Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 2

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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: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 1

 

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Pic: When Ravi visited our home

Here’s Part 2 of the Interview: Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 2

Hey TD,

It was great to spend time with you on Friday at “Remembering Ravi: A Conversation.”  It was our honor to introduce many of you to Ravi’s life and ministry for the first time, as well as to recollect with others of you who have been touched by Christ through his life. For several of the TD leaders, it was a time of renewal and refocus, as we receive our portion of the baton that he handed off.

I am reminded of something I shared with you earlier this year … that in order to really live, something or someone must die.  In that spirit, as promised, I will be sharing with you some valuable insights from Ravi’s life that will help you deepen your life and ministry for Christ.

Here’s part 1 of a personal interview I had with Ravi years ago.  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.

 

Remembering RC Sproul (MUST reading)

Short video of clips of RC proclaiming the gospel through the years

Hi TD Family,

I’ve thought about, gave thanks for, and ached for RC everyday since I first learned of his hospitalization and then ensuing Homecoming.  I’ve reminisced fondly over our times spent together, enjoying not only fine food, but hearing him explain to us the finer details of our Real Food, our faith in Christ.

My family will remember his gentleness and frivolity with our kids over the decades.  He loved kids, knew how to make them feel comfortable, and knew how to make them laugh.  He’s the one who taught us the unique “Give me five … up high … down low … ” ritual that I use with young ones today.

RC was also sincerely humble, not taking himself too seriously, often making fun of himself.  He once was excited to tell us, “As I came out of the shower this morning, do you know what Vesta (his wife) said to me? She said, ‘When I married you, I knew I was marrying an athlete, I just didn’t know it was going to be a sumo wrestler!'” We howled in laughter together.

I have often had people address me as Pastor or Pastor Arthur, have assumed I went to seminary, or comment that they couldn’t believe that I didn’t go to seminary.  More than anyone, I owe that to RC Sproul, whose calling and vision was to bring the seminary to the layman, to bridge the gap between seminary and Sunday School.  I am the fruit of what RC envisioned, a lay theologian on the street or in the field, as it were.

I commuted for work from South Pasadena to Orange County from 1990 – 1997, before opening up my Pasadena office.  I have often called my little blue Honda Civic my seminary, for it was there that I had stacks of theological courses taught by RC Sproul sitting in my passenger seat.  Each day, for nearly an hour’s drive each way, I would listen to the audio cassette tapes over and over again, hanging on RC’s teaching and being increasingly blown away with each listen … of the same lesson!  For hundreds of hours, I listened and learned from RC, meeting ultimately with … God.

It was RC that alerted me to the fact that in order to really maximize what you get out of a lecture, you need to listen to it about a dozen times.  I have found that to be true and lament when I see Christians think they know what a passage in the Bible says because they have read that passage before or have heard a message on that passage already.

In the absence of any older spiritual mentors at church for me, RC was like a surrogate spiritual father to me; not directly, but certainly indirectly.  Thus, it was a distinct privilege and joy to interview RC for you at TD a few years ago when we did the “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” series.

It is a great interview that is personal, honest, real, and very candid.  There are things that will surprise you.  We typically receive about 20 – 25 views a day on the TD blog.  In the last few days, we have received well over 2,200 views, primarily driven by these interviews.  Some have linked them to their blogs.

I am also giving you the links to some extraordinary tributes from extraordinary people that are MUST READS.  They will not only give you more depth to understanding RC, but will also help you grow in living out your Christian life. – Arthur

Arthur’s Interview With RC

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 1

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 2

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 3

MUST READ Tributes to RC

Steven Lawson’s Tribute to RC (this one is especially good)

John Piper’s Tribute to RC 

Joni Eareckson Tada’s Tribute to RC

Sinclair Ferguson’s Tribute to RC

John MacArthur’s Tribute to RC

Al Mohler’s Tribute to RC

RC’s Biography

Stephen Nichols