There are relatively few people you allow to speak into your life at such a level where you almost never question them. You just accept what they say and adjust accordingly. Ravi Zacharias earned that with every truth he conveyed and relayed from Scripture. What's even more memorable about Ravi's influence, was not merely the brilliance with which he shared in his powerful ability of oration, but also in the kindness that came shining through his speeches and teachings. In other words, not only what he said, but how he said it.
In recent days and weeks, much has been spoken regarding his legacy, and by those far more qualified than myself. This article is meant to serve as a personal "time capsule" for the impact he made on my life and ministry.
[About this personal photo - from the author: I remember this moment, a few years back, that was so special for me. I could barely speak. There was so much I wanted to say all at once about what he & his teachings meant to me. Even though it’s a terribly grainy picture, the stranger I had asked to take it, perfectly captured the moment when #RaviZacharias put his hand on my back as we were to pose. I was absolutely shocked & stupefied by the Christlike kindness that was in that moment. It’s who Ravi was.]
Ravi's Influence on my life
Our student ministry had gone through a terrible ordeal together. Add to that, it was our generation - GenX - that was taking the tough "God questions" into the mainstream and main streets of America (even in the south). Church-dom, which had long seemed to be unchallenged, was beginning to be more on the receiving end of passive-aggressive attacks masked as thoughtful inquiry. Still, most everyone professed to be a "Christian" of some sort. There was a silent swelling of fascination to encounter someone openly suggesting anything other than Christianity as a way of life and Jesus as the Way to life. All that being said, there was one more factor: I was an arrogant sixteen year old boy who thought he knew it all already.
Standing in my room, feeling utterly alone and indignant to the world around me, an idea came to the forefront of my mind. Boldness, terror, desperation and resolve all flooded me at the ultimatum that I was about to give God: "If you really are God, surely you can't be intimidated by the questions of a teenager! Give me answers and I'll follow you, or don't and I won't!" That was my arrogant, yet heartfelt plea.
God did not disappoint.
Not remembering the exact timeline, it was a very short window before I had begun to hear of names I had never really known before: C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, R.C. Sproul, Chuck Missler and... Ravi Zacharias. To be sure, I would learn of others in my search over the years and decades that followed. These names and their ministries, however, had become my pillars and chief mentors, second only to Scripture itself. Because of these men, my belief in God was now rock-solid, bold and persuasive. Because of these men, I had dedicated the next 15 years of my life to not only personal study and pursuit, but also equipping other teenagers who were asking similar questions.
I'll never forget this statement of Ravi's that resonated so deeply within me at this crucial time in my life. Probably because it was the foundational promise of his own journey, as he tells, when rescued by Christ while on a bed of suicide:
I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth. - Ravi Zacharias
The Head and the Heart
Ravi's contribution to shaping my life, philosophical worldview, as well as my approach to interpretation and application of Scripture - not to mention my own life's work and ministry - is without measure. When my natural tendency was to be too cerebral or automated in my responses to the "tough questions", I looked back to Ravi to remember how to bridge the gap between the head and the heart when talking to people about their doubts. Because he was kind to everyone when challenged, I knew I had to be as well.
This man taught us all how to mine beautiful truths from the depths of Scripture in ways that many didn't know was possible. He knew how to offer a one-liner, as well as unpack the depth and distinctions of a truth in pages upon pages. He exposed the cohesion of the Christian worldview and how it was not only livable, but also preferable.
Above all of this, we could feel the love and character of Christ consistently come through him and his ministry.
When One pictures their hero
When many picture Ravi, maybe they picture him speaking in front of thousands of people - and to be fair, there is nothing wrong with that. When I picture Ravi, however, I think back to a kitchen table with his book, The Grand Weaver. I remember driving for long stretches of time while listening to his podcast, Let My People Think or some other audiobook of his. That's what I respected and admired the most about him and his ministry: whether in front of thousands or via technology, it always felt so personal. Like he was talking to you and only you.
Even more personal still, my own son, Trenton, has never had to experience the doubts that I once did. As a father, all I've truly wanted is to see my son prosper in his knowledge of Scripture and his passion for Christ. I have several fond memories of the two of us listening to and discussing many of Ravi's sermons. Introducing Ravi as a hero of mine to my son has been a true joy.
Ravi Zacharias is deserving of every honor bestowed upon him, in this life and in the next as well. Thank you so much, Sir. We honor you. My life is better for God rather than bitter against Him because of you.
Thank you to the RZIM team. You've long held up and supported the arms of a wonderful man of God and teacher. From a distance it has been obvious that he has been preparing you for such a time as this. We believe in each of you and look forward to this next generation of apologists and declarers of the Truth.
And thank you, to his beloved wife (Margie) and beautiful children (Sarah, Nathan, and Naomi) and grandchildren for sharing Ravi with all of us. May your family be blessed for generations because of the legacy he left to you.
The Scripture that marked out the path for Ravi's ministry is still fitting and should be championed by all, whether still searching or already following Christ:
Because I live, you shall live also. John 14:9