Bishop Rennis Ponniah on COVID-19

"God is doing something. He is changing our way of being in this crisis," says Bishop Rennis Ponniah. Photo by Salt&Light.

“In God’s economy, Man’s adversity is God’s opportunity,” said Bishop Rennis Ponniah, head of the Anglican Church in Singapore, at a prayer meeting with pastors at St Andrew’s Cathedral this morning (February 18).

“God is not the source of evil. But God, because He is God, harnesses evil to serve His salvation purposes.”

“It is important for you and me to know He’s on the throne … and to live our lives in the light of it.”

Churches have not been spared from the COVID-19 outbreak, prompting many to conduct church in an unprecedented way. And Bishop Rennis believes God is doing a new thing among His people.

“God is doing something. He is changing our way of being. So our people and ourselves, we’re praying constantly that the King of glory may come in. That’s why synchronised prayer at 12 noon is vital.

“It is important for you and me to know He’s on the throne, to proclaim Him, to believe Him and to live our lives in the light of it. And His purpose is always salvation,” he reminded those present. “He has set His heart to bring every person into eternity, to be in His company because every soul matters, every family matters, every community matters.”

In his message, Bishop Rennis drew lessons from Psalm 24, which he said can help believers get a grasp of what is happening in Singapore.

The psalm was written by David, who has experienced God’s power in times of weakness. Those experiences left David awestruck.

“The setting of this psalm, I believe, is inviting us to move as if in procession with the King of glory,” said Bishop Rennis.

He outlined three key points from Psalm 24:

1. The call to be holy before God – Psalm 24:4-5

“Clean hands represent for me the hands of people who are not oppressive. Hands that don’t take a bribe, they are not discriminatory.

“A pure heart means one who lives with kindness and fairness, who lives by God’s right and wrong. One who is without anger, peace-loving and grateful.

In this time of trial, Bishop Rennis believes the Lord is putting a hunger for holiness in His people. Photo by St Andrew's Cathedral.

In this time of trial, Bishop Rennis believes the Lord is putting a hunger for holiness in His people. Photo by St Andrew’s Cathedral.

“He imputes holiness in Christ but He wants to impart holiness by the Spirit. And this holiness cannot be found apart from the Holy Spirit. This holiness cannot come apart from community.”

Holiness can only be made possible through transformation through God’s Word, being rooted in community and intentional discipleship, added Bishop Rennis.

2. The call to seek His face ­– Psalm 24:6

“We are not seeking the gifts, we are seeking the Giver,” said Bishop Rennis.

He noted that David’s decision to reference “God of Jacob” was done with intention as it is often used to refer to the “God of covenant”. The Lord told Jacob to go back to the land of his fathers and relatives in Genesis 31:3. But Jacob remembered why he fled from that land in the first place – he needed to escape the wrath of his older brother, Esau. Fearful for his impending encounter with Esau, Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32 to bless and protect him.

“In that, we can see that Jacob is broken. Likewise, there are many breaking points in our lives. And that’s how God is leading us and our people, that we might seek Him, desire Him,” he said.

The closed-door prayer meeting saw pastors on bended knees as they sough forgiveness from God for themselves, their flock and the nation. Photo by St Andrew's Cathedral.

The closed-door prayer meeting saw pastors on bended knee as they sought forgiveness from God for themselves, their flock and the nation. Photo by St Andrew’s Cathedral.

“One of the goals of the Celebration of Hope was brokenness in prayer. Brokenness means we can’t do it on our own. Right now, the slogan from the government is ‘We can get through this together’. Our slogan is ‘We can only get through this with God’,” he said.

He urged believers to examine their priorities, and whether they have taken their spiritual health for granted.

“I believe if there’s one thing from Psalm 24 for us in particular, it is this verse. That you and I just long for Him, cry out for Him, want to be with Him so that we can hear from Him. And in so doing, we can serve out His purposes in a time like this.”

3. The call to open the gates for His entry – Psalm 24:7

The imagery of ancient city gates and doors being unhinged from their posts to allow the entry of the King of glory points to His matchless magnificence and glory, for it is not an ordinary entry, said Bishop Rennis.

“Yet, it is not easy to open the gates for the King of glory to come in for we wrestle not with flesh and blood but with powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12). So there is a spiritual warfare that is needed for the King of glory, for the light to overcome the darkness.”

“Our Lord is the King of glory, no battle is too hard for Him!”

He shared how some Christians may be facing persecution at home for wanting to go to church on Sundays, especially after news broke that COVID-19 infection clusters have been identified in three churches.

“So there’s already a counter. But we can overcome through prayer; not through the weapons of the world, not fighting for your rights but through prayer. Because what God opens, no man can shut; what God shuts, no man can open,” he said.

How then do we open the gates?

“By loving Singapore, by entering people’s lives, by putting the Gospel out there as it is the power of God unto salvation. And so it needs holy courage, holy wisdom, holy expectations. That is the only way the King of glory can come in to people’s lives and heal.

“Our Lord is the King of glory, no battle is too hard for Him!”

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About the author

Geraldine Tan

Geraldine is a former news journalist, public relations practitioner and research editor with a penchant for puns, punctuation and a positive attitude. She is always up for the next new adventure and is on a quest to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Geraldine is now Assistant Editor at Salt&Light.

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