“In God’s economy, man’s adversity is God’s opportunity”: Bishop Rennis Ponniah on celebrating hope in a time of COVID-19
COH Chairman and Bishop of the Anglican Church of Singapore, Rennis Ponniah (second from right), kneeling in prayer with other city pastors. Photos courtesy of St Andrew's Cathedral.
More than a year after the Celebration of Hope (COH) was first announced publicly, over 200 church and ministry leaders gathered at St Andrew’s Cathedral (SAC) yesterday to give thanks for the historic national rally in 2019 that saw over 125,000 Singaporeans coming to hear the Good News.
Each one who was present donned a yellow sticker, indicative of the safety measures taken at the door given the latest health developments in our nation.
But beyond just acknowledging the current COVID-19 situation through temperature taking, pastors and leaders spent the first hour in worship and intercession for our country as well as those suffering around the world.
They stood in the gap for God’s mercy and healing over the nations, that evil would be turned to good, fear turned to faith, and panic turned to praise.
Held from May 17-19, 2019, COH’s vision was “for the whole Church in Singapore to proclaim the one name that gives the world solid hope” .
Surely, this is an apt message even for today in the face of adversity – to arise and proclaim the unchangingly “solid hope” we have in Jesus.
“In God’s economy, man’s adversity is God’s opportunity,” said COH Chairman and Bishop of the Anglican Church of Singapore, Rennis Ponniah.
“We must recognise that God is doing something. It is important for you and I to know that He is on the throne, and to live our lives in light of that.”
He added: “His purpose is always salvation. The great Creator of the universe has a shepherd’s heart to bring every soul into His Kingdom. And although He is not the source of evil, because He is God, He harnesses evil to serve His salvation purposes.
“The Church must be a light.”
Pastor Lawrence Khong, Apostolic Overseer of Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC), also shared that he believed the Church was being prepared for a new season in the light of COVID-19.
In response, FCBC moved its services online last weekend, making it easier for church members to invite their neighbours over to their houses.
Pastor Khong, who is also the Chairman of the LoveSingapore network of churches, continued: “I believe that when the pastors of the city gather, there is spiritual authority. It is worthwhile to gather together in prayer.
“To claim that the purposes of God will be fulfilled – that good things will come out of this situation, that the Church will be strengthened and made ready for the destiny God has prepared for us.”
Among those who took the stage to pray were SAC’s Pastor Ti Lian Swan. Praying for repentance on behalf of the nation, hers was a heart cry for the people of God to turn to the Father.
This is an excerpt of her prayer.
A PRAYER ON BEHALF OF SINGAPORE
Father, we come before You, and we say that we are truly sorry for grieving Your heart.
We have made You too small in our eyes, and we pray that You will forgive us for the smallness of our faith.
Our eyes have been on the wind and on the waves – we have forgotten that You are in the boat with us, and that You are sovereign over the wind and waves.
Help us to keep our eyes on who You are. Lord, help us to look to You always, to keep our eyes fixed on You.
We pray that You will forgive us when we have feared disease and death more than we have feared You, when we have acted out of our fears and not of faith. Father, we have dishonoured Your name in the process.
We ask for Your forgiveness and cry out to You for Your mercy. We ask that You forgive us – that we have presumptuously claimed the promises of Psalm 91 when we failed to live out Your Word in our lives and failed to walk the talk.
Lord, we ask that You help us to stand on Your promises and to stand in faith, believing in Your power to protect us. You are all that we need.
Father, forgive us. We have preoccupied ourselves with precautions rather than with prayer. We have been running around like headless chickens, trying to protect ourselves with all the external paraphernalia, clothing and arming ourselves with masks and gloves, when our protection is in You.
You are our strong and mighty fortress, and You are the one who can protect us completely from anything that seeks to exterminate us.
Lord, we cry out to You as a people who know their God, who seek their God, who know that in You and You alone are the solution to all the problems that we are facing with this virus.
Forgive us if we have relied more on our super-efficient government than on our sovereign Lord and King. Father, all human institutions are fallible but You are infallible.
You make no mistake and You are in perfect control. In Your mercy, help us to look to You always.
Forgive us for causing You so much pain and sorrow. In relying on our own ways and thinking our own thoughts, we have neglected You.
We have neglected the place of prayer. We have neglected the place of communion with You. We have neglected to reach out in fellowship, to extend Your love to others who are in need – the dying, the sick and the needy.
Father we pray, forgive us for our sin is abominable to You. Cleanse us from the deep infection that is in our soul, cleanse us with the blood of Jesus and help us to turn to You always.
For You say in Your word, in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Lord, we submit to You. You are all-powerful, all-present and all-knowing. We submit ourselves entirely to Your fatherly goodness, and we trust in Your grace and in Your mercy.
Thank you Lord, we receive Your forgiveness. For ourselves, and for our brothers and sisters. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.