By Victor Parachin
For 16 years, a Florida Keys treasure hunter named Mel Fisher searched for the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atoch, which sank in 1622. It was filled with precious cargo, such as copper, silver, gold, gems, and jewelry. Each day during those 16 years, he would send out search divers, encouraging them by saying, “Today’s the day!”
Often Fisher was unable to pay his workers—always promising, however, to make good on what he owed them. Deeply in debt, he was pursued by collection agencies. To keep going, he and his family lived on a beat-up, old, leaky houseboat for years. The search even cost the lives of his son and daughter-in-law when they were lost at sea, looking for the ship.
Nevertheless, Fisher didn’t give up. He continued to pursue persistently, never abandoning his dream nor giving in to the many cynics and critics he faced. Morning after morning, he continued to encourage his workers saying, “Today’s the day!” Finally in 1985, his divers found the ship. Though Fisher died in 1998, crews are still bringing up treasures from the depths.
Fisher is an example of someone who exhibits persevering faith. It’s the kind of faith described in Galatians: “Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9, 10, The Message).
Faith is having confidence in God, and it can be viewed as an umbrella term under which there is a wide variety of expressions. Along with the persevering faith demonstrated by Mel Fisher, there are other types of faith one can tap into.
This is a faith which expresses gratitude for blessings received. Thankful faith can be seen through the apostle Paul, who wrote friends saying: “It was good of you to share in my troubles . . .
you sent me aid more than once when I was in need” (Philippians 4:14-16).
This same thankful faith is also present in the following letter written by a vacationing couple to the manager of the hotel where they were guests. “Dear Sir, We just spent a two-week holiday in your hotel and wish to bring to your notice the friendliness, courtesy, and helpfulness of your reception staff. . . . You are very fortunate to have staff of this caliber who advance the reputation of the hotel. Praise can also be given to the room service staff where our room was served to a high standard and the facilities were first class. All the facilities and attitude of your staff point to a well-run hotel which we will recommend to any of our friends. There is no doubt that we will be coming back to stay at your hotel.”
This is faith in the face of great danger or trial. It is the faith of David facing the giant Goliath, saying: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands” (1 Samuel 17:45, 46).
This same courageous faith was articulately spoken by Queen Elizabeth I. In 1588, as the mighty Spanish navy approached the shores of England with plans to invade, Queen Elizabeth met with the defending troops at Tilbury Docks, courageously saying: “I am come amongst you . . . being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”
In Romans 12 the apostle taught us to reach out to others “in accordance with the measure of faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3). Then he added: “If it is to encourage, then give encouragement” (v. 8).
This type of encouraging faith was conveyed by Carol Hamblet Adams during a time when her husband was hospitalized. While at his side she learned from a nurse about another patient who was in advanced stages of lung cancer. Every time that patient went to the hospital for treatment, he would visit with other cancer patients, offering them hope and encouragement. Hamblet Adams said she was so impressed by what she learned about this man that she wrote him a letter to say that she was inspired by his strength and courage.
A few months later Hamblet Adams received a phone call from the man’s wife, who said that her husband had died. The wife wanted Hamblet Adams to know her letter had been read not only by her husband but by other family members as well. Additionally, she wanted Hamblet Adams to know that “the only eulogy delivered at my husband’s service was your letter.” Hamblet Adams said she learned an invaluable lesson from that incident: “We should never hesitate to tell anyone who has touched our life that they have—we may never get the chance again.”
“I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord . . . is my strength” (Isaiah 12:2), is a biblical example of confident faith. It can also be seen in people who confidently take on a challenge, seeing it through.
One who did that was Argentinian Antonio Abertondo, who swam the English channel in 1961. Those channel waters are cold, rough, and unpredictable. Of the many who try to swim across, only a handful succeed. Abertondo was 42 when he swam from England to France. Because of his age most people thought it would be impossible, yet he arrived on a French beach where he was greeted by friends—they congratulated him for what they believed was an impossible task. He thanked them for being there, took a five-minute coffee break, and told them, “You haven’t seen the impossible yet.” He dove back into the water, swimming another 22 hours back to England. Abertondo became the first person to swim the channel both ways.
This is faith strong enough to forgive a wrong. It is exemplified by Jesus himself who, when being crucified, prayed for his tormentors: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
George Takei, a television actor who appeared on the Star Trek series, was born into a Japanese American family. During World War II he grew up in internment camps surrounded by barbed wire and machines. “A searchlight followed us on night runs to the latrine. After the war my parents couldn’t find housing, and I had a teacher who called me ‘little Jap boy,’” he recalled. In spite of injustice and harsh treatment, Takei forgave all. “My parents taught me that being bitter only pickles the one that stews in the brine.” He found forgiving others to be personally “liberating.”
Abraham is described as having this kind of faith: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18). No matter how challenging circumstances may be, this faith maintains hope and overcomes despair.
Television news anchor George Stephanopoulos tells of being moved when he witnessed hopeful faith. At the time, he was spending Christmas distributing food and medicine in a refugee camp in the Sudan—which was in the midst of a famine. “Imagine an empty desert basin with several thousand people, all of whom had nothing. Across the plains, all I could see were carcasses of cows and dried-up bushes.”
Yet two images are firmly etched in his mind. The first is the commitment of relief workers who dedicated their lives to helping desperate people. When asked why they were there, they would answer: “We can do something, so we will.” The second image was in the middle of the camp where Ethiopian refugees had constructed a small church made of sticks and cardboard. “I saw the priest sweep out the ‘sanctuary’ in preparation for Christmas services. The people gathered to sing and pray. To celebrate, here, in the midst of a hopeless situation, was one determined act of faith and hope.”
As we continue our entire lives to grow in faith, let us keep in mind all these ways that we can express our confidence, trust, and belief in the almighty God.
Victor Parachin is a minister and freelance writer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Growing Your Faith Strategically
1. Prayerfully consider these seven different types of faith:
• Persevering faith
• Thankful faith
• Courageous faith
• Encouraging faith
• Confident faith
• Forgiving faith
• Hopeful faith
2. Which one characterizes your faith particularly well? How can you use that kind of faith as an asset in your family, workplace, neighborhood, and church?
3. Which one of the seven would you like to grow in? How can you develop in this area using Scripture, prayer, accountability, and action?