Reigniting Hope: Louder Than Unbelief

You may know by now that I am a word nerd. I’m the one who actually enjoyed my sentence diagramming class at Sam Houston State University. Yes! There is a class on sentence diagramming. LOL. I took it and even dabbled in leading my English students through a basic level of it. Not to torture them but to help their brains learn to see connectedness and purposes.

At the risk of losing every single reader, I’d love to do a sentence diagramming experiment. Yup, right now. Don’t worry. I’ll do the diagramming, Shelley Style – and it’s a rough representation, visually. We’ll start with the sentence, made famous by Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal.”

Hope is the subject. Springs is a verb. Eternal is the predicate adjective.

Let’s try one more: “Hope in the Lord.”

You is the (understood) subject. Hope is the verb. In the Lord is a prepositional phrase describing in whom the subject places hope.

Rest assured, my friend – we are done with sentence diagramming. But, my hope (ha!) is that you begin to see the multifaceted use of the word hope

For most of us in this day and age, we tend to use hope as a verb. It’s what we do. We hope. As we’ve established in this year’s deep dive into Christian hope, Scripture calls us to hope in the Lord – not in ourselves or others or our circumstances. It’s our choice how we respond to life. We can despair. Or we can hope.

Christian hope is also a noun – that person, place, or thing. Christian hope is a person, our Savior. Christian hope is also a place: the heaven of eternity. And, Christian hope is the thing we’ve been given, one of the three gifts that sustains us today and remains with us forever.

In this particular series, we’ve witnessed ways that faith and hope are sourced by love and are expressed in love – the both-and paradox that allows for love to be the supplier of faith and hope as well as the outcome of them.

This week, Paul reveals another layer to our trio of Christian graces:

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven.”

Colossians 1:3-5

The faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven

Paul is citing ‘this hope’ here – not just a whimsy of something we hope for, like a wish, but THE hope (noun), the one set in heaven for us. Jesus. His saving grace. His return. His reign. Our eternal life with Him which is a certainty to come. This hope is a strong anchor (Hebrews 6:19). It’s what holds us in the storms of life. 

It’s the ground out of which faith and love sprout.

Paul’s overarching point is that we can hope (verb) because we possess hope (noun). And in the beauty of this symbiotic relationship we’ve been digging into, faith and love spring from this thing called hope.


Just over a week ago 2,300 believers descended upon The Woodlands for the New Room Conference, an assembly of church leaders who desire awakening in their lives and in the Church. It’s a set-apart, forty-eight-hour focus of seeking more of God and entering into a deeper work of the Spirit. 

New Room has always been a space of concentrated Spirit movement – I think because we earnestly seek Him, remain open to His ways, and possess varying degrees of a holy expectancy. This year, however, was like no other. The Spirit jumped right into the first session, breaking hearts wide open for humble repentance and heightened receptivity.

For me, the Holy Spirit burst through during the first worship set. I was completely overtaken by the lyric, “louder than the unbelief.”1 Please understand, “Raise a Hallelujah” was not a new worship song to me – in fact, it falls into the “Quintessential New Room” category for me. Yet, four lines in, I was overcome with grief for my own unbelief. I didn’t fully understand what was happening within me, but instead of resisting or investigating, I just leaned in. To receive. To repent. To worship!

It turns out that one of the underlying themes of our time at New Room was, in fact, unbelief. One speaker helped us unpack the difference between doubt and unbelief, explaining that doubt is a general unsuredness that something will happen. While unbelief is a misplaced faith based on the certainty something will not happen.2 It’s a sure and firm conviction in what won’t occur.


Unbelief is what Jesus charged the crowd with on the day the disciples were unable to cast out the demon in a boy (Matthew 17:14-21 and Mark 9:17-29). Those gathered had no faith. They lacked pistis, which the Greek dictionary describes as “persuasion (be persuaded, come to trust); faith.”3 

In fact, throughout the Matthew 17 scene, Jesus plays on the word pistis, labeling the generation standing before Him as ‘unbelieving’ (v.17), which is apistos in the Greek – not of faith. His emphasis here is not that they doubt (distazo, to waver) but that they fail to have faith. Then He describes the disciples as oligopistoswith little faith (v.20), which is better than having no faith. 

A deeper dive into the Greek pistis shows us that: 

“faith (4102/pistis) is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. …Faith for the believer is ‘God’s divine persuasion’ – and therefore distinct from human belief (confidence), yet involving it. The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers.”3 

Allow this to soak in. Godly faith involves ‘human belief’ but is distinct from it because faith is not derived from within ourselves. Yet somehow we think it is. You know, like when we say, “I just need to have more faith” as though we can conjure the faith we desire.

But that’s not what Scripture says. It’s not what Jesus speaks here. 

In Mark’s version of the same story, the father asks Jesus if He can cast out the demon since His disciples could not (9:22). Jesus’ reaction is strong, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes” (v.23, emphasis mine). 

The Greek for ‘believes’ is pisteuó, which is a derivative of our word for ‘faith’. But its subtle difference in meaning is significant: “believe (affirm, have confidence); used of persuading oneself (= human believing) and with the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord (= faith-believing).”4  Unlike faith, sometimes we can persuade ourselves to believe something, which often turns out to be self-serving.4  On other occasions, belief proceeds from faith and allows us “to trust in Jesus or in God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something.”4 

Jesus refers to the sacred persuasion by the Lord. 

Throughout this entire scene, Jesus seeks to grow faith – in the crowds, in their generation, and especially in His disciples. He desires their full trust, their true faith. “True faith is always aware how small and insignificant it is. True faith stands in the gap between the promise of God and the weakness of the flesh.”5 

So, it’s a bit ironic that the one who “brings both his faith and weakness to Jesus” is the father who sought help to begin with, modeling for us a true faith within the gap:5 

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”

Mark 9:24

The father claims pisteuó (what he could muster) while asking for aid to overcome his apistos (what Jesus could give). And, when the disciples later discreetly ask about their inability to cast out the demon (v.28), Jesus speaks of prayer and its necessity (v.29) – because prayer is “faith turned to God.”5 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

All Together, Now

When I put together my personal conviction of my own unbelief, the New Room teachings about it, and this story’s unpacking of it, I begin to see faith more fully. I begin to grasp that I cannot force myself to have enough faith to move mountains, but when I confess my faith is small, unbelief vanishes. Doubt departs. Because whatever faith I have is springing from the hope I put in Jesus. Hope tells me that He can. And that builds my faith.

Friend, I suspect you’re something like me. When we read passages where Jesus says that if we’ll have a little faith we can move mountains (Matthew 17:20), our doubt rises. I mean, we’ve never seen anyone actually move a mountain. So, is that really possible? We’re apprehensive, unsure. And when we cross our arms and close our minds, we give doubt room to turn into unbelief. We slip from being unsure God can work into a confidence that He won’t.

But when we give space for the Spirit to reignite our hope (noun), we begin to hope (verb) in Christ, which then sources our faith in Him and love for Him. Paul did a lot of writing in order to encourage those of us in Christ’s Church. He wanted us to see the connectedness of our faith and hope and love. He wanted us to live out our hope in Jesus as a means for setting our faith in Him. Like the father in the story, we can bring what faith we have and, because of hope, trust that Jesus is still able. We can lay down our unbelief to make margin for hope to reignite. Then hope becomes the soil out of which love and faith grow forth!

What in you requires a hallelujah to be raised louder than your unbelief?

Father God, we worship You! We lift our hearts to You and set our minds on You.6 We step back, giving You space to do a new work within us – to make room for hope to flourish so that faith and love can take root. We speak our faith aloud even as we confess our unbelief. So instead of beating ourselves up for not having enough faith, we choose to trust that having faith the size of a mustard seed is enough for You to work with. Lord Jesus, we’re so grateful for all the ways that You demonstrated faith in action, for all the ways that You taught about faith so that we can better understand how it works and grows. As we wrestle with uncertainties, we ask that You would be our source of hope so that doubt will fade before it settles in as unbelief. Keep birthing faith within us, we pray.3 Persuade us, we ask.3 Holy Spirit, we need your help to be aware of doubt’s sneaky ways. Prod us to confess every single time we doubt or fail to have faith in Christ’s willingness and ability to heal, transform, do whatever is needed. Challenge us to step into God’s presence to pray in every situation so that we learn to direct our faith to God,5 so that even as we waver a bit, our faith in Him remains – no matter what we face or feel. Help us to keep trusting in His goodness, His love, and His desire to meet us right where we are. Ignite within us a hope that springs forth faith and love, a hope that builds boldness within us so that we can keep praying, “Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.” In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by: Psalm 100:2,5; Isaiah 43:19; Colossians 1:3-5; Mark 9:24; Matthew 17:20; Psalm 119:114; Romans 5:5; John 14:26, 16:8 NLT; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:13; Matthew 18:12)

Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.

  • 1 – from the song “Raise a Hallelujah
  • 2 – Reward Sibanda (@rewardsibanda) was the speaker who taught about the difference between ‘unbelief’ and ‘doubt’.
  • 3 –, definition of ‘faith’
  • 4 –, definition of ‘believe’
  • 5 – The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, p.1032-33.^
  • 6 – Taken from JD Walt’s prayer of consecration in his Wake Up Call Acts series, Fall 2023.
  • Did you hear it? Our Flames of Faith, Hope, and Love playlist now includes “Raise a Hallelujah!” Not only does this song engage us in the worship of Jesus — “my weapon is a melody” — and name our unbelief for what it is, but it speaks to the truth that “up from the ashes, hope will arise.” THE hope that we’ve been seeking to reignite in our hearts. Goodness. So good. AND, the very next song after “Raise a Hallelujah” is Bristol House’s song, “Altars.” It’s a song I’d already had on our list — AND WAS A HUGE PART OF NEW ROOM. God is at work! He’s leading the way in our searching and seeking. He’s telling us to put our hope in Him because everything is possible in Him!
  • On Wednesdays I’ve begun posting 5-7 minute teaching videos on my Facebook Author Page and Instagram (@shelleylinnjohnson).
  • Rhythms we can incorporate into our daily lives to aid us in our dwelling with God, living for Him, and putting our hope in Him:
    • I know, life is busy — and I’m pushing you toward stillness. And, here’s why. Busyness leaves no room for margin, no space for faith to grow. Without that room for faith to spread its roots, doubt and unbelief grow like weeds. Our anxiety raises. Our fears run the show. Hear me — and I’m learning this too — we won’t live with faith, hope, or love if we don’t. get. still. This week, in your moments of stillness, tell God about your unbelief. Then let your hallelujah be louder than your unbelief!
  • Finally, as a 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 of His hope into the world!

Featured Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash. Bits & Pieces Photo by Arjun Kapoor on Unsplash

^an affiliate link 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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