Something for you to ponder, this Lord’s day. This is an excerpt from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs, who served as a prominent member of the Westminster Assembly. I’m just about finished reading this classic work, and have been greatly blessed by it.
By contentment we come to give God the worship that is due to Him.
It is a special part of the divine worship that we owe to God, to be content in a Christian way, as has been shown to you. I say it is a special part of the divine worship that the creature owes to the infinite Creator, in that I tender the respect that is due from me to the Creator.
You worship God more by this than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament. These are the acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts of worship, to hear and pray and receive sacraments. But this is the soul’s worship, to subject itself thus to God. You who often will worship God by hearing, and praying, and receiving sacraments, and yet afterwards will be forward and discontented—know that God does not regard such worship, He will have the soul’s worship, in this subjecting of the soul unto God. Note this, I beseech you; in active obedience we worship God by doing what pleases God by being pleased with what God does. Now when I perform a duty I worship God, I do what pleases God; why should I not as well worship God when I am pleased with what God does? As it was said of Christ’s obedience: Christ was active in His passive obedience, and passive in His active obedience; so the saints are passive in their active obedience, they are first passive in the reception of grace, and then active. And when they come to passive obedience, they are active, they put forth grace in active obedience. When they perform actions to God, then the soul says: ‘Oh! That I could do what pleases God!’ When they come to suffer any cross: ‘Oh, that what God does might please me!’ I labor to do what pleases God, and I labor that what God does shall please me: here is a Christian indeed, who shall endeavor both these. It is but one side of a Christian to endeavor to do what pleases God; you must as well endeavor to be pleased with what God doe, and so you will come to be a complete Christian when you can do both, and that is the first thing in the excellence of this grace of contentment. [pp. 130-132]
The above is perhaps explained in part by what Burroughs says later:
It should be the care of a Christian to observe what are God’s ways towards him: What is God about to do with me at this time? Is God about to raise me, to comfort me? Let me accept God’s goodness, and bless His name; let me join with the work of God, when He offers mercy to me, to take the mercy He offers. But again, is God about to humble me? Is God about to break my heart, and to bring my heart down to Him? Let me join with God in this work of His; this is how a Christian should walk with God. It is said that Enoch and Noah walked with God – walked with God, what is that? It is, To observe what work God is now about, and to join with God in that work of His; so that, according as God turns this way or that way, the heart should turn with God, and having workings suitable to the workings of God towards him.
Now I am discontented and murmuring, because I am afflicted; but that is why you are afflicted, because God would humble you. The great design God has in afflicting you, is to break and humble your heart; and will you maintain a spirit quite opposite to the work of God? For you to murmur and be discontented is to resist the work of God. God is doing you good if you could see it, and if He is pleased to sanctify you affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life. Now will you still stand out against God? It is just as if you were to say, ‘Well, the Lord is about to break me, and humble me, but He shall not’; this is the language of your murmuring and your discontentedness, though you dare not say so. But though you do not say so in words, yet it is certainly the language of the temper of your spirit. Oh, consider what an aggravation this is: I am discontented when God is about to work such a work upon me as is for my good; yet I stand out against Him and resist Him. [pp. 211-212]