REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 23: Someone gave him a Bible.
“Someone gave him a Bible” were the words of Ravi Zacharias’s brother at Ravi’s recent memorial service. They filled my heart with joy, since as was explained, it was when as a 17 year old, that Ravi recovering in hospital from a failed attempt to take his life someone cared enough to give him a Bible. Someone trusted in the power of God’s written word, someone was, in God’s providence there to give Him the Word of God. And the rest is history. A wonderful history of a young man so wonderfully converted out of despair, finding new life in Christ and called by God to become an evangelist and apologist to so many around the world. Because someone gave him a Bible.
I have benefitted from Dr Ravi Zacharias ministry through his recorded sermons and writings. They sustained and nourished me as I drove around Armidale Diocese, and even more, with pen in hand as I worked my way through his books. A quick count reveals 14 that I have read. Can Man Live Without God (1994) was the first I read and possibly the most given away or loaned. Recapture The Wonder (2003) the most memorable and The Logic of God (2019) on my bedside table with 40 chapters to go. Others will have their favourites. All because someone gave him a Bible.
A great test of our theology is what we do with it. If we believe that the Bible is God’s word written. If we believe that it is the Word of God. If we affirm its Divine authorship by the Holy Spirit. If we know it is the very Word of God that brought us new life. That it can do its work without our preaching or explanation. Then it follows, that we ought to let it loose, and give someone a Bible. If we don’t, it maybe that we have lost confidence in its power, or even worse, our conviction of its unique authority. But whoever that person was, Ravi was saved from despair by the grace of God, which saw him strive to learn all he could, to speak to as many as he could, and as well as he could of His Lord and Saviour. How we thank God for that unknown person as we do for the one we knew in our time as a great defender and promoter of the faith. And for the Bible that someone gave him on his sick bed so many years ago.
And what has this to do with coved-19? Here are a few suggestions for your consideration and prayers:
- Covid-19 is deadly and death is a great leveller. Even though we have fared better than most countries the possibility is ever before us as world statistics are regularly before us. Even the most careless have been caused to think about death. Ravi recounts the story of two Aussies who died, and when they were waiting at the pearly gates, the doorman thought he ought to find St Peter, who too was surprised to find two Aussies get that close to the gates. Upon arriving at the gates the doorman and St Peter didn’t find the Aussies, they were gone and so were the gates! (Can Man Live Alone 135). Jokes, like this are usually a way of avoiding its reality (and our accountability). Hopefully the pandemic may have brought some focus and reality into the picture. We cannot avoid dying physically but we can avoid eternal death (John 11:25-26).
- Albert Camus’ frank admission that death was philosophy’s only problem was learnt from Ravi (page158). Most people, when confronted with the death of a loved one understand this as an insurmountable problem and accounts for the fact that in almost 50 years of pastoral ministry no one has ever asked me to read a philosophy book for them on their sick bed (nor Playboy, Better Homes and Gardens, Vogue or Sports Illustrated for that matter). Only one man refused me reading the Bible for him on his death bed. We have a great opportunity to offer people a Bible or NT or Gospel at the moment, especially if we ask them whether and why they are ready to meet their Creator (Lk. 12:13-21; 13:1-5; John 3:36; Heb 9:27-28; 2 Peter 3:8-9).
- During the past week 2 out of 2 who have happily accepted the Scriptures I offered them (one a full Bible and the other John’s gospel). This is more than usual. Given that death is the ultimate statistic, with George Bernard Shaw quipping that “death is the ultimate statistic” where one out of one people die, love for our fellows would dictate that we who have the only means of eternal life in our hands, should look for ways of offering people a Bible. This goes for the despairing and the happy blind to their plight.
- Of course we will want to pray since a person needs to be born again if they are to find confidence of eternal life. A good dictum is: pray to God about people before talking to people about God. (Jn 1:12-13;Col 4:2-6).
- What happened to Ravi was from our perspective, because someone gave him a Bible, no doubt with prayer, and God did the rest. A quote from Recapture the Wonder sums it up: Only God is able to humble us without humiliating us and exalt us without flattering us. The same Bible that teaches us how find the door into eternity is ours to give away prayerfully to those in the depths of despair or the heights of carelessness. God through the pandemic has created the uncertainties, it is ours to share the certainties. Is there a greater way to show love to another than to be the someone behind the words someone gave him/her a Bible?
Peter Brain 16th June, 2020