It’s a well-worn phrase in American politics within the executive branch of the United States government:
“I serve at the pleasure of the President.”
The staffer who utters these words is, in effect, saying they were asked to serve on the President’s payroll and that they will do so until they are told they’re no longer needed – at which time they will immediately tender their resignation upon the President’s request. Whether it actually happens this way behind closed doors, it’s the way this time-honored tradition has been played out before the American public dating back to the early days of our Republic.
There’s a simplicity to this perspective that has rich application to the life of the Christian leader. Each of us serves at the pleasure of the LORD of Hosts – the sovereign Commander of all armies earthly and heavenly – Who alone knows our best use. He gave us our calling in the first place. In some instances, He calls us to a similar type and context of ministry for a lifetime. In other cases, He leads us into seasons of work and ministry for the purpose of equipping us for future usefulness.
Sometimes we will realize the purpose for such equipping; other times, we won’t have a clue. This latter scenario tends to also coincide with times of testing, refinement and suffering. Phrases such as “dark nights of the soul” and “severe gifts” have been used by popular Christian authors to describe such redemptive times in God’s economy. Such labeling can help us embrace meaning during tough times, even if they don’t serve to alleviate any of the suffering.
When we sense the winds of change blowing into our lives and ministries, it can feel rather scary. If you’re anything like me, my old nature likes the predictability of sameness, especially if my professional identity has become attached to my previous work. My true devotion is tested. Is my focus more on myself or on the One who called me in the first place? Am I being more faithful to the vision itself or to the One who birthed that vision in me all those years ago? Am I serving at the pleasure of myself and my kingdom or of Him and His?
It really comes down to whether we really trust Him. If it really is about His glory and His Kingdom, we’ll be willing to lay down the thing into which we may have poured all our blood, sweat and tears. But as Christian leaders, we’re not really throwing something away. We’re surrendering it back to the One from Whom it originated – a recycling of that thing, if you will. Consider it a reinvestment into the next adventure God has in store for us.
That doesn’t mean we won’t struggle to accept His new direction (even if that means some kicking and screaming in our private prayer closet). He’s big enough to handle that. Isn’t that what we mean by “come as you are”, anyway? He accepts us right where we are… and lovingly nudges, tugs and prods us in the direction of His ultimate desire for us.
What’s being sown into our lives today as a result of our current circumstances? How might God be tilling up the fallow ground in preparation towards something new? It reminds me of a song from the earlier days of contemporary Christian music:
In the things familiar, we find security / Resisting all the changes the days and years can bring / When God decides to lead you through an open door / Inviting you to walk in realms you’ve never known before
Beyond the open door is a new and fresh anointing / Hear the Spirit calling you to go / Walk on through the door, for the Lord will go before you / into a greater power you’ve never known before
– Beyond the Open Door, Gaither Vocal Band, from the album “A Few Good Men” (1992)
Remember: the unburdened life isn’t staying with the comfort of what we know but rather in following His lead down the sanctifying path.
Heavenly father, LORD of Hosts: You are the Lord of my life. What is Your pleasure to work in and through me today? May it count for the Kingdom in ways far beyond what I can even imagine or think. Enable me to be faithful to You today – even if it’s painful. I trust You to accomplish all that You intend, whether I get to see the end result someday or not. Amen.