“A man of noble character who can find?”
This verse popped into my head as I sat down to write about praying this month for character in the Chinese church. Only I misremembered: instead of “man,” the Scripture actually speaks of a “wife of noble character.” Perhaps it was a happy mistake, for it illustrates the point: no woman or man—no mere mortal for that matter—is truly of “noble character.”
This is the crux of praying for character. Even as I say no one can meet this standard, I am also sure we are not asking God for the impossible when we ask him to grant his character to his people. When we ask God to graciously grow character in Chinese Christians, we can in the same moment rejoice, because he has already given every believer his character by giving us Christ.
Briefly step with me through the psalms that led our prayers this month for character. As you read, pray with me that God will give more and more of himself to his people in China, that those who know him may become like him.
No one can find the “wife of noble character” who receives such acclaim in Proverbs 31. She is an ideal; she herself does not exist. Yet we can read the description of this woman the way we read the Psalms and all of Scripture: by seeing and understanding that Jesus alone is the benchmark for noble character and for every good thing. All of Scripture points to Christ, the one who both sets the standard – and fulfills it.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
“Beloved little ones, would you like to know how you can live a truly blessed life?” Thus begins Wen Dao, a Chinese Christian now living outside of Mainland. Although this present age is full of pestilence and war, “the righteous” can experience true delight and joy by knowing God. When we read and internalize his Word, when we meditate on his law, then he himself becomes our full joy. We fully inhabit the place he has put us while at the same time the cacophonous importance of less-than-perfect circumstances fades. When we have him, we have everything. “Let us think on his Word…until the day we see him again.”
How can we enter God’s presence? This question undergirds Psalm 15. The answer is less than comforting to sinners: only the righteous have the right to dwell with God. But Boaz Yang writes, “the essence of God’s plan of salvation…is to restore that perfect picture when God dwelt with man.”
We can dwell with God on his holy hill because of Christ. Those who believe in Jesus bear his righteousness, and gain admittance to the eternal, heavenly city. This culminates in the present-day descent of the culture of the kingdom. Yang writes, “The church is part of the kingdom of heaven in these gradually unfolding end times…the culture of Psalm 15 should become the culture of the church.”
Beijing pastor An Xi points out that this psalm is a song with astounding lyrics: Israel’s most famous king is confessing his egregious sins, and setting them to music so his people can sing the lyrics of his sorrow. “Not only did David face his sin with uncompromising honesty, but he also looked forward to experiencing God’s radical renewal.”
We, like David, do not have to hide from the shame of our sin, but can display true character and unflinchingly face—and then find forgiveness—for our sins.
Finally, when we see the wicked prosper, it is easy to think pursuing character is not worthwhile. It is also tempting to sit in judgment, believing we ourselves are righteous, set in a different category from those the evil. Li Yingqiang reminds us that God is just and that he will develop his good character in us: “This is God’s turning over of our lives. We are no longer totally powerless to do good, but can, by his grace, do what is pleasing to the Lord.”
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.