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Contentment (Philippians 4)

Paul, in prison, gives testimony to his own sense of contentment in God’s care.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Paul, in prison, gives testimony to his own sense of contentment in God’s care.


Prelude / Gathering Music: “Sing Praise to the Lord” [see music notes]

Call to Worship

*Opening Hymn of Praise:

Sing Praise to the Lord” [see also RL 143], or
Praise the Lord! Sing Hallelujah!” [see also TH 57]

*God’s Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song of Response: “Lord God Almighty

Preparing our Hearts for the Lord’s Table

Invitation of Christ to the Table

Prayer for the Cleansing of Our Hearts

Sung Prayer: “Spirit of the Living God” [see also HW 210]

God’s Assurance of Grace: Romans 5:8-11

God Speaks His Word to Us

Prayer for Illumination

Reading of Scripture: Philippians 4:10-21

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!


Prayer of Application

Anthem: “The Lord is the Strength of His People,” Sean Ivory
[see music notes]

Our Response to God’s Word

Time of Caring

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 23 [see liturgy notes]

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want

You prepare a table before me
 in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Intercessory Prayer [see liturgy notes]

Sung Prayer: “Don’t Be Afraid”, Text and Music by John L. Bell

A prayerful acknowledgement of the obstacles to our contentment

Sung: “Don’t Be Afraid”

A prayerful intercession for those who are distressed and hurting.

Sung: “Don’t Be Afraid”

Offertory and our Offerings: “In the Quiet Consecration

Time at the Lord’s Table

Words of Welcome

*Song of Invitation: “Table of Plenty

Words of Institution: I Corinthians 11:23-26

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Blessing of the Bread and the Cup

Song: “The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life,” [see also HW 2, PH 170, RL 89, TH 87, TWC 330, UMH 136, W&R 86]

Song: “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!

Prayer of Gratitude

We Leave to Live in God’s Care

*Song of Faith: “For Your Generous Providing”, [Dwelling with Philippians 4:10-20, sung to BEACH SPRING]

*Words of Sending:

Go out from here in joy
to live in God’s generous provisions.
Go out from here in confidence
and the assurance of God’s grace.
Go out from here in faith
and the assurance of God’s love.

*God’s Parting Blessing and congregational Amen!

Postlude: “For Your Generous Providing”

*Indicates standing if you are able.

The materials included here from THE WORSHIP SOURCEBOOK are used by permission from THE WORSHIP SOURCEBOOK, © 2004, CRC Publications. This permission is granted for one time worship use in an order of service for a congregation, or in a special program or lesson resource, provided that no part of such reproduction is sold, directly or indirectly. For all other uses, please contact the copyright holder.

Liturgy Notes

  1. Psalm 23 is the “Psalm of the Day” for this service. It was chosen because it warmly expresses the confidence and security of the children of God, and also gives it aims to communicate such confidence and security to those who are not yet able to find it. The version printed here is NRSV, but we suggest that you use whatever version is in your pews or that with which your worshipers are most familiar. It is important for this service that these words are very familiar. Notice that a response and affirmation by all is interspersed throughout the reading of the Psalm.
  2. The Intercessory Prayer in this service is particularly important. While the text, sermon, and Psalm 23 speak of contentment, there will be some worshipers who are distressed and anxious. It is an act of caring then to hold their needs up before God for his blessing before approaching the Lord’s Table so they can be open to the nourishment God aims to provide here. These prayers should be pastoral, warm and caring. The song “Don’t Be Afraid” that is sung in conjunction with the prayer is written by John Bell of the Iona Community and can be found in “Sing with the World”, published by GIA [2008].
  3. Your congregation likely has its own traditions and practices on how the sacrament is presented.  If you need further assistance you will find it in The Worship Sourcebook, pages 305 and following. If the bread and cup are distributed to worshipers in the pew, we suggest singing “The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life” while the bread is distributed and “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!” while the cup is passed. If your worshipers come forward for the sacrament, both of these can be sung during that time of serving.

Sermon Notes

Contentment is obviously the theme of these verses from Paul. But before you too easily think this presents a nice and comfortable theme to develop in preaching, we should consider a couple of probing questions.

Is he speaking only about material resources here, only about “plenty”, “money” and “well-fed?” If so, it becomes an easier theme to treat and we need only exhort people to be satisfied with less and to curb their materialistic appetites.

But there is more to consider. Consider that Paul was in prison, experiencing a loss of freedom, a loss of relationships, potentially a loss of his future, and of his ministry. Was he expected to be satisfied (content) with that? Did God expect that Paul would willingly give all that up? His loss of material resources was only one part of his need.

Each preacher will have sitting before her/ him many listeners who have experienced losses more severe than that of material resources, and will be wrestling with the huge question of whether they can ever achieve contentment again. The answer cannot be “simply learn to be satisfied with less.”

Paul’s secret here is expressed in two verses in which profound promises are communicated. In verse 13 he affirms that God through Christ currently resides within Paul and through his union with Christ he receives strength to cope with circumstances that far exceed what he would normally be able to cope with. He teaches us that our union with Christ provides strength for living even in adverse circumstances. In verse 19 he makes the promise even more sweeping – “My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”. Those are huge words coming from a man in prison who wondered if he had any future at all. Many other times as well (see II Corinthians 11:23-29) he had suffered many kinds of threat and deprivation. He knew by personal experience what material needs were, but he also knew about relational, emotional, physical and spiritual needs. And he includes them all in this promise guaranteeing that God satisfies each of those needs for his children.

Most interesting is that Paul also points to one of the methods that God frequently uses to meet such needs – the loving care that comes from fellow believers. Several times in these verses he points to the loving concern and care that they Philippians had expressed toward him. Their sharing with him was God’s provision.

No wonder he concludes this section with a doxology (see verse 20). God deserves the glory for the way his children are able to cope with life’s adversities as they are supported through one another.

Music Notes

1.      Suggestions for Prelude based on the opening hymn “Sing Praise to the Lord” can be found in the following resources:


  • Organ:
    • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Laudate Dominum. Concordia 97-6768 [1998] (E-M)
    • Cherwien, David. (1995) Augsburg Organ Library – Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003] (E-M)
    • Dahl, David P. Hymn Interpretations. Augsburg 11-10972 [1999] (E-M)
    • Hobby, Robert A. 3 Hymns of Praise. Set 7 Morningstar MSM-10-578 [2005] (E-M)

2.      The anthem “Psalm 28: The Lord Is the Strength of His People” was composed by Sean Ivory for SATB voices and piano with optional refrain for assembly. It is published by GIA. G-6100 [2003]

3.      The suggestions for offertory are based on the communion hymn “In the Quiet Consecration”:

        KINGDOM [PH498, 508; PsH302; RL547]

  • Organ:
    • Cherwien, David. Interpretations. bk. 9 AMSI SP-106 [1992] (E-M)
    • Schalk, Carl. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ. Vol. 1 Concordia 97-7001 [2002] (E)
    • White, Louie L. Hymn Preludes for Holy Communion. Vol. 3 Concordia 97-5488 [1988] (E-M)

4.      Alternative harmonization for the singing of the communion hymns “The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life” and “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners” can be found in the following resources. If you choose not to have congregational singing, you may want to play transcriptions of these hymns which would allow the congregation to meditate on the texts. When the congregation sings, the songs become professions of faith.


  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008] (√; E-M; with organ)
  • Organ:
    • Held, Wilbur. The Lord Is My Shepherd. Morningstar MSM-10-420 [1999] (E-M)
  • Piano:
    • Carter, John. Songs of the Shepherd. Hope 1967 [1996] (E-M)


  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Burkhardt, Michael  As Though the Whole Creation Cried  vol. 2. Morningstar MSM-10-606 [2009]
    • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ. bk. 1 Ludwig O-05 [1975]
    • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Cherwien, David. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000] (√+)
    • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008]
  • Organ:
    • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Hyfrydol. Concordia 97-5940 [1986] (E-M)
    • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice. vol. 2 SMP KK235 [1982] (adaptable to piano; E-M)
    • Lasky, David M. Partita on “Hyfrydol”. Egan EO-300 [1993] (E-M)
    • Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
    • Schalk, Carl. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ. Vol. 1 Concordia 97-7001 [2002] (E)
  • Piano:
    • Carter, John. Merrily on High. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-2347-9 [2006] (E-M)
    • Leavitt, John. A Mighty Fortress Sacred Reflections for Piano. Concordia 97-7254 [2007] (M)
    • Lind, Richard. Piano Impressions for Worship. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 978-0-8006-7880-7 [2007] (M)
    • Shaw, Timothy. Great Hymns of Faith for the Church Pianist. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 978-0-8006-2167-4 [2008] (M)
    • Sowash, Bradley. Great English Hymns. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 978-0-8006-7879 [2007] (E-M; jazz style)
    • Wilson, John F. A Sacrifice of Praise. Hope 347 [1994] (E-M)
  • Handbells:
    • Crawshaw, Craig. Hallelujah, What a Savior. Jenson 469-08019 [1984] (3 octaves, E-M)
    • Tucker, Sondra K. Meditation on Hyfrydol. Chorister’s Guild CGB-182 [1996] (3 octaves, E-M)

5.      Alternative harmonizations and resources for the postlude, based on the tune selected for the closing hymn “For Your Generous Providing” are as follows:

                BEACH SPRING

  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
    • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations. bk. 5 Ludwig O-14 [1992]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008] (E-M; with opt. 4 handbells, flute and organ)
    • Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]
  • Organ:
    • Albrecht, Timothy. Grace Notes VIII. Augsburg 11-10970 [1999] (E-M)
    • Cherwien, David. Interpretations. bk. 7 AMSI SP-104 [1988] (E-M)
    • Haan, Raymond H. Be Present Now. Morningstar MSM-10-566 [2004] (E-M)
    • Held, Wilbur. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ. Vol. 4 Concordia 97-7032 [2005] (E-M)
    • Held, Wilbur. Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E-M)
    • Kerr, J. Wayne. Let Us Walk with Jesus. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7783-8 [2005] (E)
    • Linker, Janet. Sunday Morning Suite. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7560-6 [2002] (E-M)
    • Wold, Wayne L. Augsburg Organ Library – Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M)
    • Wood, Dale. Wood Works. bk. 2 SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M)
  • Piano:
    • Carter, John. Contemplative Folk Tunes for Piano. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-5977-5 [2001] (E-M)
    • Chapin, Rachel. The Cross of Christ. Concordia 97-6994 [2002] (E-M)
    • Porter, Rachel Trelstad. Day by Day. Augsburg 11-10772 [1996] (M)
    • Larkin, Michael. Be Thou My Vision. Morningstar MSM-15-832 [2004] (E-M)
    • Leavitt, John. How Sweet the Sound. CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)
    • Marohnic, Chuck. Piano Meditations. Morningstar MSM-15-823 [2000] (jazz styled; M)
    • Miller, Aaron David. Hymns in Jazz Style. Augsburg Fortress ISBN-13: 978-080067853-1 [2007] (M)
    • Page, Anna Laura. Blest Be the Tie. Morningstar MSM-15-838 [2008] (E-M)
    • Shaw, Timothy. Great Hymns of Faith for the Church Pianist. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 978-0-8006-2167-4 [2008] (M)
  • Handbells:
    • Hopson, Hal H. Reflections on Beach Spring. Genevox 4184-18 [1986] (3-5 octaves, E-M)

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations

  • CSW: Contemporary Songs for Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg Fortress Publishing)
  • GSW: Global Songs for Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • HW: Hymns for Worship (Calvin Institute of Christian worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • PH: The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
  • PsH: The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • RL: Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
  • RN: Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
  • SFL: Songs for LiFE (children’s songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SNC: Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SNT: Singing the New Testament (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • SWM: Sing With Me (Faith Alive Christian Resources)
  • TWC: The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing)
  • TH: Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
  • UMH: The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
  • WOV: With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
  • W&R: Worship and Rejoice (Hope Publishing)