rebelling against low expectations

Aim Higher Than 4.0


Grades. That’s what we work for.

Get good grades. Keep your GPA up. Aim for the 4.0.

That’s what school is all about. Right?


School is about learning. For the Christian student, school is about worship. It’s about discovering the beauty and intricacy of God’s world and equipping ourselves to enter that world and shine for His glory.

Believe it or not, the grading system was developed as a concession. Why? Because students weren’t pursuing knowledge with enough enthusiasm. They weren’t motivated to study.

Grades, in other words, are a replacement for a love of learning and a heart of worship. The pursuit of grades displaces the internal motivation to seek knowledge with an external motivation to avoid failure and prove our worth.

Grades lower our sights from truly achieving excellence and growing in wisdom to simply passing a class or topping our classmates.

This shouldn’t be the case for Christian students. We must aim higher. Higher than a passing grade. Higher than a 4.0. We’ve got to set our sights on learning and growing for God’s glory — even if it doesn’t show up in our GPA.


If that resonates with you (or convicts you), check out this video from Desiring God. In it Matt Reagan challenges us with the message:

“Aim higher than 4.0.”

He says, “The push for the 4.0 is often idolatry. We should be motivated by the beauty and glory of God in his creation.”

We’d love to hear what you think about these ideas. How does the pursuit of grades help or hinder you in pursuing excellence and worshipping God through your studies?

What would it look like for you to aim higher than 4.0?

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

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Photo courtesy of Matt Reagan and Desiring God.

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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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  • Excellent article, Alex and Brett,
    Something with the grading system that I like is, it gives me a goal, not as an ends goal, but as a means goal. The better my grades, the more likely I will be accepted into a better college, and if I am accepted into a better college, I hope to get my dream job: A youth pastor.
    I totally agree that if we let it get out of perspective, by putting the means as an ends, then we are missing the point of school. Thanks a million for this article and this series. God bless!
    – Trent

  • Alright.
    Grades: not the most important aspect of education.
    That’s an interesting look at it. I can’t tell you there’s a lot of people out there who would agree, but I understand whole heartedly where you were coming from with this.
    I have always felt that school was not the most important thing for me. I felt that, where others were telling me my priorities were not where they were supposed to be, school should not be on the top of the list. God, and Christ, and living out life for Him and for His glory, reflecting Him: that was what was most important. Where does that come in to play in academics, that’s what we should be concerned about, that’s where our priorities should be.
    Thanks for this series of articles, it was interesting and a really good point to be making for young Christians all over the world.

  • This is really cool guys thanks. If you (the school aged kids on down on this website) would like an opportunity to show your love for school then you should go to your school’s flag pole at 7:00 a.m. September 24, and simply pray. Pray for you country, school, and your unsaved friends. Your school will NOT be putting this on, this is a student led event. This also gives you the ability to tell your school friends that you are a christian. Now this will not be easy, it will be hard, so lets get out there and do a hard thing.

  • Wow. Just wow. This was so incredibly…convicting? I can’t quite find the right word. Thank you so much for this, Harris brothers!! This whole series has really been amazing and incredibly thought provoking for me. This will definitely affect my school/learning from now on!

  • If you are capable of a 4.0 and can maintain that without letting your priorities get out of whack (relationship with God, family, and others) then I think you should aim for that. We are to do all of our work as to the Lord and I believe that includes our studies.

  • When I was working on my masters degree I was hoping to become a professor and I set a goal of trying to earn good grades. For some careers a high grade point average is more important than others (yet never the most important thing). I received a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (60 credit hour course of study) with a 3.8275 g.p.a. and was able to be an adjunct professor for three classes but it ended up that that was not God’s will for me at this time. Even though the g.p.a. is not that important in my ministry as a pastor I do not regret trying to do a good job in school. One of the major disadvantages of high g.p.a. is the temptation of pride. Another problem in having the goal of a high g.p.a. is setting wrong priorities in order to try to attain that goal. Walking in the Spirit is essential in order to keep things in balance.

  • Great article. It’s always best to avoid limiting yourself and the capabilites God has given you to man’s standards.

  • Great inspiration. What is the 4.0? Just a term I’m not familiar with up in Canada. Just like freshman, junior, senior and so on.

    • In America, we, students, are graded by both numbers and letters. This is the terminology:
      A = Excellent = 4.0 and up = 90%-100% (plus any extra credit)
      B = Good = 3.0 to 3.9 = 80%-89%
      C = Medeocre 2.0 to 2.9 = 70%-79%
      D = Bad = 1.0 to 1.9 = 60%-69%
      F = Fail = 0 to 0.9 = 0%-59%

      God bless!
      – Trent

  • Yes! We should aim for the 4.0 in our school, jobs, projects, and relationship with God!

    I really haven’t been graded, only for my standardized test at the end of the year, so my goal isn’t to get good grades (since I don’t get any) It is to work diligently in my school, take what I learn and use it for the glory of God!

    God Bless,


  • Thank you very much for this encouraging article! As a university student in Korea, we surely need to realize this true motivation of learning to be set free from the pressures of the society…!

  • This is like a hammer between the eyes. Worship doesn’t end after a worship service. I understand how important it is to know that you are a Christian before you were even a student and that in everything you do should be for God’s glory. But how do you keep your eyes fixed on Him if you know you only have 10 minutes before your teacher takes the worksheet? I know we should be motivated by Him, every morning I pray for His favor and the strength that He gives for the whole day, but that majestic view suddenly disappears when I’m about to apply myself on Trigo. I’ve been a Rebelutionary for a couple of months and I’m still learning the ropes.

    • Hey Karl! So glad the post encouraged you (and hammered you!).

      In regards to your question, I think perhaps you are misunderstanding the application. School is an exercise of worship, but that doesn’t mean you’re constantly thinking about God while frantically completing a trigonometry test.

      Some application ideas that occur to me are:

      • Before you start studying and at intervals while you study take a moment to thank God for the opportunity to learn and ask for His help to make the most of it.

      • Praise God for the intricacies of trigonometry, the amazing chemical processes that He built into nature, or whatever subject you happen to be studying. Look for His handiwork and acknowledge it.

      • Try to make learning and growing your primary focus at school, rather than grades. Strive to really learn, to really excel — not just to get an A.

      • When you do have a 10 minute worksheet, take two seconds to ask God for His help and then throw yourself into doing your best. You don’t have to be thinking about God while trying to solve a Trig problem. But when you hand in your worksheet and breathe a sigh of relief that you finished add a quiet “thank you” to God in that moment. Keep acknowledging that He is the one who made you and sustains you as you study.

      Does that help?

  • This video is such a relief to hear. As a child I always loved to learn, but throughout my years in school, learning has become a competition. No one seems to care about what you learned, they only care how well you did on the test.
    Its like a breathe of fresh air to be reminded that other things are more important. God doesn’t judge you based on your last math test, so why should we judge each other. Thank you so much!

  • This is so encouraging to me – I have been so bored with my science because I had the viewpoint of: “If I’m not going to need this in the future, why am I doing it?” I realize now that I need to do it for God’s glory – not to please others or to make good grades. Every time I get a lower grade than I would have liked, I get bummed and make myself feel really bad. This has really hit hard – THANK YOU!

  • This gives me so much insight on the real reason for the pursuit of knowledge. This really is an excellent article, because it has SO much truth in it! For me, the pursuit of grades always seemed futile. I wasn’t getting them for me, I was getting them to keep my parents and teachers happy. This really helps me to understand that putting in the effort isn’t just for the grade, it’s to learn more of God’s perfect and beautiful handiwork. Thank you so much for the encouragement and motivation. 🙂

  • This is a great point!! We need to learn, not just strive for the good grades. When you cram for that test the next day, you aren’t really learning, you’re just hoping to remember the information long enough to pass the test. We need to realize that by learning we can honor God and worship Him! A great reminder as I sit at my desk with a pile of work to still do. I am blessed to be able to get this education!

  • This is great! I love learning, but do tend to strive for the good grades! What a wonderful way to view learning instead!

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 →