Book Review - Do Hard Things

Image: Book Review - Do Hard Things

Teens - you can do more than you ever thought possible.

 I just finished reading “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations” by Alex & Brett Harris. It took me about 2 days. I couldn’t put it down.

Boy oh boy.

For those of you who have never heard of “The Rebelution”, it’s a blog started by the younger twin brothers of the better-known Josh Harris (author of ‘Boy Meets Girl’ and ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’), pastor of Covenant Life Community Church (which is responsible for the Sovereign Grace ministries). Open a new tab in your browser and visit it now!

Alex & Brett began TheRebelution.com when they were 16, started preaching and touring throughout the states and beyond when they were 17 and are now enrolled at Patrick Henry College (a seminary in the states). This book is sort of a (highly readable) thesis of why teenagers should get off their butts and do what society doesn’t expect of them: hard things. The first couple of sentences are captivating (even to me) and sums up the problem they’re tackling:

Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do something about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. We do.

As a relatively ‘young’ person myself, who serves young people and works for an organisation that serves young people, I was amazed at some of the examples of young “rebelutionaries” I encountered in this book. They were so… normal, just like you or me. They weren’t glamorized child prodigies, but simply faithful obedient Christian. The same God who did and is doing mighty things through the ‘young, weak and foolish’ depicted here stirred something in my heart as I read their testimonies.

Yes, they’re American. And yes, sometimes American stuff is cheesy to us Aussies, but I really think they’re onto something, and it may just be the beginnings of a movement amongst young people. Young people who are only just realising that they can do much more than they’ve been conditioned to think they can do.

“Ours has been the the century of the teenager ever since.” … Entire industries-movie, music, fashion, fast food-and countless online services revolve around the consumer habits of, you guessed it, teens.

With all this money and attention focused on teens, the teen years are viewed as some sort of vacation. Society doesn’t expect much of anything from young people during their teen years-except trouble. And it certainly doesn’t expect competence, maturity or productivity. The saddest part is that, as the culture around them has come to expect less and less, young people have dropped to meet those lower expectations. Since most of us have grown up surrounded by these low expectations, meeting them is like breathing to us-we never give it a thought. And we never realize what we’ve lost.

As one education expert put it, “Our current ceiling for students is really much closer to where the floor ought to be.”

Alex & Brett Harris have had their eyes opened by the gospel and humbly repeat that all they’ve done is entrust their lives with an all-powerful, true and living God. It’s evident that their reality is firmly grounded in and shaped by God’s word. They sharply critique their peers while pointing firmly to the nature of the God we claim to follow. I reckon the God-centredness of it all is what makes their exhortations all the more compelling:

“We can get so caught up in being the godliest person in our youth group or in earning the Celebration of Excellence for Leadership award that we lose sight of God’s standards. We fall short of our true potential because we aimed only to be bigger than the next fish in the small pond. 

The students who have written to us recognized this and weren’t about to hijack their futures just because they’d managed to exceed mediocre standards. They realized that God’s standard is not for us to be the godliest person in a youth group filled with halfhearted Christians, but to “be holy” because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). God’s standard is not for us to be our teacher’s best helper, but to be a “servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

God sets His standards high so that we won’t make the mistake of aiming low. He made them unreachable so that we would never have an excuse to stop growing.”

One thing that particularly impressed me was their emphasis on holiness. Not the self-righteous, repulsive “I’m-better-than-you-because-I’m-a-Christian” kind of holiness, but the attitude of and actions of love for God and others resulting in little or no reward. Things like tidying your room, obeying your parents, or taking a stand for sexual purity. Doing hard things means pleasing God, rather than man.

I don’t want to give away too much here because I want people to read it for themselves. I was personally challenged deeply about what I have thought about teenagers capabilities (which is not much at all!). I too had low expectations, but now I find myself dreaming of and seeking opportunities to mobilise young people. I want to give them the tools to do hard things, great things, enormous things for God’s kingdom…along with often harder little, ‘insignificant’, unseen things for God’s glory.

God has a habit of using the ‘weak’ and ‘foolish’ things of this world to shame the strong. He is a God of ‘reversals’: greatness through humility, rule through servanthood, glory through suffering and ultimately accomplishing the greatest good through the greatest evil. I don’t see why God wouldn’t do incredible things through the youngest human beings who are blessed with unbridled energy, zeal and unassuming trust and openness.

If you’re a teenager (or a 20-30 something year old ‘kidult’ happily settled in the rut of prolonged adolescence), I suggest you visit the nearest Koorong (he only store that currently stocks this book) and grab a copy. Get multiple copies and hand them out to every young person you know who can read. Heck, I’ll even buy it for you if you can’t afford it, just email me :P 


 

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