Precious in His Sight

This week, those of us who follow the world of apologetics are mourning the loss of Nabeel Qureshi, who on Saturday, September 16, was overtaken in his year-long battle with stomach cancer. Nabeel was a premier up-and-coming Christian apologist. He, as we all saw it, had a bright future ahead of him as a great gift to Christianity in the ongoing debate between the Christian and Islamic worldviews. However, this weekend God saw fit to bring him home.

Nabeel has an amazing story which he encapsulated in his riveting book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity.

The Qureshi family, though devout Pakistani Muslims, experienced religious persecution and immigrated to the United States. Nabeel was born in California in 1983 and was raised a faithful (being taught all the articles and pillars of Islam), peaceful (being members of the Ahmadi sect of Islam), and intelligent (having read the Qur’an and memorized several surahs by age 5) Muslim boy. His parents fortified his beliefs by introducing him to apologetics, enabling him to defend Islam and refute other religions. While in college, Nabeel met an aspiring Christian apologist named David Wood (who has an incredible story of his own). The two became fast friends through their conversational sparring.

After several years of questioning and searching, Nabeel concluded, “At the end of my research, the arguments for and against Islam still hung in the balance, but one thing was abundantly clear: they were far from approaching the strength of the case for Christianity.” At the moment of his conversion, which I will not spoil for any who have not read his book, Nabeel laid down Islam and embraced Christianity. Within a few years, he had finished his medical degree along with a couple of degrees in apologetics and religion. He entered Oxford University for further studies and became an iterant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministry.

Then, in August of 2016, Nabeel announced on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer. Those of us familiar with Nabeel’s story leaned in and followed his year-long battle. Updating with videos and blog posts, Nabeel was a shining example to all of us who did not know him personally, but I have personally experienced the grace that God has so abundantly poured onto his life.


The Bible states in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

A pastor quoted this verse during my mother’s funeral in March of this year. I had heard the verse before, but frankly, it never sat well with me. The grief that we go through being separated from our loved ones by a force as unpredictable, unstoppable, and sinister as death—how could that be precious?

By all human accounts, Nabeel was taken too soon. If you ask me, it was a tragedy. A family lost a husband and a father. Christianity lost a capable scholar with an inspirational story. Again, I ask—how could that be precious?

But, here’s the thing…

It’s precious because it’s merciful.

Viewed from God’s perspective the whole scene changes. He sees us born into a sin-filled world with sin-filled hearts, living sin-filled lives. The Holy Spirit moves with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we become God’s own, turning to him in repentance and faith. We become his saints.

But the battle is far from over. We spend the rest of our lives fighting the good fight of faith, failing often. We press toward the mark of a higher calling, but we stumble along the way. We live our lives afflicted at every turn, fights on the outside and fears on the inside. We see our fair share of evil, much of which is our own doing. Meanwhile, God looks on, comforting through his Spirit and guiding through his Word, but all from a distance. God watches. He sees every moment, every tear. He sees every regret and all the sorrow. What is more, he knows how bad it all feels, because his Son went through worse.

Until one day, our Father calls us home—to himself. After all the suffering, all the trials, all the pain, he is finally able to rescue us from it all. This is not just healing; it’s deliverance. There are few words more appropriate for a father’s opportunity to deliver his children from suffering. It is precious.

As Tim Keller wrote, “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”[1]

It’s precious because it’s meaningful.

Death means something to everyone. Philosophers have spent thousands of years pondering how to live well but also how to die well. The two go hand in hand. To quote Epicurus, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

This is particularly true for the Christian. When we with Paul say that for us to live is Christ and to die is gain, we mean it. Spurgeon once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”

Nabeel’s dying testimony is a shining example of the hope in the face of death offered in the Christian worldview. Other worldviews offer little by comparison. Naturalistic worldviews at their best offer us usefulness as fertilizer. Pantheistic worldviews at their best offer us oblivion. Other theistic worldviews at their best offer a checklist of ordinances, sacraments, and rituals by which we can try our best. However, Christ offers infinitely more. He offers us, not just healing, but resurrection. He offers not just enlightenment, but glorification. He offers not just merit, but redemption.

I must confess, before this weekend I knew very little about Nabeel’s amazing story. However, it is now a confirmation of what I have recently experienced: a peace that passes understanding. Nabeel is absent from the body and therefore present with the Lord. Meanwhile, his story lives on with us, still pointing to he who is the resurrection and the life.

It’s precious because it’s motivational.

No matter your worldview, no matter your perspective, no matter your opinions or background, biases or intuitions—one thing we all have in common is that we ultimately have no clue what tomorrow holds. Oh, we have good guesses. We are almost certain. Almost.

Naturalistic worldviews at their best motivate us with the urgency to not waste our few moments of consciousness between nonexistence, but they never fully explain what that life looks like or why we should fear such a waste. Pantheistic worldviews at their best hasten us on to oblivion past the illusion that this life is, death being nothing more “like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, [as the] soul reveals what lies beyond.”[2] In the Christian worldview, however, there is a Father to love because we are loved by him. There is king to be served because he served us. There is a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Nabeel in his death reminds of a fundamental truth. A year ago, he did not know he had a year. Forgive me if this seems morose, but neither do we. We are charged by Jesus to not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s anxiety will come soon enough. We are to first seek the eternal kingdom. Nabeel is a reminder of this charge and a precious reminder at that.

For the unbeliever who is skeptical of the Christian faith, I would invite you to explore the wealth of writing and speaking that Nabeel Qureshi has left us. For the believer who is seeking to be a stronger witness, particularly to our Muslim neighbors, I would also invite you to study this man’s brilliant perspective. Learning from Nabeel’s life will honor his legacy and glorify his God.

Information about the celebration of Nabeel’s life can be found here with several places to watch the even livestreamed.

[1] Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, p. 166

[2] Deepak Chopra, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, p. 25.