As I’m preparing for my message this Friday, “Zacharias’ Song,” I came across a personal interview I did with Ravi Zacharias many years ago, in the early years of our relationship. As I read it again, my soul stirred a fresh as his comments today are just as applicable and poignant as they were then. So, for your edification and enjoyment, I present to you perhaps the greatest Christian apologist today, my friend, Ravi Zacharias. Enjoy and be edified! And tell us what you think! – Arthur
Many of you have heard me refer to Ravi Zacharias on many occasions. In this first of a two part interview, I’d like to introduce you to him. Ravi is a friend and one of my heroes in life. He has influenced my thinking and life more than he’ll ever know. In fact, our (Sandra and I) youngest son’s middle name is Zacharias (his first name is Daniel), named after Ravi. Ravi is one of the leading Christian apologists and evangelists in the world today, ministering in over 50 countries. He has authored many books and is president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Please take the time to read, reread, and internalize his comments as I truly believe it can make a difference in your walk with God. It has made a huge difference in mine.
Arthur: I’ve heard you state many times that “the loneliest moment in life is when you’ve experienced what you thought would deliver the ultimate and it has let you down.” Could you comment on that?
Ravi: A lot of young people, particularly in their days of aspiring and dreaming, they look at their heroes that are ahead of them that are in sports, or in the entertainment world, or in the business world, and say to themselves, “That’s the kind of success I’d like to enjoy. That’s the kind of wealth I’d like to own. That’s the kind of power I’d like to wield.” For many of them, as each stage comes and certain accomplishments are made that they never thought were possible, they find it to be very surprisingly hollow. One look at the movie stars’ world and you’ll see how they constantly are in situations of broken homes and broken situations; sometimes there’s drugs, sometimes there’s violence in the home. There are certainly lots of breakages in marriage and so on. It just goes to prove that in the pleasures of the world, even in the legitimate pleasures of the world, there is no consummate expression; only in God can you find constant fulfillment. Take Deion Sanders, for example, in his conversion, making the comment that after attaining everything, the Super Bowl and all of that, he was still emptier than ever. So that’s the comment, the comment that we need to learn quickly in life that in worldly terms all those momentary fulfillments come and go and they leave you hungrier than before.
Arthur: That can come in a Christian context too, right?
Ravi: You’re right! You’re absolutely right. That’s an important point. Even success in ministry can become a disappointing factor after some time because that ought not to be the goal of your life. The goal of your life ought to be God Himself.
Arthur: Last year, I told you that I worked with youth and I had asked you what your advice would be to youth today. Your response to me, as far as what I should do with my kids (youth), was, “Teach your kids how to read.” Could you explain that a little bit?
Ravi: Yes. I think there’s so much that is going on today where minds are growing without our imaginations being given their freedom and their sovereignty. So much is being given to us visually that I feel our imagination is being taken hostage and in reading you have two things happening: First of all, words, concepts, ideas are coming into your mind that’ll help you relate and interact with the idea; but more than that, it gives you the sovereignty of your own imagination. I think a lot of havoc is wreaked in a life when an imagination has not matured, when an imagination has not been rightly tutored. So reading is an important aspect in training the imagination.
Arthur: So you yourself are not engaging your mind particularly in media very much are you?
Ravi: No, I really don’t. For various reasons, I find the visual very unattractive to myself. I’m kind of a news man and the few things that I would watch would be historic documentary type things. The world of entertainment on TV has very little appeal for me personally. I would sooner read a book than be entertained by the visual media. I’m not saying it’s all wrong or bad, that’s not the point. I’m just saying for my personal preference, I have very limited time to give to that kind of entertainment.
Arthur: So with you, personally, with all the demands on you to be right at the cutting edge of social commentary, you have to saturate yourself with news items and things like that, which also brings the temptation to be overloaded that way too, right?
Ravi: Oh, you’re right. You’re absolutely right. Over the years, I’ve been very selective in the magazines I subscribe to and read ones that will give me the news and keep me in tune with the culture.
Arthur: Ravi, how do you nurture your soul, then?
Ravi: Two or three things. I think first of all, a daily devotional life and scripture reading is going to be very, very important. You have to be disciplined. You have to have a pattern. You can’t do a hit and miss approach. If you do not have a pattern or a plan, you’ll drop the ball with the busyness of life. . . You have to be careful that you’re not neglecting that. Then I do a lot of reading of devotional material so that there are others whose writings are inspiring me and raising me to new heights. I plan on a lot of time at home with my wife. We travel together [and] we spend time together. I have time with my colleagues in ministry. They inspire me [and] sharpen points, as it were. So I would say through the devotional life, the biblical readings, the devotional readings, my wife, and my colleagues, that’s the way [I] stay fresh and accountable.
Arthur: Does music play any part?
Ravi: It does. I really enjoy music but I’m a great old traditional hymn man and that’s what I enjoy.
Arthur: Yeah, me too.
Ravi: I like language to be used well and to probe.
Arthur: You were saying you read inspiring writers. Do you have any off the top of your head?
Ravi: Yes, I really enjoy the Scottish writer, James Stewart. I like G. Campbell Morgan. I like the English writer, F.W. Boreham. I enjoy reading F.B. Meyer. I love reading Spurgeon. . . A.W. Tozer, I enjoy him very much. James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul. . .so I’m a reader of the grand themes.
Arthur: That segues into my next question which is not meant to make you feel [embarrassed] or anything. What is it that sets you apart from most people? I guess in my definition and in many of ours’ we would consider you a great man of God. So if we can say, neutrally, that that perhaps is a fact or a developing fact as you continue to grow in your sanctification, what is it that makes you so uniquely different? Maybe it’s a gift or maybe not. Maybe it’s a discipline you’ve committed yourself to.
Ravi: Well, first of all, it’s humbling when you make a comment like that, Arthur, and so I don’t even know what’s the best way to respond to that. I think the simplest thing I can say is when people are relating to each other, we generally tend to look for people who either sharpen what we are thinking, to take it to a higher level, or else complement what we are thinking so that we find a balance. In a lot of my friendships, for example, I look for people who have gifts that I don’t have and that brings you to a real sense of a balanced friendship. You’re giving and taking. . . I suppose what people possibly find helpful in their lives in the way we have focused our ministry (he is referring to RZIM) is that people seem to appreciate the privilege of thinking and the privilege of growing and having their minds challenged and complemented. So I think what I have committed my life to is to stretch my mind and my spiritual commitment; those are definitely goals that I have so that I never stagnate, and I think the result of growing is that the average person you meet, whom you befriend, or whom you love, or are ministering to . . . appreciates that priority because that’s what they want for their lives too. So, in a sense, I believe what brings about the response from people to what we are trying to do is an affirmation that they too want to go higher. I think that’s what they’re saying when they thank you for challenging their lives.
Arthur: I think that states it pretty well. But with that being the case, you carry a lot of responsibility with so many people looking up to you. How do you guard against 1) getting big headed or prideful, and 2) falling into temptation. Do you know what I’m saying, with the burden your bear?
Ravi: Yeah. The first is easier than the second. I think you make enough mistakes in life. You fail enough number of times to know that there is never a guarantee that you are going to succeed or you’re going to do well. God has enough ways of bursting your balloon and keeping you humble. That happens so many times in a year that there’s never a sense of overconfidence. I don’t think that’s been a struggle for me at all through life because I know that if it weren’t for Him, we would never even have this privilege, leave alone have the capacity. There have been enough blunders and failures and shortcomings that keep us very close to Him. (Now referring to part two of the question) Temptation of different kinds will always stalk us, especially when I think things are going well. Temptations are easier to handle when things are not going well because your life and energies are being consumed in just turning things around in life. When things are going well, Satan will try and knock you off your feet. The best thing to do is to take the precautions. One of the precautions I take, for example, [is that] I never travel alone anymore . . . I’m always with my wife or with my colleague, Gavin. I do not ever turn the television on in a hotel room . . . the movies or shows seduce the mind in some way because you’re alone on the road. I’m very, very aware of what I watch when I’m on the road. Generally, it’s a sporting event or the news. I guard my reading as carefully as I can as well as the places that I go. I think the best time to whip temptation is when it makes its first approach on you. So the lines should be drawn well before. . .
Arthur: Like Daniel in Marching to A Different Drummer (the title of one of his messages)
Ravi: Exactly, exactly.