One of my favorite new TV shows is Designated Survivor. It’s a West Wing drama where America is attacked during a meeting of both houses of Congress and the one person who was “designated” to miss the meeting is left in charge to rebuild the government and the country as the President of the United States. It’s currently in season two and a good suspense show if you like that sort of thing.
In a recent episode the President asks a former Chief of Staff to rejoin his administration. When the former Chief of Staff courteously declines the President says he will not take no for an answer. The former Chief of Staff then replies, “I serve at the pleasure of the President.” It’s a feel good moment in the show.
This reply, though I have heard it before, has now stuck with me for about a week. It seems to have grabbed ahold of my heart and won’t let go. In this time I have asked two main questions, one as a lover of history and the other as a follower of Christ and as a pastor: First, where did this statement originate? Second, what are the implications to serving at the pleasure of one who is so supreme?
With a little research and no intention of being political I found that this very phrase is one which has recently been utilized and even come under scrutiny. In February of 2017, Trump Administration White House advisor Kellyann Conway stated on Twitter:
“I serve at the pleasure of @Potus. His message is my message. His goals are my goals.” (source)
However, the phrase itself actually goes back as far as the 1700’s in American history and if one exchanges the word “President” with “king” or another royal office the phrase can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. The origin comes from the Latin phrase, durante bene placito regis and would be literally translated “during the pleasure of the king.” The impetus of the phrase is a declaration of willing subjection. A person who serves at the pleasure of the President is a person who is called and accountable to that calling. He or she serves willingly, loyally, and obediently that the President would find satisfaction in their efforts, their results, and even in their person.
The thought that I truly can’t seem to shake, for us who are called by God the Father to such a glorious salvation in Christ the Son and empowered for a clear mission by His Spirit, how much more so do we serve at the pleasure of our King? Is there anything to great that He could ask of us? By no means do I mean to belittle the hardships that you may be facing. The difficulties of ministry are certainly overwhelming at times. The attacks of the evil one may often seem inexhaustible. The burden of balancing life circumstances, family, your own finances, and ministry are enough to make any sane person want to throw their hands up in the air, to waive a white flag, to give up and do something else, anything else.
And we would too… but we serve at the pleasure of the King.
His name is our name. His salvation is our salvation. His righteousness has been imputed to us who live by faith.
His message, the beautiful Gospel, is our gospel and make even our feet beautiful as we carry it everywhere we go and around the world. His mission is our mission and His calling upon our lives is our joy. It is our joy to do the will of Him who sent His Son and now sends us. It is our joy to bring pleasure to the King.
Pastor, Church Leader, Follower of Christ, do not give up. Do not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9). Our God who is big enough to save us from our sin, our shame, and our separation from His presence is most definitely big enough to empower us for the mission to which he has called us.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Dr. Josh Carter is CABA's Leadership Catalyst. He also pastors Clough Pike Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Oh.