Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 2

IMG_1981

Pic: Ravi and his son, Nathan, at our home

Once again, we have the privilege to hear from Ravi Zacharias via an interview I did with him.  Though done years ago, his answers are timeless, interesting, and applicable for us.  This time, we take personal and insightful look into his life and ministry.

For those of you who missed Part 1, Click Here .  Ravi was a precious friend and hero who has had an immeasurable impact in my life as well as thousands of others.  He was widely considered as the finest and most impactful Christian apologist/evangelist in the world before his passing on May 19, 2020.

We have used the last two weeks to honor his life and legacy and to help inspire you to have a greater perspective on life and your calling in Christ:

Ravi: A Poetical Sketch – A Tribute to Ravi Zacharias by Daniel Hsieh

Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 1

Ravi Zacharias: A Singular Life (1946 – 2020)

Ravi Zacharias Buried in Casket Built by Prisoners

A MUST WATCH! – Ravi’s Memorial

Enjoy and glean from this titan of the faith! – Arthur

Arthur:  You said at Founders Weekend (an annual weekend retreat for close friends of the ministry), with respect to the ministry, that God gave you a vision without giving you omniscience.  I knew what you were saying because if you really knew what lay ahead, in your human mind, you would have been overwhelmed and felled before you even started.  But what was it that you did see?  I’m sure you never envisioned the grandness of the impact that RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) would have.  What was it that you were looking to do when you started the ministry?

Ravi:  The need.  I saw the need .  That’s about all I could see . . . that the need was incredibly vast to reach the mind and that we were going to be committed.  What I did see in my mind were university open forums, businessmen’s luncheons, international conferences where we are reaching the thinker;  and so I very clearly envisioned these audiences coming in large numbers to listen to a defense of the Christian faith but I did not envision, say, the growth of the radio ministry, the growth of our team, . . . the marvelous opportunities that have come are extraordinary.  I mean we have a full time staff of 18 here (Atlanta), 14 or 15 in Madras (India), and now with Oxford (England), and Canada . . . we have contained growth in our planning.  We have made every effort to limit growth.

[Note: It was in 1984 that Zacharias founded RZIM, which today has 16 offices throughout the world in the United States, Canada, Peru, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, and the Middle East. Through its global team of more than 90 full-time speakers and nearly 300 employees worldwide, RZIM seeks to impact the heart and intellect of society’s thinkers and influencers through evangelism, apologetics, spiritual disciplines, training, and humanitarian support.]

Arthur:  That’s a new approach!  Everyone else seems to strive to do it the other way (i.e. strive for growth rather than limit it).

Ravi:  (chuckling) This is the truth.  People sort of chuckle at it in our meetings but I think one of the most difficult decisions in life is to know when you are at your maximum and not to go wider but to go deeper.

Arthur:  That’s something I came away with at Founders.  Let me tell you that that has been so profound in my life.  Not only the messages but the people I was around . . . talking to different people and listening to the testimonies, I was there humbled . . .  It was kind of scary for me because I had never thought in such grand and deep terms.  It seemed that everyone I was meeting had that kind of deeper vision for ministry.  I was kind of scared because I think, as you would say, Aslan is on the move;  something was going on in my heart, like I was approaching a next step [in my spiritual life] or something.  That was so enriching.  We appreciate that (being included) very much.

Ravi:  I appreciate that, Arthur.  That was a special weekend, no doubt.

Arthur:  Back to the ministry, how did it come about that the vision came to mind.  [Weren’t] you in the business world before you were in ministry?  How did God bring you to this point?

Ravi:  When I came to Canada (from his homeland, India), I worked in the hotel industry.  I trained in catering technology and hotel management.  My whole goal was to be in the hospitality and hotel industry.  I enjoyed that very much and still miss it a lot because I like the hospitality industry, my focus mainly being food and beverage management;  but after working in it for two years, there was no doubt in my mind, that as each day was going by, God’s voice was getting clearer and clearer.  By that I don’t mean an audible voice but a tug at the heart to get myself into theological training and into ministry because that was where I was most fulfilled – in sharing my testimony or speaking to audiences.  It was very obvious to me where it was going but I just did not know what form it would take.  I knew it was going to be ministry but I didn’t know whether it would be as a missionary or an evangelist.  I just did not understand those terms very well, coming from India. . . .  I finished my undergrad and then worked full time for the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) for one year.  I then felt I needed graduate level education in philosophy if I was to truly wrestle with the questions people were asking.  I did my graduate level work at Trinity and after that became a professor for the Alliance . . . When I finally left the professorship to form RZIM, it was with the goal of reaching the thinker and training men and women to be able to think again for the glory of God.

Arthur:  Going back to [your early life], you were converted in India.  You said you were very sick or something?

Ravi:  Well, I was on a bed of suicide when I was 17.

Arthur:  Oh, that’s right. Was it really that meaningless or seemingly so at that point?

Ravi:  I think so because of the kind of culture in which I lived.  There’s a lot of pressure to do well in your studies and if you’re not going to do well, there’s no hope.

Arthur:  The Chinese kids that I work with have a strong feeling of that.

Ravi:  Exactly.  I talk to them here at Georgia Tech.  I’ve had them come to the office.  A Chinese youngster understands that very well [and] an Indian youngster understands it very well.  There’s a great similarity because of the size of our nations and the emphasis that is placed on scholarship, and then limited opportunities . . . it’s not good enough to do well, you have to be at the top of your class.  That’s the pressure.  If you don’t make it, there’s a lot of shame.

Arthur:  That’s right. So, you said your mother brought the Word in to you?

Ravi:  Yes, somebody brought a Bible into the hospital room –  a friend of mine whom I didn’t know that well – and he gave her John 14 to read to me.  In the hospital room, when she read it, that’s when [I made my commitment].  I had heard the gospel before but I didn’t have full understanding of the terms.

Arthur:  When she was reading the words, did something happen?

Ravi:  When she came to the verse when Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also” I said, “Lord, I don’t know exactly what this means but if this means that You’re the giver of life, then I want it, and I want Your life because the life I have I do not want.  I will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of truth if You will just change my life for me.

Arthur:  Afterward, then, was there an immediate difference?

Ravi:  Yes, an incredible difference.  I left the hospital room a brand new man.  I got involved in Bible studies with Youth for Christ and they became my nurturing agent really.

Arthur:  You told me in your letter to me last year that you thought the Chinese people had a special role in God’s plan in the next century.  What did you mean by that?

Ravi:  Well, I think they are a very, very uniquely gifted people.  If you look at the Chinese culture, there’s almost nothing, in terms of human capacity, that they as a culture do not possess.  [They are] incredible artists, very competitive in athletics, very gifted musically.  They know the diligence of thinking [and] scholarship – the Chinese scholar and so on.  They’re very, very gifted in business acumen and learning to make the best out of difficult situations.  They have an incredible survival instinct . . . through thick and thin, somehow they have managed to keep the home fires burning.  There’s a lot of courage in Chinese culture . . . If the gospel takes hold in China, I have no doubt that they will be the agents of change in the twenty first century . . . the key is going to be how the gospel takes root.

Arthur:  Are there any plans for RZIM to (minister in China)?

Ravi:  I think so, Arthur, I think so.  We generally wait for things to come about naturally;  we seldom construct a specific plan but the way God has opened up doors for us in the past, I think something will happen because of the impact we had in Hong Kong and in Singapore.

Arthur:  In your last statement here, what is your life’s passion or purpose?

Ravi:  Oh, to receive the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”;  I think to win the applause of God rather than anything else;  that God would be pleased with my life, that is my goal without a doubt.

Arthur:  Ravi, this has been a great time for me.  Thank you so much!

Ravi:  Oh, I appreciate that, Arthur.  We appreciate you, too, very much.  Give our love to Sandra . . . and thank you for taking the time.  It’s good to talk to you again.

Arthur:  You and your family have a great Christmas.

Ravi:  You too, my brother.  The Lord bless you.

Ravi Zacharias Buried in Casket Built by Prisoners

“Our hope is as certain as Jesus’s grave is empty,” said Sam Allberry in solemn graveside service.

“Our hope is as certain as Jesus’s grave is empty,” said Sam Allberry in solemn graveside service.

Ravi Zacharias was laid to rest on Thursday, May 21, in a private ceremony in Georgia. It was a largely overcast day with glimpses of sunlight piercing through the clouds, a reflection of those who were mourning below with glimpses of hope piercing through the mournful occasion. His family gathered to honor not just the leader of a global ministry or an evangelist-apologist who crisscrossed the globe in the service of Christ, but a loving husband, a nurturing father, and a loyal and generous brother. Sam Allberry, who officiated the service, rightly reminded all that this is not the end of Ravi’s story. Hovering over the whole ceremony was the confidence of the words that had saved Ravi’s life 57 years ago: “Because I live, you will also live” (John 14:19).

Allberry gently ministered to the family through his message of hope and assurance in Christ during the graveside service. He explained that the Christian’s hope is grounded in the assurance of Christ’s life and faithfulness. Since Christ lives, we know that Ravi lives. In that sense, the grave is something of a painful deception. Ravi now rests cradled in our Lord’s earth not as one who has been snatched from life, but as a dear saint ultimately liberated to life everlasting in the presence of his Lord and Savior. Using an analogy fitting of a man who had spent his life spanning the globe, Allberry described the grave as an airport transit lounge visited before one reaches their final destination. We know it is not the final destination because it was not Christ’s final destination. “Our hope,” Allberry said, “is as certain as Jesus’s grave is empty.”

Ravi passed away on May 19 after a short battle with cancer at the age of 74. He died on his mother’s birthday. He is survived by his wife, Margie, their three children, and five grandchildren.

Ravi-Graveside-Service-5.jpg

The love that many around the world felt for Ravi through his lifetime of work was present in the very receptacle in which Ravi’s body now rests. Ravi’s message of hope in Jesus Christ resonated with many, especially those in prison populations around the world. He developed a special relationship with Louisiana State Penitentiary, known widely as Angola Prison, inspired by his friendship with the late Chuck Colson, a leading figure in prison ministry and the man who first urged Ravi to put his Harvard Veritas lectures into the written form that became his second book, Can Man Live Without God?

Ravi visited Angola a few times over the years, most recently in June of 2019. It was an incredible experience he wrote about in a June 8 Facebook post:

“In the ante room to the execution room is where the sentenced man has his last meal. A prisoner has painted two paintings that grace the wall there. One is Daniel in the Lion’s Den, meaning, “God might still rescue you.” Next to that is another one: Elijah going up on chariots of fire. One way or the other, God will be there for you. …

Even in a dark place, the Gospel is shining with grace and power. That is the only hope for the world because we are all prisoners of sin, and only the cross has the answer and the freedom.”

Ravi-Graveside-Service-3.jpg

The prisoners at Angola held a very special place in Ravi’s heart. In a beautiful example of the Grand Weaver ever-present in Ravi’s life and death, it is these very prisoners who lovingly crafted the casket in which Ravi was buried.

Ravi wrote about his request to be buried in a casket fashioned by Angola inmates in his most recent book, Seeing Jesus from the East (Zondervan, 2020). With great insight, he wrote of the inspirational lessons one can learn from these dear brothers in Christ. Ravi did not know that his words would be full of so much meaning for his loved ones just a few months after they were penned. “These prisoners know that this world is not their home,” Ravi explains, “and that no coffin could ever be their final destination. Jesus assured us of that. Such is the gospel story.” He expands on this message later, writing “The story of the gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in God’s presence. I will never be ‘no more.’ I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me.”

Ravi-Graveside-Service-4.jpg

These sentiments were felt throughout the service, which began with the reading of God’s word in John 11:25, 26; Romans 8:38, 39; and 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17b, and came to a close in the Anglican committal prayer

We have entrusted Ravi to God’s mercy,

and we now commit his body to the ground:

in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life

through our Lord Jesus Christ,

who will transform our frail bodies

that they may be conformed to his glorious body,

who died, was buried, and rose again for us.

To him be glory for ever.

Amen.

Ravi Zacharias, a friend of Christ who tried to end his life after 17 years and was given 57 more by and through God’s grace, has finished his race and entered Eternal Rest. As God rested from His works, Ravi now rests from his as well (Hebrews 4:9, 10). At the conclusion of this solemn graveside service, as Ravi’s casket was lowered into Georgia’s red clay soil, Allberry could not help but to reflect on those famous words attributed to George Herbert, “Death used to be an executioner, but the gospel has made him just a gardener.”

Ravi-graveside-service-2.jpg

Photos by Elizabeth Lauren Jones Photography.

Margie and the Zacharias family have asked that in lieu of flowers gifts be made to the ongoing work of RZIM. Ravi’s heart was people. His passion and life’s work centered on helping people understand the beauty of the gospel message of salvation. Our prayer is that, at his passing, more people will come to know the saving grace found in Jesus through Ravi’s legacy and the global team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Story courtesy of RZIM Canada

A Difficult Message

untitled

Can you imagine preaching the message at your own daughter’s memorial service?  That thought for me is daunting and spine-chilling.  What would you say?  How would you say it?  The most difficult message I ever gave was at the TD Banquet in ’08, four days after my “Mami’s” passing.  It has since been useful to several others coping with the loss of a loved one. (Click here to listen)

Less than a year ago, RC Sproul, Jr. had the unenviable task of preaching at his precious special needs daughter’s memorial service.  Jr. calls Shannon MacFarlane Sproul “the greatest theologian among all the Sprouls.”  Like Keren is in many ways Eunice’s spiritual tutor, so was Shannon to Jr.  I pray that you will read on, put yourself into Jr.’s shoes, and then watch in awe as I did, and let God strengthen your soul. – Arthur

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Shannon

It was always my contention, living with a special needs daughter who could be called home at any time, that it was not her health issues that determined when should go, but my spiritual health issues. When each seizure forced me to face her fragility, when each morning I checked first to see if she were breathing before trying to wake her, I comforted myself with this thought- God will not call Shannon home until Shannon is through with me. It was apparent rather early on in her life that she had a peculiar calling, that she was less the child I needed to teach, and more the child that needed to teach me.  I was the student, she the master.

My mistake was in thinking that her being done with me and her home going would coincide. She is gone, but she is not done with me. She is still teaching me in her absence. She is teaching me how to deal with pain. Shannon’s seizures were not demure affairs. She fell to the ground. Her legs shook violently. Her upper body jerked back and forth. Her breathing became noisy and labored, and fruitless as her skin would begin to turn blue from lack of oxygen. It might last thirty seconds. It might last ten minutes. When it ended, however, it ended always the same- with deep, unshakable sleep. Immediately after being terrorized by her own body being utterly out of her control, immediately after the electrical waves in her brain became a violent thunderstorm, immediately after not being able to breath, she did not look to me for an explanation. She didn’t look in panic for a place of stability and sanity. Wherever she was, she just slept.

My home was convulsed nearly a year ago when my bride, the love of my life, went on to her reward. It was convulsed again six weeks ago when Shannon went on to join her. And I can’t sleep. For months the routine of caring for my wife was my sanity. For the months after she was gone, the habits of caring for my daughter were my sanity. Now they are both gone. And I have lessons to learn.

For Denise I could be grateful that she went on to a better world, that she would no longer suffer. For Shannon, ironically, I’m not so sure. Oh I am quite confident she is in the arms of her Lord. I’m certain she will have no more seizures. But the thing is, Shannon never felt the weight of her weaknesses. And Shannon had a faith that saw through the veil. She lived on earth as if it were heaven. She was so full of love, joyful, peaceful, so filled with patience and kindness, so good, so faithful, so gentle and so self-controlled that she bloomed, bore fruit in God’s own garden. When she woke up able to walk and speak, when she woke to feel our Lord’s hand on her head, it was no great change for her. She always felt His hand upon her. She always beheld His glory. The gap for Shannon between earth and heaven was just one small, unsteady step.

Which is just the lesson I need to learn. Neither my wife nor my daughter, though they are now a higher order of being, having been glorified, are far from me. My Lord is not with them in some distant dimension. Instead I am there with them, seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). I have been lifted up by His grace. Because He is with me, I make my bed not in Sheol, but in paradise. For wherever He is, there is my treasure. I will lay down and rest, for so He gives His beloved sleep (Psalm 127). And Shannon watches, to see if I breathe, as we both look forward to that day when I finally wake.

I pray you will take the time to watch the sermon I was blessed to preach at Shannon’s memorial service. My hope was to preach the grace of God in her life, and the grace of God through her in my life.

Joni and Friends also produced an award-winning TV episode featuring RC, Jr.’s family (both wife and Shannon have passed on since then).  It’s a great episode.  Here it is:
http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/when-disability-hits-home/