rebelling against low expectations

Do Hard Things and the Gospel


Do Hard Things and the Gospel

In the comments section of a previous post, readers Jon and Sarah both asked the question: How does the ‘do hard things’ motto relate to or derive from the gospel?

This post is our humble attempt to answer that question.

Brett and I know we have touched on aspects of this question in various posts and comments in the past, but we realize that we have never fully addressed it in a single place. That’s part of our motivation in writing Do Hard Things. Many of the core ideas behind the Rebelution are significantly more developed in our minds than they are on the blog. Some of them have only briefly been touched on here.

There are so many ways we see ‘do hard things’ relating to and deriving from the gospel. Not only is Christ’s atoning life, death and resurrection the ultimate hard thing, but it is also the means of our rebellion against low expectations and the motivation behind our commitment to do hard things in our daily lives. And it is His grace that enables us to do them for His glory. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Another primary aspect of ‘do hard things’ is its role in the practical outworking of the gospel in a believer’s life and in the Great Commission given to us by Christ. One of the innumerable beauties of the gospel is that it is Truth for all of life. Character and competence matter for Christians, because we are called to be salt and light to a lost and dying world. The integrity and quality of everything we do matters. (Matthew 5:16) And doing hard things is not only a testimony to a watching world, it’s also the way we grow in character and in competence.

Finally, although it can only be fully understood within the framework of a biblical worldview, ‘do hard things’ doesn’t apply exclusively to Christians. Our God is the Creator and Lord — recognized or not — of the whole earth and He pours out His common grace on the godly and the ungodly alike.

This means that unbelievers can and do grow in competence, and in a more limited sense, character, by doing hard things — just like they benefit from eating healthy food, and get stronger by working out. This is a testimony to the significance of ‘do hard things’ for Christians, that it is woven into the very fabric of how we were created by God to grow, mature, and succeed — and that faithfulness to ‘do hard things’ in each season of life prepares us for the next.

One of our favorite quotes is this one, by G.K. Chesterton:

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found lacking; it has been found difficult and left untried.” — G.K. Chesterton

Our vision for the Rebelution and Do Hard Things is that ours will be a generation that finds it difficult and yet still tries. But we don’t want to stop here, we want to hear from you. How do you see ‘do hard things’ relating to and deriving from the gospel? What are your thoughts on what we have shared above?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” — Jesus

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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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  • Thank you for that clarifying post. I’d like to underline the fact that we Christians shouldn’t do hard things by ourselves, or in order to earn anything. In all things we should rely on God and on His grace.

  • I would say that our reason for doing hard things (for believers) should come out of the overflowing love in our hearts for a God who would send His own Son to die a brutal death to save us from our sins. Since Jesus desires us to live like Him and be transformed we also desire it so we can show our love for Him.
    “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

  • Excellent post!
    I am doing last-minute things preparing to go to Jamestown, or I would leave a longer comment…but I’ll be thinking about it on the loooonnng ride down!

    However, here is what, in my mind, is the ULTIMATE Hard Thing:
    Philippians 2:4-8
    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

    Praying for you guys.

    ~Lady Tai

  • I love that Chesterton quote. My Mom even put it on our refrigerator.

    When I first came to your site, and read the line, “Do Hard Things” along with theme of breaking the low expectations, the thought that came to mind was this. I thought that by that, you meant something like, “Do what’s right, even if it’s difficult. No highway option.” This thought was brought about by what I often see in these “pop-churches” with their “pop-Christianity” that seems to discourage any spiritual activity in the youth’s lives other than on Sunday morning, or when it was time for summer mission trips. They have the mindset that it’s cool to show up at church on Sunday, sing along with the rock and roll at the beginning of the service, comment about how good the sermon was afterwards, and then go to your little circle of friends and discuss what movie you’re going to watch that evening. It seems that to them, God’s time in their week is on Sunday morning.

    Instead, with the encouragement to Do Hard Things, I thought that it was referring to breaking this mold of teenagehood. However, I did like your definition of it as well.

    Thanks, you guys!

    Glory to God in the highest,


  • This is so true. Christ did the ultimate hard thing for us, and therefore gave us the ability to do hard things for Him. It is only by His grace that we can fight against the comfort of this world and live for His glory. We are not commanded to have an easy life or to pursue please; instead, we are commanded to do as He did.

  • Brian: Thanks for sharing. This post was intended to expand the definition of what “do hard things” means to people. I think your original understanding of the phrase is accurate, but just remember that “do hard things” is a mindset—derived from the Gospel—that helps us approach every area of our lives with a heart to stretch and grow through continued effort.

  • How does the call to do hard things relate to and derive from the gospel? What a great question to ponder…with many, many wonderful answers!

    One quick facet came to mind from a passage in Ephesians 3 (and this needs more time to be plumbed than I can give it this morning).

    Read Ephesians 3:7-13.

    Having spoken of the gospel mystery finally revealed in Jesus Christ in the preceding verses (v.1-6 of Eph 3), Paul gives some beautiful commentary on a great cosmic function of the church. He says “grace was given [to me], to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places…” In this passage it seems that, in the incredible gospel-centered economy of God, Paul was made a minister of the gospel (by the grace of God through the gospel) to proclaim the gospel…so that the gospel message would create/build a church that displays the wisdom of God in the gospel to the world and even the heavenly realms. Incredible. How does doing hard things come into play here? In verse 13 Paul says, likely harkening back his current prison stay at the time of writing “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory”. So I conclude that the difficult circumstance Paul was faced with (brought about by his proclamation of the gospel!) was indeed extending the fruit of the gospel much further. His hard thing was testifying to the unsearchable riches of Christ. Unarguably God used Paul’s ministry, the glories and sufferings, to make the church a brighter display of the manifold wisdom of God.

    As I said, much more to be fleshed out!

  • My initial thought on how “do hard things” relates to the Gospel was that the very act of accepting Christ is a hard thing. It’s hard for any of to us to get over our pride and selfishness and admit that we need help–that we need Jesus’ forgiveness, that we can’t be good enough on our own. From there, once we do that first hard thing and humbly accept forgiveness, then we are constantly challenged to continue in that mindset and continue to act according to Christ rather than according to our own desires and with our own strength. Those things that Christ calls us to do aren’t exactly the “hard” things, since Christ gives of strength. It’s keeping our sinful desires and pride out of the way that’s the “hard” thing.

    I appreciated reading everyone else’s comments too. Amen!

  • Since Jesus did the ultimate “hard thing” by dying for our sins, my understanding is that we should desire to do the ultimate “hard thing” for him.
    (By the way, this is the first time I have been on this site, and I really enjoy it.)

  • My initial thought on how “do hard things” relates to the Gospel was that the very act of accepting Christ is a hard thing.

    I agree.
    Any step of faith, especially in Christ, is hard – standing firm in the faith (1 Cor 16:13-14) is even harder.
    Yet we, as Christians, must live for Christ 110% – even though it’s hard.

  • Hard things are by nature set out to be abnormal.
    We as blood-bought believers are commanded to share the Gospel of Christ with the broken world around us. This alone is a “hard thing”.
    As Bonhoeffer said in “The Cost of Discipleship”
    “Costly grace is costly because it cost a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condems sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son… it is grace because God did not reckon his son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.” Living in light of this costly grace is hard.

  • Amen. I love that Chesterton quote! It is true that the Bible is full of role models for doing hard things. Thanks guys!

  • Ok when i first read this whole “Do hard things” thing, i thought you guys were complete and total loons. sorry, no kidding. that was obviously a misconception. i thought you were all goody goody and lets do this because our parents say we should, but no i see different. Lets not forget, though that Jesus wasn’t the only person who did hard things. Think of Ruth, and all she went through and how she loved through it all. And then there was that (sorry for the mind blank, i don’t have a bible with me) the one guy in the old testiment who worked 14 years for his wife cuz the bro-in-law/father gave the older daughter first?? ok gtg.. typing fast. wil write again later

  • The gospel and doing hard things are directly related mainly because Christ died for us and sacrificed Himself on our behath. Therefore, we owe him our lives. We owe Him. Not only that but it is our obligation. Jesus told us to go out into the world and preach the good news. That in itself is a very hard thing, because in our sinful nature we are ashamed of the gospel. It’s like when i’m listening to a sermon on my cd player in the car and i have my windows down. but when i get a stop light and the guy next to me has his window down as well, i start to turn it down. why? the reason is i’m afraid of man. and i should be afraid of God. “The fear of God imparts wisdom.” and “the fear of man brings a snare” Phil Delre (i’m sure you don’t know who he is) said, “the one and only reason christians back out of a situation to proclaim the gospel is fear of man.” And the question we are going to have to ask ourselves is, “When we are at the judgement seat, are we gonna say, ‘God i’m sorry but i was scared what billy was gonna think.’?” That is the most foolish mindset we can have. Because if we truly wanted to live for Christ and His Kingdom then we would want to proclaim the truth. We would want stand up for Him. We would want to do hard things. Christ gave up his life for us. Therefore we owe Him. we need to ask ourselves, “Who do i fear most, God or man?”

    Micah T

  • A good question and good answers. It’s got me thinking, cause in a way it could sound contradictory to the gospel – to a degree we can do hard things by human effort, but Paul said, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Not just some, but all. The only way we can overcome all, is through Christ, through the gospel of his grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit given unto us at the time we believe and accept his sacrifice, knowing we cannot do anything ourselves.

    I conclude that the encouragement to do hard things, is not so much to be that we ourselves can do anything hard, but that we are not to shy away from hard things – We are to go on with the whole armour of God, ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,’ trusting God to enable us to overcome. In other words, it draws us to God – to submission to him. ‘we glory in tribulation…’

    Back to the gospel, Christ’s death was to save us from our sins, to fit us for fellowship with him, a holy God. There was a man who turned back from following Jesus because he would not give his possessions to the poor -he loved them too much, it was too hard to follow the Lord. A godly life in this world is not easy, it takes humility. It is a part of the gospel. We accept him not only as Saviour, but as Lord.
    Thankfully, I cannot end there, but reiterate what I’ve already said. We do not have to rely on our own efforts, but God, who has promised that he will not give us more than we can bear. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith.’

  • I have been so captivated since I found this website about a week ago. I think I have been on it everyday since. The hard thing? Living your message! However, with God leading the way to the Highway of Holiness (Isiaiah 35) it is a journey that nothing in life can compare! Being a mother of 3 young girls teaching them to “pick up their cross daily” is a hard thing. It is a counter-cultural message, even in churches and most Christian families. Sometimes it’s not easy doing the right thing but, God-willing, we will see the fruit of doing “hard things”. This is such an incredible message for today’s youth. We will be in Dallas with our 12 yr old daughter for your conference. This is exactly what I have been looking for!

  • Wow, this is such a fantastic post! Everywhere we turn in scripture, we see the contrast of people who ‘did hard things’ and people who ‘did easy things’, and it truly is an incredible contrast. Those who stood up to society and went ‘against the flow’ of easiness, were the ones that God called to use in mighty ways. They were responsible children of God, and He could see that from the start. How that differs from the ones who took the easy route! Amen to all you’ve said. Thank you for your encouraging posts!
    In Christ,

  • Hey there Alex and Brett, I was just wondering if you could describe your definition by giving an example of doing ‘hard things’.

  • That is really cool what you guys are doing. It really is time to decide who we live for and live to the fullest, even though it sometimes takes doing hard things.
    In relating to the gospel, it is hard to overcome fears of what people will think, of being rejected, etc. But in truth, realizing that God has commanded us to do so and promised to be with us no matter what, is a great way to know that it will be OK. He also tells us not to fear, and knowing the Omnipotent God is at our side can help us to do just that.
    We weren’t created to sit around and do nothing. We were created to serve our Maker and Savior. It’s time for the revolution and it’s time to make a difference in our world.
    Let’s do it!

  • This is a very encouraging post, thanks!

    Right now I am reading your book Do Hard Things, and it has been helping me a lot in so many areas. I am only about half way into it, and I love it! (My daddy bought it for me at the Christian book store, and when we purchased it the guy there in charge said that it is one of the most popular Christian teen books out there! That is exciting news….I think everyone should read it)!

    There are several hard things that I have done or am doing now, and so I’ll share one. Whenever our family hears some kids screaming in a store, usually one of us will go up to the parents and hand out a wallet size child training card with helpful information about training kids in a God honoring way. And this is no easy thing for me to do, I am so fearful and nervous, and just don’t know what I should say or what they will do! But I say a quick little prayer and ask God to help me in that situation, and then it is not so bad! Usually everyone that I have ever given a card out to appreciates it and thanks me, so that helps. So I just need to over come my fear of reaching out and speaking to people, because I know that is what God wants of me!

    In Christ,
    Hannah B.

  • This is the ultimate ‘hard thing’ for me right now, the star I’m aiming for.

    Complete submission to God’s will.

    I read the book “The shack” and in it the author described Jesus’s relationship with the Holy Spirit and The Father as such, where all three, though one yet three, is in complete submission to each other. Underscore, emphasize, complete. Perfection!

  • how i see that “do hard things” is connected is that jesus himself tells us its not going to be easy

  • something hard in my life that i am having is my family members are not christains and it is hard to share with them but from reading your book and going to the conference i am going to do the hard things in life thanks for that time to wright and speek to us about it i am really trying to work on it

  • Thank you so much for this and what you are promoting. I am 21 years old and have been tricked into thinking I must enjoy the time I have left in college before I reach the real world. It makes me sick that I have given into this lie for so long because I have realized it has crippled my ability to make my own decisions and be an adult. I am engaged, I have a year left of school, I play golf for school, and I am having the hardest time getting my parents to realize I am an adult and I am ABLE to make my own decisions. Continue on! May God bless what you all are doing!

  • “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” — Jesus

    It is just so easy to be engulfed in a world full of lost dreamers, where morals fade quickly. But doing hard thing is same as entering the narrow gate – reaching and squirming for what seems to be impossible in this world.

    We all are called to do hard things, for without them we’d not be entering the narrow gate.

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    Lately there’s been a lot of talk about this relatively unknown 24 year-old online millionaire named Steve Iser who’s exposing his software program Commission Crusher, to the world for a very limited time…

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    Simply put, Steve is unlike any other marketer online. With nearly 5 years of marketing online, Steve has gone from College dropout at 20 to millionaire status in less than 3 years.

    He’s run the full gamut from promoting affiliate programs, creating info products, software training, sold websites, spoken at marketing conferences, created his own CPA offers and in the process of his career has already helped thousands of people create successful businesses online.

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    His new software program, Commission Crusher, utilizes a simple method that allows you to tap into any market or niche online and find out WHO exactly has the traffic – so you can tap into it and get a piece of the pie for youself.

    Needless to say, he’s unlike most of these other “gurus” out there. He does things differently. And he takes a personal interest in helping his customers succeed.

    If you want to know more about Commission Crusher and what Steve’s got going on right now, check it out below:

    GO here

  • I like reading these post on this website. be have hope as christians trust me we do go to God and say i need your help or i need more wisdom (examples).this is a wonderful website it keeps you going for the word of God!

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 →