What Forerunners Can Learn from Singapore’s First PM

by W. Choong

Singaporeans have a penchant for queuing up for things, such as Hello Kitty dolls, Primary 1 school places, condominiums and concert tickets. All such things have some value, but the long queues that stretched out as Singaporeans lined up to for a last opportunity to pay their respects to Mr Lee following his passing in March was historic. At one point, the wait took as long as 8 hours, turning what was essentially a short stroll from the Padang to Parliament House into a long trek, involving a long detour towards the Esplanade and the Marina Bay floating platform, before one turned back towards the Singapore River and Parliament House.

My family joined the throngs of Singaporeans who braved the long queue. After 8 hours in the queue, we reached Parliament House at 5am. Even though their “batteries” were fully depleted by then, our boys aged 11 and 7 knew that this was a walk to remember. All the good things that they saw as we trudged slowly through the night that Friday – Singapore’s impressive skyline, Marina Bay, the Esplanade theatre and the bustling road infrastructure – were testament to Mr Lee’s hard work. This was a queue worth queuing for.

… our boys aged 11 and 7 knew that this was a walk to remember…

The Qualities That Defined Mr Lee

What made Mr Lee so special in the hearts of Singaporeans?

Among many of his fine qualities was the ability to see the vision and embark on a historic mission to achieve what seemed to be impossible. In 1965, as a newly-independent Singapore rued its separation from the Federation of Malaya, shorn of a hinterland and natural resources, Mr Lee bravely declared: “This was a mudflat, a swamp. Today, it is a modern city. And 10 years from now, it will be a metropolis – never fear!”

Mr Lee held fast to values such as honesty, integrity, respect for the rule of law and frugality – values that has made the Singapore brand so sellable today. He told off colleagues for wasting ice cream and used the same pair of running shorts for 17 years. In 1960, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency sought to bribe Mr Lee in 1960, to cover up a botched intelligence operation. Said Mr Lee: “The Americans should know the character of the men they are dealing with in Singapore and not get themselves further dragged into calumny. They are not dealing with Ngo Dinh Diem or Syngman Rhee. You do not buy and sell this Government.”

A strong sense of conviction drove Mr Lee. For years, he sparred with Westerners, Americans in particular, over Singapore’s unique style of democracy and the way he managed the media. While his political signature was controversial in the eyes of Westerners, it is inarguable that Singapore “unique” political system has netted attributes that are the envy of the countries all over. As one commentator put it – freedom is the ability to walk the streets unmolested, with women being able to ride public transport alone without fear. Freedom is the ability to live in one of the least corrupt cities in the world.

Passion Mr Lee possessed by the bucketload. So concerned was he about a younger generation of leaders taking Singapore down the wrong path, he said at a 1988 National Day Rally that “even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.”

Lessons for Forerunners

Mr Lee provides many lessons for forerunners who seek to prepare the way for Jesus� return to the earth. Mr Lee had a vision of Singapore as a bustling metropolis as he faced the storm of taking a third world country to the first world. Forerunners will face a much bigger storm – an eschatological convulsion that will see the release of judgments on the earth by Jesus, that will lead to the great falling away of many believers (Matt 24:11, 2Thess 2:3) and the death of millions of people on the earth. At the release of the fourth seal in Revelation 6, for example, a quarter of the world’s population would be killed by the sword, hunger and death. So it is critical to know why such events happen, by keeping in sight the vision of the glorious return of Jesus, his reunion with the saints on the earth, and the establishment of heaven on earth.

Mr Lee had a vision of Singapore as a bustling metropolis as he faced the storm of taking a third world country to the first world.

In the same way that Mr Lee held on to his values, forerunners burning at Houses of Prayer across the world should hold fast to IHOP values of intercession, holiness, offering our lives extravagantly to God and moving in the prophetic. These are not only values needed to sustain their services in the House of Prayer; these are eternal values that will follow them through all of eternity!

And as Mr Lee was conviction personified, forerunners need to have the conviction to sustain them in building up houses of prayer across the earth, in preparing the earth for Jesus return. John the Baptist dwelt in the wilderness, ate wild honey and wore clothes made of camel’s hair – a radical lifestyle as he sought to prepare the way for the Lord’s first coming. The Apostle Paul, seeking to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles in Asia Minor, suffered all kinds of sufferings, lashings and imprisonments because he considered it “all joy” to see the masses reached for Jesus.

Likewise, forerunners living out the Joel 2 lifestyle of fasting, weeping and mourning will have to go through some, if not many, inconveniences in building up houses of prayer. This could entail lost opportunities in the marketplace, encountering derision at the hands of critics and the constant need to burn in the House of Prayer continually, come rain or shine, in personal situations good and bad. This makes conviction all the more important – the need to know why one needs to continue to serve and ‘burn’ in the House of Prayer. Jesus is worth it all!

This leads us to passion. Everyone values the passion of the mountaineer who scales Mount Everest, the cyclist who circumnavigates the globe or a Steve Jobs who single-handedly forged new markets in technology. In a sense, people with passion are men possessed; they are possessed by grand visions, such that they will exert everything in their ability to attain them. In the same way, forerunners should be associated with active verbs so indicative of passion – passion for Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. We are called to vow not to go to our bedchamber until a house is established for God (Ps 132:2), to take by force His kingdom with a holy violence (Matt 11:12) and contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3).

People with passion are men possessed; they are possessed by grand visions, such that they will exert everything in their ability to attain them.

Mr Lee was seized by a vision, stayed true to his values even as he passionately sought to build Singapore. All the more, as forerunners, we should be seized by the vision of a beautiful Bridegroom King returning for his people, stay true to IHOP values and contend for the highest things of His heart with a holy passion!