith that he enjoined. He does not tell us what is the object of the hope either; and I suppose that is because he is not thinking so much about the object as about the thing. And this is the teaching here, that if a man, trusting in God in Jesus Christ, has all this flood of sunny gladness lying quiet in his heart, there will be nothing in any future that can alarm. For the peace and joy that God gives bear witness in themselves to their own immortality. Ah, there is a difference between all earth's gladnesses and the joys that Christian people may possess. In all earthly blessedness there blends ever the unwelcome consciousness of its transiency. Therefore the best demonstration of a heaven of blessedness is the present possession of "joy and peace in believing." These are like the floating timber and seeds that Columbus saw the day before he sighted land. But, brother, is there any reason to suppose that you will find a heaven of blessedness beyond the grave, in close contact with the things that you do not like to be in contact with now? We must begin here. We must here exercise the faith. We must here experience the peace and the joy, and then we may have the hope. Then, rich and blessed with such gifts from such a Giver, we may venture to say, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant," and that hope shall not be put to shame.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.