In early March of this year, I sat down with Ravi’s personal assistant, Sanj Kalra, and his wife Kay to catch up on what was happening at RZIM and to tentatively plan some events here in Southern California with Ravi. He had just undergone back surgery and had not yet received word about his cancer. Just a few days later, the news broke. The cancer, although a setback, was serious, but seemed treatable, and helped to explain the constant pain Ravi was experiencing post-surgery. I prayed (along with many others) that God would swiftly bring Ravi through the treatment and recovery, that he would be able to carry on, for many years to come, what he was so uniquely gifted to do—articulating the gospel of grace and truth to the intellectual and social elites of the world.
But we all know now that God had other plans.
Within just a few short weeks, the doctors discovered that the tumor, which had seemed to be responding so well to the treatment, had metastasized. The news quickly spread around the world that his illness was terminal, and Ravi was being sent home from the hospital to spend his last days with his family. Many people began posting pictures and sending words of gratitude to Ravi for all he had meant to them. I too posted a picture of us taken a few years ago when Ravi was speaking at Calvary Chapel and thanked him for his impact on my life. Then suddenly, sooner than anyone would have imagined, this great heart and mind and voice for the gospel fell silent as Ravi Zacharias passed into glory May 19, 2020, at the age of 74.
Like multitudes of people all over the world, I am still having a hard time grasping that Ravi Zacharias is no longer with us. I was first introduced to him, as so many others have been, through his writing and speaking ministry. Can Man Live Without God? was my first encounter with his brilliant mind. Although I wasn’t doubting the existence of God or the validity of the gospel, the book served to strengthen my faith and deepen my love for the God whom we can’t live without. Later in life, I had opportunities to meet and minister alongside Ravi. To this day, I count those times among some of the greatest privileges of my life. His warmth, humility, and kindness always made being with him a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. You got the sense that Ravi was genuinely interested in, not just your question, but in you as a person. I am just one of many who had that same kind of encounter with him.
As I reflect on Ravi’s life and ministry, two things stand out. First, his foresight in mentoring and launching into ministry a whole new generation of apologists/evangelists similar to himself.
The inevitable question that arises when a great man like Ravi passes off the earthly scene is who will replace him?
Years before Ravi finished his own race, that question was already answered in all the amazing men and women who make up the RZIM speaking team. The number of speakers is close to 100, and each one of them is outstanding. This is where you get a glimpse into this man’s humility. Ravi was never afraid to share the platform with others. He was never afraid of being “outshined” by those who were often younger and also highly gifted. Because of his humility, his love for Christ, and his passion for the gospel, Ravi’s legacy will continue for years to come.
Second, I’m reminded that all of us, like Ravi, have been given gifts and a calling to serve the Lord. But Ravi took those God-given gifts and used them to the fullest. I want to do the same.
As I was driving down the coast of California from the Bay Area the other day, I was listening to a special edition of the Unbelievable? podcast hosted by my friend, Justin Brierley. He was interviewing three members of the RZIM team just two days after Ravi’s passing, and each one of them shared stories about his impact on their lives. This led me to think: How beautiful is the life that is simply yielded to the purposes of God. Ravi had a brilliant mind, an extraordinary memory, a gift for storytelling, and an eloquence that few in our generation have had. That is who God created him to be. I can’t be him, but I don’t have to be. There’s only one Ravi Zacharias. There’s only one Brian Brodersen. And there’s only one you. We aren’t meant to be anyone else. We are only meant to be the person whom God has created, called, and gifted us to be. And we certainly can, by His grace, use our God-given gifts to the fullest. We too may serve Him in such a way that when our lives are over, and all is said and done, we will hear the same words which I am certain Ravi has already heard:
“Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
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Ravi Zacharias appeared on Brian's video series "Things That Matter" in February of 2017. You can view the episode here.