Recently I asked each member of our youth staff to read “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris and then pass the book along to one of our teens. The book challenges the worldly thinking of our culture by showing that God would have teenagers do more than just play video games, watch the latest YouTube sensation, and hang out with friends. The goal is to create and fuel a “rebelution” against the low expectations of our culture, expectations that have even crept into churches and that Christian teens may have for themselves.
The authors are 19-year-old twins who were homeschooled and accomplished some amazing things during their teen years. Their challenge to this generation is to do hard things by God’s grace with the abilities and interests that He has given. The book is an easy read as most of its argument develops through illustrations from real teens’ experiences, including many from the Harrises’ lives. At 16 they were interns for an Alabama Supreme Court justice, the youngest interns in the court’s history. The next summer they ran the justice’s campaign to be elected chief justice. Later that year they started a blog dealing with the issues of low teen expectations and it became the most successful teen-run blog on the Web.
The book begins with an assault on the “Myth of Adolescents.” The authors examine history and demonstrate that our modern concept of the teenager is relatively new. The term was first used in Reader’s Digest in 1941. Before the 20th century teens were treated as adults and many held important jobs by the time they were 15 or 16. They give fabulous demonstration of this in the lives of George Washington, David Farragut, and Clara Barton. They also illustrate that the expectations for “successful” teens in today’s culture include making a bed every day, being able to take a message on the phone, and, with a little help, cleaning your room once a week. Teens in high school are expected to manage a daily chore and move on to cleaning their rooms without assistance. According to a 2005 story in Time, the adolescent mindset is still present for many in the mid-20 and beyond. Is this what believers should expect of young people? Is this all God expects?
1 Corinthians 13:11 describes only two levels of maturity: children and adults. In 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul tells Timothy that in spite of his youth he was to be an example for the believing community. The Bible is filled with examples of young believers who accomplished great things for God. Our culture says you never have to grow up, but Scripture says God expects His people to work hard right now for the glory of His kingdom.
As our adult sponsors began giving me feedback and I finished the book myself, I realized my generation needs to challenge some unbiblical expectations. I need to pursue Christ in a countercultural way. I need to stop taking the easy road in some of my daily choices. My prayer is that our teens will reject the temptation to fall in love with the world and its philosophy and will instead seek to do great things for God. This book echoes the challenge of William Carey when he said “attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.” I am praying that the truths presented will continue to challenge my expectations and the expectations of our teens.