Ravi Zacharias - Penn State Q&A
1. How can there be a loving God when so much evil happens, especially to innocent people?
Ravi Zacharias: Some of you may have seen our book, "Why suffering"? That we both wrote some time ago. This, of course, is probably the thorniest question that we ask of ourselves or we ask of each other, especially if you see yourself in a situation where nothing seems explainable. What I'd like to do is to give you the broad backdrop and let Vince then, can take care because his dissertation was on this in a very specific way about each individual, but I like to give my answer about four folios here, and I've tried to race through this. Just examine the question first. As I have already demonstrated, the fact that evil is even postulated as a category can only be assumed if we have a created order and if we have intrinsic worth as individuals.
I remember years ago, in Nottingham, when a student stood up and said to me, "There is too much of evil and suffering in this world, therefore, there cannot be a God". And he was very irate about it, and I could tell he was passionate. So, I said, "When you say there's evil and you're assuming there's such a thing as good. When you assume there's such a thing as good, and you're assuming there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis on which to differentiate between good and evil. And if you're assuming such a thing as a moral law, you must pause it a moral, law-giver, that, that's whom you're trying to disprove and not prove. If there's no moral law giver, there's no moral law. If there's no moral law, there's no good. If there's no good, there's no evil. What is your question"? And he looked at me and said, "What then, am I asking you"? And here's the point: the top tier of this argument is where we run into the headwinds in that dialogue. Evil, good, moral law.
Okay, they'll be willing to buy that triad, but why the fourth point of moral lawgiver? And the answer to that is very straightforward, because every time you raise the question of evil, it is either raised by a person or about a person. Every time the question of evil, I don't think polar bears go on a hunt and then come back and say, "You know, I did something pretty bad. I got a hold of three seals today, and one of them was just a little one. I shouldn't have". No, they don't, their instinct is to slaughter and kill. We, as human beings, will raise the question of evil and injustice. And the reason is we are assuming intrinsic worth, either by the questioner or about the person that they're raising the question, and you cannot afford the luxury of intrinsic worth in a naturalistic framework. There has to be a theistic framework in which to assume intrinsic worth for our central worth for every individual. That's exactly what I mean by raising such a question. You actually establish purpose and value, which you cannot establish without a worthy and a design Creator. That's the first folio. I'm just racing through it.
The second folio is this: one of the greatest gifts you and I are given is freedom, the freedom to love. Wherever you have love, you will always have the possibility of pain. Wherever you love, you will always have the possibility of pain. God could have done four things with creation: no creation whatsoever, creating a world where there would be no such thing as good or evil, creating a world where they would only choose good, or this kind of a world with a possibility of good and evil. No creation, no such thing as good and evil, or one where we'd only choose good, or this kind of world in where there was a possibility of good and evil. This is the only kind of world out of the four in which love is possible. Love is not possible in any of the other four paradigms. So, where the love or possibility of love exists, there will always be the possibility of pain. That goes with the paradigm of the freedom that God gives to us. The third component we must understand is the component of time, and what do I mean by "The component of time"?
If you take your one-and-a-half year-old to a doctor, and they walk into the doctor's office and all of a sudden see that big syringe being ready, and you say, "What is going on"? And then he comes and jabs that one-and-a-half-year-old in the arm until he screams. The one-and-a-half-year-old goes back and says, "I don't understand my mother. She put me in the car, took me there, where he jabbed me in the arm, and she paid him for doing that". But 15 or 18 years would go by, and the child has grown up and said, "I know now why my mother did exactly what she did". Ladies and gentlemen, evil does serve a purpose, you know, and one of the things that come from pain and suffering is the realization that we are broken, and things are not the way we pretend them to be.
There's a young woman in Georgia who has the inability to sense pain. She cannot sense pain. She puts her foot on a nail, she will not feel it. If a glass cuts her while she's playing something, she will not feel it. She will not even know that she's bleeding. Her mother was on a television interview and said, "I pray for my daughter every night before I go to bed. Lord, please give her the possibility to feel pain because she cannot feel it when her body is being hurt or being destroyed". So, you've got the paradigm of God's purpose and the moral law, you've got the possibility of love, you've got the reality of feeling pain. The last thing I say to you as one walking with Christ, you find he gives you the strength to live each day, one day at a time. When I injured my back, I had never felt such pain in my life. Those of you who got a broken back, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I've had a triple fusion. I have two titanium rods that are holding me up from l3 to s1. I would sit in my car sometimes and just put my head on the steering, I'd pull over and just cry and say, "I can't handle this pain anymore look, Lord".
And especially traveling, you can imagine sitting in those planes for 13, 14 hours at a time, the intensity of that pain. But what I have learned through my two weaknesses in the flesh, a broken back and a weak voice, two things that I need for travel and to speak. I never wake up any morning, but that I get on my knees and thank him for giving me the strength to stand up and giving me the voice to be able to go and proclaim. I know for certain none of this would be possible without him. Two days ago, I was in Toronto. My wife has been there for a week. Her mother is 98 years-old, 98, about to turn 99. She had suffered a stroke, was gradually recovering. We were wheeling her, and she asked me to take her to the chapel. She said, "Ravi, that's the pulpit from which I want you to deliver my eulogy". She said, "I'm not gonna be around long in this world. I'm gonna be gone". Then she turned and thanked me for being her son-in-law and being like a son she had never had. And as we bid each other goodbye, we know the day's not far off when she'll be going to meet her maker. The amazing thing is what she said, she's been looking forward to that union for so long, with her husband who's been dead 12 years and her Savior who gave himself for her.
So, that's the fourth folio. Annie Johnson flint who was orphaned, incontinent, blind, had rheumatoid arthritis, lived on diapers most of her life, wrote, "He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, he sendeth more strength when the labors increase, to added affliction, he addeth his mercy, to multiplied trials, his multiplied peace. When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength has failed and the day is half done, when we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our father's full giving has only begun. His love has no limit, his grace has no measure, his power has no boundaries known unto men, for out of his infinite riches in Jesus, he giveth, and giveth, and giveth again". This God gives you strength and sustains you. He justifies the question, he gives you the privilege of love, he tells you that eternity and time is a necessary component for explaining any pain, and he tells you for the time now, he gives you the sustaining strength to walk one day at a time, to live for him. And when you see him face-to-face, I can assure you, you will have no questions about pain-and-suffering. You only have the question of, "Why did you love me and give yourself for somebody like me"? So, trust in him, lean on him. Without him, even the question is very hard to justify. God bless you.
Vince Vitale: We're gonna move through quite a number of questions, but just because this is a question that affects every single one of us and is so pervasive, let me just add one or two additional angles, and I know my parents are watching as well, so I'm gonna tell a couple of family stories as a way of doing so. My parents, when they were on their second date, my dad noticed a ring on my mom's finger. He asked about it, she said, "Oh, that's just some ring one of my old boyfriends gave to me. I just wear it because I think it looks nice". He said, "Oh, yeah, it is nice. Let me see it". And I like that you're already laughing. My wife is British, and when I've told this story in Britain, no one laughs at this point because they're just too polite to even imagine that what's about to happen is about to happen. And so my dad took the ring and he threw it off the bridge. They were standing on a bridge, and he threw it off the bridge, he watched it sink to the bottom of the east river, and he said, "You're with me now. You won't be needing that anymore". And my mom loved it, I think it was the clenching moment for them.
How is this relevant to the problem of suffering? I promise, it is. Well, it's typical to think of the challenge of suffering like this: we picture ourselves in this world with all of its suffering, then we picture ourselves in a very different world with far less suffering, and then we think to ourselves, well, surely God should have made me in the other world, in the world with far less suffering or with no suffering. What we forget to ask is this question: would it still be you and me and the people we love if God had allowed to exist this very different world without suffering, rather than the world that we actually live in? I don't know who that old boyfriend was that had given my mom the ring, you know, but if she had thought, you know what, this guy, my dad, who threw the ring off the bridge, he's nuts. I better run back with the old boyfriend instead. If my mom had thought that, what would that have meant for me? And I might have been inclined to think, I could have been better off. You know, maybe the other guy was more athletic, maybe he was taller, maybe he was better looking, maybe he was royalty. I could have lived in a castle, that would have been great.
But there's a problem with that, right, because if we change history, if my mom winds up with the other guy, the old boyfriend, not my dad, maybe they'd have some very nice kids, but I would not have been one of them. You change the world in small ways, just throwing a ring off a bridge, let alone big ways, and actually change who comes to exist. Could it be the case that one of the reasons that God allows this world to exist, even though he hates the suffering and the evil in it, is because he desired to give life to every single one of you and to every person that you love and every person that you see walking down the street every day? Could it be that that's one of the many reasons that God has a mind when he's making this very difficult decision about what sort of world to allow to exist?
Second quick story, this is my favorite one from childhood. I was about six years old. I was playing football on my next-door neighbor's front lawn. I was getting knocked around pretty good. I was playing with older kids. I started crying. I came running home to my mom who was on the front porch, and I was saying, "I'm not tough enough. I'm not tough enough". What did my mom do? She positioned herself like this, she got in quite an athletic stance, looked at me lovingly and then she said, "Punch me in the nose". True story. She said, "Punch me in the nose, punch me in the nose". And at first, I just looked at her like she was crazy, and indeed she was, but she persisted. She said, "Punch me in the nose, punch me in the nose". And I don't know what sort of psychological state I must have been in, but finally I did. I reared back, I gave my mom a straight right hand to the nose, and to her astonishment and mine, blood actually began to come out of my mom's nose. Then came the most memorable, one of the most gorgeous images from my entire childhood. Through this blood that was coming down my mom's face, came the most dazzling, just radiant smile, and my mom said, "Now, get back out there".
She sent me back out into that game, and she went inside to get cleaned up. You might not know what to make of that story. Understandably so. What an unthinkable, messy, bloody thing for my mom to do. But I also think, in at least one sense, what an extravagant display of love. My mom brought me into this world, and when she did that, she knew that there would be serious suffering in my life at some point because even the most fortunate of human lives include serious suffering. But that did not make her evil. Why? Because when the suffering came and my eyes filled with tears, she bent down into my suffering with me, even though that meant suffering at the hands of her very own child. And that for me, is a picture of Jesus on the cross, where God did something unthinkable and messy and bloody, where he did not stay on some far-off heavenly throne, but he came and he stepped down into our suffering with us even though that meant suffering at the hands of those he had created. And that is why we can trust him, and if we can trust him with the suffering in life, then we can trust him with everything else as well.
2. How would you approach discussing Christianity with those whose sexual identity is fluid?
Vince Vitale: This is such a difficult question to answer with any sort of brevity. And with a room this size, there are gonna be people for whom this is not a hypothetical question, but this is a very real question. So, the first thing I wanna say is that if you're person who's dealing with that, God loves you, Jesus loves you, I love you, the Christians in this room, my deep, deep hope would be that they love you. That is what we're called to. I think that needs to be the starting point. That needs to be the starting point. And sometimes, we get, I love this question because it says, "How would you approach the conversation with a person"? Not with a question that needs an answer, with a person that needs a personal response. And sometimes we get off on the wrong foot when somebody is coming from a perspective where they say, "Well, surely this should be allowable. I should be able to experience love like everyone else".
The narrative is love. Then if we start our narrative from a Christian perspective with morality or science or biology or anything else and put that up against love, it may not be very effective. And God is love, so we should be able to frame the way we approach this topic in love. Most of what I have learned on this topic is from our colleague Sam Allberry. He has a book called, "Is God anti-gay"? He comes from a same-sex attractive background himself. He lives a celibate life, but an incredibly fruitful life. I smile even as I say it in thinking of the joy in his life and the fruitfulness of his life. If you wanna check out that book, it's a great book, both to be quite clear about what the Bible says about sex and marriage being between a man and woman, but also about this question of how to approach the question.
One of the things I love about what he says is that he frames this, for those who are struggling with sexuality or for those who are homosexual, he frames this not as what God doesn't have for someone, but what God does have for them. I think that's a really important inversion, and he goes sometimes to Mark 10:29, and in that verse, Jesus says that for those who have given up significant things for him and for the Gospel, and many of the things he lists are familial in nature: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, fields. He says for those people, "There is a hundredfold in this life, along with persecutions, and in the life to come, eternal life". It's a beautiful verse because it doesn't just say, "Well, deal with it now because you'll get heaven later". It does say there's eternal life to come and there is an afterlife, and it's real about the fact that there's gonna be struggle and challenge, now, as well, it says along with persecutions. But it also says that there's a hundredfold now in this life for somebody who makes a significant sacrifice in order to follow Jesus and live the life that Jesus is asking of them. This promise creates a huge challenge to us as the church because we, as the community of Christians, are the ones who are supposed to make good on that promise that Jesus gave.
So, this is my question for us in the room who are Christians: when somebody comes from a gay background and decides, I wanna follow Jesus, and that may mean some radically different things about my sexuality and how that is lived out. Is there, as they count that cost, is there a hundredfold waiting for them in the church? A hundredfold more in terms of family, in terms of fruitfulness, in terms of the fullness of life. I was talking to a pastor not long ago, and he said that a gang member became a Christian, started going to his church. Very shortly thereafter, he left. He met up with him. He said, "Why didn't it stick? Why didn't you keep coming? Why did you leave"? And he said, "Well, when I became a Christian, I didn't realize it was just an hour on a Sunday". And the thing is that when he was in the gang, he was doing bad things, but he had a community. He had people that he was living life with and then he became a Christian and it was an hour on Sunday. When someone who's dealing with questions of sexuality becomes a Christian and joins our church, is it just an hour on a Sunday or is there a hundredfold waiting for them?
Last thought on this, I met a young woman at a church service not long ago. She had come out as gay several years prior. When she did, she walked away from the faith and the church. She figured that God didn't want anything to do with her anymore. Years later, she felt this prompting to come back to church. She's in church for the first time in years. And she came down after the sermon, and she shared her story with me. And she shared that when she first came out as gay and told her parents who were Christians, and that wasn't the belief that they would have held, but the very first words out of her human father's mouth when she shared that with him were these words, he said, "I have given my life to be your father, and nothing that you could ever do could change my love for you".
Now, I'm sure there were a lot of other conversations after that about the morality of it, about what the Bible has to say, about the clarity that Jesus brought about sex and marriage between a man and a woman, but those were the first words out of his mouth. And the amazing thing was that when she was in this church service, and she was listening to the musical worship, and she was hearing the word preached, she said that she just somehow knew deep inside that God was saying, "Those are not just your human father's words to you, but those are my words to you as well. I have literally given my life in Jesus in order to be your father, and nothing could ever change my love for you". And she came forward at the end of that service and said for the first time in years she wanted to make a decision to trust God again and to try to live his way. I hope that's helpful for you.
3. Will Jesus help my depression?
Vince Vitale: Thank you for asking this question. It's vulnerable to type those words and to trust someone that you don't know to try to share something in response to them. So, thank you for that. This is a question which is quite personal to me, at the moment. A very good friend of mine was hit with depression and anxiety, very recently. It's different for every person, but for him it came all at once. It was almost as if water was building up behind a dam, levees of a dam, and eventually when that dam burst, it all burst at once. And I've been going through some counseling alongside my friend, as a care team for him. And very interesting what we've been learning about that, about how anxiety can build up, little by little by little.
And, you know, the interesting thing is that when the water behind that dam is just one pound less than what the dam can take, everything looks completely normal. And then, when it's one pound more than what it can take, it can be utter destruction. And the other thing is that the stronger that dam is, the greater the destruction, because sometimes, we think we're so strong, and maybe some of us are in certain ways stronger than others, and we can hold back more of that weight before it finally bursts. So, this is a very serious question. It's a very serious issue. It's one that my dear friend is dealing with, at the moment. In the context of this, he's given his life to Christ. He's become a Christian. I can't tell you how much joy that brings to me. Prayers over many, many years and to see the insight into truth and who God is and the relationship that my friend is forming with Jesus through this dark time is utterly remarkable.
And he said that he was driving in the car the other day, and he's just in the middle of his drive, and it just hit him. He just said, "What a better way to live life". He's going through the most difficult thing he's ever been through. He would not wish it on anyone, and yet, the fact that his heart and his mind and his soul are all focused on the things of God, he can say, "What a better way to live life". So, my answer is, yes, I believe that God is going to and has the power to and has the love to help you with your depression. That can look different in every single person's life. I'd love to talk with you more after this, and if there are resources that I can point you to or people that I can talk to you, depending on the level of care you're already getting, I'd love to speak to that as well. But let me leave you with this. This is the most significant thing that I think that I can say. When Jesus was in the garden the night before he died, and he knew what the next day would bring, the words that came out of his mouth were, "My heart is sorrowful even to death".
I think those are some of the most remarkable words in all of scripture, the God of the universe, the Creator of all things saying that his heart is sorrowful even to death. And whatever it is that each person in this room has been through, whatever it is that you have suffered, if you've dealt with deep depression, if you've even been at that place where you thought about suicide, right, the emotions of it, God can understand it. Jesus said, his heart was sorrowful even to death. And so there is absolutely nothing that we can go through in this life that Jesus doesn't understand. You know, it's amazing, we spoke just shortly before about that question of sexuality and how difficult that challenge can be, and yet we have a God who came down and lived a celibate life. He lived the most fully human life ever lived and he never had sex.
Well, now we're dealing with the question of depression. One of the darkest things that somebody can ever experience, and we have a God who came down and, again, made sure that there was no challenge that we could ever have to go through that he couldn't understand in the most intimate and deepest of ways. So, I'm not saying that this is going to be easy, but I am saying that, sometimes, as we go through things like this, the very worst part of it is the isolation. That is not true, even if it feels that way, I want to remind you that is not true. You do not go through this alone. You go through this with the God of the universe who has been through it, who understands exactly what you're going through, and, therefore, that's why we can trust him that he can bring you through it as well. God bless.
Ravi Zacharias: Yes, so, I want to say, "Thank you", to you who has framed this question. Obviously, you're willing to be vulnerable and phrasing it as briefly and as poignantly as you have. My brother is a surgeon in Canada. He used to be an orthopedic surgeon, and then he moved on from that to pain management. I think he still may be holding the chair of the pain management department at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. And I asked him why he went into from one form into the other. He said, "I want to tell you something. What I noticed when I was a surgeon, that the emotional toll that pain and the broken body took from people was actually greater than just the physical toll of a broken bone or trying to put those bones back together". He said, "The deep and the depths to which a person in pain-and-suffering can go is, sometimes, so great that it out distances what the actual issue really is because the concomitant factors are so heavy".
And I connected with that, having gone through two major back surgeries, and then when he told me he was, therefore, now in pain management, I chuckled and I said, "Ramesh, all of life is pain management. You have to go through all of your life knowing how to navigate through pain". So, I just want to say a couple of things to you. Number one, please get the best medical advice in this situation as well. These things , sometimes, are chemically related, they are experientially related, and if you only treat it from a spiritual viewpoint without getting an expertise of a doctor who can tell you what it is that's going on, you may be running on one foot when you need to be running on two. It may be both hand the spiritual strength that you need and also the medical council and the best kind of doctoral advice. And the other thing is, be frank with your family. Ask them about your behavior.
Have they noticed that you're really becoming more erratic or becoming more irritable? Or whatever it is, and they will be your best friends and will have to tell you. It's just like somebody who is supposed to be taking the medication and doesn't take it and ends up with all kinds of other problems, and nobody had the courage to tell them, "You're not taking that". So, please get the best medical advice as well. I'm assuming you're talking about the kind of clinical depression and all that goes along with it. Before I came to know Christ, I was very downcast. I wasn't depressed, but I was disheartened. I had no hope. I was failing in everything I tried, and I wasn't gonna make it, and that took me to a bed of suicide, and when the Bible was brought to me, and Jesus said, "Because I live, you shall live also". To me, it was a different battle, and that battle was not so much psychosomatic, it was truly a case of spiritual lostness. I didn't know my Creator and I didn't know my Christ. For me, therefore, the solution was much more straightforward. I needed to get my life back in tune with God.
So, try and meet somebody in the medical profession who'll be candid and honest with you, who will let you know from whence this debilitation really comes. But don't lose heart. The Lord who was able to take a woman with five broken marriages and make her the first evangelist to the Samaritans is the same God today, who can enable you to make the best out of a situation that may not be ideal, but makes you a witness to those who may be enduring some of the same things you have. "In love's service, wounded soldiers serve the best," so said, Thornton Wilder. And God may have a ministry for you even while you're going through this dark night of physical malady, and may God give you strength to go through that.
4. Why be a Christian when you have to give up so much in your life, like, drinking, drugs, and sex?
Vince Vitale: You know, it's interesting that story I told about the young woman who was dealing with questions of sexuality and came back to God at the end of that service. One of the interesting things was that the sermon that I preached that day focused heavily on a colleague of ours named Hasan, who's in a area of the world in which he deals with terrorism. He deals with serious threats on his family. His church has been burned down several times. Even as I speak, the team sent him a fireproof tent to hold services rather than the church because it couldn't be burned. Instead it was torn apart, and we're sending repairs there. That was the person who was my example in the talk, and all of a sudden, this person who was dealing with the cost of discipleship, all of a sudden it made sense.
You know, if Jesus is just like a cherry on top for the rest of us, you know the rest of us, we just get to live our lives and do whatever it is we want. Oh, and we get Jesus, too. Then all of a sudden, when somebody has to really count the cost of discipleship, it seems so odd. The reality is that every single person has to count the cost of discipleship regardless of what it is. This is not as serious of wanting, yet for some people, depending on the role that drinking or drugs or sex has in your life, this could be quite serious as well. For me, when I became a Christian, I was in college already. I remember telling my best friends that I wasn't going to have sex now until marriage. They looked at me like I had three heads.
I can remember before Jo and I got married, we had a friend who couldn't make it to the wedding. She wanted to give us a card and a gift beforehand, and so she came, and she handed us this card. She knew we were Christians. She knew that we hadn't had sex together, and she handed us this card. We read her lovely card, and then we started laughing hysterically. And she looked at us like, "Why are you laughing at my lovely card"? And we turned it around and showed her that at the very end she meant to write, "Wishing you all the best, Jen", but she must have been subconsciously thinking about how odd it was to her that we hadn't had sex with each other yet before marriage, and she wrote, without knowing it. So, this can genuinely be a challenge for people to understand. But my experience has been, and I'll try to keep this brief, but my experience has been in this area and in so many other areas, something which seemed odd to me beforehand has just been not just okay, but beautiful, in the context of life lived with Christ.
You know, "Sex" is a word. It's a physical word. It's the strongest word, strongest physical word, in our human language. It's rightly called "Sexual intercourse" because sex says something. It says, "All of me for all of you, always". And it's no wonder then, that when we use that word, and then don't follow through and live in a way that is true to the symbolic meaning of that word, then people get hurt. And you know, you can't just change the meaning of a word like that. You can't just say, "Oh, I'm going to decide that it means this". No, that is a God-given word, and it means something, and it's only when it's used in the context of what it means that it is truly what it was intended to be and that it brings life. So, hopefully, I'm speaking to some college students at the moment as well. My wife, Jo, and I, we decided that we were gonna say, "I love you", when we got engaged, and that we were gonna have sex when we got married. I'm not saying you need to say I love you exactly where we did or that sort of thing. But we liked the fact that at each significant point in our relationship where something was actually different in terms of the commitment that we were making to each other, we had a word that spoke truly to the commitment that we were making, at engagement, and then, again, at marriage.
We live in a culture where words are not taken seriously, where words are thrown around, and I think a lot of the pain that we experience in our culture is for just that reason. So, sex is a word, and take it seriously. Use it in a way that is actually true to what the word means, and I think you'll find an amazing fruitfulness to that. You know, the Bible says, "Do not get drunk on wine in which is debauchery. Instead be filled with the spirit". God never says "No" to something unless he's saying "Yes" to something greater, and so we put down certain things when we say "Yes" to Jesus, and that makes that relationship with him so significant and meaningful. But then what does he say "Yes" to? The fruits of the spirit, the fullness of life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Are those things worth putting down in order to have those things overflowing in your life? Absolutely, and I hope whoever has asked this question finds that as well.
Ravi Zacharias: Thanks, friends. I think we'll make a closing statement. I couldn't help, but chuckle on the inside thinking of the story of this man who was sending a brief message to a couple getting married and he dictated it to his assistant and said, "Send it on and we'll send the gift later". And he said, "Thinking of you on this day. 1 John 4:18". 1 John 4:18 says, "Perfect love casteth out fear". But the assistant who was sending it forgot to put the 1 John, just put John 4:18, and John 4:18 said, "You had five husbands, and the man you're living with is not your husband". So, you get just one item wrong, and you're in trouble. Can I give you just two quick illustrations as my closing statement? Some years ago I used to do a lot of devotional time with, not a lot, but a fair bit, with ball players especially the Atlanta braves because that's my home. And you do the devotions for about 12 minutes with the opposing team and then the home team. I used to be the only one who failed a physical when I walked in. I just look at myself and look at them and say, "What am I doing here"?
So, I generally talked to them about things like how to live your life on the road or something, which would be a little more relevant for me to speak on rather than how to knock a ball out of the park. At the end of one of those talks, one of the highest paid players for one of the teams that was visiting, came to me, and he said, "Can I talk to you privately"? And he took me aside. Smart looking guy, obviously big money, in the big leagues, and he caught me by the back of the neck like this and he said, "I want to tell you something. You spoke today on the problem of pleasure". He said, "That has been my problem. I have more money than I ever had before, but I also have lost everything of real value in my life. I've squandered what I had for cheap thrills, and now what I've lost, I don't know if I ever can get back".
Just as we were coming here, Vince and I, we were on the phone, I was talking to my other traveling associate Sange Zino Tua who's in Ottawa. He's in Ottawa, not here, because his mother was in very critical condition, and we were on the phone together. He joined the team a few years ago. He's a handsome guy. I don't like to say that in front of him, but he's a handsome guy. He messed his life up so badly, so badly, with these very three things we've talked about here. These very three things of liquor, drugs, and a wild sexually indulgent life until he nearly lost his family, his wife, his children. He was on his way to take his life when he stopped in at a church, the African-American pastor that he had seen before, and he got on his knees and grabbed his feet and said, "I'm not going to leave here until you give me some answers. My life has fallen apart".
Sange gave his life to the Lord from an indulgent life involving all of those things. Today he says he has more peace in his heart and never misses that for a moment. He remarried his wife, led his children to the Lord, his mother to the Lord, whom he is with right now. I actually had the privilege of praying with her when she was 70, giving her life to the Lord. He comes from a Hindu background. So many around him have come to know the Lord including his former colleagues because of the change of life. You're not giving up anything that's good for you. You are only giving up that which is wrong for you. I had a friend who borrowed a diesel driven car, spent a day with it driving. We were speaking together, and inadvertently he went and put gasoline into that, and that was the end of that. A very famous speaker from in this country. I won't name him and embarrass the poor guy. I could've done it just as well. It was the days where the nozzles were not identical.
I just say to you, you put the wrong thing into your system, you will stop running. You've got to first establish your purpose. Why he has made you, then you'll find out, he only gives you that which is good for you and keeps from you that which is evil for you. If my seven-year-old grandson wants to play with a butcher knife, and I take it from him, he is going to say, "Why do I have to have a papa who takes the butcher knife away from me"? You know the answer to that. God loves you more than you realize. He is on your side. "To whom shall we go"? Said the disciple. "For you alone have the words for eternal life". If you don't know Christ, may I suggest you take the Gospel of John, read it through three times completely, and ask him to speak to you and speak to your heart. You will fall in love with that Jesus and see who he really is. "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly".
You're thinking of the option to make it more "Impoverishedly" if there is such a word. That's not what he has in mind for you. He wants you to live with the wealth of the promises that he has for you. "Turn away from these vanities unto the living God". God's like the light, blessing is like the shadow, prosperity is like the shadow. You walk towards the light, the shadow follows you. You turn your back upon the light and chase the shadow, you will never catch up to it. Look towards him and follow him, and the shadow of the blessing of God will follow you. That's my closing statement. I want Vince to have a few words. God bless you, and thank you so much.
Vince Vitale: Well, one of the key themes tonight has been forgiveness, and I recently had the incredible privilege of being present when two friends of mine, a married couple, they realized that one person had wronged the other many years ago, and it had never been resolved, and they had never gotten past it. And usually this is something that happens in private. You don't often get a view into it, but I was able to sit there across the table, and I watched my friend fully confess what he had done. And then there was that pause between a confession and the forgiveness, and then there was this nervousness on both of their faces. And then I watched his wife say, "Yes, I forgive you". He said, "Will you forgive me"? And she said, "Yes, I will forgive you".
And you don't usually get to see other people do that. And you could physically see the anxiety, the weight, the burden just fall off of them. It was one of the most beautiful things that I've ever seen, and I think we're living in a time where we need to recapture the wonder of forgiveness. I think we're living in a culture where we've lost any commitment to forgiveness. Someone does something wrong, there's no model for what it looks like to ask for forgiveness or to receive forgiveness. And so if you've done something wrong and there's no way to be forgiven for it, what are you supposed to do? Either you lie about it or you just give up. Isn't interesting that lying and fake news and suicide are the two things in our culture which are drastically, drastically rising? Because we have no model for forgiveness.
We're not willing to forgive people. Why? Because if we forgive them, well, then we're just undermining justice. They did something wrong. They should pay for that. I can't forgive them. The only way out of this is if it's possible to forgive in such a way that justice is still served, and that is the beauty of the Christian message. Not forgiveness at the expense of justice, not justice at the expense of mercy and forgiveness, but at the cross, Jesus taking the fullness of justice upon himself and offering the fullness of forgiveness to us. The most beautiful story that I've ever heard, it's a true story, and it's a story for every single one of us. For those of you who are in the room who are not Christians, you know, sometimes, we've done you a disservice. Sometimes I've downplayed just how incredible that offer is because I haven't wanted you to think that I'm a bit odd or that I think things that are different than what other people think.
You know, I wonder if that's true a challenge to some of the Christians in the room as well. Are there people in your life who you love dearly, who if you're honest, you've never actually just extended that in invitation to? You know, the reality is that no matter how great we tell someone a party is going to be, and no matter how much we tell them how excited we are about the party and how we can't wait to go to the party, if we don't actually extend an invitation to them, for most people, it's unlikely that they're just gonna show up. So, an encouragement to all of us, for those of us who are Christians in the room, let's be invitational. You know, an invitation is supposed to be a gift to someone. If I invite you to my wedding, even if you think you can't make it, I have still honored you by extending that invitation.
Can we get to the point where we're just ready to talk about honestly about who Jesus is and what he has done reMarkably in each of our lives that know him and just extend that invitation in a natural way and in a way that doesn't put pressure on someone, but just says, "I have experienced the fullness of life in a way I cannot even describe, and there is nothing I would want more than for you to experience that as well"? If there's someone in your life that comes to mind right now that you love dearly and you know that you just never extended that simple invitation, please do. You'll be surprised, and if each of the Christians in the room tonight extends that invitation, there will be more people that say yes to Jesus very shortly. And for those of us in the room who don't know Jesus, just know that that invitation is yours.
It is in the one hand so difficult because of the difficulty of what Jesus did, but on the other hand it is so simple. It is just that one person saying, "Will you forgive me"? And it's the other person saying, "Yes, I will". And in that moment, all of that burden just falls off of a person and Jesus says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light". If there is anyone that that speaks to tonight, I hope that you go home tonight and just, perhaps, lie in your bed, you'll consider the power of those words: "Will you forgive me"? And I hope that you'll say those words in God's direction, and you'll experience the fullness of life that I've experienced, and that I know is an offer for you. God bless you all.