A family friend of Ravi Zacharias recently asked if I heard the most recent update on Ravi’s battle against cancer. I have been following along and praying from the first time I heard that Ravi was in a fight for his life. Yesterday the news hit me differently and I began to tear up throughout the day, even having to find something to dry my eyes before walking into my niece's birthday party. Even now, as I sit to write this, my eyes are filling with tears. Ravi, I want to express a heartfelt thank you for a life well-lived. I never met you or had the opportunity to shake your hand, but on many occasions when my mind groped for answers to life’s most pressing and challenging questions, your voice not only comforted me but came across the radio with a prophetic sharpness and clarity that can only be possessed by those whose hearts and minds have been deeply touched by the truths they profess. Many times I have found myself thinking, “I am so glad we (Christians) have a Ravi!” I’m sure this sentiment is shared by as many genuine seekers of truth, who have sat in university forums, public debates, or even found themselves searching late at night for answers on the internet. Thank you for ensuring that the minds of believers were not left undeveloped or untrained over the last few decades of your faithful minsitry. Thank you for not forsaking the Ivy Leagues and the University Campuses. Thank you for not allowing physical discomfort to keep you from traveling thousands of miles to carry the Gospel to far off lands. Thank you for taking the time to sit with skeptics and wrestle with their questions. Thank you for your countless thousands of hours of study, research, and preparation.
As I began to ponder your life, I felt like Elisha standing on the banks of the Jordan for the sake of my own generation. My hear’s cry became, “Lord, don’t allow another general enter into glory before our generation has apprehended what was on his life.” In the last three years we have seen the likes of Billy Graham and Rheihardt Bonnke join the great cloud of witnesses. When I consider men like Billy Graham, Rheinhardt Bonnke and Ravi Zacharias, I am gripped by the integrity they walked in, their uncompromising witness for the Lord, and their all-consuming passion to see His Name glorified in the nations of the earth. I am equally gripped by a strong desire for such uncompromising, unwavering and anointed voices to be raised up in my own generation. It is for this purpose that I want to direct our attention for the next few moments to a handful of lessons we can glean from the life and example of Ravi.
Study wide and deep
Without pursuing deep understanding, we will never be able to demonstrate an appropriate appreciation for hard questions, make difficult answers simple enough to grasp, or possess the clarity that causes the world to pay attention. If we want to be good Bible preachers, we must be good Bible readers. If we want to be gifted teachers, we must be good students. The hammer that strikes the nail must have behind it’s force the strength that comes from much study, deep contemplation and wrestling for understanding. We are not meddling in the realm of pop music jingles. We are stewarding the mysteries of God and eternal realities. Every time we open our mouth to speak about the Gospel, we are reaching into humanity’s deepest needs and touching the source of their ultimate fulfillment. An approved worker of the Gospel ought to spend much time brooding over his subject matter. His study and discipline must match the seriousness of his calling. We are not called to complicate already difficult matters. We are called to take high and lofty realities and make them palatable for the kindergartner. Such a man must possess greater understanding then the man who would make a great mess and tangle of beautiful truths that are to be announced as good news to the poor, the uneducated and the childlike. Ravi’s ability to speak in so many venues, across so many generations and with such pointed clarity to diverse audiences speaks not only to his wide grasp of many subjects, but also his deep understanding of the Gospel and the Truth he professed. Let us study wide, but especially learn to study deep, so that the truth we profess is constantly brought to the surface with ever increasing brilliance and beauty.
Be personally impacted by the truth
Anyone who is familiar with the life and ministry of Ravi, has probably heard his own testimony of meeting Jesus while on his suicide bed. It is evident in the way that Ravi communicates Truth that his own heart has been profoundly impacted by the Gospel. He does not communicate about God in vague or abstract terms. He speaks of God as a man who has met Him in the face of Jesus Christ. Ravi has a heart that is bigger than his head. He loves God and he loves people, so the truth he communicates does not come off as purely abstract, academic or cold. It is warm, friendly and full of countless personal stories that can only be gained over many years spent loving God and loving people. We must always seek to love God more than we love communicating about God. We must learn to allow the prescriptions we offer others to become our own personal convictions. We must learn to apply the Gospel in the laboratory of our own lives. We must be able to communicate the Gospel in personal conversation, the way a man talks about his favorite restaurants or sports team, and not just in pulpit discourses. The truth of the Gospel must saturate the speaker’s life, or he is merely peddling a product he does not believe in.
In all things, seek to make Christ known
Everyone has a worldview, but not every world-view is coherent with reality. Ravi said it this way, "We have a right to believe whatever we want, but not everything we believe is right.” In an age of ever-increasing relativism, Ravi faithfully challenged the predominant world-views and made a clear case for the Biblical worldview with Jesus at the center of it. He demonstrated how the Biblical worldview satisfied the most important questions related to our existence: origin, meaning, morality and destiny. He refused to make Christianity less offensive to skeptics and cynics by placing it on the a la carte menu. Ravi used apologetics to make Jesus known and to preach the Gospel. We must recover the ability to preach the Gospel and make Christ known where Christ has not been preached or has been propped up as a caricature. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Any worldview that does not include Jesus will never satisfy humanity’s deepest longings. We must preach Jesus and make him known to a lost and dying world.
Ravi, I want to thank you for the example you have left us. I want to thank you like we thank soldiers, who have fought the good fight and laid their lives down for a worthy cause. You taught us to fight for and defend the Truth. I want to thank you like we thank good professors, who have by their own genius and passion taught us to throw our lives into our studies as a worthy pursuit. I want to thank you like one who is worthy of honor, because you are. Anyone who has influenced the world for the cause of Christ is worthy of the highest honor and you have done that marvelously, as my life and many others can bear witness. Thank you, Ravi.