by Kevin Burton
Helping believers think, helping thinkers believe. That’s what Ravi Zacharias did on God’s green earth.
He was a Christian apologist, someone who made the case for Jesus Christ. Nobody did so with more intelligence, eloquence, passion.
“Only in Jesus do you find the answers to the deepest questions of the soul, answers that correspond to reality and in totality are systematically coherent,” he wrote in an article on his ministry’s website.
Zacharias died Tuesday in Atlanta, at age 74 after a short fight with cancer. I seriously doubt there will ever be another like him.
There will be a memorial for him streamed on You Tube and Facebook on Friday, May 29 at 10 a.m. Central time. The tributes already flooding in from around the world should reach a crescendo then.
Zacharias was born and raised in India, moved to Canada at age 20, later moving to Atlanta.
If you know his work with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, it’s hard to fathom him as an underachiever. But by his own account he was, as a younger student. His goal was to be a cricket player on India’s national team.
In his book “Walking from East to West,”
he tells the story of how his father saw this poor schoolwork and told him he was going to be a disgrace to the family.
He saw his life as “punctuated by failure” and attempted suicide, by taking poison. As he was recovering in a hospital, a friend gave him a Bible. He had never read the Bible to that point.
In the hospital he says he uttered a prayer of desperation, “Jesus if you are who you claim to be, take me out of here (the hospital). I will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of truth.”
And that is what he did. You can learn the details at www.rzim.org. There are far too many stories for me to relate here. There is a wealth of his material on You Tube also.
Zacharias circled the globe many times over, speaking, debating and teaching. He tackled the hard questions asked by people of other faiths or of no faith.
He wrecked his back by carrying heavy philosophy and theology books in his luggage for years. This was in the days before tablets and smartphones where you can carry reams of data electronically. He had rods placed in his back.
In February, Doctors repairing some of the earlier work done, discovered a cancerous tumor. After doctors in Houston had done all they could, he went back to Atlanta to spend his last days with his family.
There was a time when I wanted to be an apologist like Zacharias. I had every intention of going to seminary, but my priorities were miles off track.
I did some research on the major protestant seminaries and narrowed my search based on a ridiculous criteria. I was looking for a school in a city that also had a beep baseball team. Dallas and Chicago were the frontrunners as I recall. Then I asked God which of these schools I should go to.
I actually did this. I asked God, “Which seminary,” He said, “What seminary?”
A better thinker than I would have realized that seminarians don’t have time to play recreational team sports.
So I never made it. God let me know I was to walk a different path.
I was blessed enough to see Zacharias speak in person at a three-day conference in Toledo, Ohio in 1999.
His death filled me with sadness, but what a moment that must have been in Heaven.