At the Celebration of Life service for late apologist Nabeel Qureshi on Thursday, Ravi Zacharias, founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), reflected on the life, legacy, and faith of his "son."
"He was an amazing man who built bridges wherever he went," Zacharias said of Qureshi, who passed away at 34 after a year-long battle with stomach cancer. "He wasn't ordinary. And it was my privilege to cover the globe with Nabeel Qureshi and watch him in front of audiences, disarm them, and touch with the tenderness so that they would listen to what he had to say."
Zacharias said he wanted to talk about Qureshi, a Muslim convert to Christianity who previously served with RZIM, in "four abnormal terms."
"First, he was abnormally born in the sense that he was a rare human being who started out to challenge the claims of Jesus Christ, and ended up being convinced that Christ was who He claimed to be," Zacharias said, explaining that Qureshi was "courageous" in the fact that he was willing to go wherever the truth led him.
"I have met many a person who can do that investigatory stuff and do all of this research and still say, 'but I can't,'" Zacharias said. "He wanted to know the truth, because he knew that in following the truth was his true freedom. But what was it about that truth that I think was so beautiful in the life of Nabeel? He understood sin in a way that is also unique."
"When I think of sin, I think of the way I've stumbled," Zacharias said. "I think of all the horrible things we do. To Nabeel, sin was just symptomatic in those terms. He understood John 9 profoundly. That sin, in its deepest reality, was a blindness. It was a veiled look at what reality was all about."
Qureshi had the "courage to recognize he was blind," Zacharias said. "More than that, he recognized the grace of his Savior, who is the only one capable of transforming you from blindness to sight."
He added, "We are not bad people trying to be good. The problem really is, that we're dead people who can only be made alive by Jesus Christ. He did not come into this world to make bad people good, he came to this world to make dead people live."
To Qureshi, the grace of Jesus Christ through the cross of Christ was the most remarkable truth, and he wanted to carry to the world, the evangelist said. "And once his blindness was gone, he understood that. He was abnormally born."
The "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" author was also "abnormally torn," Zacharias said.
"His biggest heartache always, was that the pain the family was going to feel at his commitment to Christ. He wept, he sobbed, he cried across the table from me...His passion was tearing him apart on the inside out of love for his Heavenly father and his commitment to his earthly father and mother and family," he continued.
While Qureshi "deeply" loved his family, he understood that "what I am paying is nothing compared to what Jesus paid for me," Zacharias said. "Nabeel understood that his price was small."
The late evangelist was not only a man of conviction, he was a man of passion who "never had an ounce of fear," Zacharias said.
"Why not? Because he was a man with a mission," he continued. "He did not care about those who fabricated stories about him, he did not care about those who thought they'd knock him off. He was a man abnormally scorned, but he knew why. They didn't scorn him because of who he was, they scorned him because of who he represented. He was willing to be an ambassador for Christ right until the very end."
"He was like a son to me," Zacharias said. "This abnormally born, abnormally torn, abnormally scorned man, is now abnormally gone, gone at such an early age in life."
Zacharias said he wanted to close with the thought that for the first time in his life, Qureshi "has seen reality the way God wanted him to see it. He looked through a keyhole all along, now he's seeing the whole panorama. There he is."
He concluded: "I look forward to seeing you, Nabeel. I love you. I miss you. I long to see you, Nabeel. And maybe, when I see you, instead of saying 'uncle' you might really say 'brother' because we have the same Heavenly Father. So he was abnormally born, torn, scorned, and gone, but we know where he is. He is at the place that God prepared for him."
The service was introduced by Senior Pastor Gregg Matte, who shared how, from the pulpit, he would watch Qureshi and his wife, Michelle, worship every Sunday morning.
"He was an amazing, amazing man," Matte remembered. "He was always reaching for truth and reaching for Heaven. It's almost as if the Lord just grabbed that outreached hand and pulled him on up to Heaven and took him home...he's face to face with Jesus. We grieve, because Nabeel's days were far too few, but also we celebrate knowing God is sovereign. We celebrate a tremendous life of impact, of significance, of love."
"My brother, you have praised God, you have taught us with your life, you have taught us with your death," he said.
After the congregation sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and "In Christ Alone," Dr. James Tour, one of Qureshi's mentors, shared words of reflection. He revealed that throughout his battle with cancer, Qureshi never questioned his faith, never complained, or asked "why me?"
Qureshi's final words to him, he said, were "Victory. Jesus is the name of victory."