In August 2015, I attended a conference where Voddie Baucham Jr gave the keynote address. His talk was only 50 minutes but it was enough for me to see that he was a gifted speaker and teacher. From then on, I have spent thousands of minutes listening to his talks and reading his books. His insight on social justice, the Gospel, dating and marriage, racial reconciliation and Christian apologetics have been my absolute favourites. Listening to him talk about Christian apologetics is what led me to know another apologist – Ravi Zacharias. Just like Voddie Baucham, I have greatly benefited from the teachings of Ravi on various topics. Last year alone, I listened to 43 episodes amounting to 1, 057 minutes of Ravi’s podcasts on Spotify. Add to these the numerous videos I have seen on YouTube, I do not what to know the exact time I have spent listening to these two.
Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration for me to say these two individuals have influenced me greatly. When Ravi Zacharias died last year, I even wrote a blog about him entitled Ravi – A man who touched me without meeting me.
For those who know Ravi, you will be aware of the scandals that have been unearthed in the past few weeks. They are disturbing to say the least. At the say time, Voddie Baucham recently discovered he was suffering from a full-blown heart failure for which he needs urgent medical attention. These two people are unrelated and their circumstances are different. However, they have given me thoughts that are closely related: the sinful nature and fragility of man.
In Ravi’s story, one can easily see the total depravity of man. His public life, his teachings and beliefs do not in any way align with the man that was described in the investigation reports. You cannot help but agree with Jeremiah who said “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Before we get on our moral high horses and look down on Ravi, and without minimising the grievous nature of the sins he committed or the pain the victims continue to experience, it is good to remember that our hearts too, like his are all deceitful and desperately sick.
Hearing the stories unearthed about Ravi, one could wonder why God – knowing everything about this man, would still allow him to build a ministry and travel the world preaching the Gospel. Why would God use such a person? Well, because there is no other type of person. We are all sinful and it should amaze us that God even choose to entrust us with His Gospel. This is no excuse to remain in sin, especially for preachers of the gospel who have been forewarned that they will be judged strictly. Sin like this, especially in a leader, prominent speaker and preacher hurts the body of Christ. It tarnishes the image of the Church. However, we should also remember that if God is to use human beings to advance his Kingdom, then it will be sinful men and women.
What about Voddie? He is the sort of man whose physical presence commands respects. His voice is powerful! His stature bigger than average. However, the heart failure he is suffering from has meant he has been struggling to do even the little things we take for granted like walking. In one of his health updates, he posted a picture where he was being pushed in a wheelchair at an airport. Part of the post read “… I have always been bigger than most…stronger than most…but now I can’t walk through the airport under my own steam.” Those words got to me. The feeling I had is akin to a toddler looking at his/her favourite hero being defeated. It is sad. As only Voddie would say, he went on and wrote: “So when you look at this pic, pray for the guy in the wheelchair…and don’t just pray that he gets up.”
More often than not, we are attracted to people because of the power in their voice, the charisma and eloquence in their speech, their ability to speak with power, and even their physical beauty. Without knowing, we get attracted to the messenger instead of the message. We raise such people on a pedestal and admire. We might even idolise them. Woe to us if we make that of any man. Woe to us if we build our foundations on an individual. May it never be.
What should we do then? We ought to realise and instil in our minds that our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick. Thank God for goodly and disciplined individuals who we can learn from. Thank God for teachers who practice what they teach. Thank God for people whose public life is an extension of their private life. However, may we always remember that we are all fallen and prone to sin. We also ought to remember our fragility. Our bodies are weak. Our strength is limited. Our bodies are mere vessels and God decides to use them for whatever he pleases. May we never put our trust in any vessel.
Lastly, we should endeavour to cultivate a study culture. Following the reports about Ravi coming out, many people have doubted his message. Was he teaching the truth or was he a liar all the way? Should one stop listening to his messages altogether? Well, that is for you to decide. Nonetheless, a good practice to have is that of taking whatever we hear and examining it against the Bible. Even the apostles who wrote books in the Bible had their sermons examined by their hearers. How much more our fellow fallen, fragile men? We should pray for these people. Not only to get up and speak with power and authority, but for their souls as well.