Joy and Peace in Believing

by George H. Morrison

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" (Rom. 15:13).

It is a question we ought to ask ourselves, in our quiet hours of meditation, whether we really know the joy and peace which are the benediction of our text. It is a great thing to be resigned amid the various buffetings of life. Resignation is better than rebellion. But resignation, however fair it be, is not peculiarly a Christian virtue; it marks the Stoic rather than the Christian.

The Christian attitude toward the ills of life is something more triumphant than acceptance. It has an exultant note that resignation lacks. It is acceptance with a song in it. It is such a reaction on experience as suggests the certainty of victory-the victory that overcomes the world.

It is a searching question for us all, then, whether we truly know this joy and peace. Does it characterize our spiritual life? Is it evident in our discipleship? And that not only on the Sabbath Day and in the sanctuary and at the Sacrament, but in our common converse with the world.

Contrast, for instance, joy and peace in believing with joy and peace in working. Many who read this are happily familiar with joy and peace in working. It is true that work may be very uncongenial; there are those who hate the work they are engaged in. There are seasons, too, for many of us, when strength may be unequal to the task. But speaking generally, what a deal of joy and peace flow into the lives of men and women in prosecuting their appointed task.

Again, think of joy and peace in loving; how evident is that in many a home. What a peaceful and happy place a home becomes when love lies at the basis of it all. The splendid carelessness of children, their gladness that makes others glad, spring not only from the heart of childhood, but from the love that encircles them at home.

Now, Paul does not speak of joy and peace in working, nor does he speak of joy and peace in loving. His theme here is different from these: it is joy and peace in believing. And the question is, do we, who know these other things, know this in our experience of life and amid the jangling of our days?

"Ordinary" Christians

Think for a moment of the men and women to whom these words were originally written. Their cares and sorrows were just as real to them as our cares and sorrows are to us. They were called to be saints, and yet they were not saints [in the popular sense]. Some were slaves, and some were city shopkeepers, and some were mothers in undistinguished homes. Yet Paul, when he writes to them, makes no exceptions. This blessing was for every one of them. It never occurs to him that there might be anybody incapacitated for this joy and peace. We are so apt to think that an inward frame like this can never be possible for us. We have anxieties we cannot banish; we have temperaments we cannot alter.

But just as Paul never dreamed there were exceptions in the various temperaments he was addressing, so the Holy Spirit, who inspired the words, never dreams there are exceptions now. This is for me. It is for you. It is for everybody who knows and loves the Lord. Not rebellion-not even resignation, when life is hard and difficult and sorrowful-but something with the note of triumph in it; a song like that which Paul and Silas sang; a peace that the world can never give-and cannot take away.

Joy and Peace

Lest anyone should misread this inward frame that is the peculiar possession of believers, note how here, as elsewhere in Scripture, joy and peace are linked together. There is a joy that has no peace in it. It is feverish, tumultuous, unsettled. It is too eager to be the friend of rest; too wild to have any kinship with repose. Its true companionship is with excitement, and, like other passions, it grows by what it feeds on, ever demanding a more powerful stimulus, and at last demanding it in vain.

There is a peace that has no joy in it. "They make a solitude and call it peace." It is like a dull and sluggish river moving through an uninteresting country. But the beautiful thing is that on the page of Scripture, as in the experience of the trusting soul, joy and peace are linked in close union. The Kingdom of Heaven is not meat and drink; it is righteousness and joy and peace. The fruit of the Spirit is not love and joy alone; it love and joy and peace.

And our Lord, in His last great discourse, when He declares His legacy of peace, closes with the triumphant note of joy: These things have I spoken unto you" (and He had been speaking of His peace) "that your joy might be full." Whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. There is a joy that has no peace in it.

There is a peace that is dull and dead and joyless. But the mark of the followers of the Lord is the mystical marriage union of the two. It is joy and peace in believing.

And how eminently fitted is the gospel message to sustain this fine reaction on experience. The gospel is good news; it is the gladdest news that ever broke upon the ear of man. Sweet is the message of returning spring after the cold and dreariness of winter. Sweet is the message of the morning light after a night of restlessness or pain. But a thousand times sweeter, a thousand times more wonderful, is the message which has been ours since we were children, and which will be ours when the last shadows fall.

Do we believe it? That is the vital question. Do we hold to it through the shadows and the buffetings? Do we swing it, like a lamp which God has lighted, over the darkest mile our feet have got to tread?

Then, like joy and peace in working and in loving (with which we are all perfectly familiar), we shall experience with all the saints, joy and peace in believing.

From Highways of the Heart, 1926

George Herbert Morrison (1866-1928), was one of Glasgow's most prominent pastors. While working on his theological studies, he took time out to assist in the creation of the Oxford New English Dictionary under the supervision of Sir James Murray, and this undoubtedly influenced the eloquent, rich vocabulary he used in preaching and writing.

After completing his education, Morrison assisted the famed Alexander Whyte in Edinburgh, then led his own churches in Thurso and Dundee for a short time before accepting a call from Wellington United Free (Presbyterian) Church in Glasgow. During his 26-year ministry at Wellington, he preached to thousands and wrote numerous volumes of sermons and meditations. He refused many offers to serve on committees and in leadership positions that might have distracted him from his preaching and writing. "It is essential that I have leisure to brood and meditate," said Morrison, and this is evident in the gentle, quiet, free-flowing style of his sermons.

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