On 9th August, this coming Wednesday, our tiny island state will celebrate her 52nd year of independence. As a nation, Singapore has come a long way – from “Third World to First”. Despite her lack of natural resources and diminutive size, she has excelled economically, socially and politically.
“Few gave tiny Singapore much chance of survival when independence was thrust upon it in 1965. Today the former British trading post is a thriving Asian metropolis with the world’s fourth highest per capita income” (The Singapore Story: 1965 – 2000).
We believe that Singapore is where it is today because of the Lord’s gracious favour: “Mercy and truth preserve the king and His throne is upholden by mercy” (Prov. 20: 28). With grateful hearts, we acknowledge God’s merciful dealings upon our land and our people. The Lord has blessed us with a sound, just and equitable government. Because our leaders have ruled well, we enjoy peace, stability and safety. Most of us do not have to worry about our next meal, a roof over our heads, earning a living or schools for our children. We have everything that makes for a comfortable life.
Indeed, it is a great blessing to be a Singaporean. We value very much our Singapore citizenship, which is coveted by many. Christians, however, possess another citizenship – that of the eternal city of Heaven. As we rejoice with our nation on this 52nd National Day, let us also consider the implications of our “dual” citizenship:
o Earthly citizenship
As Singaporeans, we enjoy God’s gracious blessings upon our country. However, we have our duties to the state, one of which is to uphold those in high office: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (I Tim. 2: 1-3). Pray for God’s grace and wisdom upon our leaders in seeing to the well-being of the people. Pray for courage to rule without fear or favour, and to make decisions that will preserve the peace, security, harmony and moral standards of our country. Our faithful intercession for our country’s leaders brings a special blessing – “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty”.
Another duty of Christian citizens is to submit to the authority of our nation’s leaders as “the powers that … are ordained of God”: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom. 13: 1-2). Our President, Prime Minister and cabinet ministers are, in a sense, “God’s ministers” placed in high office according to God’s will and purpose (Rom. 13: 6). Let us “render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Rom. 13: 7).
This call for submission to authority is reiterated by the apostle Peter: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (I Pet. 2: 13-14). Let us pay our taxes cheerfully, rendering “unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22: 21).
o Heavenly citizenship
While we are citizens of our beloved Singapore, we are also citizens of another country – the heavenly city of God. Our stay upon this earth is only temporal. God’s Word reminds us that we are but “strangers and pilgrims” on this earth (I Pet. 2: 11a). As the song goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” No matter how much we love our country, our sojourn here is a brief one – only “threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (Ps. 90: 10).
As “strangers and pilgrims”, let us “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2: 11b). This means that we are not to yield to our fleshly passions like anger, pride, self-will and self-love that used to characterise our lives before our conversion. Our lives are no longer our own to live as we will and to cater to our sinful inclinations (Rom. 6: 12-13). Strive not for earthly treasures that will not last (Matt. 6: 19-21). Seek to honour God and “to show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Pet. 2: 9b).
Like the Old Testament patriarch, Abraham, let us look “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11: 10). Let us wait expectantly for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ: “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philp 3: 20-21). How glorious will that day be, when we see our dear Lord face to face!
We thank God for placing us in the good land of Singapore. As we enjoy the fruits of God’s blessings upon our earthly home, let us remember that we are also citizens of heaven. While we await that joyous day of eternal glory, let us set our minds on things above, not on the things of this world (Col. 3: 1). May we seek to do the Lord’s will while we live. May the Lord bless us all as we celebrate our 52nd National Day.