Bishop Rennis Ponniah on COVID-19

A February 18 prayer meeting at St Andrews Cathedral saw Bishop Rennis Ponniah and pastors on bended knees as they sought forgiveness from God for themselves, their flock and the nation. Photo by St Andrew's Cathedral.

Even as COVID-19 has “shown the nations our human limitations” (Psalm 9:20), believers are neither helpless not hopeless, Bishop Rennis of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore declared in a letter to his flock released on March 21.

“We know our God. He is unstoppable in His goodness and limitless in His power.”

As we navigate these uncharted times as “people of the cross”, we can keep these three postures in mind, he said:

  • Our Public Witness as Christians
  • Our Pursuit of Christian Unity
  • Our Priority of Beseeching God in Prayer

The Bishop shared how believers can stay humble and hopeful in these ways:

Our public witness as Christians

Do not be driven by Fear or Selfishness: We rely on the Lord to be our Protector (Psalm 91) and our Provider (Philippinas 4:19). We can be assured of His all-sufficiency when we are sure of our covenantal relationship with Him through Christ Jesus.

The way to overcome COVID-19 fear is to strengthen your covenantal relationship with the Lord.

Let our faith make us a people of poise and praise: Christians may be afflicted but we are never defeated. Neither tribulation nor distress … no, not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).

Let us therefore know the Scriptures more fully and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to be a people of poise and praise in this time of shaking.

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Shine Christ’s Light by our good works: Many are affected by the crisis, whether directly or indirectly. Look for opportunities to be the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14) against a setting of gloom and the smell of death.

Our pursuit of Christian unity

Unity is crucial to Christian witness: The devil is always looking for gaps to exacerbate tension and destroy the oneness which is a gift from God. We must guard and deepen the unity we have in Christ (Psalm 133; John 17:20-23).

Forgiving graciously and speaking in love: Different churches may respond differently in the innovations, adaptations and strategies they employ in responding to the COVID-19 situation. Tensions could easily arise. We need the Spirit’s power to forgive graciously and to always speak truthfully in love.

Anglicans affirm this at every Holy Communion service: “We are the body of Christ. In the one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body. Let us then pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life.” (Ephesians 4:1-6). Beloved people of God, let us put these words into practice on every occasion.

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Guarding unity at the national level: Pray that the national church leaders will keep each other well-informed of the decisions they are making, while at the same time giving each other the space to make the decision for their own assigned field.

We must trust each other to make the best decision according to one’s church context, one’s conscience and one’s judgment call.

National pastors must stay as one band of godly shepherds to overcome the dark forces that threaten the well-being of our Church and country (see Micah 5:5-6).

As God’s people, we know that God will honour every faithful servant of His; and that He is honoured by our humility and unity.

Our priority of beseeching God in prayer

Crying out to God: The word “beseech” (Matthew 9:36-38) means earnestly plead like a beggar, out of desperation and helplessness. It may not be an exaggeration to say that COVID-19 is bringing the world to its knees.

Repentance is foundational: I believe the Spirit is calling the Church to examine her lack of covenantal faithfulness to God. We need to repent, amend our ways, seek His forgiveness and pray for the healing of the land. Judgement begins with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). It is time to re-visit 2 Chronicles 7:11-16 with a fresh listening to God and a willingness to be broken by the true state of our lives and of our Church.

Form intercession clusters: The Lord is gathering persons who will desperately seek the face of God, stand in the gap to intercede for the land in total dependence on God’s mercy; intercessors who will “give the Lord no rest” till He brings forth salvation to the nations through His restored people (Psalm 24:1-10; Isaiah 62:7; Revelations 8:1-5).

In my mind’s eye, I see these prayer clusters as comprising persons of all ages, including children, and from all walks of life.

The fire of God’s steadfast love: The devouring COVID-19 fire raging in the world will be surpassed by the fire of God’s steadfast love as His people pray beseechingly. 

There can be no doubt then that God is calling us to pray beseechingly and to do so in private prayer, synchronised prayer, prayer bands and prayer clusters.

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Bishop Rennis concluded: “The tempo of events shaking the world is increasing. The Word of God prepares us for an escalation in the battle between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil before the great Day of God’s final judgement and salvation.

“That day is the Day of Jesus Christ’s glorious return, when darkness, sin and death will flee away and ‘God will wipe away every tear from our eyes’ (Revelation 7:17).

“Beloved people of God, our times are in the Lord’s hands. I believe there will be almighty harvest through this time of hardships. God’s ways are not our ways.

“But we know our God. He is unstoppable in His goodness and limitless in His power. And we have the hope of Christ to share with others in the world today.”

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