Hope Revival

Even people who don’t typically keep up with the NFL (National Football League) have more than likely heard about the recent collapse of Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin. The night Damar’s heart stopped beating on the football field, everyone present and watching on TV stopped. Right where they were. With bated breath. Praying and hoping that he would live. Even after the ambulance took him away, few moved. Or spoke. Tears flowed from shocked and saddened eyes. And entire teams knelt to pray. 

What was fun-and-games one minute became, in the next, a hallowed coming together of humanity, knitted together by the thread of hope.

Damar lives! Because of quick acting trainers and medics, his heart was revived soon enough that his brain and body were revivable, as well. 

As I’ve thought about this entire experience–from watching Damar collapse, to witnessing the players’ reactions, to feeling my own connection with a man I don’t know–I marvel at the power of hope.

No one gave up on Damar that night, and despite rivalries and all the things that could divide players and fans, our hope for Damar united us. 

Since that night, I’ve found myself pondering the way a flicker of hope can revive us individually and flow through us corporately. Damar’s story is his own, but because of his connection to a team, a city, and a league, his story is also collective. As a result, his revival of life has done a work of revival in many others.

Likewise, a believer’s hope collapses under the weight of cynicism and despair. But hope can be revived–in each of us and all of us.

Dousing the Flames of Hope

I suspect that in the coming year of looking at hope, we will see the concepts of cynicism and despair creep into our conversations consistently because they sit opposite of hope, constantly threatening to douse its flames. 

Like Pandora and her opened box of evils, we get beaten down by the despair of every discouraging, pain-inflicting life experience, pounded so hard that a hopelessness sets in until we believe there is no way forward, no chance for healing, no purpose in the pain.

Like so many, we can look out on the landscape of our country’s politics, racial divides, and economic stresses until skepticism begins to erase all signs of positivity in our minds and hearts. If left unchecked, such negativity settles into a belief that no one and nothing is good, then cynicism taints every thought, word, and action we make. 

Despair and cynicism–Danielle Strickland calls them opposite sides of the same coin.** And, they want to put out the flames of our hope. 

Dying Embers of Hope

Sometimes our cynicism presents as apathy–an attitude of not caring, a sleepiness of sorts. Like watching a fire die out a little at a time till the orange embers turn black. And cold. Our slow cooling happens each time we accept situations and people as they are. My own inner cynic is tempted to believe THIS is the state of the Church–that there’s no changing it. It is what it is. But, that’s not very hope-filled. 😉

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Just the other day I lamented to a friend who lives in another hemisphere the state of the Church in America. She zealously encouraged me with her own story and observations as a former-European-now-New-Zealander. 

She told me that growing up in Northern Ireland was probably something like living in the U.S. Bible Belt–lots of churches full of Bible-toting people. But when she moved to London, she experienced the opposite–a secular, Postmodern (post-Christian) culture. Lots of gorgeous, but empty churches. Very few believers pursuing a faith in Jesus. 

Her move to New Zealand revealed a comparable Postmodernism, but with an added layer: a heightened value of hard work and holidays. Added together (long work days/weeks + extended vacations), their culture and lifestyle leave little room for faith and church. However, people who are part of the Church in New Zealand are experiencing a great spiritual awakening!

She explained that Europe (and Europe-like countries) are a generation or two ahead of America in the “gospel cycle:” 

First Generation = gospel-centered
Second Generation = assume the gospel
Third Generation = forgot the gospel
Fourth Generation = no gospel

She sees Europe, and New Zealand by extension, as coming out of that Fourth Generation, birthing a new First Generation. In both places, those who have remained in the Church through all the losses have been purified by long decades of refining. They have emerged from a century-of-slumber awake and on fire for Jesus.  Though small in number, they stand strong in faith and are excited about Kingdom living (and building) here on earth. 

Her word of hope? America will get there too. Right now American Christians tend to either feel so comfortable in our church-going that we’re actually asleep to the gospel (assuming it). Or we find ourselves in the process of God’s refinement, slowly waking up to the reality that our culture is forgetting the gospel–even in the Church. And, depending on location, there’s no gospel at all.

American believers waking up within the Church are simultaneously experiencing the trauma of loss due to the heat of the Refiner’s fire and the work of the Spirit’s revival within us (Ephesians 5:14; 1 Peter 1:7). We feel the pain, but the hope reminds us God is at work! 

Reviving Hope

Wherever you are on the spectrum of hope, whatever your Church experiences, and however you may feel about the word, hope, the one constant thread in all of it–for all believers–is Jesus. 

So, have hope that when Jesus sees you collapse under the weight of doubt and despair, of sleepiness and cynicism, He runs onto the field with Holy Spirit power in His hands, ready to revive you (Acts 1:8). And a great cloud of witnesses surrounds you, praying that you’ll wake up, that a Jesus-anchored hope will do its reviving-work within you (Hebrews 12:1).

As you zoom out of this picture we’ve painted today, notice that Jesus does this work of revival for you, for your teammates… 

And, for your opponents. Because as hope revives, it unifies.

Photo by Hans Isaacson on Unsplash

When everything in us is burned away in the Refiner’s fire, hope remains. Hope flickers to life within us, redeeming everything in its path. And as its sparks fly, those around us catch flame, spreading like the best kind of wildfire–its light pushing out despair and cynicism until a crowd emerges on fire for Jesus, united and driven by this burning hope within–because Jesus. Is. Our. Hope.

Father God, what hope there is in knowing that You never grow weary, that You are always with us ready to infuse us with your strength and power, and that You desire hope to abide in us because of its reviving and unifying power. How good You are to give us this mental picture of someone being revived back to life as a metaphor for what You do in us spiritually. Lord Jesus, what hope it gives us to picture You as our CPR-giver, pumping our cold hearts full of your warm, life-giving power. Thank You for the promises that You are always with us, that nothing is impossible for You, and that those who hope in You will forever be renewed. These truths about who You are fan the flames of hope into roaring fires within us. Holy Spirit, what hope we have each time we remember all these truths–help us never forget. And, help us to recognize the lies that come with despair and cynicism. Remind us that they pretend to have a power that only Jesus possesses and that HOPE IN CHRIST can crush their attempts to defeat us every single time. Holy Spirit, You who come in tongues of fire, ignite within us the flames of hope revived. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by Isaiah 40:28-31; Isaiah 41:10; Luke 1:37; Matthew 28:20; 1 Peter 5:10; Acts 2:3)

  • Resources
    • When it comes to digging up truths about a subject, like hope, I grab all sorts of tools. The big shovel is for Scripture–and I’ve had fun uncovering various uses of the word in Hebrew and Greek. Smaller, yet useful, hand tools scrape through other people’s experiences and stories. Then I love sifting through the sands of songs, poems, Instagram posts, and anything else God puts in my path. Here are three I can recommend if you want to do some of your own digging:
      • **Danielle Strickland’s book The Other Side of Hope.* Literally, one side of the book is her story and journey with hope, and the other side is more theological. I’ve just finished this book, and wow! I’ve come away with a much more comprehensive look at how despair and cynicism impact our ability to hope. And the light is beginning to dawn on how much our identity is wrapped up in who God is (or our perception of Him) and how all of this impacts our hope.
      • N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope.* I’m still listening the the audio book, which is fun because it’s British! But it’s also deep and full of theology. I’m still intrigued and learning a lot!
      • And, of course our “Revival of Hope” playlist. I have many songs on this list that I love, but the song, “Revival” by Judah and the Lions–wow. So unique and such a BIG topic (control). So, it’s not a song about hope specifically, but it’s message, “If dying means revival,” really resonates. I’m discovering that so much of this life in Christ means dying to self……..
  • Rhythms
    • Rhythms thus far in our Hope journey: listen to the songs on the playlist, asking God to speak through them, to awaken within us a deeper desire to know His brand of hope; intentionally turn our thoughts to Him when despair and all its relatives demand our attention; ask friends for help.
    • Now we can add: allow ourselves to enter God’s refining fires–however that looks–with the hope (the knowledge!) that the process will ignite within us flames of revival. And that those flames will spread till our Christian family burns with the hope of Christ! Friends, never underestimate the life-giving power of one spark of hope.
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world!

Featured Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash
*affiliate links with which I may earn a bit

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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