Ravi Zacharias_Westside Church 2016
Ravi Zacharias_Westside Church 2016

The Loss of a True Hero

I was deeply saddened to hear this past Tuesday that one of my true heroes passed away. Ravi Zacharias died at the age of 74 from a rare form of cancer. His teaching and writing had a profound influence on my life.

It is hard to describe Ravi. He was a Christian philosopher and apologist. He spoke all over the world and was the author of numerous books.

I first heard him speak here in Birmingham sometime in 1986. I was stunned by his brilliance, his ability to articulate a profound message, and his sense of humor. After hearing him speak I think I tried to order audio copies of every message he had ever recorded. I am pretty sure I have read all of his books.

It was probably ten years later he was back in Birmingham speaking at several venues. He spoke at a breakfast meeting for men and I was given the opportunity to pick him up at his hotel, take him to the breakfast meeting, and then give him a ride back to the hotel. What I remember most about him was how kind and how humble he was. A true man of God.

In the blog this morning I would like to share with you some of his own words.

At the age of 17, while living in India, Ravi attempted to commit suicide but thankfully failed. He would often think back upon that fateful day.

I can now enjoy the benefit of time’s distant view. The Jesus I know and love today I encountered at the age of seventeen. But His name and His tug in my life mean infinitely more now than they did when I first surrendered my life to Him. I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I have remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has three hundred and thirty million deities. I remain with Him knowing that truth cannot be all-inclusive. Truth by definition excludes.

*****

On several occasions he shared the following words:

As one searching for meaning in the throes of a turbulent adolescence, I found myself on a hospital bed from an attempted suicide. It was there that I read the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel. My attention was fully captured by John 14:19 when Jesus said to his disciples: “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). I turned my life over to Christ that day, committing my pains, struggles, and pursuits to his able hands.

Almost thirty years to the day after this decision, my wife and I were visiting India and decided to visit my grandmother’s grave. With the help of a gardener we walked through the accumulated weeds and rubble until we found the stone marking her grave. With his bucket of water and a small brush, the gardener cleared off the years of caked-on dirt. To our utter surprise, under her name, a verse gradually appeared. My wife clasped my hand and said, “Look at the verse!” It was John 14:19 “Because I live, you shall live also.”

*****

Ravi, you will be greatly missed but I can’t help but think of the lasting legacy you leave behind to the glory of God!


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author. (Photo credit: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.)

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