Last month we asked all of you to join us in prioritizing the life of the mind through reading. Over the last few weeks over two hundred of you shared your favorite books of 2010 and to-read lists for 2011. If you didn’t, it’s not too late!
In this post, we want to share some excerpts of a book we’re reading — Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of Christ by John Piper. In the third chapter, “Reading as Thinking,” Piper defines thinking as “the activity of the mind in reading and understanding what others have written” — and especially, the Bible.
Of course, this is not a conventional (or comprehensive) definition of thinking, but it is a helpful one. In our experience, our best ideas have not come during long periods of reflection, but rather from engaging with the ideas of others (most often through reading). Not surprisingly, the books that do this best aren’t the easiest books to read — which means that deep thinking requires doing hard things.
Think Hard Things
As a rebelutionary, you are already committed to doing hard things — going outside your comfort zone, exceeding expectations, and doing what is right. But as rebelutionaries, we can’t do the right hard things if we aren’t willing to first think hard things — because what we think has a big effect on everything else we do.
Piper says that when we are confronted with a book with language, logic, or ideas that stretch our minds, we have two choices: “either we give up quickly or we think harder.” This is where reading and doing hard things come together:
That is mainly what I have in mind by thinking — working hard with our minds to figure out meaning from texts. Then, of course, we go on from there to think how that meaning relates to other meanings from other texts and from experiences in life. On and on the mind goes, until we build a coherent view of the world so that we can live a life that is rooted in a true understanding of God’s Word and its application to the world.
Glorifying God, applying His truth, and being effective in His service, all of those things require deep and cultivated thinking — and reading helps get us there. Doing any old “hard” thing, isn’t our goal as rebelutionaries. We need true understanding to do the right hard things, and that requires being willing to read hard things.
Read Hard Things
We once met a youth pastor in his late twenties who told us that Do Hard Things was the first book he’d read since college. Fortunately, it inspired him to keep on reading! Unfortunately, his post-school reading habits are not that unusual.
The truth is, most young adults today don’t read much outside of school. And when they do, it’s not the kind that inspires deep thinking. Walk through the teen section at your local Barnes and Noble and you’ll find lots of “gossipy girls” and vampire romances — but hardly any non-fiction and no challenging ideas.
But just like in any other area of our lives, growth (and strength and skill) will only come with hard work. As Piper writes, “This is basic to all growing up. Part of maturity is the principle of deferred gratification. If you cannot embrace the pain of learning but must have instant gratification, you forfeit the greatest rewards in life.”
Piper is right, whether it is working out, exercising leadership, or thinking — the principle of “delayed gratification” is central to the Rebelution. We loved this:
There comes a point when we choose to be intentional about our thinking, so that we grow in what we see and understand. If we don’t choose to think harder, we settle for an adolescent level of understanding the rest of our lives.
That “intentionality” is exactly what rebelutionaries must be known for. In the same way that refusing to do hard things leaves us stuck at adolescent ability, so refusing to think hard things leaves us stuck at adolescent understanding.
Our commitment to doing hard things must extend to our intellectual life — it’s how we glorify God with our mind and make our “doing” more effective. Unfortunately, it’s an area that many Christians — and even rebelutionaries — can neglect.
So will we be intentional about reading, and reading deeper — thinking, and thinking harder? It goes against nearly everything our culture expects of our wired generation. But we’re rebelutionaries. We think hard things.
Wow! How true that thinking hard things lead to actually doing hard things.
Thanks for the post Alex and Brett!
I love how you point out that being intentional about what we think is a choice. I know I definitely want to read even more challenging and thought-provoking books.
Think hard things. I like that… Not just “do” hard things but think as well! 🙂
wow… I sorta stopped extra reading at Lord of the Rings. I know now that I need to so much more read more challenging books. They may take forever to finish, but I always get more out of non-fiction. Whether it be reading Do Hard Things over and over, or trying to read Chuck Swyndall, we always learn best out of discipline. And discipline is easier when you know others are working, too. Thanks for being here for me, as I try to learn through thinking hard things.
Sounds like a good book! “Think Hard Things” 🙂 Yet so true, like a treadmill works on you legs, a long descriptive thought provoking book works your mind. (Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis would be a good example) Great Post!
” deep thinking requires doing hard things.”
That’s true! If we really desire to grow in our faith and to be a mature Christian we must think deeply. Just like what your older brother said in his book, Dug Down Deep, we should exert an effort for us to grow in our walk with God. Persistence and diligence is what we should practice. 🙂 God bless!
Intentional thinking paired with an active habit of reading challenging books, especially as a Christian wanting to mature and grow, is very important.
Not that I think you guys ignore this at all, but intentional thinking while reading the Word is crucial too. I’m going through a “read the Bible in a year” plan, but not a normal one; I’m reading 10 chapters a day, all 10 from different parts of the Bible. I’ve been taught to read scripture in the context of the entire Bible, but this is a highly practical way to do it. I’m reading about the Fall at the same time as the birth of Christ, at the same time as the Pentecost. It’s pretty neat! And requires intentional thinking.
Excellent. Thank you both. I wanted to share with you two excerpts I found last night about young people in the Practical Works of Richard Baxter.
Chapter XII: The Special Duties of Children and Youth Towards God
Direct. IX. Love the word of God, and all good books which would make you wiser and better; and read not play-books, nor tale-books, nor love-books, nor any idle stories. When idle children are at play and fooleries, let it be your pleasure to read and learn the mysteries of your salvation.
Direct. XI. Be as careful to practice all, as to hear and read it. Remember all is but to make you holy, to love God, and obey him: take heed of sinning against your knowledge, and against the warnings that are given you.
That is so true about the bookstores! I love going to bookstores but I can never find anything, mostly because the books aimed at teens are just trash. I usually end up standing in the middle of the kid’s section looking lost while my mom stocks up on curriculum books for the family.
It’s sort of like the opening chapter of “Do Hard Things”, where you mention the lame teen authors (*cough Stephanie Meyer cough*) who have written books, “like, just for you.”
This is such a great post, thank you 🙂
Pensar coisas difíceis e um dos desafios mais incrível que um adolescente pode viver,pois estamos preso a uma sociedade que nos incentiva a ler, mas não ler coisas edificantes que podem mudar nossa maneira de pensar e sim apenas ler por prazer. Queremos fazer coisas difíceis, que nos desafiem a sair da nossa zona de conforto, mas isso só acontece se a nossa mente e nossos pensamentos estão cheios de ideais difíceis e nos levando a pensar, ler e agir de maneira intencional.
Yep, this is so true. I even find it in myself. I’m post high-school and some college, so I do have a lot of things calling for my time. So it’s hard for me to really want to sit down and read a good solid book with good information. When it would be much easier to just read a brainless novel or gossip mag.
But I find it’s so much nicer to read a real book that pushes me then to just read a brainless novel. Do you guys think it’s wrong to read a novel, perhaps a good solid novel, every once and a while?
Or is it pointless to read any kind of fiction at all?
só que não estou tendo muito tempo para leituras,
mas vou me esforçar mais.
E essas leituras são muito boas para o exercício da
valeu e q Deus continue abençoando vocês
Wow! Isn’t that so true? I’ve been reading a lot more… actually, put about 8 more books on hold at the library yesterday. One of the BIG ones besides yours has been “Crazy Love” by Frances Chan. I really and highly recommend it!
@Tabitha – I am not Alex Harris, so I can’t answer the question for them. 🙂 I think it is excellent to read well-written literature, even secular sometimes, as it (1) helps us to write well, with useful imagery, etc. (2) it gives us exposure to the problems with the materialistic worldview of our culture and (3) it can help us relate to people in and of the world whom we understand better through our reading.
Nonetheless, there are also great Christians who have written literature. When Christians engage the culture, they shouldn’t necessarily write about distinctively Christian things, but they should write in a “Christian” way. An excellent book on this topic is Story Craft: Reflections on Faith, Culture, and Writing by the Author of Hank the Cowdog. While those of the world may not read John Piper’s direct exegesis of Scripture, they may read a novel by a Christian that shows them life from a Christian worldview (e.g. the beauty of the roles of men and women, life with meaning, hope, joy, etc.).
Hope this helps. I know it is somewhat disjointed. 🙂
i agree with alex. ive grown up with a love for reading and developed a interest for christian romance novels, historical fiction, or mysteries. while i still enjoy those, ive very recently branched out into books my like “do hard things”, etc. the things ive learned from them would take too long to name but i still enjoy my novels too. its hard to find a balance especially with the books the world throws at us, but worthwhile to put extra effort into developing your mind and “thinking hard things.” thanks alex and brett for posting this! it’s so true!!! 😀
Thanks for that! I love reading but since I’ve become a teen there are hardly any books (in the teen section) that challenge me. That has really inspired me to quit reading these books that 1. Have no deep meaning whatsoever and 2. Are not pleasing to my parents or God. Do you have any ideas of books that will challenge my thinking? Thanks 🙂
I love this! I went to a Christian camp this summer called Summit (I would encourage all rebelutionaries to look into it), and one speaker said “To be a good leader, you must be a good reader.” I thought that was an awesome statement because we have to be willing to read, and learn, in order to lead!
Mmm, very true. I am particuarly challenged by the reminder that if I only aim for books that gratify my instantly I will not grow like I could be growing by reading hard books! Thankyou very much for the encouragement.
Tabitha, I agree with Alex as well. As someone with a
lively imagination, I often find it easier to learn things from a
truly good novel than a non-fiction book. Take Jane Austen for
example. Many people write off her work as being silly girl romance
fiction. It is romance fiction, but Jane Austen had such an
incredible understanding of human nature, that by reading her works
and taking the time to think about them, I learn so much about
humanity, and about my own weaknesses. Even secular novels can help
with self improvement. On the other had, most ‘Christian’ fiction
that I have read is trite and poorly written (and, sadly, a *lot*
more soppy and even inappropriate than the secular classics.) So
fiction is good in my opinion (after all, Jesus told stories to
illustrate points!), but be discerning.
hmmm..here’s a rough translation of what
—–Helen Peasy—– said in Portuguese:
It think difficult things and one of the most incredible challenges than an adolescent can live, therefore we are prisoner to a society that it encourages us read, but do not read instructive things that can change our way of think and yes barely read for please. They will want to do difficult things, that challenge us it leave of our zone of comfort, but that alone happens itself to our mind and our thoughts are full of difficult ideals and us causing to think, read and act of deliberate way.
Helen, I agree totally! Wondering how you read the original English post?
Hope you like the translation. I just googled free translation to figure out what Helen said.
Gostei muito da tradução ! muito obrigada.
Eu leio o blog pelo Google tradutor,
e um pouco complicado, pois algumas frases
ficam fora de ordem.
Li a versão em português do livro do Alex e Brett Harris,
desde então acompanho diariamente o blog.
Hey guys! I decided to do what Michelle did. Here is a translation of what Helen said the 2nd time, using google languages. Hope you all don’t mind me doing this!!
“I liked the translation! thank you.
I read the blog through Google translator
and a little tricky, since some sentences
are out of order.
I read the Portuguese version of the book Alex and Brett Harris
since then accompanied the daily blog. ”
Thanks for commenting Helen!
Helen–that’s awesome! So glad you’ve joined the “Do Hard Things” community.
I honestly didn’t know that there was a Portuguese translation of Alex & Brett’s book!
And although some of the phrase might be switched with the Google translation, I think it’s great that you’re following the blog too.
The more people who believe that young adults can overcome low expectations and thrive the better!! Remember, there is no teenage-time period with God. He calls us all.
What other books or blogs are you reading?
I’m one of those people who’d just settle for books that is easy-to-understand-no-need-for-dictionary books. We’ll it adds knowledge but it would just be a book that when you’re done you forgot about it.
Truly, there’s something more when you read a hard-to-understand-book because all the more you dig deep and spent long hours reading, analyzing and perhaps meditating it. At the end of it, when you’re done reading the learning you got from it remained!
I’m challenging myself this year to read HARD BOOKS, I may say.
I just finished reading “Think” last night and can also definitely recommend it to everyone out there! I think our settling “for an adolescent level of understanding the rest of our lives” is in part caused by our culture’s increasingly shorter attention/patience span (hence the instant gratification) reflected in the rise in music videos, 2-minute news and youtube clips, magazines, internet skimming, Twitter and FB statuses, etc.
I mean, that’s not to say that any of those mediums are bad ’cause they can definitely be used for great purposes! Rather they’re just examples of why it’s “harder to think hard” because our brains are being accustomed to quick summaries.
The subject of this post is exactly the same subject that the Lord has been leading me in beginning of this year. With that leading He has placed the desire for knowledge which makes the “hard” a whole lot more enjoyable, and dare I say even easier.
Such an important topic for this generation especially. I am constantly surprised when I discover just how many young adults don’t enjoy or find it ‘uncool’ to read.
I’ve discovered recently that once you’ve chosen to be intentional in your thinking, it’s hard to go back. You start to recognize a deficit of insight more quickly than ever. The mind craves something true, something real, something useful. It was never created to exist on shallow information. Too many young people are allowing their heads to inflate while their minds stay exactly the same size.
Besides, feeding your mind wisdom and truth creates less decreases the desire for things that are empty and useless, both in books and in other media venues. I have felt such an eagerness recently to discuss ideas with people in my free time rather than find entertainment on a screen. Doing so has strengthened relationships, renewed friendships, and brought mutual encouragement.
p.s. I am still working on “Total Truth.” It is challenging, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely so far.
Obrigada Tori !
Michelle atualmente estou lendo o livro Adolescentes S/A de Ciro Sanches Zibordi e logo depois irei ler Falsos Meditos e Mentiros de Brennan Manning, um livro que li ano passado que eu amei foi a versão em Português do livro Já tenho idade para saber de Michael W. Smith, eu montei um blog ano passado http://geracaodiferenteens.wordpress.com/
outros blogs legais
Hey, I’m back again! I actually copied and pasted into my notepad program practically every book title shared in the comments section from Part 1 of this series. I have about 350 book titles so far… I’m going to choose the ones that jump out at me and get myself to the library to check them out! I love reading and I’ve been looking for new material for quite a while now. And I am definitely going to be checking out John Piper’s book. 🙂
P.S. Can anyone recommend some good Christian fiction? I adore The Chronicles of Narnia, and I was wondering if there are other similar series available. Romance/adventure plots are my favorite 🙂 Thanks for any tips!
This motto “Think hard things” is very true. I love to read and I have always been looking for books that will stretch my mind and spark thinking. So many times I think we get into the trap of reading just for fun and to read a good story, at least it’s that’s way for me. I need to constantly be watching my reading material to make sure that it’s beneficial and challenging to my mind.
Becky, I’ve found The Elise series by Martha Finely to be great Christian fiction. They are truly inspiring and challenging to my faith.
Oh my goodness thank you so much for posting this! It was exactly what I needed. God’s been telling me that I need to stop reading books that are taking away from my relationship with him- even though I haven’t been reading much of that, just a few romance novels. Not only is He asking me to get rid of them, I think He’s telling me to burn them. If I gave them to a thrift store or something, then someone could come across the books and have that degrade their relationship with God. Please pray for me as I try to tackle this hard thing and know that I’m praying for you too.
Becky– “Unlocked” by Karen Kingsbury is amazing!
Wow! I never thought about it that way before. I liked the point about being intentional about our thinking. It’s true, if we stop reading and/or exercising our brains, we will settle for an adolescent way of thinking and reasoning. It’s a great reminder to always be focused and intentional about our lives.
Michelle I’m currently reading the book Teenage S / A Ciro Sanches
Zibordi and soon I will read and meditate Fake Liar Brennan Manning
a book I read last year that I loved was the Portuguese version of the book already
I’m old enough to know Michael W. Smith, I rode a blog last year
Other legal blogs
No problem Helen! I love doing it, and I’m glad I could help. I’d love to be a translator for missionaries in other countries someday!
That was good! I am going to read that book! I am glad it was pointed out being intentional. Though I have heard this piont before it is a fantastic reminder!
PS: Becky: I have read a lot of fiction…You might enjoy so of Donita K. Paul’s books if you like dragons and that kind of stuff. The Door Within trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson is also a good series…I have read them a couple of times…=) Those are the first two that came to mind. I hope you enjoy them…If you want any other suggestion I have a long book list…=)
In reading your post, it reminded me of something I experienced.
When I was 12 (I am 15 now) I was invovled in a program called Teen Court and wanted to get involved in doing Speech and debate. I didn’t know where to find a club or what was all invovled, but I had heard about it and I wanted to learn. So for my birthday that year, the one thing I asked for was a speech and debate handbook from monument publishing. When I got that book, I quickly started reading it; and honestly, I didn’t understand 70% of what they were talking about. I worked through about 10 pages, and put it away. I went on to other books and other things, for perhaps a year, when one day, I came across that book again. I started reading it, remembering the failed attempt before, and I found to my surprise I could understand what they were refering to, it was then that I saw how over time my comprehension and ability to understand had deepened.
In saying all that, I think that when you start reading a book that no matter how hard you try, you cant seem to quite grasp or understand, then it is good to go on to other books that test your understanding and make to stretch, but that you can gain insight from. Then when you go back to the other book, it will make much more sense and be much more pleasent to read.
I have noticed this quite a bit between my older sister and I. If she puts a certain audiobook on, then it may just fit her understanding, but drives me crazy with all the philisophical points.
But it also shows how with continued reading and growth in reading and thinking and doing, you can growth in understanding and revelation.
This is so awesome! Okay so I have been reading a book called Integrity for the past year now, and well I haven’t even finished it. Cuz everytime I open it, it challenges me in a new way. I would recommend it to you all 😀
Here’s what Rodrigo said according to google translate (just thought I’d follow the translating trend).
just not having much time for reading,
but I’ll try harder.
And these readings are very good for the exercise of
q earned and God continue to bless you”
Oh, wow! I had been meaning to check out the rebelution for a while, but had not until just now. I am feeling so incredibly blessed! God has been getting on my heart about this issue for the past few weeks, and I have been struggling. Thank you, thank you, thank you! God bless you, Em
hi. You’re book is amazing. Continue to be a tunnel of love of God.
You blessed me and many more. God bless you more..
I want to learn more in doing hard things…..
Wow, you have given me something to think about! God bless!
I love reading fiction, Sci-Fi in particular. But not all of it, mostly old time classics like H. G. Wells. It gets me thinking about life, our purpose, and also scientific theory(which I really enjoy). But it will never replace the real-life truths in non-fiction. If there is one book I would suggest you read, it is “The Winners Manual: For the Game of life”. It puts a new perspective on life and football, written by one of the greatest football coaches ever: Jim Tressel.
I really really enjoy John Piper’s work and thinking. I wish all folks, not just teens, read more. This includes myself! Such a big goal. So many books. But more than worth it, I’m sure.
Thank ya’ll so much! I really do need to concentrate on thinking more, and finding some “intentionally” deeper thinking required books. To Jordan Whitmire a couple comments earlier, the book you mentioned sounded so interesting! I’d love to read it, but do you happen to know the author’s name? I googled the book name and got too many different authors. Thanks! Also, the book called “The Robe” by Lloyd C Douglas is one of my favorites! It’s a good read for anyone book searching! (: Thanks Alex and Brett for all you do to help us do the ordinary extraordinarily well!
As a Christian school librarian, I so appreciate this post about reading hard things!
In an effort to get our students to discuss books they are reading, we began a book discussion blog (http://wcslibrary.edublogs.org). Our ninth-grade high school Bible teacher requires his students to read “Do Hard Things,” so I decided to read it and write a review for the blog. Just posted a review of your book today.
Have you read “Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World” by Bob Briner? Your thoughts on pp. 172-178 of “Do Hard Things” reflect his thoughts almost exactly.
Thanks for allowing God to use you.
Wow! This is great. My youth group is reading the book soi thought I would drop in on the site. I am so glad I did! I love to read, but have a problem with finding books that don’t emphasize sex or cussing. Now I realize that I haven’t been looking for the right kind of books. There are books out there that will help me strengthen my faith, and not tear it down. Also that it doesn’t matter if I do hard things if I’m nit doing the right hard things. Thank you guys, this is so inspirational! I will definitely be sharing this with my youh group and friends! 🙂
Amen! I am a middle school language arts teacher and this is exactly what I am teaching my students: that one thinks through reading and writing. Our thinking should be followed with speaking up and out about our beliefs, which are then supported by our actions. Words don’t mean much until we follow through with how we behave.
I am so thankful that there are other young people out there who believe this too. Let’s keep moving forward for Jesus.
[…] mind the past few days is something that Alex and Brett Harris have written about recently on their blog. It is about thinking hard things. As I have begun my dream list of books for this year, I have […]
“Think” is a great book! realy loved it. I bought i t for a christmas present for my sister, and read it, while she was visiting us. 🙂
It is realy challenging, but the challenge is worth it! If you dont challenge your mind, it cant grow. its like musles. if you dont tain your musles they wont get biger, stronger and better.
I like this post. Thanks. I’ve also enjoyed reading the comments, it’s cool that I could even understand most of the portuguese (I speak spanish).
It is very challenging to read “complex” books, but somehow I always get the feeling of satisfaction, because I know I didn’t waste my time in silly, simple, and wordly books, but rather on a book that can be applied in my christian walk.
~To the ones that want an advice for good Christian fiction, I would totally recommend Francine Rivers, specially her novellas.
I’d have to say the same. I have enjoyed reading the comments.
Thanks for this post. Very challenging! I try my best to read good books but when it comes to those tougher, bigger books I tend to get a little intimidated and shy away from them. I’m going to attempt to read hard books so that in turn I will think hard things. My Pastor challenged our church family to read some good books this summer. I have already ready read three and I hope to finish some more before summer ends. Thanks for the challenging post! Think hard things.
So manny teens dont “Think” today…..thats one of the things that should/must be changed!
Great post! I definitely agree that it is very important to read books that challenge one to think deeply and perhaps to allow these books to help you think in ways that you never have before. Here’s a short list of books that have radically changed me and caused me to think differently about life and, in some cases, strengthened my faith:
The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller
On Prayer: The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Keep on fighting against the tide of low expectations, fellow Rebelutionaries! You all are such great encouragements!
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Hi! So im reading your book and im so glad we get to! I can feel it changing me inside and out! Thank you so much!
The Leadership Team in my youth group(The H.O.O.D. : Helping Others Obtain Deliverance ^^ ) are reading Do Hard Things. I’m only supposed to read to chapter three tonight but I want to read soooo much more. I started checking out the site after chapter two :))) Although, the only tour in Florida this year, and only an hour away, has already passed 🙁 But we’re definitely looking forward to next year!
Last year I nearly failed Freshman year in high school and, needless to say, I was that random short chick with her head down wearing a hoodie in 100 degree weather just hoping I wouldn’t be noticed by the bullies of the school, or as I like to say “vultures” That was part of it at least. I was even considering dropping out this coming year. I’ve only read three chapters so far but now, I’m so pumped to start reading some high level books again and doing all my work to the best of my ability, and much more. I want to “do hard things” It’s almost like I can feel the Holy Spirit coursing through my veins like adrenalin. Alex and Brett are amazing authors, and, to be honest, the minute I saw who had written the Foreward I knew it was going to be awesome >>; But then I realized, I’m sure half of the people who love Chuck Norris don’t even know what he did to get all this fame, they just love him because everyone else does. I was kind of like that, but now that I know he’s a christian, I love him for his inspirational words. I had no idea he had grown up like that. To be honest, I think I just assume people who are famous had rich parents or whatever. You know, “the good life” (although I’d strongly dislike it) Blegh I dislike all this fame and drama stuff. Anyway, Great book!
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[…] John Piper, in Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of Christ, says that when reading, “… we are working hard with our minds to figure out meaning from texts. Then, of course, we go on from there to think how that meaning relates to other meanings from other texts and from experiences in life. On and on the mind goes, until we build a coherent view of the world so that we can live a life that is rooted in a true understanding of God’s Word and its application to the world.” […]