rebelling against low expectations

Don’t Waste Your Life


Why Do Hard Things?

This world would have you think that your best life would be a life in which you were able to completely avoid responsibility and effort. But such a life would be as pale and flabby as the body of a man who had never moved and never seen the sun. It could be compared to the strange fish that live in the complete darkness of the deepest parts of the ocean, who never come in contact with a hard object their entire lives, and whose flesh has become completely translucent. That is a picture of what we’re asking for when we desire a life of ease.

John Piper, in his book Don’t Waste Your Life, shares this story:

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51.

Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t.

Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great Day of Judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over and against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.

We don’t want to waste our lives. That’s why we do hard things, and why we challenge you to do hard things as well.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, “a mere life of ease is not in the end a satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.” Such a life is a tragedy — a wasted life.

When we fail to do hard things, we not only disobey God, but we set ourselves up to fall short of our true, God-given potential. Even worse, we act as if God is not worthy of our effort — or as if He is unable to accomplish through us what He has called us to do. These are strong words, but we say them because there is something we want you to avoid.

We want you to avoid being like Moses, who when God called him to lead the people of Israel said, “Oh, my Lord, I’m no speaker” and kindled God’s anger.

We want you to avoid being like Jeremiah, who when God called him to be prophet said, “Ah, Lord God! I’m just a kid” and God rebuked him to his face.

We want you to avoid being like the lazy servant in the Parable of the Talents, who failed to invest his Master’s gifts and was thrown out into the street.

We say all this because we want you to glorify God. And God isn’t glorified when His children limit themselves to what comes easily for them. He isn’t glorified when His children aren’t willing to do hard things. The Christian calling is hard, but it is also the only calling worthy of such extraordinary effort. It’s the life you were made for.

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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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  • Normal dreams are doing nothing, but it takes vision to dream something that isn’t going to waste your life.

    I think the normal American would say that their dream would be going around on a yacht collecting shells, but is that something that would be honoring to God? I’m not so sure.

    The reason we are on earth is because we need glorify God. In order to do that we need to realize that he has a plan for our lives and we need to be praying about whatever we do.

    Eric Novak

  • Alex and Brett: I know this is completely off-topic, but may I copy selections from any of your blog posts (both new and old) and include them in my journal? (Although I don’t plan to sell my journals while I’m alive, I would like to give copies to at least two of my relatives some day.)

    Also, regarding copyrighted posts (like Dr. Mohler’s “The Marks of Manhood”), I’d have to ask the copyright holder, correct?

  • Kyle: Everyone is free to use any of our content provided they don’t alter it or fail to attribute it to us. As far as Dr. Mohler’s material I think the same rule would apply. 🙂

  • I’m just enjoying these posts so much! I’m not one to allow my life to just pass away in pursuit of the easy life and its temporal pleasures. (Though that’s not to say I’m not tempted to do so.) However, I am one who isn’t as diligent or disciplined as my full capacity and potential allow. These posts are challenging at the most. Thank you again and again!

    PS I’m glad to hear that I can copy from some of your articles. I don’t intend to share my journals with relatives yet, and I also don’t intend to edit any of it. I’ll just paste inside my journal and let it be. Thank you!

  • “We want you to avoid being like Moses, who when God called him to lead the people of Israel said, “Oh, my Lord, I’m no speaker” and kindled God’s anger.”

    Oh how timely your post is. Just this morning I said under my breath. “Oh, Lord! But I am no leader!”
    I am currently and have been struggling for many weeks and moths regarding whether or not to begin a Christian club at my college campus. It seems simple enough except for the fact that I currently president another club and am a full time student and nearly full time employee. I’ve been rolling over and over the phrase “Do Hard Things” in my head, but can’t seem to figure out where the line is between “Do Hard Things” and “Do Stupid Things.” I know if it is in God’s will, He will give me the strength and the ability to do it along with everything else on my plate. But is it God’s will?

    Thank you for your post!

  • Abby:

    I like your “Do Hard Things” “Do Stupid Things” line. 😉 I know I often have trouble there, too. As an encouragement, I just wanted to remind you that God never asks us to do more than we are capable of by His grace. If God adds this to your plate, He will make it possible, but just becuase it looks right does not mean you have to do it. I know Carolyn McCulley (of Solo Femininity and author of “Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye”) suggests that with such activities the girl could suggest it to a godly young man. Then the young man gets to practice masculinity in servant leadership and the young woman gets to practice femininity in being a helper in the cause. This might lessen the burden on you as well as strengthening the advance of the gospel. Thank you for considering this Christian club before the Lord. You are a great example to all of us! 🙂

  • Kyle:See that button at the bottom of the page? Click on it. It gives you permission to copy these pages for non-commercial purposes as long as you give Alex and Brett their due credit and don’t change it.

  • Great post. When the Lord called me to start looking into counseling as a possible future ministry, all I could think was, “Oh Lord, I usually can’t even keep up a good conversation!” But praise God that in OUR weakness, HE is strong.

  • Great post. How true it is that if God calls us to do something, He will give us the grace and ability to complete it. Thanks again for this great series! 🙂

  • Abby, I also laughed at the “Do Hard Things” vs. “Do Stupid Things”. I suppose that is what parents are for. I am the sort of person to have wonderful, brilliant ideas every two minutes and then start planning what I am going to do. However, 9 times out of 10 my parents have looked at each other, sighed and told me in the kindest way possible that my idea is really stupid…for XYZ reasons. However, when I am blessed with a good idea, they help me plan it out and encourage me to keep going. I have a very short attention span and give up very easily, but they keep me going when they think what I am doing is worth-while. And their guidance stops me from wasting my energy on something that wouldn’t work with any amount of perseverance. Now, mind you, it’s not always pleasant being told that your ideas are not very clever but it’s better than having your mother fighting to not laugh at you in public (and strangers openly laughing at you) when you’re carrying out a particularly bizarre scheme that you neglected to tell her about. 😛 (I’m still learning.) 😀

    I recently read a sermon by Francis Schaeffer called “No Little People” which was about how God used Moses’ rod. It was an ordinary piece of wood, but God used it to do extraordinary things. (Which is a comforting thought when one’s head feels like a block of wood at times.) I always find the shells story convicting when I read it again. At retirement age, people tend to think that the important part of your life is over, and that it doesn’t really matter what you do. In the teen years, people tend to think that the important part of your life hasn’t yet begun, and so it also doesn’t matter what you do. Both ideas are wrong, because as Alex and Brett said, they limit God.

  • Thank you for these posts. They have really blessed me and reminded me to keep doing hard things. My mom bought me “Don’t Waste Your Life” at your conference this summer, and I am currently reading it. It has been awesome!

    I posted a link to this “Why Do Hard Things?” series on my blog, it is blessing me so much.

  • Dead on as usual. I have never quite understood the philosophy of working hard to retire. The idea of working myself to death all my life with the end goal being to be able to golf, do crossword puzzles or, in the example given, collect sea-shells…how tragic and saddening.

  • All of the Do Hard Things posts have been really encouraging!—and challenging. I’m so glad that, in the Bible, God decided to include not only the great accomplishments of the “heroes of the Faith,” but also decided to include their feelings of inadequacy, and their realization beforehand that they were dependent on God. It’s encouraging to look at all the examples in the Bible of imperfect people who, with God’s help, went on to do hard things and accomplish great things for God’s glory.

  • Once again, a wonderful and essential message. I am going through some hard issues right now, and you know, I wouldn’t choose to be without them. Do I like them? No. But is the Lord using it to draw me closer to Him? Absolutely!

    I do wonder at something…and it is off the subject. Why do you guys not post much about politics and the nation on here? I would see that as something that is a passion for you. Teens actually having in an interest in politics? That is so rare these days; everyone looks at me like I am crazy!

    In Christ,

  • […] George MacDonald, a great Christian writer, pointed out that every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk, but no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.” And why would we ever want God to be satisfied with anything less than the very best for us? Read: Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part FourTaken from: […]

  • I think as brothers and sisters in Christ we should do hard things to glorify Christ.A hard thing Im working on is a book for teens with stories of different christains and how their life is so much more meaningful when their working with god rather than with out Him.So please pray for me in work.-your sister in Christ, Hannah

  • Abby,

    This is kind of a late reply (I just found out about Alex & Brett through their brother Josh Harris), but I would like to share this:

    God gives us the ability and strength to do hard things (as well as impossible things) by empowering us and giving us favor. However, there is a condition to seek His face and will. King David knew it wasn’t in his strength to defeat the mighty army of the Philistines, that is why he inquired of the Lord, “should I go up against the Philistines and will You deliver them into my hand.” David understood that deliverance comes only from God.

    The mere fact that you had the idea about starting a Christian ministry on your campus may be God’s leading. My advice to you is to seek counsel of your pastor and close friends that you know are godly people as to how to proceed about actually launching it. If you don’t really know where to start, ask someone to help you spread the word, make and hand out invitations, etc.

    The insteresting thing is that if it’s God’s will, you will have peace about it even in the midst of fears and worries. And you will not have to do it all alone. God will bring people alongside of you who will catch the vision and run with you.

    Yes it is Hard, by You Can Do It!!

  • I think the story of the teen in John Piper’s book should be included on this site. The guy involved threw himself on a few grenades to save his friends… And survived!!! And not just one was going to explode!!!! Things society teaches are “cool”, aren’t really cool at all. Check out the book “Don’t Waste Your Life”; it’s really cool, in depth, and really encouraging. I totally recommend reading and studying it, along with Brett and Alex’s book, of course! 🙂

    Everyone posting these blogs on starting stuff at school really should! I think there are plenty of chances we should take that a lot of us are not taking! Do it with God, and everything will work out in ways you can never imagine! I’ve experienced similar, and honestly…well, there’s nothing better than seeing God’s work in action.

  • Thank you! May God bless you! That really encouraged me. God is so amazing. His Word is so full of life, when you’re sitting home, don’t be bored, don’t start watching the TV, but start reading His Word, it’s filled with so much, with the best plot lines, and climaxes, and above all the best lessons. Even in parts of the Bible, that you can’t typically put into the “story” category, God can show you a meaningful lesson from it, if you need it.
    God bless you,

  • “Dont waste your life”, when i read the topic i was like i know … For the longest time thats what i was doing wasting my life away and not taking any responsibilities not really putting my focus on God .. i was soaking in my problems and i was turning to many crazy things.. that satan had had me entangled in.. suicide, cutting, eating disorders etc.. and i just didnt care i was sitting back and watching satan lies eat me alive.. and not really caring about what God thuoght of me.. until i came to my senses one day at youth group i realized something it was really random to.. the sermon wasnt on anything that i was dealing with.. it wasnt on addictions.. to be honest i couldnt tell you what it was about..but i just realized that i was wasting my life.. away.. i have such a passion with working with youth.. i know i am called into a youth evangelist.. or somewhere in the youth ministry.. but i had to put my focus on him and lay my problems down before him.. and let me tell you it was the most amazing thing i could do.. SInce that night.. i turned my life around and im no longer wasting it … im using my life for his Glory.. I had the chance to go on an internship with John tasch ministries if any of you know who he is.. and i also have been given an amazing Job working at a Christian Day Camp..and my cousin and i have been given some amazing opportunities to go to a few different churches in our area and share what God has given us to do.. AMAZING !!! and the best part is this is only the beginning and im 17 and my cousin is 16.. its awesome.. whoever said it was impossible lied… DONT WASTE Your LIFE USE IT FOR THE GLORY OF THE LORD!!!

  • Too true guys! We can tend to respond to the call of hard things by saying things like, “I’m just a kid,” or “I’m no leader.” This is direct unbelief in the power of God. God is omniscient and omnipotent as I just recently learned at Youth Camp 2008. He knows all our weaknesses and our limitations and he would not give us anything that we can not accomplish. God also is all-powerful and can overcome anything. There may be some things that you can never accomplish but he can accomplish anything. The bible says that we can do anything through Christ who gives us strength. So you can doubt yourselves but never, I repeat NEVER, doubt your God.

    So what now? Well, since we can do anything through Christ, aim high and ask big things of God, because he is a God who does big things. It’s time to step out of our comfort zones and do challenging things for the glory of God. Now is not the time to kick back and do nothing, now is the time to take action! Let’s get out there and DO HARD THINGS!!!

    Thanks so much for challenging us all to step out of our comfort zones and do hard things, this is the wake up call we’ve all needed and that so many others still need. Keep doing what you’re doing. =D

    ~ Rebecca Whitpan, West Chester PA

  • Could someone help? I have a question. It is off topic but I am anxious to know the answer. I have some talents and want very much to use them for God’s glory, but what if I try really hard and still don’t succed? That is not wasting my gifts, is it?

    Sarah. 🙂

  • Sarah Pena,
    I think you should step back & look at your life. You are trying really hard to “do hard things”… But, you aren’t really getting anywhere. I personally don’t think you are wasting your gifts and talents. Maybe, though you are using them incorrectly. God DOES have a time and place for you to use those talents & He will allow you to use them for Him if your heart is in the right place. Keep it up!! Pray that God will show you His divine guidance in this matter… Maybe He has something REALLY BIG planned for you and this is just a planning ground for your future.
    God bless,
    “For every season there is a time and a purpose for everything under heaven…”

  • Wow, this really makes me think about how I seem to be wasting my life. And I’d like to say I can’t help it but, I can help some parts. not all, because of some current cicumstances and all, but I can stop wasting my life. The world and its views lack excitment, and I know life’s not all about excitment but really, teens are supposed to be lazy? Come on! The world wants us to waste our life! That makes me kinda mad. It makes me want to go do something, but I don’t know what. Perhaps I’ll think of something…anyway thanks for this post, it’s kinda moving 🙂 heh…Peace! (why do I always put that?)

  • Hey guys, i have an off-topic question too. I have an idea that I think could help a lot of people and could go far, but i’m scared it will be a lot of work i can’t handle, or it’ll just be a one-time thing. What do I do?

  • Yo! this is nade from terre haute. I just wanted you to know a song thats out right now called don’t waste your life by Lecrae! PEACE! I hope you like it.

  • I am going to be reading from Do Hard Things tonight at church where I am not really excepted. I am so shy that I have trouble checking out library books. I feel like Moses. But thanks to you guys I won’t anger God by refusing.

  • If only we could get past our desire to have the “easy life”, but why is it this seems to be such a hard thing. It’s a great challenge for me to start acting not out of selfishness or for me but for God.

  • After reading this (and “Do Hard Things”), this is something I really want to do for God in my life, but I don’t know where to start. Considering I have summer vacation, people expect me as a 15 year old to just relax and enjoy my summer, which is what I want to do, but I want to do much more than that.

  • I have been previously seeking for a time for any smart content articles with reference to this particular subject matter . Looking out in Google I lastly saw this blog. After reading this post I’m truly satisfied to state that I’ve got a nice sense I came across just what I was ready for. I will ensure to don’t forget this site and give it a look constantly.

  • Alex and Brett,

    Sorry about another off topic subject, but i was wondering when is your next conference? I’d like to go to one but every time i heard bout one it was to late 🙁 plz let me know don’t know if you have my email or not but i’ve sent you two emails so you should have it 😛 thx!

  • After reading some things on this website and “Do Hard Things” I realized “Wow… I’m really not living up to God’s expectations.” I started to do harder things in my own life so that I wouldn’t end up wasting my life. Recently, I got a writing assignment in English and was asked to share who I thought had it easier: little kids, teens, young adults, middle-aged adults, or retired people. I told my class that according to society’s standards, teens had it easier. My class looked at me like I was an idiot. But, I went on to tell them that we should change it and make it so that teens have a better reputation. Ever since sixth grade, I’d been asking God to help me with the teen years and for 2 years, no response. But then, I stumbled across “Do Hard Things” and I knew my prayer was answered. Thank you God and thank you Alex and Brett.

    Lindsay – 14

  • This is a great post! It helped me realize that I need to stop wasting my time and my life doing what I want to do and start doing what God wants me to do. 🙂

    Thanks heaps!

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  • Such an excellent post! I have no clue how you wrote this’d take me weeks. Well worth it though, I’d suspect. Have you considered selling banners on your blog?

  • Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say superb blog!

  • this post is great!! its a great reminder to all of us! this also reminds me of a song called Dont waste your life by a Christian rapper called Lecrae, talking about how we should steward our lives toward Christ instead of worldy things. thanks again for the post!!

  • Amen to that. You know, before I became a believer, I had a “friend” who’s dad worked a seriously high-paying job. Man, he had it all. Xbox Live Premium subscription, Fios cable, and all the latest techno-crud that I could only dream of having.

    I could’ve sworn that his house was about half as big as a football field.

    Back then, I would have chopped of my right arm and threw it away to live like him. But now that I look at it from a Christian perspective, I’m not so sure anymore. Now, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that sitting on a plush recliner watching movies in HD isn’t God’s calling for me

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 →