In Grateful Praise and Prayer

Series: A Constant Sense


Pt.#13 – A Constant Sense

Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / October 18, 2015

If you were unaware of the calendar, listening to my sermon last Sunday and this morning’s

message might lead you to conclude that I’m rushing the thanksgiving season.

Just in case you might be entertaining the notion that I’m showing signs of dementia, I know that it is still October.

But I also know, Biblically speaking, that thanksgiving is not just a season - - it is a state of mind.

And this thanks-filled, always-grateful state of mind is critical to a healthy prayer life.

The Scriptures teach us this significant truth both directly and in-directly.

In-directly, this constant sense of gratitude is seen in Daniel’s prayer recorded in Dan.6:1ff.

After distinguishing himself as an exceptionally competent commissioner during the reign of King Darius,

Daniel’s rivals began to scheme as to how they could derail his swift upward rise through the ranks.  They were envious.

Pandering to the king’s ego, they suggested that the king enact a law that would assure everyone’s loyalty.

“If anyone petitions any god or man besides the king…he shall be thrown into the lion’s den” (Dan.6:7).

Daniel’s enemies were hoping (counting on the fact) that he would defy this edict - - and sure enough Daniel did.

Dan.6:10 states, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house

(now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and


This story has a happy ending (for Daniel), but Daniel’s grateful praise & prayer would have sustained him, no matter what.

Numerous more directly stated instructions are scattered throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament.

One example of a direct admonition is found in three short & simple verses found in 1Thess.5:16-18

Rejoice always;

Pray without ceasing;

In everything give thanks;

For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

If we can learn to hear and heed this text (not once but continually), it will bring a life-changing transformation.

1Thess.5:16-18 is rather easy to memorize (2 + 3 + 4 + 10), but it is not so easily practiced.

In case you haven’t noticed, we humans seem to have a tendency to revert to negative thinking.

Such negativity seems to be our “default setting”, to borrow from compute lingo.

Overcoming this seemingly inherent kind of stinkin’ thinkin’ can sometimes take a lifetime.

What makes it so difficult is that it is un-natural (to give thanks in everything) and because

it runs counter to our sinful hard-wiring, we have to work at it - - both intentionally and constantly.

Even the most spiritual among us seem to locked in to a “C” grade at best.

We are often Critical.  We Carp a lot.  We are frequently adult Cry-babies.  We Complain at every turn.

Cranky is our middle name.  More than we should be, we are Crusty and Cross with one another.

And sometimes we’re guilty of Cutting-down and Chewing-out the very ones we claim to love the most.

On this topic of contentment very few if any of us have learned how to consistently ACE our shortcomings.

We are very much like our Biblical forefathers - - the children of Israel,

who were made to wander in the wilderness for forty years … specifically because of their sinful grumbling spirit.

But this way of life is not what God desires for us.  God’s way is reflected in our sermon title,

which derives from the last verse in that wonderful song, Father of Mercies (Song #51 – vs.3).

¯  Father of mercies, may our hearts ne’er overlook Thy bounteous care;  ¯

But what our Father’s hand imparts still own in grateful praise and prayer, still own in grateful praise and prayer.

Jesus is the ultimate example of contentment.

Read from Lk.22:39-46

Jesus petitioned the Father, “if Thou art willing, remove this cup…”.  The CUP was the curse of the cross.

Yet the Father denied His request in order to bring salvation to mankind.

So how did Jesus respond to His Father’s sovereign will?

Heb.12:2 states, “for the JOY set before Him, (He) endured the cross, despising its shame…”

Heb.12:3 closes this historical note with an application and an exhortation for us:

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary & lose heart. 

This verse reminds us that the life of Jesus is not just OTHER, but His way is to be our way.

In a brief letter to the church at Philippi (Philp.4:11), Paul declares:

I have learned to be CONTENT whatever the circumstances.

This is the challenge and course of life for all of us who call ourselves Christians.

For Paul, this was not some theoretical and hollow assertion.

As we studied earlier in this series, Paul dealt with a “thorn in the flesh” (2Cor.12:8-10).

It was not a physical ailment per se, although it affected Paul’s physical body.

This thorn was a legion of false teachers who brought Paul great suffering.

Paul entreated the Lord to remove it (them), but God declined saying,

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.

So how did Paul handle God’s sovereign will?

Most GLADLY, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses that the power of Christ might dwell in me.

Therefore, I am WELL CONTENT with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses,

with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

One illustration of how this written declaration was lived out by Paul (and his comrades) is found in Acts.

Read from Acts 16:22-25

Did you notice how the text ended, “and the prisoners were listening…”?

 This speaks about our witness before a watching world.

There is often a large chasm of difference between how Jesus lived and how we as His followers live.

Throughout history many have marveled at the message and life of Jesus.

But then they peer into the lives of us who claim to be His followers and they are struck with our failure to follow Jesus.

Every day, in big and small ways, we are called upon to live out this message of being


There are times when the “whatever response” could be viewed as disrespectful.

Some of you teens have likely been lectured and even grounded for saying, “W-H-A-T-E-V-E-R”.

“Whatever” is not necessarily a bad or dirty word, it’s more the attitude that’s behind the word that got you into trouble.”

But there are instances (many of them) where taking this “whatever attitude”

is actually a courageous expression of faith and trust in our Almighty God.

When events plunge us into darkness, how will we react?

  When Stephen was stoned to death because of His faith in Christ (Acts 7:60), did the early saints go into hiding?

  When the early saints were forced to become be fugitives from their homeland (Acts 8:1), did they falter in their faith?

  When James, the son of Zebedee, was killed with a sword (Acts 12:2), did his family curse God and fall into despair?

  When the disciples of Christ were expelled from the synagogues (Acts 19:9), did they whine and wither away?

  When the church of century one was inundated with trials & tribulations (1Pet.1:6) how were they able to rejoice?

  When early believers suffered so severely (1Pet.4:13 & 16), were they still able to keep on rejoicing and glorify God?

We might be inclined to speculate about what we might do if we were in Daniel’s predicament or Paul’s situation,

or how we might react if confronted with by trials and tribulations like those faced by the first-century Christans,

but the real test is not only how we might act and respond in extreme and extraordinary circumstances,

but also how we react and behave in the midst of our many ordinary and daily disturbances.

  When a serious illness strikes, how will we deal with it?  Are we able to be content whatever the diagnosis?

  When heartbreak invades our family circle, do we wallow in despair and depression?

  When our wife or husband files for a divorce, will “happily-ever-after” come to a screeching halt?

  When a beloved child or grandchild is taken away by a terminal disease will we be able to keep smiling?

  When we excitingly begin to prepare for the arrival of a newborn, but that babe in the womb dies unexpectedly. 

  When a loved one runs into trouble with the law and has to pay a steep penalty for his or her wrongdoing.

  When life falls apart at the seams, will we be able to respond in grateful praise and prayer?

  How do we respond when we lose our job, or maybe even worse, when we’re stuck in a job that we dislike immensely?

  How do we react when our girlfriend starts dating some other guy or our boyfriend decides to take a hike?

  How do we cope with flunking our first try at our driver’s license exam or when we score poorly on that dreaded ACT?

  How do we deal with a computer crash that renders all of our precious files irretrievable?

  How do we find contentment when our monthly bills continually outweigh our monthly income?

I cannot honestly stand before us and tell us that life will always be fair and nice.

Job words are harsh but true, “man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job.14:1).

The question is not will we sing and be happy when as is well - - when everything is honky-dory.

The burning questions before us all are ones like these:

  When life gets all of whack, will our gratitude to God cease to be?

  When our world is turned upside down, will we be able to sing praises to God?

  When tragedy befalls us, will we be able to rejoice nonetheless?

  When things unravel will we be able to tie a knot and hang on and still be happy?

  When everything sours will we be able to keep our sweetness?

  When things go terribly wrong, will we continue to kneel before God in grateful praise?

One last Scripture and then we will close in prayer.

Read from Heb.13:10-15

Anne Steele lived in Broughton, England from 1716-1778.

Her mother died when she was just three.  She came down with malaria at the age of fourteen.

A fall from a horse at the age of nineteen caused a severe hip injury that left her debilitated and somewhat disabled.

At the age of 21 she fell in love with Robert Elscurot, but he drowned on the day before their wedding.

Anne turned to writing and a number of her songs speak powerfully to the struggles we face in our quest for contentment.

Her most famous hymn was titled, “Desiring Resignation And Thankfulness”.

I want us to close this morning’s sermon by singing another one of her songs:  #815 / Father, Whate’er Of Earthly Bliss.

(A biographical sketch of Anne Steele is offered in, Then Sings My Soul. by Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

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