Messages of gratitude and love are pouring in for Ravi Zacharias, the international Christian evangelist, who is suffering a rare and aggressive form of cancer that cannot be treated any further.
Ravi revealed in March that he was suffering from a form of sarcoma, discovered by doctors after he went for spinal surgery. At the time, although the tumour was giving him immense pain, he was optimistic that treatment would be successful and have him back on the road preaching by mid-year.
However on Friday, his daughter Sarah announced on social media and on the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries blog, that the prognosis was terminal.
“We have just learned that while the tumor in my dad’s sacrum has been responding to the chemotherapy, the area where the cancer metastasized has actually worsened,” she wrote. “His oncologist informed us that this cancer is very rare in its aggression and that no options for further treatment remain. Medically speaking, they have done all they are able.
“We know that God has purposed and numbered each of our days, and only He knows how many more Ravi will experience on this earth.”
“Ravi, [his wife] Margie, and [other daughter] Naomi are returning from Houston and will remain at home in Atlanta, where our family can be together for whatever time the Lord gives us.
“We know that God has purposed and numbered each of our days, and only He knows how many more Ravi will experience on this earth. One day, likely sooner than later, we will be serving without our beloved founder, though I know his love and legacy will convict and inspire us to service of his Lord even greater than we have seen before.
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“While we are full of so many emotions, we are also at peace, resting in the truth that God knows all and sees all and is sovereign and good. I think of the great joy my dad will have and I am comforted.”
On Tuesday, daughter Naomi Zacharias shared a moving musical tribute – a virtual choir performance of How Great Thou Art by the Metro Music Therapy choir, recorded to minister to Ravi in his illness.
“I got to sit next to my dad and see the look on his face as he heard them using their beautiful voices to sing for him… one of his favourite songs of all time,” Sarah said. “It blessed him.”
Faith in Jesus Born Out of a Religious Melting Pot
Ravi Zacharias was born in Chennai, India, and raised in New Delhi, into a confusing melting pot of religions.
A descendant of some of the highest order of Hindu priests called the Nambudiris, he attended both Christian and Hindu festivals, and was often punished harshly by his father for his poor academic results.
He first heard the gospel as a young teenager at Youth for Christ rally, where he made a half-hearted commitment to faith, but by age 17 felt so ashamed of his failure to excel, that he became suicidal and drank poison in an attempt to end his life.
“I was neither depressed nor impulsive,” he wrote in Christianity Today. “I had seen it coming for some time, perhaps always lurking in my mind as the final escape. Some cultures lend themselves more to the thought than others. My culture was one of them.”
“Ravi and his closest friend discipled themselves with a commentary on the book of Romans that they found in their local garbage dump, and began to lead Bible studies with other young people.”
The family servant rescued him before it was too late, and while he recovered in hospital, a Youth for Christ director brought Ravi a Bible – a turning point that led him to a life-changing encounter with God. He was struck by the saying of Jesus, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19), and there in his hospital bed, he committed himself to following Christ.
“Five days after being wheeled into the ER, I left a changed person,” he writes. “Youth for Christ quickly became my spiritual home. My closest friend, a Hindu, attended one of the ministry’s Bible studies with me and also gave his life to Christ.”
The pair discipled themselves with a commentary on the book of Romans that they found in their local garbage dump, and began to lead Bible studies with other young people.
Prolific International Preacher, Author, Broadcaster
Over decades of work as an apologist and evangelist with RZIM, Ravi preached in more than 70 nations around the world, was conferred with 10 honorary doctorates, and was also a prolific radio broadcaster and author.
He wrote over 30 titles including Who Made God?, The Kingdom of the Cults, The End of Reason, Has Christianity Failed You?, Can Man Live Without God?, The Grand Weaver, The Lamb and the Fuhrer: Jesus Talks With Hitler, Why Suffering?, The Logic of God, and Why Jesus?.
In 2017, he became the subject of controversy when he received sexually explicit messages from a woman he had been corresponding with by email – an incident over which he expressed profound regret for not being more cautious.
On Friday Ravi posted on Instagram a photo of himself and his wife Margie, celebrating their wedding anniversary, writing: “Our 48th wedding anniversary looked different than the others, but three things remain the same: our love for each other, the gift of family and friends who shower us with kindness, and the abiding faithfulness of our great God.”
Many leading Christian figures have posted messages of support and thanks on social media including Christine Caine, Andy Mineo, LeCrae, Louie Giglio and former NFL star Tim Tebow, and close to 2000 tributes have been posted ion Instagram under the hashtag, #thankyouravi.
God is Still Good; Prayer is Not a Slot Machine
In one of his last interviews, in which he spoke about his illness, Ravi was asked what is the role of prayer in a crisis such as COVID-19. He replied that prayer is not a “slot-machine” for getting what we want, rather it is about communion with God.
“When you think of the prayer ‘heavenly Father’, or ‘Holy Father’, or ‘our Father’, or ‘Eternal God’, ‘Almighty God’, immediately you recognise you are not sovereign over the affairs of man,” he said. “It is God who is sovereign.
“Prayer is not so much bringing God to our beck and call to align with what we want, as much it is the process with which our hearts get conditioned to receive his will, and come into alignment with what it is that He has for us.
“Prayer is really not a control of God, as much as it is a surrender to the will of God and the peace that comes in the process.”
Main image: Hillsong Waterloo/ Facebook