This week, earth mourns the loss of Ravi Zacharias. A man mislabeled by many as a giant of the faith. While I carry an enormous level of respect for the man, to me, he was just a man. More accurately, he was a sinner saved by grace; a man who never attained perfection, yet was gifted with an understanding of the heart of God. A man who allowed that understanding change him at his core; to move from purely intellectual knowledge into emotional and spiritual understanding. A man who was, quite simply, a friend of God.
Thinking back to all the times I’ve heard Ravi speak, all the words he wrote that I took the time to read, one thing…one single message…rings throughout: take hold of God’s love, just as you are, and be changed.
“I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has 330 million deities. I remain with Him knowing that truth cannot be all-inclusive.” – Ravi Zacharias
Ravi, at age 17, had been healed: Temporarily in body, continually in mind and forever in spirit (you can view his story here). He had experienced the true nature and character of God and was ignited with a passion that others come to realize this same gift. Throughout the rest of his life, he seemed to so desire for the whole world to find what he had found: true life in, with, and through a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve often heard Ravi recount the most pivotal moment in his life; his failed suicide attempt at 17 years of age. In those dark days, he had turned to death as a solution to his misery. He employed death to remedy his condition and found that someone already had: Jesus Christ.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 NIV
Throughout his life, the light that Ravi let shine was not one of human intellect, logical adeptness, or a power to win arguments…things that have and will pass away. No…the light that Ravi let shine, into my life and the lives of others, was light that comes from the knowledge of God, seasoned with humility and joy. Rarely have I perceived Ravi’s approach to apologetics to be “in your face” or riddled with power-over statements. On the contrary, Ravi seemed to truly care about those who brought arguments against him…his “enemies”. He listened intently and thoroughly to his questioners, to hear not just their words but their heart. In debating, it did not seem like Ravi was engaging in discourse for the sake of a win. I saw and heard a man who was simply prepared to give a reason for the hope he had within him, actively sharing that reason (1 Peter 3:15).
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” – Philippians 3:7-9 NIV
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Ravi Zacharias. Honestly, I struggled to focus this morning while reading through the enormous list of his accolades and earthly accomplishment. What has come to matter most to me, about Ravi or any other person, is the driving force behind those accomplishments: faith, the size of a mustard seed, moving mountains…a person, wrapped in weakness, seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). I am, above all else, grateful that Ravi loved people as Christ did, with compassion, accountability, and meekness.
Moving forward, the life and works of Ravi Zacharias will continue to inspire me. Like Ravi, I have found healing and long for my friends, family and even strangers to experience the same freedom I have found. That is the purpose of my blog. Not to reinforce some shadow of faith, fear-forced conversion, or a shell of Christianity but to help others discover true life. The kind of life where all of our thirsts are quenched by drinking from living water, a metaphorical description of the love and presence of God. A love and presence that slays anxiety, calms anger, up-heaves addiction, and exiles shame.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14 NIV
In the terms of humanity, Ravi Zacharias died this week. His body riddled with a painful cancer, Ravi succumbed to the same thing that awaits us all: the end of our days. And yet, in reality, Ravi actually “died” when he was seventeen…for it was then that he willingly gave up whatever shadow of a life he had been living and traded it in for something more. And he has been living ever since.
May all of us, every single one of us, find what Ravi found and hold on to it with all of our might.
…in 2018, Zacharias told the story of standing with his successor in front of Lazarus’s grave in Cyprus. The stone simply reads, “Lazarus, four days dead, friend of Christ.” Zacharias turned to Ramsden and said if he was remembered as “a friend of Christ, that would be all I want.” –MATTHEW FEARON, RZIM OBITUARY: RAVI ZACHARIAS
This piece originally appeared at The Voice of a Phoenix, published with permission.