LIHUE — Before Ravi Zacharias even spoke a single word, the crowd of about 1,000 rose, applauded and gave him a rousing standing ovation.
The main speaker at the 11th annual Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon on Saturday did not disappoint.
His 45-minute talk was punctuated by frequent calls of “Amen,” “Yes,” or “Hallelujah” from the enthusiastic and energetic crowd at the Kilohana Luau Pavilion.
When he was finished, guest Hazel Aki simply smiled and waved her fist. No words were necessary to share how she felt.
“I wish more people would hear him speak,” said Sarah Jensen, a Californian who was visiting friends on Kauai. “He says it like it is and let’s us know what to watch out for and what we need to do.”
Zacharias, an author, radio program host and professor, leads Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He teaches apologetics and evangelism while traveling more than 200 days a year.
The theme of his message on Saturday was strong and direct: America is drifting farther away from God and needs to change its ways and turn back to Christ. He spoke of the battle between good and evil, of the demise of moral absolutes. He warned that the U.S. is becoming a nation of people who believe more and more that there is no right or wrong, and everyone, no matter their beliefs, is headed to the same place.
“I’m troubled by what I see,” he said.
He spoke of a country whose young generation knows little of the Bible and Jesus Christ and whose faith rests on money and material things. There is cultural warfare going on, he said, a battle between dark and light.
“How did we get where we are today?” he asked.
Much of his talk focused on secularism, which has two basic premises: separation of state from religion, and that people of different faiths and beliefs are equal.
Many people have decided they don’t need God and live like there is no God, he said. Zacharias, who grew up in India, said he tried to take his own life at age 17. He recovered and found his faith when he began to read and study the Bible.
“If I had lived by secularism’s mandates, I would not be here today,” he said.
Secularization is powerful and has its dangers, he said, and people need to be aware of them “to withstand the pitfalls.”
“When secularization has taken its toll, it will produce a generation of men and women that have lost their sense of shame,” he said.
“You show me a man or a woman who lost its sense of shame, and I’ll show you a man standing with a sword in his hand about to decapitate another person, his hands held behind his back. No guilt, no shame, no remorse.”
Zacharias said Christians today face many challenges — one being they are told to believe what they want about God, but to keep it at home, don’t share it in public.
“That which is most sacred for you is told to be kept quiet,” he said.
He told of needing a bodyguard when speaking before an Ivy League school because it was a hostile crowd.
“We ought to be able to have intelligent dialogue where we can discuss and talk about our faith and open it up to scrutiny without hostility,” he said.
Zacharias said when he speaks, he is not trying to change what a person believes.
“But I believe in a God who changes hearts and I want to tell you what that belief is and take on your toughest questions,” he said.
It is his hope, confidence in the Bible and his absolute belief in God that motivates and drives him to travel the globe. Humility and faith are key for Christians in a world that is often not receptive to their belief in Christ, he said.
“I don’t know what your thinking is today as you come here,” he said. “Maybe you’re hostile to the things of God. You may be indifferent. Will you humble yourself before God today?”
Zacharias found hope on Kauai in the many prayers offered up before he took the stage on Saturday. He said he speaks at many events throughout the country and has never heard so much prayer.
“I commend you for living what this is all about,” he said.
He urged the audience to put their trust in a living God, and said they should always be prepared to answer questions about their faith with gentleness and respect. He has seen lives changed. He has watched young and old be transformed by God’s word. His work is far from finished, he said.
“I want to tell you, don’t leave your home without your faith entrenched strongly in your own heart,” he said.