When a great soldier leaves the field, the members of his army will momentarily pause and salute the one who has led them down the years.
A great Christian soldier has just left the field and taken his place of reward in that “great cloud of witnesses.” I refer to the highly esteemed Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, who breathed his last on May 19.
Ravi has now joined that pantheon of gifted Christ-followers who spent their lives explaining the gospel to a watching world, and who helped millions come to understand the intellectual reasonableness of the Christian faith and embrace the good news of Jesus.
No doubt Ravi is now engaging in some very lively heavenly conversations with the likes of fellow towering apologists from the modern era who left the field before him, like C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham, Pope John Paul, and Canadian, John Wesley White.
We would do well to pause now and reflect for a few minutes on this life well-lived for Jesus and allow his story to tune our hearts toward greater devotion of Christ and commitment to his kingdom. What follows are a few direct quotes from Ravi’s obituary posted on-line by his daughter.
When Ravi Zacharias was a cricket-loving boy on the streets of India, his mother called him in to meet the local sari-seller-turned-palm reader. “Looking at your future, Ravi Baba, you will not travel far or very much in your life,” he declared. “That’s what the lines on your hand tell me. There is no future for you abroad.”
By the time a 37-year-old Zacharias preached, at the invitation of Billy Graham, to the inaugural International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983, he was on his way to becoming one of the foremost defenders of Christianity’s intellectual credibility. A year later, he founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), with the mission of “helping the thinker believe and the believer think.”
It was the culmination of a remarkable transformation set in motion when Zacharias, recovering in a Delhi hospital from a suicide attempt at age 17, was read the words of Jesus recorded in the Bible by the apostle John: “Because I live, you will also live.” In response, Zacharias surrendered his life to Christ and offered up a prayer that if he emerged from the hospital, he would leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of truth. Once Zacharias found the truth of the gospel, his passion for sharing it burned bright until the very end. Even as he returned home from the hospital in Texas, where he had been undergoing chemotherapy, Zacharias was sharing the hope of Jesus to the three nurses who tucked him into his transport.
Zacharias’s passion and urgency to take the gospel to all nations was forged in Vietnam, throughout the summer of ’71. On one trip across remote land, Zacharias and his travel companions’ car broke down. The lone jeep that passed ignored their roadside waves. They finally cranked the engine to life and set off, only to come across the same jeep a few miles on, overturned and riddled with bullets, all four passengers were dead. He later said of this moment, “God will stop our steps when it is not our time, and He will lead us when it is.”
In 2018, Zacharias told the story of standing in front of Lazarus’s grave in Cyprus. The stone simply reads, “Lazarus, four days dead, friend of Christ.” Zacharias turned to his successor who was standing with him and said if he was remembered as “a friend of Christ, that would be all I want.”
A few months before dying, Ravi quoted these words from Richard Baxter’s 17th-century hymn, words that remind all of us that one day we too shall leave the field.
Lord, it belongs not to my care, whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share, and this Thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad, that I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad to welcome endless day?
Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes must enter by this door.
Come Lord, when grace hath made me meet Thy blessed face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet, what will thy glory be!
Then I shall end my sad complaints, and weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints that sing my Savior’s praise.
My knowledge of that life is small, the eye of faith is dim;
But ‘tis enough that Christ knows all, and I shall be with Him.”
May God grant each Corpath member that full measure of grace so that we too, like Ravi, will faithfully serve our Lord Christ to the end, knowing that we too “shall be with him.”