rebelling against low expectations

Keep Moving Forward


Thomas Huxley was wrong about a lot of things, but he was right when he wrote, “The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”

Theodore Roosevelt’s life is an amazing example of a man who lived every day as if it were his last, worked every job as if he’d never have another, and in the end found himself as President of the United States. He neither despised the day of small things nor got stuck before he’d reached the peak of his potential.

Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings. He will not serve before obscure men.” That certainly was the case with Teddy Roosevelt who gave everything he had to everything he did. Obscurity cannot succeed in hiding a man like Roosevelt — and it never will.

Most of us, however, are not so passionate, tending to get comfortable just living life and getting by — neither giving our current activities the energy they deserve nor dreaming of anything better than what we already have. We stop exerting ourselves and get comfortable halfway up the ladder. Or, to use a different analogy, it is as if we are sitting on a stepping-stone in the middle of a stream. We’re comfortable, yes, but we were never intended to get cozy on a stepping-stone. Our ultimate goal is to cross over to the other side.

Jason, a twentysomething from Florida, wrote us to share how that lately he’d grown complacent with his life, just working his job and getting by. “Not that a steady working life isn’t God’s plan for some,” Jason wrote, “but I was feeling empty and knew that God had more abundant plans for me. I knew He had some hard things for me to do.” Jason concluded by sharing that he was now planning to switch gears and attend law school, with the goal of advocating for pro-life groups. He realized that he was getting stuck far below the potential God had given him. He knew it was time to step up to the next rung of life’s ladder.

Over 100 years ago a young woman named Mary from the town of Dundee, Scotland, lay in bed pondering the brave adventures of the great explorer, David Livingstone, who had just been buried in Westminster Abbey. Then she remember his famous words, “I don’t care where we go as long as we go forward.”

Go forward
, thought Mary to herself. I’m not going forward. I’m not going anywhere. I’m twenty-seven years old, I work in a cotton mill twelve hours a day, six days a week, and the little spare time I have I spend helping out at church. But that’s not enough. There has to be more to life for me. She rolled over and prayed, “God, I want to go forward like David Livingstone. Send me somewhere, anywhere. Just send me out to be a missionary.”

This praying girl’s full name was Mary Slessor and she went on to spend thirty-nine years among the unreached tribes of Africa’s Calabar region. Braving sickness, danger, and death on all sides, Mary never stopped moving forward in her quest to reach the lost souls of Africa with the life-giving gospel of Christ — becoming the cherished “White Ma” to entire tribes and an inspiration to thousands of missionaries to come. She choice to move forward radically altered the course of her life and the souls of countless people.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “further up and further in.”

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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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  • I love that quote from C. S. Lewis. “Further up and further in” was almost a motto to me a couple years ago, but I realize that I’ve gotten slack in some areas. I still read my Bible a lot, but my prayer time has slowed almost to a stop. Thanks for another wonderful post!

  • I really like the way you guys present these people’s live; by giving their first names, talking about them, then telling their full names. It’s a great reminder that the successful people and the ones who we remember nowadays did not necessarily start out famous, great, and successful. They had to actually work hard to acomplish what they did.

    Great post!

    Congratulations, Jason, for finding that God has more planned for your life than what you thought before! Amen!

  • Make it a series! After reading Brett’s resolutions last week I was inspired to make my own set of resolutions for the new year and for life. It was really a good thing for me because I seem to be stuck in a rut( or should I say rung) right now ; ) Thanks so much!

  • why can’t a person like Jason feel inspired and motivated without thinking that “God has a plan” for him? why can’t he make a plan for himself, or a plan that benefits the people close to him?

    it is clear that Mary Slessor achieved the things she did because _she_ motivated _herself_ to get out of Scotland. Why isn’t her perseverance in Africa a testament to her own will and good nature, instead of a result of the influence of Jesus?

    these comments are not put to you as an attack, i hope they will be seriously answered.

    thank you.

  • Matthew-

    We’re dirty rotten sinners, all of us, including myself and Mary Slessor. Dirty rotten sinners need help. I don’t think Mary Slessor made a plan for herself at all. She couldn’t. Only God could take a dirty rotten sinner and use her in that way. God was clearly behind it all.

    Ps that was not meant as an attack, and I don’t mean it as such.

  • Alex & Brett,

    I found your website and blog via WorldNetDaily today. What a breath of fresh air to find two wonderful young Christian men asserting themselves in such a positive and productive way! Jesus is smiling down from heaven!

    If I may, I’d like to address Matthew’s questions.

    Matthew wrote:

    “why can’t a person like Jason feel inspired and motivated without thinking that “God has a plan” for him? why can’t he make a plan for himself, or a plan that benefits the people close to him?

    The following verses may help explain why Christians give all the glory to God; especially for the proper direction that he gives us throughout our lives on this earth:

    Rom 8:27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (NLT)

    Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)

    When our will lines up with God’s will, it is then that we discover our gifts and how to use them in sharing the gospel of Christ as well as the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth.

    You wrote:

    “it is clear that Mary Slessor achieved the things she did because _she_ motivated _herself_ to get out of Scotland. Why isn’t her perseverance in Africa a testament to her own will and good nature, instead of a result of the influence of Jesus?”

    There is a verse in Isaiah that humbles every Christian:

    Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

    Here is the NLT version of that verse:

    Isa 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.

    Because of what Jesus Christ did for us at the cross, we give all the glory to Him. He is righteous. We are not. It is only through repentance for our sin and believing in Christ that our sins are washed away and we are reconciled back to God.

    Despite the fact that I am not perfect and make mistakes, it is when I turn to His strength, not my own, where evidence of the Holy Spirit working and guiding me in my life becomes apparent.

    What I have found in my own personal walk with Christ is that when I line up my will through doing things that are pleasing to Him; it is not for my glory. It only belongs to Him and is for His glory. I have found that whenever I do things for Him and others that line up with His will for our lives (which can be found in Christ’s words and the entire Bible), rather than for myself, it is then that I experience the greatest satisfaction in life.

  • Matthew-

    I like your question its a good one. God tells us in his word what we should be doing so we should go out and do it. we already have a personal invitation from God to do good works. many people will waste there lives “wondering what God wants them to do”.

    just do it Amy

  • Thanks for the new touches on the site design. I approve! (After all those Do Hard Things conferences, you’ve resorted to spell check on the comments—thanks! It really does help! 🙂 No more pasting in from Word. Oops…I really do like the DHT, but this does help.

    Blessings and Prayers,

  • Harris brothers- Great post and very challenging.


    The fact the God created us indicates that we are part of His overall plan. God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” We need to be seeking God’s will for our lives and what He wants us to do. It would not be right for a person to try and be a pastor unless they felt the call of God on their lives. Apart from God we can do nothing, and “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

    I am reminded of Isaiah 30:21
    ” Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,

    “ This is the way, walk in it,”
    Whenever you turn to the right hand
    Or whenever you turn to the left.”

    This verse speaks of God’s guidance for decisions in life. It is good that Jason is seeking to know the will of God for his life, may he find it and then be obedient to the voice of God.


  • I’m with Matthew. Granted, we all swim in the ocean of God–or as Erik reminded us, we live and move and have our being in God. Beyond that, let’s have a little credit–not pride, or God-defying hubris, just the obvious credit–for ourselves (or for Mary Slessor) for occasionally making good decisions, for taking the hard way for the sake of others, for choosing joy, for any one of a number of healthy and Christ-honoring decisions and actions we make. It’s at least as much an “us” thing as it is a God thing. Do you think God is okay with sharing the credit?

  • I like that ladder quote…visuals always help. Thanks for the encouragement not to get stuck in the middle!

    (Alex – just checking – did you get my photos? Or did the internet eat my email again. 😉 )

  • Matthew: Thank you for your honest question. I think the answer is multi-faceted, and unfortunately I have little time to really think through a response. Here’s some thoughts: (1) Jason’s and Mary’s decisions were 100% motivated by their love for Christ and their desire to follow Him. You cannot separate their actions and initiative from that relationship. (2) If that is the case, the question becomes: “Who is responsible for that relationship?” This brings us to the Gospel (i.e. “good news”) that Jesus came to earth as a man and lived a life without sin. He then died on the cross for our sins — taking the punishment that we deserved — so that we could enter into a relationship with God. (3) We can and should honor Jason and Mary for their real initiative and obedience. But when we remember that their motivation and their very existence are due to God having first created and then redeemed them — we must give him the credit. This might sound crazy to you, Matthew, but when you know this God we’re talking about there is no other logical conclusion. 🙂

  • Thanks for posting this guys! It’s something I’ve been struggling with this past year and so it’s always comforting to be able to refresh a desire to continue on in the different things God is calling me to do.

    At a youth retreat one guest speaker said something to the effect of, “Sactification is like a thermometer. Once we become a Christian it starts and continues to rise as we grow in our walk with God. Times will come when we might have a jump of growth and rise several degrees and other times when it will seem to be rising slowly, almost at a standstill. Nonetheless, it continues to go up, as we continue to grow in our personal knowledge of God, who has made and called us to be used for His glory.”

    Thank you for encouraging and remiding us to not just wait for growth to come as we often do, but instead to do Hard Things for God’s glory so as to continually rise in our degrees of growth as we seek to step up to the plate (ladder) and do all that God is calling us to do without fear of man, but instead with the fear of God.

  • Awesome post! It’s true that we can’t sit around waiting for God to make us perfect or circumstances to get better before we do hard things–or the things wouldn’t be hard. 🙂 I like how you mentioned C. S. Lewis at the end. He actually had some great insights on this in Mere Christianity.

  • This comment is a combination of my thoughts on the overall Keep Moving On posts. I may stray somewhat from Brett’s point . . . 🙂

    A year or so ago I woke up and realized just how much of my time I had wasted dreaming about what I wanted to be someday, or do someday, or learn someday. It was always someday – not now, not in the near future, but someday. If I bothered to think about it at all, I was sure that I had all the time in the world. That was a mistake. I dreamed, but I had no action. I never thought of what I needed to do to make my dreams reality. I wish someone had shaken me and told me to, “Yes! Dream! We need ‘dreamers of dreams’ and ‘seers of visions’! We need poets, inventors, pioneers, leaders, world-changers, servants, men and women of God! We need missionaries, artists, Christ-driven mothers and fathers, teachers, ministers, CEO’s, anything! So, go, dream! But don’t only do that. Set goals; make a list of what you need to do to accomplish your dreams. It doesn’t matter if you change your mind. Just do something.”

    Someone once said that “Vision without Action is a dream; Action without a Vision is a nightmare; but Vision combined with Action is a beautiful reality.” And I would amen that. By the grace of God I am moving forward now, running through doors that opened once He opened my eyes and I got my act together; when I realized that time stops for no one and leaves the dreamers behind in the rosy cloud of their own imagination.

  • Hi guys I think what you are doing is great but I’m a mom of an awesome 16 year old and several other kids and in looking at you blog I’m shocked at the photo retouch editorials. I would say they are pretty racey to have on your site judging by what you say you stand for.Just want you to know I wouldn’t want my teenage son looking on you blog and gazing at what is inappropriate. Thanks Kathy

  • Hey guys! Great post! I love it! It really is great to read stories about people who have done hard things and are (or have) accomplished great things because of it. This is really inspiring!
    Keep up the great work!

    P.S. I think you meant to put *her* instead of *she* in this part:
    “She choice to move forward radically altered the course of her life and the souls of countless people.”

  • This brings to mind something I just read in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
    “The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”
    Great post!

  • hey this whole subject reminds me of the song “Move Along” by the All American Rejects which in the song during the bridge it says” when all you gotta keep is strong move along move along just to make it through an even when your hope is gone move along move along just to make it through!” it reminds me every time that even when lose everything just keep trusting god to help you through and to move along

  • 🙂 Have you guys seen “Meet the Robinsons”? It’s one of those Disney/Pixar films. The whole movie long all you hear the main characters say is “Keep Moving Forward”. It’s an excerpt from a famous Walt Disney quote. Anyway, I love that movie :)!

  • Ha ha, Jared, I was totally thinking of that movie as soon as I saw this post’s title. And I totally agree, fantastic movie. Oh yeah, the post was good too. 😉

  • That is a great movie! I too immediately thought of it when I saw the title! :)> Mary Slessor is one of my sisters’ favorite story of all time. I need to read it again, haven’t in a while. “Further up and futher in” is from The Last Battle right? Need to read that again too. Good. I need some books to read. Great post guys! 🙂

  • Elizabeth: Yes, “Further up and further in” is a line from The Last Battle. That series happens to be one of my favorites. (Remembering that it wasn’t intended to be an allegory, I’ll look for for hidden or unintentional parallels to Scripture from the books then look up the parallel in the Bible. For the next while I’ll study that topic during my daily devotions.)

    I first read about Mary Slessor from a series of books at my church library. Goodness! I can’t remember the series name right now. Each book is about a different missionary but told through the eyes of a (fictional) kid from that town/village. There are quite a number of books in the series and I would heartily recommend them … *if only I could remember series name!*

  • thank you so much for this encouraging article. honestly, I’m really not moving onward as a Christian, but somehow, today, God has prompted me to start moving onward again. I can honestly say I have gone stagnant and complacent and I’m hating it. I wanna live a passionate and radical life for God once again. Also, I’m really blessed with what David Livingstone said, and I’m really thankful for that. God bless you guys! Let’s move onwards, and keep going onwards by God’s grace and for His glory! God bless!

    sinner saved by grace,

  • I must admit that when I read this I thought of all that’s been going on in my life. I know a lot of other people did as well. David Livingston’s saying “I don’t care where I go as long as I go forward.” is really inspiring to me. But I think I would like to add my own words to his. I don’t care where I go as long as I go forward and move closer to God. My parents and I have been placed in some odd circumstances throughout the past few years, but lately I’ve grown closer to God and I believe (at least for me) that the past few years has been a life changing pilgrimage I’ll never forget. I’m not staying life is perfect or easy once you know God at a closer level. Every day I’m faced with hardships. All I want to say, is don’t quite when things get difficult. It may end in a far greater way than you could ever expect.

  • When I was reading kmf it made me ask myself am I giving a 100% in every area of my life maybe I’m giving a 100% babysitting, but not a 100% reading my Bible! Which can very easily happen we often give a 100% where were most comfortable, and when we do that some of most important areas of are life begin to fall apart such as: Are walk w/ God, are prayer life, etc.. We have to be willing to change as well, you have to be willing to get out of your “comfortable spot” if your not willing to do that you won’t get very far or anywhere for that matter!

  • to keep moving forward we need gods grace because we stumble a lot trying to get to the other side. but luckily for us if grace is an ocean we are all sinking! because God loves us thanks for the great post!

  • Keep moving foward to me is one of the hardest things God has challenged me to do. With my life I feel I can not forget what has happened in the past, but I keeep trying and i have learned to start moving on!
    Let God Bless You

  • Ok, so I get the “keep moving forward.”. What I’m wondering, is how? I know that my goal is to keep moving forward, but how do I achieve it? What is my motivation? I know that in the long run, I will be rewarded for my hard work, but how can I stay motivated daily? Some of my goals, are to eat healthy, exercise, get all of my schoolwork finished, earn money for mission trips this summer, work up enough money for a truck, and that’s just a few. This requires that I get up at 5:00 in the morning and be in bed by 10:00 at night. I got really motivated at the start of the new year, but it only lasted about 3 weeks. My youth pastor said that what I was trying to do was a work of the flesh, that I didn’t have God’s support for the sole reason that I hadn’t asked for it. With God’s support I know I can do this rigorous routine regularly, but what motivation do I have in the form of immediate satisfaction? Or do I just need to put the desire for immediate satisfaction aside and focus on future rewards? Somebody help me, I’m really in a slump and need help.

  • Ben-
    I don’t know everything, but perhaps I can give a few suggestions based on my observations. I’m always where you are. However, what I find works best for me personally is to take things one day at a time. None of us need to wear ourselves out in the process of moving forward. It’s saying to God, “I’m so tired, and I don’t want to keep going, but I ask for your strength in getting this done.” That’s where “keep moving forward” hits home for me. Unfortuanately, immediate satisfaction isn’t always going to happen. That’s where God’s strength comes in, and this is where we grow.

  • Thanks, that’s really helpful. If it’s not too much, say a short prayer for me and all the other people going through the same thing. Thanks sooo much. 😀 –In Christ, Ben

  • Ok, I’ve got a question. I’m finding out that relationships can be one of the biggest progression stoppers if they go wrong. I need help in one in particular. Say you’re a guy. Also, say something comes between you and another Christian friend, and say you and he have been best friends since you were ten and eleven. So, they used to be a really good friend. A girl comes along, and he falls for her. So, any interaction that you have with her at all causes him to get jealous and over-defensive. You’re used-to-be best friend continues to play the part of the victim even though he’s not, and you keep on putting time and energy into repairing the relationship between you and him. This one relationship is taking all of your time and energy to repair, yet there are no results. You wait and continue to make repairs–still no results. Would it be wiser to make new friends and use your time and energy on more productive things, or should you keep on persuing repairs for this relationship? It’s basically sapping the life out of you, you’ve prayed countless times, but they continue to turn more friends against you, make you look bad, and killing your efforts by playing the victim of the situation. The girl your friend likes is really nice, but you truly aren’t attracted to her in the way that he thinks. There isn’t a definite boyfriend/girlfriend relationship between him and her because the girl doesn’t even think of him that way. If anybody would start THAT kind of relationship, it would definitely be him, and the girl would probably reject it then. You’re tired of this, deeply hurt, and feel like you can’t go on, but you want God’s will to be done. Does anybody out there have any Bible verses or advice? I’m really pained and need as much support as possible. Please help me.

  • I loved this article soooo much, it gave me that extra strive I desperatly needed to get through a rough time. After reading this article it made me reaize that after we’ve accomplished a goal set before us, we should always have another one ready to be fought through. I’m determined now to push myself farther and harder in all areas of my life by doing hard thing after hard thing after hard thing.
    Thank you so much, Brett and Alex 😀

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rebelling against low expectations

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