Praying for Pleasure (3) (Romans 15:13)
We return to Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 and take note of yet another of the five important truths found in it.
Third, pleasure in God is the fruit of faith in God.
It is from or through the Scriptures that joy and peace arise. Why do I say this? I say it because Paul prays in Romans 15:13 that God would "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." The phrase “in believing” could as easily be rendered, “as” you believe or “because” you believe or “in connection with” believing. In any case, the point is that God will most assuredly not fill you abundantly with these if you don’t believe. Both joy and peace are the fruit of believing, which in turn yields hope.
But believe "what"? Belief is confidence placed in the truth of what God has revealed to us in Scripture about who he is and our relationship to him through Jesus. The “believing” Paul has in mind is confidence and faith and trust in (1) the person of God revealed in Jesus, (2) the promises of God articulated in Scripture, and (3) the power of God by which he makes it all come to pass.
Belief does not plant itself in mid-air, but in the firm foundation of inspired, revelatory words inscripturated for us in the Bible.
And it’s not just joy and peace that come from believing God’s Word. The Word of God is the spring from which the waters of faith arise. Paul says in Romans 10:17 that "faith comes from hearing" and that hearing comes "through the word of Christ." People are drowning in skepticism and suffocating from doubt. They desperately need faith, but it doesn’t just happen serendipitously. Faith doesn’t miraculously appear out of thin air; it comes only if and when we hear and treasure the word of Christ.
There’s still more. It is from or through the Scriptures that the Spirit imparts endurance and encouragement: "For 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" (Romans 15:4). These virtues don’t fall like manna from heaven!
How often have you found yourself on the verge of saying: “God, I’m about to quit! Give me strength to endure. God, I’m inconsolable. Give me encouragement.” Then we stand, waiting with open hands, looking to heaven. No! If you need encouragement and the endurance to persevere, turn to Scripture and let the Spirit of God awaken your heart and fill your soul with the revelation of God and his work for you in Christ.
The problem is that people want joy and peace without believing, or at least without the hard work that true believing requires. They expect it. They pray for it. They are angry with God when it doesn’t happen.
This is what Jonathan Edwards had in mind when he spoke of the necessity of “laying ourselves in the way of allurement,” i.e., taking steps to posture our lives in that place where the Spirit is most likely to energize faith. And that place is not only the sacraments and worship and prayer but preeminently the Scriptures.
The way the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Devil are defeated is to hear and believe the Word of God when it says that God and his ways are more to be desired than all that sin can offer. When sin confronts you with a strong and attractive and appealing promise of satisfaction, stand firm and let the promises of God do battle on your behalf.
How, then, are we to get “joy” and “peace”? (1) Cry out to God that the Holy Spirit would stir up within our hearts and kindle afresh a flame of fascination and delight and satisfaction in God. (2) Pray that God would energize our hearts and minds to explore deeply the revelation of God and all he is for us in Jesus as set forth in Scripture.
In the next article we’ll take up the final two truths that come to us through this prayer.