rebelling against low expectations

When You Don’t Know


When we are faithful where we are God is faithful to open doors to bigger things. But we still have to move to get through them. So many young people say they are waiting on God’s leading, yet they are not moving to explore the opportunities right in front of them. Some of this stems from laziness, some from fear of failure, and the rest from simply misunderstanding how the leading of God works.

There is an old saying that goes, “The door of opportunity opens only to those who knock.” The point of the saying is that opportunities arise when you are looking for them. Jesus tells us to ask, seek and knock. Things usually start to happen once you start moving.

God’s leading often works the same way. He rarely plops opportunities onto the laps of couch potatoes. His favor rests on those who have prepared for bigger things through faithfulness in small things — and especially on those who have prepared, are looking for an opportunity, and keep on moving.

There is no better biblical example of this principle than the story of The Macedonian Call in the Book of Acts:

Acts 16:6-10 (ESV) “And [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] went through the region of Phygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithnynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.

So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately [they] sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called [them] to preach the gospel to them.”

At first glance this seems like a boring passage with a bunch of funny names in it, but if we look closely we can that God is teaching us important things about how He leads us to do His will. Put yourself in their shoes and see what you learn.

First, notice that they know that they are not supposed to go to Asia. That’s a lot like us sometimes. We know what we are not supposed to do, but we aren’t so sure about what we are supposed be doing.

Second, you see them setting out for Bithynia. We can guess they probably sat down and had some sort of pow-wow and decided that Bithynia was the place God wanted them to be. Imagine how easy it would be for them to get discouraged when on their way to do what they thought God wanted them to do the Holy Spirit stops them.

Now, if God has ever slammed the door in your face when you thought you were doing His will, you can probably relate to the confusion and the discouragement that this group may have been tempted to feel. What is God up to? What does He want me to do?

The most beautiful part of this story is the next line, where it says, “So… they went down to Troas.” Now this might not seem all that significant if you don’t take into account the context. They have been kept out of Asia and after thinking that God wanted them in Bithynia they have been kept out of there too. Twice the door has been shut in their faces. From a human standpoint they have every reason to say, “God, we have no idea what you want us to do, and frankly, we no longer care. Until you are willing to tell us plainly we are going to stay here and get comfortable.”

And to be honest, this is the way we are often tempted to respond. But instead, in a radical display of faith in God’s leading, they kept moving — they went down to Troas. And in Troas God sent a vision to Paul calling them to Macedonia and they were able to go immediately — the door was wide open.

Now to some people it may seem confusing that God waited until they got to Troas to call them to Macedonia. It would make more sense for Him to let them know right after He closed the door to Bithynia — kind of the whole “close a door, open a window” idea. But instead we see that God wanted them to keep going, to keep moving, even after two doors had been closed. Then, in response to their persistence, He opened the door of opportunity wide open.

Prayerfully Pursue Every Opportunity

What we see in the story of The Macedonia Call is a situation we can relate to and a principle that we can live by. We see how God was clearly guiding these early Christians, even when things seemed confusing or looked bleak to them — and we are encouraged in our own struggle to discern God’s will for our lives.

Furthermore, we learn God wants us to pursue every open door, confident that He will close them if they are not His will. As long as we are faithful to take advantage of what we have — our minds, God’s Word, the counsel of our parents, etc. — then we can move forward with full confidence that God will shut the door if we are not supposed to go through it.

This principle is crucial because many young people get paralyzed with the fear that they will choose the wrong college, the wrong career path, the wrong spouse, etc. and they stop moving. We are not saying that God will prevent us from ever making a horrible decision. But what we are saying is that when we are faithful to walk within the little bit of light that we have from our own knowledge and experience, from the advice of our parents and counselors, and most importantly, from God’s Word, we can make decisions confidently trusting that God will honor our steps of faith by clearly opening or closing the door — our part is to keep moving forward.

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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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  • The passage from Acts that you posted was really encouraging to me. I can relate to it so well. But, and please take this gently, can I add a word of caution about continuing to move forward without direction directly from the Holy Spirit? You can email me before letting this post through if you think it detracts from the message you are presenting.

    I read the books by Isobel Kuhn about her life-work as a missionary in China. I don’t remember which one it was in that I read this story, but I will look it up if anyone has any questions about it. In it she told about her experience of seeking God’s Guidance on what to do next. There was a war in China at the time and the fighting was getting pretty close to where she, and some other missionaries, were working, so the people, or person, in charge of the orders at CIM (the mission organization that sent her and funded her) advised that many of the missionaries be evacuated. She was one of those, advised such, and she was told by everyone she knew to flee for her own safety. She sought God on the matter, but didn’t get an answer right away, so she went on ahead and heeded their advise. She left.
    But as it happened, the fighting never reached where she had been, although many refugees were brought in. And I think only 2 missionaries ended up having to deal with many, many, many refugees who needed help and who very much needed to hear the Gospel. It was a great opportunity for a great harvest, but the workers were so few.
    Isobel wrote that what she did was wrong — not waiting on God. She wasn’t where He could of greatly used her. Instead, she ended up stuck for a long time where she had fled to, doing prison ministry (which she disliked because there was tons of lice, and was not necessarily good at because it wasn’t really what she was called to do). She wrote that God kept her there until she had learned her lesson.
    Later, she was tested again — she got the same advise to flee because of danger — but this time, she waited (in peril of danger) for God’s Will on the matter. The danger passed and no work of God in her life was hindered.

    I am not writing this to make anybody afraid. I’m just including a warning that God has used in my life to protect me from missing out on things, or going off-track.

    You are so right about that we need to knock, that we need to ask. So, I think that we should ask, along with asking for His Guidance, for a heart willing to obey His leading and His restraining, for understanding of His Guidance, and for Him to do what it takes to stop us (or push us) into what His Will is for our lives.
    Most of us need to be stopped AND pushed (I’m talking about myself here!)

    And one more note on the subject of fleeing danger and continuing to move forward. Recently, I read about a mission organization that sends its missionaries out not expecting all of them to return, and not expecting to help them get out of danger.
    I think this is interesting, going with the theme of continuing to move forward without being afraid. As Christians, we aren’t called to live lives of safety and ease and comfort. We are called to lay down our lives. We are called to be the Bride that lays her life down out of love for the Bridegroom who gave His Life out of Love for her. Most Christian lives will face danger. Jesus is who we follow. In John 15, Jesus says:

    “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”

    I find it inspirational to see people who keep moving forward in God’s Call on their lives despite opposition and danger of death. I believe with all my heart that is what we are called to do. God saved me — saved my life with His Own. Should I not love with the Love He gave me and filled me with as He transformed me and do the same for my fellow man?
    Amen. Let’s keep moving forward. But let’s also wait patiently for His Call when the door is open and people are calling for us, yet He bidding is not in their call.

    I’d like to hear what you all think. I’d like to discuss this more deeply and to really find out, together, how to discern God’s Call. Has He called you in the past and you were sure that it was Him? How were you sure? Has He stopped you? How? Has He led you in indirect ways to step out or hold back?

    God stopped me from going on a trip once and I didn’t know quite why. It wasn’t obvious for a while. But then during the time I would still be on the trip (out of the country) the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened. I was so greatful that He kept me home. I would have been terrified not being able to cross back over the border for who knows how long. His leading wasn’t super direct, but it was sure in the long run.

  • Guys, it’s been cool to see God using you as He teaches me my own personal version of KMF! For the past week, each time I’ve glanced at the heading of a new post from you, it’s been exactly the words God has been impressing on my heart already. Thanks!

  • Wow! – I had never thought of The Macedonian Call that way before! It’s so amazing how new revelations can be opened up to you even when you’ve read the same passage in the bible a thousand times before. The post was a great reassurance to me that I made the right decision in moving forward and trying a new challanging thing that I wasn’t so sure about before. Thanks guys! – God is using you in more ways than you can imagine.

  • While being in the process of choosing and applying to colleges, this post came at a perfect timing for me. Being stressed and therefore doing nothing is not Jesus’ will for my life.
    Combined with the idea of ‘Do hard things’, this encouragement to press onward even when I still don’t know which college I will go too, will help motivate me to continue on….


    Pressing forward…

  • Oh my! You do not know how much this has just turned a light on! Thank you so much for posting. You see, lately, I have been trying to understand what the LORD wants me to do with my life. He gave a vision a month ago; a vision to start an orphanage. Yes, it seems way above what I could ever do, but I really do believe this is what the LORD wants me to do. All the while I have been going through everything in my head, failing to do anything. It suddenly hit me(after reading your post) that I need to pursue this! I can’t just let it sit there, and maybe one day it will happen, I have to go and conquer it. Thank you again for the post. You have no idea how much God has just used you. Much love…

  • Wow, thank you so much! Just this morning I was asking God about what I should do next and where I should go next, and although I had an idea, I decided to set it aside, and wait, just in case it was wrong. My bad 😉 Perfect timing on this post.

  • This may sound like a dumb question, but how do we know if it is God closing the door, and not the enemy trying to hinder us? (short of God making extremely obvious it is Him)

    Holly: The name colour is based on if you have your website listed in the third box from the top of the “Leave a Reply” section. The red is also a link to the person’s website, the black is just the person’s name.

    In His service,
    E. Gruber

  • I just wanted to let you guys know that I saw your page in WORLD mag. It looked awesome!!!! If I hadn’t already been a member of the forums and reading the blog and all, I definitely would’ve been intrigued to check it out. And since I already was a Rebelutionary, it just made me want to go to another conference all the more!

    Way to go!

  • I really enjoyed this post because I am a high school senior looking at colleges. I know what my major will be, but I haven’t decided on a college yet. The two colleges I am most interested in are hundreds of miles away in separate states. I want to go to a college closer to home, but I haven’t been very impressed with any of the ones around here. Sometimes it’s easy to think, “I’ll just wait on God to lead me to the right college.” But as my Mom told me, “It’s easier to move a running car than a parked one.” In other words, even if I don’t know exactly where to go to college, I should do something: look at colleges, apply, etc. And if God starts to lead me in a different direction, at least I will already be moving.
    The post was a great reminder that even when we don’t know what to do, we should do something! Next week, my parents and I are going to visit a college in my home state, and if that isn’t where we feel I am supposed to be, we are going to look at colleges that are farther away. Why? Because I want to keep moving forward!

  • What a great exposition of Acts 16. This series has been a real encouragement to me, as I am seeking to do God’s will while not being idle. Thank you, and keep up the good work!

  • Wow it’s incredible how relevant this is to my life right now…thank you so much for allowing God to work on me through you!

  • YOu both always seem to know when I need a good post such as this. I can be feeling like I am not sure where God has for me type of thing. But you know, HE is so good. He is faithful. My blog title has that, but sometimes, I do not remember it enough. Christ is calling all my shots; I just have to heed His call.

  • You guys are so stinkin smart! Do your heads still fit through the door? Oh come on people, I was just kidding!
    your devoted fan,

  • Jordan: You have my word for it that their heads do still fit through the door – unless they’ve changed a lot since I saw them at the Dallas conference. Writing books can do that to you. 😉 Can’t wait to read it!!!

  • Oh, I wanted to say that I always think it great when I see teenagers on national news in good ways. Thus, it was a nice surprise to see you, Brett, on ABC nightly news last night.

  • This post reminded me of one of my favorite quotes.

    “So often we sit around twiddling our thumbs, dreaming about God’s will in some far distant future when we are not even willing to stand up on our own two feet, walk down the street, and do God’s will right now.” – John MacArthur, Jr.

  • Elisabeth Gruber: I read in a book called “By Searching” that all we have to do is simply pray that if the hinderance be of God, for Him to bless it and show us why and His Will and if it is not of God for Him to remove it. Not exact words, but if you’re interested you can look it up — order it from I’d look it up, but I’m out of the country now and don’t have a copy on hand and it’s rather tough to find in stores. So yeah, just ask God to make it clear to you and to teach you through it all, whether it be of Him or not of Him. Ask Him to show you what to pray about it and how to handle it. He will — if you ask for a heart that is ready to listen and obey. He always answers when our hearts are right and ready to obey and when it’s the right time (even if we think that should be sooner). Good question, though. Very good question. Don’t think it’s dumb. Everyone SHOULD ask it, I think. It’s part of seeking God’s Will and learning how to know it. Part of Him teaching us is us asking Him to teach us and thus submitting to His instructions. I hope this makes sense. I’m at an internet kiosk so it’s different, you know, to write. I’ll be praying for you, though. Keep asking. Keep seeking to know Him and His Will for you more fully. It makes all the difference.

  • I agree with what Nicole said in the first comment about Isobel Kuhn. While it is important to not do nothing, you also have to wait on God’s answer to your question.
    I guess that it is active waiting. Just because you are waiting does not mean that you do nothing, and you don’t prepare yourself.
    This post was a bit of a nudge for me, since I have something that I know I should do, (well, maybe a couple of things) but I keep forgetting. I can’t be so complacent!
    Thanks for the reminder.

  • I really appreciated the post! I am trusting in God, and I know that He will lead me in the right direction.

  • “For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come.”
    1 Timothy 4:8

    “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things…”
    John 14:26

  • I liked that. I need to constantly be reminded that I just need to keep moving and trying things, and not get down when things don’t work or when God doesn’t yell what I need to do in my face.

  • This is a great series! Have y’all ever watched Meet the Robinsons? the movie is just like this series of “keep moving forward”!

  • Thanks for this post. I read it right in between two “No”s from God. While I am still waiting for a “Yes”, I am applying for several missions opportunities. I am so excited to see what God has for me!

  • I don’t usually blog, but this caught my eye, and I had to say, Thanks for the post! I am in the process of looking for colleges, and God has directly stopped me from attending 2 places (both of which I felt He was pointing me toward at various times). While I am still waiting for a “Yes”, like many of you, this was a huge encouragement to keep moving and waiting for God.

  • I love looking back on my life and going “OH… That’s what God wanted me to learn”

    I am in a theater group called CYT (Christian Youth Theater) and had applied to be in a group called H.Y.P.E. (High-School Youth Pursuing Excellence). After praying about it I applied with my two best friends. Everyone told us we were shoe-ins for the group, including the main director, so you can imagine my surprise when only one of us got in. I didn’t understand. God had given me the okay. This was a CHRISTIAN group!!!! Why did God have me apply if neither me nor one of my best friends got in? Then my friend who hadn’t gotten in with me was told that it was a mistake and she really did get in…

    umm… okay, God… WHAT?

    That was the part of my life I’m looking back at going “OH… That’s what God wanted me to learn” Through this whole ordeal, I grew so much closer to God than I ever could have in this group. I felt like a totally different person. After taking a break from theater to focus on my school, I went back ready to be a leader whether or not I was in the group. I helped them lead worship and devotionals every Saturday morning before rehearsals, and I tried my hardest to be an example in everything I did. At first, nothing. then, I got a letter from one of my ten year old cast members named Nicole. She filled an entire page thanking me for bringing her closer to God. It made my day, month, week. It opened my eyes to the big plan God had for me. and that was pretty cool.

  • Gracie: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing. Sometimes I get sad when I look back and remember what I was left out of or what I missed out on or what I wasn’t included in or who I missed out knowing. Sometimes it feels heartbreaking.

    But reading your post, I realize that it was GOOD — all of it! It was grace and an honor that I missed out or was left out. If I compare my life to the people who were included all their lives, who got everything they wanted, who got things the easy way, I can only be grateful.

    Reading your post, I realize what is important in life. And it’s not being included or getting on the right teams or being a part of important clubs. It’s getting to know God and drawing others closer to Him in the process.

    It’s hard to be turned down or not accepted, but then, it turns out to be one of the best things for us — if we allow God to use it and to mold us. Sometimes what seems like missing out on something great is actually God including us in something greater.

    Your comment just settled a lot of hurts I had from not getting to be a part of things I thought I really wanted. And it jarred my perspective in a gentle, yet entirely corrective and much-needed way.

    A million Thank-yous!
    (from another Nicole!)

  • Nicole: You have no idea how encouraged you have just made me. THANK you and I will be keeping you in my prayers.

  • Hey Alex and Brett! Yesterday i went to your conference and was SO encouraged and convicted of ways I could “do hard things”!! Thank you SO much!! I was just curious have you guys ever thought of starting a DO Hard Things Magazine? I’ve been thinking how cool it would be if you guys did. I am sure though that you guys are super busy and just got done writing and releasing a book and probably don’t have time to do this. I was thinking about that if you started a magazine then the kids that don’t have an internet would be able to receive it in the mail and it could be even more of an outreach. Also some some of us bloggers would be able to help with it all! Since it would be a ton of work. What do you think??

  • This article helps me a lot. Sometimes I won’t make a decision because I’m afraid of having that door slammed in my face. This reminded me to not worry about that so much, keep moving forward, and continue trusting in God. Thank you! 😀

  • Thank you very much for this article. It is very timely that I happen upon it. I am very thankful that God has allowed me to become involved with this website. Thank you!

  • Alex and Brett:
    Wow! This was great!! Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. It is such an encouragement and blessing. I’ve enjoyed the Rebelution so much and it has challenged me and encouraged me beyond words. I’ve shared this website with friends and siblings and am amazed at how God keeps speaking to my heart about things I had never even considered before. Thank you for remaining true to God’s leading and call in you lives, I know thousands of others can agree with me that it’s made a difference in our lives also. Don’t stop! Keep going!

  • I love this from the post:
    [i]”Furthermore, we learn God wants us to pursue every open door, confident that He will close them if they are not His will. As long as we are faithful to take advantage of what we have — our minds, God’s Word, the counsel of our parents, etc. — then we can move forward with full confidence that God will shut the door if we are not supposed to go through it.”[/i]
    Thanks so much for this post! It encourages me to throw myself 100% into everything the Lord gives me to do–to actively pursue godly activities, being confident that God will shut that door if it’s not what He has for me. So I don’t need to worry about “oh, is this what God has for me?” because if it’s not, He will make that clear.
    Thank you!!!

  • hmmm…I thought that the ‘i’s would make italics–apparently not. 🙂 Does anyone know how to make things in italics??

  • Hi Guys!
    I really feel like God is leading me into politics. Just wondering if you guys would recomend any orgaizations that I could get involved with. Thank you so much!

  • Hi,

    I find this post on Acts very encouraging. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of closed doors – I wanted to become a primary school teacher but was rejected at interview 8 times.

    After a lot of considered reflection, prayer and speaking to my pastor I feel that God has gifted me better to train to be a church minister, but there is a long process of selection and I often feel like I want others and God to “get on with it”. I definitely wanted an open window straight away. I’m coming to terms now with the fact that God has work for me with the youth group at the church I am at at the moment, and although I still need to be future focused and not get lazy about the process of preparing to go to theological college I should not treat the work God has for me at present to be second best.

  • I’m working in my life right now to slow down and pray and let God lead me! Which is really hard because often I think that I already have the answer and that I’ve got it all covered!! I’m trying to decide what I want to do for college i’m still a little way’s away but you can’t loose anything by praying. And at first i was thinking about what I wanted to do and just wasn’t really having any peace and then I realized maybe I should pray and let God lead me in the path I should go! Having patience is hard! And I have to pray that I will have patience till God answers me..

  • Hey! Sometimes it’s scary if God says things, through the bible or people like you, and you recognize that you are meant. But in retrospective these moments are the most helpful ever. Thank you! Matthias.

  • Even though this blog was posted a year ago, I guess it’s never too late to read it and learn lessons from it. Thank you rebelution for posting this blog! Honestly, I’m somewhat confused on where God is leading me. I’m currently a senior high and I’m preparing for college. I’m currently unsure and doubtful on what school God is leading me or what course God wants me to take. However, I’m thankful that you shared this blog to remind me that if it’s God’s will, He will surely open the doors and they will really be wide open, but if it isn’t His will, He will close and shut them. It really takes a lot of discernment and takes a lot of seeking, asking and knocking to know His will. But one thing for sure, He will make His will known no matter what. 🙂 God bless rebelutionaries!

    continually moving onward by His grace,

  • Hi! This website is great. I truly believe God is using you guys a lots. So, be blessed as you work in His name. I’m from Albania (small country in Europe, close to Italy and Greece)
    And we are inspired by this website

  • This blog aided me in narrowing down some problems with the latest version, Why do they often seem to leave out vital information when they upgrade? It may be minor to them but not to me. I’m sure we’re not alone.

  • Thankyou so much for posting this. You have no idea how much time I’ve wasted searching for opportunities when all of them in the world I need are right in front me and I need to prayerfully pursue them. Its kind of like looking for a set of keys and then realizing they’re in your pocket.

  • this post helped me sooo much. i am new to your website and just started reading your book “do hard things” and it is great! i am a senior in college and picking colleges and majors have been a BIG thing in my life as of late. this post helped out so much in that it just reminds me to wait on His timing and it will all work out for His glory!! thanks guys!!

  • I must voice my love for your kind-heartedness supporting folks that require help on this important concern. Your personal commitment to getting the message all-around has been exceptionally useful and has really made some individuals like me to reach their goals. Your warm and helpful guide denotes a whole lot to me and far more to my mates. Regards; from everyone of us.

  • I was really blessed upon reading this. I’m a high school senior student from the Philippines and I’ve been really bugged by the thought of choosing my course for college. I’m still confused with the loads of stuff going on in our family right now. And you helped me realized that it’s not enough to just pray for guidance or ask for anything without moving (or doing something about it). I just hope things will go well. I know God is just about to unfold and reveal His will for my future.

    Please pray for me also. 🙂

  • Thanks for the marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage you to continue your great work, have a nice morning!

  • wow, thank you!!! God is so good in His guiding us. we need to learn to persevere when a door is closed.thank you for posting this!!!

  • Wow. I never looked at it that way. I would usually pray to God to open the door to let me spread His word, but I was waiting for Christ to push me through the door. But now I notice that God opens the door for us but he expects us to come in ourselves, he won’t force us through.
    #eyeopener you Guys are doing amazing things!thanks for the post!

  • Hi! I’ve been following your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent job!

  • Robert Hagen~

    That was exactly my thoughts. I keep praying that God will open the doors for me and tell me what I need to do exactly. Until now, I was expecting him to show me exactly which door I need to go through. Now, I know that I need to actually go and do something, instead of sitting around and twiddling my thumbs.

    Thankyou guys so much for posting these inspirational words! 🙂

  • […] Now to some people it may seem confusing that God waited until they got to Troas to call them to Macedonia. It would make more sense for Him to let them know right after He closed the door to Bithynia — kind of the whole “close a door, open a window” idea. But instead we see that God wanted them to keep going, to keep moving, even after two doors had been closed. Then, in response to their persistence, He opened the door of opportunity wide open. (from Keep Moving Forward: When You Don’t Know from the brilliant The Rebelution blog) […]

  • i really like the highway picture and the keep moving forward sign. may i use it as a cover photo on facebook? it somehow reflects what i want to do with my life.

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 →