rebelling against low expectations

You Can’t Fake Hard Things


We’ve all been asked the question, “Are you willing to lose your life for Christ?” Perhaps we’ve heard it from our youth pastor, our parents, asked ourselves while reading Voice of the Martyrs, or read or watched a Christian book or movie which revolves around the question.

As emotionally invasive and as spiritually relevant as that question is, I often find myself thinking that dying for Christ isn’t the question. Instead, my challenge to us is: “Are we willing to live for Christ?” This is not unconnected from the question of dying for Christ, but is the first question we must ask ourselves.

Whether I am able to bench 200 lbs. is a good question. But first I must be able to honestly say I can bench 100 lbs. Whether I am able to run a marathon is a good question. But first I must be able to honestly say I can run a mile.

Let me put it another way: I cannot trust God when my two-month-old niece passes away if I am not trusting Him when I stub my toe. I will not be able to trust God in the big storms if I have been trying to stand on my own through the small ones.

We must all be willing to die for Christ. But before that is possible we must be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, [therefore] to die is gain.”

Living for Christ is the prerequisite of dying for Christ. Obedience when no one is watching comes before obedience in public. And I’m talking about obedience that’s hard. Obedience that costs you something. That is why you can’t fake hard things, and that is why small hard things always come before big hard things.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • It’s funny that you should post this today, because I’ve been thinking the exact same thoughts very, very recently. Even the same verse has come to mind! You’re very right. Excellent, thought-provoking post!

  • How right you are…it’s so easy to forget, but how can I expect to be able to die for Christ if I’m not living for Him, and being willing to face opposition now?

  • Your post reminded me of this quote:
    “Suffering isn’t the worst thing that can happen to us. Disobedience is.” Vietnamese Pastor (Voice of the Martyrs)

  • Sobering thoughts. I think of Paul when he was preparing to go to Jerusalem and his beloved friends had their doubts. Agabus prophesied that he would be bound if he went. His friends implored him not to go and he responded, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). No doubt Paul was ready to die. However, he had to be willing to be bound first. Just like you said–He was willing to live for Christ and therefore he was ready to die for Christ.

    Everyone is familiar with the Jim Elliot qoute about giving what we cannot keep. Here is great quote from Nate Saint, who saw himself as “expendable.” “During the last war we were taught to recognize that, in order to obtain our objective, we had to be willing to be expendable . . . This very afternoon thousands of soldiers are known by their serial numbers as men who are expendable . . . We know there is only one answer to our country’s demand that we share in the price of freedom. Yet, when the Lord Jesus asks us to pay the price for world evangelization, we often answer without a word. We cannot go. We say it costs too much.” (Elisabeth Elliot, “Through Gates of Splendor”, p. 60).


  • Wow! Strange that you mention this Brett.

    I am reading Fox’s Book of Martyrs at the moment… (trust me this is interesting, read on!)…

    I don’t know if any of you have ever thought about why Gladiatorial events at the Colosseum came to a close? I used to think that society just sort of transitioned, that it slowly leaked out of popular culture. Well, how wrong was I!

    It turns out that after a victory over the Goths, the Romans began “celebrating” with the usual Gladiatorial events at the Colosseum. It just so happened that a Christian by the name of Telemachus had travelled all the way from Asia to encourage and strengthen the brethren in Rome. While he was there, he saw the people flocking to the Colosseum. So, he followed the people into the stands.

    Once having entered, Telemachus saw that there were two gladiators fighting to the death. Without hesitation, he boldly leapt down into the arena and advanced upon the two gladiators. Laying his hand upon one of them, he sternly reproved him for shedding innocent blood. He then turned to the angry crowd and boomed: “Do not requite God’s mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering eachother!!”

    Angry shouts and cries at once drowned out his voice: “This is no place for preaching! The old customs of Rome must be observed! On gladiators!”. In vain, Telemachus tried to stand between the two gladiators, whereupon he was stabbed to death.

    He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favourite vice to which they had surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there again.

    If that isn’t living AND dying for Christ, then I don’t know what is! But, Brett, as you say, the small things will come first. Imagine the depth of character and godliness Telemachus must have had to be able to do that sort of thing. What a shining example.

    Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

    Yours in our Lord,

  • Thanks David. When I think of Telemachus, I kinda feel inspired to face the little difficulties in my life, cause they sort of pale in comparison.

    That reminds me of something Mother Teresa once said, “I don’t do great things. I do little things with great passion.”

  • Thanks for your thoughts! How true!

    As far as The End of The Spear goes….I wanted (key word, wanted) to see it SO SO bad. But this morning, I believe it was, my Mother recieved an e-mail stating that the star of the movie is a homosexual and is actively promoting that lifestyle. Now I definately have mixed feelings about the movie…I’m not sure if I want to see it at all now, which is very sad.

  • Brett, Thank you SO much for linking me to that article! I really appreciate it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. But I don’t have to worry about it too much now, it’s not even playing at our small-town theater right now. 🙂 So who knows if I’ll even get the chance?
    It’s weird though, recently I’ve heard alot about those men – even before I knew about the movie. So when I found out about the movie, I was excited. All I know to do is pray about it.

  • Wow. I was also thinking of this exact same subject. I was Googling a Bible verse, and I saw this page open beacuse my dad was on. Cool! A new perspective. Thanks!

  • AMAZing! This is so true, and something I have thought about lately (even though I am late in reading this post).

    Something that came to mind in regards to living for Christ compared to dying for Him is that while living for Christ we must be dead. Dead to ourselves so He may work through our earthly bodies. Therefore, if we are truly living for Christ, we will already be dead to our own selves and the things around us, so dying for Him will not be a major issue.

    Paul even said that he DIED daily.
    1 Corinthians 15:31

    Thanks so much! All your articles are such blessings!

    ~a dead Christian

  • All I can say is thank you Jesus, though it be far too small for what you did for me; for giving me that which cannot be taken away, and taking away that which I do not need: my sin and my shame. God bless you all,

  • Wow guys…

    I’m not in your generation, but your website has rapidly become one of my favorites. Your posts are so encouraging and so challenging…and to me, provide evidence that there is hope in the coming generation. I’ve told everyone I know about your site and encouraged them to bookmark it for their young people.

    May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you strong!


  • Oh my goodness! Brett, did your guys’ niece die??!!!! (that is an honest question)

    In some ways, I think that living for Christ is harder than dying for Him… true, most of us dont want to have to experience a painful death (or death at all, really), but death would be the last thing we have to overcome to at last see heaven… whereas with life, we still have to face challenges and obstacles…plus eventual death (unless Jesus comes back first).

    David Peyton: I also had been reading Fox’s Book of Marty’s a while back… it is amazing (in a bad way) the persecution the early church endured… another book about martyrs is “Jesus Freaks: Martyrs” by DC Talk; it has martyrs’ stories through the ages… they also have a volume II about Revelutionaries.

    It is so inspiring to see how the early church endured their persections; it makes whatever I’m going through seem so trivial… it also though reminds me to pray for fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are in Christian-hostile areas worldwide…

    ~Elisabeth J. Gruber

  • Wow! Thank you guys for that post!!! I’ve been reading the book “Jesus Freaks: Martyrs” and have been thinking about a lot of the same stuff. Your post was very eye-opening into a lot of stuff! I praise the Lord for what He is doing through you guys! Thank you!

  • Wow… All of you are soo right. I find one of the most encouraging things is reading about Christians who did do really big things for God. Some died, but through their death, God used their witness to affect many people, and even me today as I read about them. Also, I’ve really been pondering this poem lately by John Donne which I find quite amazing:

    Death, Be Not Proud

    Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
    Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
    Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
    And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
    And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

  • That is so true. I just started reading your book today and was all gun ho on wanting to be part of the rebelution thinking I needed to do something BIG or get involved in someway, but after reading this I was reminded of the most important thing. It starts with the LITTLE things which build to the BIG things. By dedicating my life to follow Christ in everything I do- schoolwork, obedience to my parents, being kind to my brothers. Its the little things I often forget about that help change the world.

  • Wow Brett. This was a very good article. I went to the link you gave Kelsa and read it. I got soo upset. At the end of the article he said that the man who played in “Chariots of fire” as Eric Liddell is a homosexual. That is just too bad. “Chariots of fire” is one of my favorite movies and now I don’t think I can watch it anymore.

    I have a question for anybody to answer. If a person gives in to torture and denounces their faith, does that mean they are going to go to hell? I wouldn’t think it would but I want someone elses opinion.

    God bless!

    Sarah. 🙂

  • wow! this is so true, faithfulness is when no one is looking and it will show when everyone is looking. encouraging and convicting!!!

  • that is an amazing question the verse that come to mind thanks to my youth pastor is (Romans 12:1-2). “I Beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrafice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be ye not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” this is what we must do. not only live for God by showing it on the outside. we must be transformed on the inside. true you have people that will change their outside by trying to be perfect, like models for magazines and tv. true they try to get the so called perfect look but if you meet some of them their not all that perfect. so to live for christ we must live for him all the way through our life.not only on the outside but inside as well. and this is not easy trust me. I’m far from perfect. I have a long way to go to get to perfect, but I got as far as trusting God for alot.

  • Wow.
    Firstly, I think that you two are so wise, and that what a blessing it is that God chose that you be here at these difficult times.
    I just graduated High School (Homeschool graduations are the best 😉 and plan to attend college in the fall. I got your book, Do Hard Things, as a present, and I must say it is challanging me.
    The whole “faking” is so relevent, I’ve done it myself. Recently, I’ve had to give up something in my life that I valued very greatly, simply because God told me. It was so hard, and I did it, but was completly miserable and unhappy…then I realized that I wasn’t TRUSTING HIM. I was trying to do it all on my own, and feeling the martyr all the while, but it wasn’t true submission. I have since repented and asked for peace and patience, knowing that God will provide as always.
    I say all that to say this: Trust isn’t something anyone else can do for you, its a descision you have to make everyday. To live real, faith hope and love have to be present in everyday life.
    P.S. I just think that you guys are awesome. And I am still looking for my “Hard Thing” to do in these teen years. 🙂

  • Amen. I love your book Do Hard Things and I am currently reading Start Here. I pray God shows me a hard thing to do before the end of my teen years. Keep spreading the message and God Bless 😀

  • Thank you for telling me this. I now know I have to trust God with the smaller things before I jump into huge things, and this shows that me I have to go one step at a time

  • It’s amazing as to how you said that before the big question, we have to ask first ourselves the little questions. It’s actually quite important that we remember what should be first.Thanks for reminding us that 🙂

  • I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →