Today, the 9th of August, is the day that Singapore turns 50. Many events have been planned to celebrate our jubilee year. This jubilee weekend will see the nation come alive with exhibitions, concerts, carnivals, competitions and many other exciting programmes. The highlight will be the National Day Parade at the Padang this evening which will feature a grand Integrated Show celebrating “the contributions of our pioneers, our multi-cultural roots and unique identity, and inspire all Singaporeans to work together towards a bright future. … This year’s Integrated Show will string together our nation’s journey since independence in one coherent narrative telling ‘Our Singapore Story’” (http://www.ndp.org.sg/an-overview/). We all look forward to a joyous day of celebrations with our fellow Singaporeans.
o Overcoming the Odds
When we separated from Malaysia in 1965, our then Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew declared that although others had written us off, Singapore would overcome the odds and survive. And survive we did.
Back then in 1965, Singapore was a small island state of about 1.9 million people. With no natural resources, mosquito-infested swamps, a poor, lowly educated population, we had nothing to help us compete against the more advanced countries. Our government had to face the reality of building a nation literally from scratch.
One of the challenges facing newly-founded Singapore was unemployment, which had to be quickly resolved. The British announcement of the withdrawal of their troops by 1971 posed another problem. At that time, our Singapore Armed Forces was still in its infancy. With our first batch of 900 national servicemen still in training, Singapore was ill-equipped to defend herself. The British pull-out also meant the loss of 20,000 jobs and twenty percent of our gross national product.
To counter these problems, Singapore embarked on a rapid industrialisation programme by providing technical training for our workers. Sembawang Shipyard was formed to oversee ship repairing and outfitting contracts. The vast expanse of mangrove swamps in Jurong was soon transformed into an industrial site to accommodate large and small scale manufacturing companies. During this time of exciting growth, the Economic Development Board was established to woo foreign investors and to further develop our economy.
o God’s Bountiful Blessings
We thank God for seeing Singapore to where it is today. Singapore is now a thriving metropolis with one of the world’s highest per capita income. Looking back, it was the sheer tenacity and sharp foresight of our Singapore leadership under Mr Lee that had enabled us to survive those tumultuous years and brought the tiny nation from “Third World to First”. Today, our “little red dot” ranks among the world’s most successful and competitive nations.
Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-religious, democratic society. Despite our racially and religiously diverse population, we enjoy peace, stability and harmony. We also enjoy the freedom to worship God each Sabbath Day. Indeed, we are grateful to the Lord for every blessing upon our land.
o Duties to the State
As we recount God’s blessings upon our nation, let us be mindful of our duties as citizens. What is required of us as Christians? For the answer, let us look at the exhortation of the apostle Paul to his spiritual son in I Timothy 2: 1-4: “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; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”.
We ought to intercede and give thanks “for all men” (v. 1). Let us also pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority” (v. 2a) – in particular, our President, Prime Minister and Members of Parliament – that they will rule wisely, justly and fairly. They need our prayers “for they have many difficulties to encounter, many snares to which their exalted stations expose them” (Matthew Henry). Such faithful supplication for our leaders brings a special blessing, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (v. 2b).
We honour God when we obey the law of the land and live peaceably with our neighbours in our ethnically diverse society – “for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (v. 3). This call for submission to national 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). As Christian citizens, let us cheerfully pay our taxes, rendering “unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22: 21).
It is also our God-ordained duty to be His witnesses among our fellowmen. We are His chosen instruments to share the Gospel of grace – to draw others “unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2: 4). Seize every opportunity to reach out to the lost. Sow the Gospel seed wherever God has placed us. Let us do the Lord’s will “while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (Jn. 9: 4). May the Lord grant us grace to be good and responsible citizens of our country. May we, as a nation, continue to enjoy God’s gracious favours and sustaining grace. Wishing one and all, “A Happy Golden Jubilee”! God bless Singapore! Amen.